Black Friday nature walk with the Magtech .22

November 26, 2016 at 11:19 am

Lured back to the high street by Black Friday discounts, my wife hoped to complete her Christmas shopping in one hit. With me acting as her driver, she was dropped off in town, while I continued on to the northern outskirts for a visit to the equestrian centre, in the hope of a few rabbits for the freezer. I say hope, as it has been slim pickings since a concentrated effort in the spring had reduced numbers, some once hotspots, now showing no sign of habitation.

It was a glorious mild afternoon with the sun throwing long shadows, as I walked along the lane from the stables and noticed that the owner had been busy clearing a long abandoned heap of stable waste, which had rotted down to rich black compost. Once covered in grass and pock marked with burrows, it had been my first and last port of call for an evening potting rabbits from the comfort of straw bales with my Webley Viper air rifle. Those days and the rabbits have long gone, although the grassy bank occasionally hosted a few occupants and had always been worth a look.


Further along the lane is the next point of interest, a small clearing which acts as a general dumping ground, where through the trees I spotted a pair of big rabbits with their heads down feeding. Keeping low, I crept round from the side, rifle raised and ready. One was already spooked and gone, but the other was sitting bolt upright to the left of the rubbish heap. The shot flipped the rabbit over and it lay there kicking, which is just a reflex, but I prefer another to the head to make sure. Walking forward, the second rabbit appeared from behind the heap, making for the brambles on the right, pausing at the edge long enough to be stopped in it’s tracks with another shot.


That was a good start. After paunching and skinning, they were bagged up, before moving on toward the wood, searching for the dark rounded outlines of more rabbits along the ride at it’s edge.


On such a mild day, I’d expected to see a few rabbits out sunning themselves, but no and walking the length of the ride looking for recent droppings, sadly confirmed the fact that rabbits don’t seem to live here anymore.


Moving into the wood, a rabbit bursting from undergrowth at my feet, bounded through the leaf litter to the safety of bushes at the end of the clearing. Following along the path, I stopped and listened for movement. It was close, probably intending to double back, and I slowly walked into the area.  Only feet away it jumped up, invisible in the autumn undergrowth, startling me as it scurried through the bushes before stopping again. Even with the magnification down to the minimum 3, the image was blurred, but the shot was unmissable and I fired. It leaped in the air and disappeared from view again. I could not find it, crossing back and forth, it was gone, maybe down a rabbit hole at the base of a tree yards on from the spot. If hit at that range, the shock alone would have killed it.


That was my last sighting of a rabbit, starting out on a traverse of the boundary round the 80 acres that produced nothing, even where I had shot two six weeks before, was empty. Thinking about it, the rabbits may have been keeping their heads down, but my walk was interrupted by a deep red fox, a pair of muntjac deer, pheasants, screeching green parrots, wood peckers, jays and magpies, while kites soared overhead and pigeons clattered out of the trees as I passed. Surrounded by houses, a hospital and schools, I am fortunate to have this among my permissions, even if my work here is almost complete.

Back in the traffic, my wife was waiting at our agreed pick up point in the town centre, the sweet smell of perfume filling the car, her wrists testing grounds for expensive fragrances soon to be given as presents.