CZ 452 Varmint .17 HMR season opener

March 8, 2018 at 6:28 pm

Only days ago the countryside was covered in snow, but winds from the south brought air temperatures back into the positive, although despite bright sunshine, it was still in single figures due to a cooling wind.

One of my landlords had acquired more grazing for his cattle, but there was a problem, too many rabbits. Calling me over for a meet up, he pointed out the problem areas and I took the CZ HMR with me on my first walk round. Following a scrubbed out hedge line, I saw three rabbits sit up and watch me approach. With a gusting crosswind, the 120 yard shot was not on, so I changed direction into the icy chill, in an attempt to work round into a firing position that had the wind behind me. A shallow gully gave a degree of cover, but I was spotted and saw a trio of white tails bobbing off toward a fallen tree, then out of sight. I was surprised to see so many rabbit droppings around, signs of a healthy population.

Propping the rifle up onto the raised edge of the gully with the bipod locked in place, I covered an area sloping away to the tree giving shots out to 110 yards, the angle across the wind giving a maximum of 30 degrees left and right. The lightweight 17 grain plastic tipped HMR bullet is easily blown off course, but this would keep it to a minimum. Nothing showed for ten minutes, then something moved to my right and I lifted the HMR round to cover the area. A rabbit was working along the other side of the fence toward the tree. It stopped and I fired in that instant. It dropped out of view behind long grass. I waited another ten minutes, just in case of another target, then made a bee line for the spot. A devastating head shot, characteristic of the HMR had stopped it in it’s tracks.

Placing the rabbit high on the fallen tree, I scanned for more rabbits, before continuing my recce, finding the biggest warren I’ve ever seen, which covered an area at least a hundred yards by twenty five yards, the ground raised up and pock marked by countless holes, with fresh excavation work everywhere. This field had previously had a few private ponies left to roam and can understand why the new occupant wants the rabbits gone, the loss of one of his beef cattle to a broken leg, could prove costly.

Cover from the fallen tree would provide the ideal shooting position during daylight, while the flat field will give safe access in darkness with the night vision. I passed beyond this warren, finding another half the size about two hundred yards further down. Reaching the hedgerow at the edge of the field, a pair of electricity pylons held more burrows at their bases, brambles masking more fresh digging.

At this point a car pulled up in the lane behind the hedge and the occupant came over. These meetings can often be difficult, as not everyone in the countryside agrees with the shooting of cuddly, furry rabbits. I need not have worried. He lived in the lane overlooking the field and my landlord had gone on to tell him of my intentions to clear the rabbits. He had seen me and popped over to offer me shooting over the ten acres behind his house, which was suffering the same fate. A double bonus! Passing on his phone number and the code to his gate, he warned of the two big guard dogs he kept in the field, to deter people from running lurchers over it. “Make sure you ring me before going into the field, so that I can lock them up!” No worries on that account! My new permission had also suffered with lurchers, due to the public lane and he hoped that fewer rabbits would make the visits less attractive.

Following an old hedgerow back to the fallen tree, many burrows became evident. With only about a month to go before the cattle are released onto the land, I had better get busy.

Using the tree as a cutting table, I began cleaning the shot rabbit, a big meaty doe. Eighty yards away another rabbit popped out of a burrow and surveyed the scene with its back to me. In seconds the rifle was rested on the tree trunk, the cross hairs planted on the back of the neck and the trigger squeezed. The impact tumbled the rabbit forward.

Another big doe for the freezer. I would like to have stayed longer, but with a commitment that evening and traffic to join, I had to make tracks back to the van, ignoring another pair of sitters on the way.