Rabbit pest control with the Magtech 7002 .22

April 6, 2016 at 10:40 pm

Losing the battle against the fast breeding rabbits at the equestrian centre, I was back again a few days later, when the storm showers held off long enough to give a warm sun filled afternoon. A dozen years ago, when I first asked for permission to shoot at this 80 acre site, set among the urban sprawl of a large town, the rabbits were everywhere and using only an air rifle was able to harvest about a twenty a week. Living only a mile away, my visits were many, resulting in a visible difference over the first season and a shortage of close range targets afterwards. Upgrading to a more powerful air rifle, a Career 707 .22, then the Magtech 7002 .22 semi auto rim fire, I was able to keep the numbers in check and the landowner happy, but now following a mild wet winter the rabbits have returned and the owner is not a happy man.

rabbits 055

The main concern is rabbits burrowing out into the many rides, which criss cross the centre, posing a hazard to the horse riders and their animals, most of these rides edged by wide ancient hedgerows, the ideal habitat for wildlife including pheasants and muntjack deer.

Having concentrated on the wood recently, I set out toward the open paddocks in the middle of the acreage, where a gorse bordered stream bisects the property. Rounding a corner, I could see rabbits cantering about over a hundred yards away and keeping down below the curve of the field, I was able to approach the ride unseen, shinning up the slope of the ride to see four or five sitting out in the sun 60-70 yards away. Opening out the scope to maximum 9 mag, one was broadside on and aimed a rested chest shot at it, surprising, but not scattering the rest, bringing the sights to bare on the next, which also slumped over. Two in two seconds. The rest melted back beneath the gorse.

rabbits 048

I waited for ten minutes, just in case others came out again, often they will just bob out for a few seconds for a look see, but this time not, although as I lay there, another pair crossed the rise at the end of the ride.

rabbits 047

Bagging these two, I moved with caution toward the copse ahead, seeing another at the edge of the next ride and got down for a prone shot, knocking it over at 40 yards.

rabbits 050

Following down the ride I spotted a very young kit in the undergrowth, but held off as the next curve in the hedge has been home to many rabbits in the past. Crawling close to the hedge, I could see the brown shapes of more rabbits through the branches and pushed by bag ahead of me to act as a rest, having a clear view, when I rested the rifle for two rapid shots, that accounted for another pair.

rabbits 051

The sun was now quite hot and I stripped off my jacket while I cleaned this pair, pausing in my labours to see another rabbit sitting out in the sun only 30 yards away at the edge of a ditch. Slowly reaching for the Magtech, I brought it up to my eye and shot number six.

rabbits 053

This young buck jumped around when shot and needed a quick second stopper, as it was close to falling down into the stream. This was enough for me now, as I was already sweating from skinning the other two, the whole lot having to be carried back to the van.

On the way back, rounding the curve more rabbits were feeding on the ride. I could not ignore these and the rifle was swung into the fork of my sticks for a firm 50 yard shot at an unsuspecting target, slumping it forward. The rest scattered, but a pair had been feeding unseen in the adjacent paddock and now ran back, stopping one of them as it slowed for the fence.

rabbits 054

More work, more weight to lug back. My shooting bag was full, so these once cleaned, were wrapped in a plastic shopping bag and stowed in the poacher’s pocket across the rear of my jacket. It was a long hard walk to the van at the stables, the shooting sticks at least aiding progress over the rough ground. As I walked, rabbits were silhouetted against the skyline along the southern boundary. I may have to bring the HMR next time to sort them out.