Rabbits today, Jam tomorrow.

August 10, 2015 at 5:24 pm

I was enjoying a day off, sitting in the sun reading a newspaper, when the call came. “You’ve got to get over here! It’s like Watership Down in my paddock. I can see fourteen rabbits out there right now. Bring your rifle over as soon as you can!” I was miles away at the time, not due back until the the next day and agreed to visit the following afternoon.

This was the man, that had called me in two years ago to deal with his rabbits, which I did, getting them down to low single figures, putting my head over the fence from time to time to get the occasional straggler. Then he put a nervous horse in the field and the shooting stopped. I’d shrugged my shoulders and warned that it wouldn’t take long for them to become a menace once more. They were on their way to ruining the grass again, when I visited a month ago, putting a large dent in their numbers, but this sounded like a major stake out job, taking the CZ .17 HMR and the Magtech .22 semi auto for good measure.

buckhurst 004

I arrived, armed to the teeth, to find an empty paddock and not a rabbit in sight. I waited at the fence for ten minutes, but nothing came out, apart from the farmer. He was shamefaced, apologising for getting me over on a fool’s errand, but that’s how it goes. The day before had been still and warm, while now a cool wind was gusting across the fields, blowing in a few heavy showers. They don’t like rain, or too much wind.

I walked over to the far corner, between the fence and a small hay barn, laying out my padded rifle bag for added comfort, to lie prone with the HMR on it’s bi-pod, sighting along the fence, with a clear view to the far end of the paddock. At first I was quite comfortable lying there, watching the world go by, several times tempted by fat wood pigeons to take their heads off, but knew that one shot would keep the nervy rabbits in their burrows for even longer. I was getting fidgety, when a slight movement at the far end of the paddock caught my eye. A juvenile rabbit had edged out of a bramble bush to begin feeding close to it’s bolt hole. I checked the range setting on the scope and allowed for the wind, which was gusting from right to left. At 120 yards, this was not a guaranteed shot, the rabbit jumping high in the air, to then tumble over with a broken rear leg, the bullet hitting well off target. Another was chambered and fired, this time stopping the struggle. This is the achilles heel of the HMR, the tiny .17 inch dia. bullet only weighs 17 grains and is easily blown off course in gusty conditions, a steady wind being easier to allow for.

urbanfieldsportsman 274

I stayed put and waited. At that range, the rifle report would have been minimal and was hoping that more would follow. As they say “Hope springs eternal” and it seemed like an eternity, before a rabbit crept out from the brambles. Another juvenile, it conveniently moved round to give me a side on shot, aiming at at the upper body for safety, to watch it slump forward without a kick. In an hour nothing had emerged along the fence line and after a further ten minute wait, gathered up my kit and walked over to pick up the two rabbits.

buckhurst 001This was not the result I’d been expecting when I set out and have learned my lesson in the past, to take descriptions of hoards of rabbits with a pinch of salt. My attention was now focused on the bramble bush, which was loaded with blackberries, it being unusual to see such abundance in early August.

buckhurst 002

To add value to the trip, a spare bag was soon being filled with the plentiful ripe fruits of the field, taking occasional looks along the fence, as I busied myself with this new distraction, gathering about 3 lb in no time, enough for several pots of jam. Nothing else had come out of hiding and decided it was time to go, meeting the farmer at the van, showing him the bag of fruit. “Want some apples to go with those?” he said, pointing at his overloaded Bramley apple trees. I didn’t need asking twice and was soon filling another bag with ripening apples, the ideal companion for blackberry and apple jam.

Returning from my brief scrumping expedition, a look back revealed a lone rabbit sitting out beside the wire fence 80 yards away. Keeping his distance, the farmer waited for me to return with the rifle, then watched as I rested the it over the garden fence and dropped the rabbit. Having only used shot guns, he is impressed by the range and accuracy of the HMR, letting out a “Whoop!” at my success.

buckhurst 003

Three rabbits is better than two and another visit is scheduled soon. In the meantime 13 lbs of jam have been made and distributed among friends and family, with enough fruit left over for my favourite, a blackberry pie.

buckhurst 152