Windswept stakeout with the CZ 452 Varmint .17 HMR

March 12, 2013 at 8:09 pm

Living in a town, it is easy to be fooled by a break in the clouds, thinking that it’s a lot warmer than it actually is. Central heating also has a hand in this, along with wishful thinking, which is why against my better judgement, I unlocked my gun cabinet and took out my CZ HMR  for a drive to the edge of the Chiltern Hills.

The permission is on reclaimed land high over a valley, where the farmer fattens cattle in the summer, but in early March  it can be pretty bleak and as I drove up the steep lane to the yard, the wind was rocking the van and scudding clouds across the weak sun. Having climbed the gates, the concrete of the yard gave way to sucking mud, before ascending the hill along the barbed wire fence, which divides the 25 acres of grass bordered by scrubland. There were pools of standing water, as I made my way across to the vantage point of my stakeout position, where I have a view looking down 300 yards of undulating meadow, edged by brambles the other side of the wire.

Keeping low with the rising ground behind me, the sight of white tails flashing back towards the edge, meant that the rabbits were still wary, despite giving this land a rest for over four months. At least there were a few about and I settled the HMR on it’s bipod and scanned the scope along the wire looking for sitters, lying on the cammo net as a respite from the sodden ground. This time last year we were enjoying a mini heatwave and I had to take my heavy jacket off, as I was sweating after the uphill walk. Not so this time, inspite of the occasional bright sunshine, a north east wind was already biting through my layers, as I  waited for any movement into the field. After ten minutes a rabbit stepped through the wire into the field and began feeding a hundred yards away. I put the scope on it and could see that it was facing away down the field with only it’s back on view. No good, I needed it to raise it’s head for a shot. I shoot for the meat and the HMR  .17 ballistic bullet has a devastating effect on body organs, rendering it unfit to eat, when hit in the lower body. If it had been closer, a click of the tongue would have been enough to make the rabbit raise it’s head in curiosity, but now I had to wait with the cross hairs on the expected position.

Another rabbit passed across my field of view and I looked up to see it five yards closer and facing me at an angle. I swung the rifle round and got a bead on the new target, just as it hopped behind a rise in the ground with only it’s twitching ears visible. Back to the first and this one was following the other one. More waiting. A couple of very small kittens now began running around 25 yards away, one coming within twenty feet, before trotting back to it’s sibling. A third rabbit broke cover and joined the others feeding in the hollow, an area out of the biting gusts, unlike my exposed position, where the wind was behind me and creeping further into my jacket. A movement and a head raised from the hollow. The crack from the rifle barrel echoed back across the valley, joined by the thump of the head shot impact and  the rabbit leapt in the air, while the others scurried back to safety.

Snow flakes had been twisting in the wind since my arrival and as I went down to collect the healthy buck, clouds behind me were gathering to deliver more. With my prize cleaned and skinned, I continued the stakeout for another 15 minutes, by which time the snow had increased and was settling. Nothing was going to come out now, being almost blown back to the van, reflecting on last year’s first visit with eight rabbits weighing me down, but for today this one would have to do and had already decided it would go nicely with a pigeon breast into some homemade pasties.

 Rabbit and pigeon pasty with a hint of cherizo, served piping hot with swede potaoes and baked beans.