CZ 452 Varmint .17 HMR rifle at the old rectory

September 7, 2019 at 2:51 pm

A few miles from home is one of my earliest permissions, an old rectory owned by a Knight of the Realm, who originally was plagued by rabbits laying waste to his sprawling flower garden. A concentrated effort by myself had reduced the rabbit population ten fold, but with the garden backing onto the adjoining parkland, new recruits were never far away. A two inch wire mesh fence, dug in a foot below the surface across the hundred yard gap did the trick, although it didn’t keep the deer out, but that’s another story.

The park is wide open with just a few trees and hedges and was full of rabbits, until I bought the CZ 452 HMR. Again a wire fence was the answer, bordering a half mile stretch of farmland, but time and rust have rendered it ineffective and a phone call confirmed that the rabbit numbers had increased since my last visit a year ago. By the sound of it, my next visit was long overdue, but with only time for a reconnoitre this week, I took along my CZ 452 HMR, just in case of a shot.

Climbing the gate, the field ahead had once provided a dozen targets, before moving out into the main area, but today it was clear and I worked along the right hand side looking for signs of scrapes and droppings, but there was nothing new. Movement a hundred yards ahead made me stop. A large rabbit, the size of a small dog was loping across the open ground. Following it with the scope, I realised that it was a hare, the black tips of its wide ears clearly visible. A hare in this area is a rare sight, more suited to wide open farmland. I don’t shoot hares and wished it on its way.

Turning right down a slope, a few rabbits were out close to a bramble hedge two hundred yards away, but with no cover, they had slowly melted away back into the briars, as I closed the distance down. I have been harvesting these rabbits for years and they have a built in fear of camo clad humans carrying rifles.

All along this edge were droppings and runs, the area around a small pond showing fresh scrapes into burrows. Circuiting the perimeter, evidence of recent rabbit activity was everywhere and I felt guilty that I had been complacent, lean pickings over the years convincing me, that the numbers would not return. A mild winter and wet spring had obviously been good for reproduction, undisturbed by pest controllers.

In an attempt to make amends, I took cover behind a tree overlooking the brambles and waited, the tree giving a view over a hundred yards in either direction, well within range of the HMR firing the 17 grain x .17 inch diameter plastic tipped expanding copper bullet.

Scanning left, then right, there was nothing out, then as if a silent buzzer had sounded, there was one near the pond and two in front of the brambles. Bringing the rifle round on its bipod to bear on the closer single rabbit, at x 12 magnification it was a safe target, the crack from the supersonic bullet, breaking the evening silence. The “boof” of a body shot echoing back, a slight side wind drifting the bullet away from the head.

Swinging round to the right, there were now three at the brambles, the biggest giving a side on view and aiming dead on for the snout, due to the wind, watched the rabbit jump up running on all fours to collapse back down motionless. In a well practiced routine, I chambered another round and found the next target sitting up. Ready to fire, it turned and trotted back to the brambles, I switched my attention to the other rabbit too late, as it also had gone from view.

After an unproductive wait, I got up and walked toward the pond for my first rabbit, only for another to appear in front of me, spin round and disappear again. The body shot rabbit was not a pretty sight, not suitable for meat and I threw it into the long grass. Leaving the muzzle at over 2,500 feet per second, the tiny bullet has an explosive effect on the soft tissue of a rabbit, requiring head shots only, if shooting for the pot.

Walking back to collect the second rabbit, the light was already going and I had to circle round before I found it.

Being close to home, a couple of hours a week, should make a difference on this permission.