CZ 452 HMR and Magtech 7022 keep the customers satisfied.

March 27, 2014 at 6:22 pm

A couple of warm weeks banished the snow drops from the woods, to be replaced by the bright faces of daffodils and with green shoots and blossom appearing in the hedgerows, spring seemed to be rushing towards summer this month. The wind changed and we were back to the cold, with showers of hail raking the fields, forcing a warm jumper to be retrieved from the drawer.

Also fooled were the rabbit populations on my permissions, their body clocks switching over to summer time, bringing them out in force to feed and gather bedding. The wet start to the year kept me off  much of the land and I have been on catch-up ever since. Getting permission to shoot on a landowner’s private property can be difficult, but a few weeks of good results can seal the deal and hanging onto that right, means regular visits to keep the numbers down.

My first visit this week was to a previously infested farm, long off the urgent list and now on the courtesy list, but a phone call confirmed that small groups had begun to appear again among the hedgerows. With no cover and spooky rabbits, this was going to be a case of lying out and waiting for long range shots with the CZ 452 .17 HMR.

A recent shower had chilled the late afternoon air, as I entered the chosen field, where in the distance I could already see rabbits hopping to cover among the dividing hedge, a long cold warren being repopulated. Laying down my camo net onto the wet grass gave some respite, before lying prone with the HMR mounted on it’s bipod, the remaining net being draped over the rifle to break up the hard steel outline. In this raised position I could cover an arc, which spanned from 90 to 120 yards along the hedge, well within the point and shoot zero of the rifle. In twenty minutes of waiting for a movement, the temperature had plunged and I was beginning to regret not making an earlier start, when a scan through the scope confirmed a brown blob over to my left was a frantically feeding rabbit. At 12 magnification, I could see that it was facing away from me, no good for a shot yet, a hit in the body would destroy the meat. Waiting for it to turn, my eye caught another movement dead ahead. The scope locked onto the head just behind the eye in seconds, this unlucky rabbit rolling over without a kick, less than a minute after leaving it’s warm burrow. The first rabbit was now sitting up listening and would have been dead before it heard the next shot. At this a couple more materialised from the grass, their flicking white tails giving the game away, but they were soon out of sight among the hummocks. The same pair began chasing around behind the hedge, but I couldn’t get a clear shot, until eventually one stopped in a gap long enough to pay the price, a dull thud echoing back from 120 yards away.

No more rabbits presented themselves in the next ten minutes, so I went down and collected these, noting several new burrows among the roots. I will have to be back sooner than intended.  Further up the slope, I had a view along the edge of a line of blackthorn, where I’ve had some success in the past, but there was nothing showing, so decided that a chat with the farmer would be more productive, with the chance to show off the results of my labours over a fresh brew of tea.

Later in the week it was the turn of the equestrian centre on the edge of town, somewhere that had so many burrows on the rides, that an accident was just waiting to happen, this being when a young lady rider was injured, after her horse tripped on a burrow. That was ten years ago and within two years of  twice weekly visits, I’d decimated the rabbit numbers to within manageable quantities, mostly around the outer edges. With horses in the fields, the supersonic crack from the HMR would cause mayhem, so I only use air rifles, or on this occasion the .22 Magtech 7022 semi auto rimfire, which is very quiet with it’s moderator. The owner saved me a walk round the 80 acre site, pointing out the hedge line along the far boundary, where he had put warning branches in the holes.

This was one of my first permissions and it remains the most interesting, having once been part of a 17th century stately home, the big house and lake are still on one boundary, while the land stretches south towards the town and an old green lane, it’self bordered by urban greenery, a golf driving range, football pitches and allotments. These borders have not changed since medieval times and there are few straight lines along them, making it ideal for short range rifles, with plenty of cover for getting up close and personal. My route took me past the old wooded driveway, which is raised above a moated ha ha wall, this area was once a happy hunting ground for me and the rabbits that populated it, but now it is devoid of my furry friends. Left alone for a few years though, they will be back.

With undulating ground, a fixed rifle bipod is limited on this permission and have found a home made bipod a great shooting aid. This only took about two hours max to construct using a Hike telescopic walking stick and a plastic coated tubular garden pole, an old leather belt and of course some sticky black plastic tape.

On my walk through, I spotted a pair of rabbits feeding about 100 yards away in open ground, but was in clear view and didn’t fancy crawling forty yards to get in range. With the HMR, this would have been a case of resting it on a fence post, or the bipod for an unmissable shot, or if approaching through the wood, I could have fired from cover down from the ha ha at 30 yards. I made a mental note for next visit. This time I walked steadily towards them to test their reflexes, one sitting up at 80 yards and both trotting off by 60. I continued on to my intended area, where the path zig-zags round the edge of more woods and a peek around a holly bush, revealed three rabbits feeding on the path, the nearest 70 yards away. Backtracking, I cut through the wood, trying to avoid treading on branches and dead leaves, placing my feet as carefully as possible, until I reached a point, where there was a clear view down the path.

There were still two left and placing the Magtech in the vee of the bipod, while still within the trees, I fired at the nearest 40 yards away, a satisfying “whomph” telling me that the chest shot had hit home. The remaining bunnie darted back to it’s burrow yards away, before I could bring the rifle to bear. Moving up to the next corner, a quick look through the bushes showed more feeding rabbits only 20 yards away. Stepping back, the scope was reduced to 4 mag, I got down and belly crawled to the corner, where the rifle was pushed through the grass for an instant head shot. This startled the rest into a stampede back to safety, none waiting round to see what had happened.

Two more big rabbits for the pot. I continued my walk round, but saw no others and as this had been only a scouting trip to find the hot spots, I was soon back at the van to join the rest of humanity in the traffic.