CZ 452 .17 HMR Varmint targets winter rabbits

February 25, 2014 at 7:57 pm

Constant rain since December, has resulted in sodden fields and flooded ditches, dampening my desire to lie in wait for the odd rabbit to appear from it’s cosy burrow. My experience has been, that rabbits share my dislike of wet weather and with the likelihood of heavy showers most days, my rifles have remained hidden and unloved in the gun cabinet. Two things got me back out in the fields, the first, a call from my local butcher pleading for more rabbits for his customers and a dry afternoon following heavy morning rain. I’d been feeling guilty about the butcher, as I had been keeping his cold store stocked, then deserted him, knowing that his other supplier was probably also leaving him short.

As I drove through the farm gate, I kicked myself for not making more of an effort in the preceding months, as several rabbits sat enjoying the late afternoon sun on a small hill overlooking the yard, scattering back to brambles and safety.

 I parked up behind a shed and sorted out my gear, before sneaking back, loaded rifle in hand, for a quick look at the hill. I was in luck. A big rabbit was just visible among the thorny undergrowth only thirty yards away. A bit close for the HMR, but zeroing the scope down to the minimum magnification, it’s head was clearly visible for a shot. Supporting the weight of the rifle on the corner of the shed, I squeezed the trigger and watched the rabbit disappear, the crack from the silencer echoing back from the fence behind. Had I hit it? At that range the scope gives a view above the point of impact, due to it being mounted above the barrel, so a slight amount of hold over is needed, aiming above the head to hit the brain.

I walked up the hill to where I’d seen the rabbit, but couldn’t see it, then looking down, the white belly fur was visible deep inside the bramble bush, where it had rolled down. On these occasions, a small spaniel is required, to send down to retrieve the fallen animal, or bird, but I don’t own one and not wanting to waste a perfectly good rabbit, I began trying to pick my way through the tangled web of thorns, using my knife to speed the process.

Fifteen minutes later a fat buck was at my feet, well worth the trouble and time extracting it. The sun was now getting low and I needed a few more like this one to please my butcher, so it was time to move on, no time for a stake out, I’d have to see what I could find walking round the fields. Reaching a gate, I scanned the fence line and saw two grazing rabbits sixty and seventy yards away.

Resting on the gate post, the nearest jumped and fell over and I swung round for a second shot at the other, only to see the white tail flashing, as it ran the length of the field into the next. I waited a while to see if any others would appear, then moved down to where I could view along a hedgerow, a good vantage point in the warmer months.

Eighty yards away a dark round shape was confirmed through the scope as another of my target species and reluctant to shoot prone off the bipod on the boggy ground, a convenient gatepost proved a solid support to put number three in the bag. The light was now falling away fast and I walked round and collected my spoils, returning to a central spot from where I could see the hill from earlier. The rabbits were back out, but too far for a decent shot and masked by branches of a tree about 150 yards away. Keeping low, I made my way up the slope towards the hill to get in range, the low light an aid, as I watched the activity ahead, getting within eighty yards before settling down to shoot off the bipod. Several were chasing about, but one was sideways on, a perfect target. Hoping again to get more than one, I held it in the cross hairs for a moment, fired, watched it drop and moved round to the next, which jumped up, then tumbled down the slope, scattering the rest.

 Walking down the hill back to my cache of rabbits, in a gateway, silhouetted against the path,  was a dark shape. The farmer’s cat? A scope check picked out the hunched shoulders and long ears of another rabbit, too far at sixty yards for a reliable shot to hand, but getting down prone, an easy kill off the bipod. Six. All I had to do now was paunch them for the butcher. A walk back to the van for my head torch and I was in business, the rabbits hanging in the shop by 6pm.