Magtech 7022 spring surprise

February 13, 2016 at 1:31 pm

Weeks of storms had kept my rifles undisturbed in the gun safe, while my most recent outing in January had been abandoned, following an hour slipping and sliding across flooded fields. This week a frosty start heralded a bright day with light fluffy clouds drifting idly across the sky, a bit early, but spring was in the air as I headed off toward the equestrian centre with it’s well drained rides, taking my Magtech .22 semi auto rimfire.

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Unloading my gear at the stables, the owner came over for a chat, saying that rabbits were appearing back in  their old haunts. A month ago on a tour of the 80 acres, he had been lucky to see half a dozen rabbits, but in recent weeks their numbers had gone up four fold, which was his way of saying “get your finger out and shoot a few”. He was off to set up some jumps at the training ground, with me following 25 yards behind, when he spooked a rabbit that ran across the lane in front. He turned and pointed. “Get on with it”

Just past the training ground I couldn’t believe my eyes, several rabbits were spread across the field ahead of me and I selected the nearest about 50 yards away. Resting on a fence to steady the shot, I heard the thwack as the bullet struck between the shoulders, then panned round for another target before they all made for the exits, but the low sun filled my scope. Breaking cover, I retrieved the first of the day in full view of the owner, who gave me the thumbs up. “Now get some more!”

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It is several years since I’d seen that many rabbits on this field, the mild winter the culprit and it would not take long for them to start burrowing out onto the rides, creating a hazard to the horse riders. I was called in to this permission originally, after a young female rider fell and broke her back, when her horse put it’s foot down a rabbit hole.

I decided to circle round to come back through the wood, to where the white tails had run, keeping close to the cover of the ride as I walked, spotting a big buck sitting out in the sunshine about 70 yards away. Out of sight, I edged ten yards closer, then got down prone, resting the Magtech on my bag. Often just the act of moving into cover can warn a rabbit, but this one was still there, staring ahead into the sun. Zeroed to 50 yards, this was a sure shot aimed high on the shoulder, the quarry toppling over with the impact.

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Returning to the wood, the rustle of dead leaves 10 yards away grabbed my attention, as two more adult rabbits dodged between the trees and dived beneath a gorse bush. I’d cleared that warren years ago, this pair could be the start of something big, if I don’t do something about it soon. I already had two rabbits in my bag, but these were keeping their heads down, so moved on to a point where the path turns left through the wood, or enters another ride bordering the corner of yet another field. Looking left I had a good view down the wooded path, but glancing ahead, I could see a rabbit on the ride 80 yards away. Keeping in line with an oak tree, I settled down on the bank next to it, looking out to spot another rabbit running down the ride toward the first, the pair doing a soft shoe shuffle, before the first hopped into the undergrowth. The second now stood bolt upright looking down the drive, another 60 – 70 yard shot. Aiming high on it’s back, the bullet found it’s mark and the big buck jumped, then lay still.

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Looking down the path, another big rabbit was feeding in the middle of the path about 50 yards away and I swivelled round to get a bead on this one. Pop, it was dead. Leaving it there, I got up and walked out onto the ride to retrieve number four, observing another small group at one of my banker warrens a hundred yards away. They will have to wait for another day. Returning to the wood, yet another rabbit was out along the ride in the opposite direction, but beyond safe range, so began working my way forward in cover, getting down for a rested shot at 60 yards, just as it moved behind a fence post. Still waiting, another bunny hopped out only 30 yards away, stopped and dropped, while the other one retreated sharpish. Picking this one up, I crossed the ditch into the wood, my eye catching a movement in the trees, seeing twitching ears in the shadows through the scope, the 25 yard shot to hand claiming number six. Again big full grown rabbits, I carried these back to make up another two brace.

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They were skinned and cleaned next to a badger set, a free feast for the black and white carnivores, after which I was ready to go, my bag full and heavy. A hundred yards on, a rabbit ran out and up the path, ducking back into the undergrowth, only to reappear seconds later and stop. Too good a shot to miss at twenty 20 yards to hand, number seven was in the bag.

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By the time I’d reached the stables I was sweating, it had been a busy two hours. Meeting the crusty natured owner again, he was impressed with the haul, but commanded “Come back soon!” Next week is already pencilled in, but wonder what I will find at my other permissions.