ONE IS PLENTY

Hav­ing re­cently ac­quired a new per­mis­sion, Dave Barham goes flat-out for a rab­bit

Airgun World - - Dave Barham -

Did I men­tion that I’d man­aged to se­cure a per­mis­sion up here in Lin­colnshire? Ha ha, I haven’t stopped go­ing on about it have I? It’s such a won­der­ful feel­ing to find some­where to shoot af­ter the many years of search­ing. I men­tioned in last month’s piece that said per­mis­sion was fully laden with roost­ing pi­geons, but there was very lit­tle on the rab­bit front. So few, in fact, that I made it my next goal to try to take one of the hand­ful I had seen for the pot. When I set my mind to some­thing it con­sumes me and I be­come ob­sessed with it. I’d only seen half a dozen rab­bits dur­ing my two vis­its to the new venue, but that was enough for me to plan an evening shoot. I knew it was go­ing to be hard, but just how hard I could never have en­vis­aged.

PICK­ING THE RIGHT SPOT

Both times I’d seen the rab­bits en­ter­ing the field from a tree line, so I knew roughly where they were com­ing from, and from which di­rec­tion. How­ever, in or­der for me to get a clean shot at them I’d ei­ther have to build a hide, or po­si­tion my­self in the mid­dle of the grassy field at dusk to just lie there and be pa­tient.

I de­cided to opt for the lat­ter and just laid in the field, try­ing not to move for half an hour or more. I’ve got quite used to this ap­proach, and it’s very re­lax­ing. So re­lax­ing that I have dozed off on a cou­ple of oc­ca­sions, awak­ing to ab­so­lutely noth­ing due to my amaz­ing snor­ing abil­i­ties.

A PLAN OF AC­TION

I had to pick the right evening for this shoot. I had ab­so­lutely no cover at all from where I needed to shoot from, so full camo and a stealthy ap­proach would be in or­der.

I was go­ing to be ‘on show’ in the mid­dle of a grassy field, al­most a lawn, so to speak. I wanted the wind blow­ing into my face, and I re­ally needed a lit­tle cloud cover to lessen the light as I got my­self into po­si­tion.

“within just a few min­utes I had five rab­bits in front of me - spoilt for choice, or what?”

ALL ABOUT THE TIM­ING

Tim­ing would be crit­i­cal, be­cause if I got there too early I’d end up get­ting the fid­gets (and prob­a­bly cramp) whilst wait­ing for a long time, but leave it too late and it would be too dark to shoot with­out a lamp be­fore the rab­bits had enough con­fi­dence to ven­ture into the field.

As luck would have it, I’d planned my trip to per­fec­tion thanks to Mother Na­ture. I’d been keep­ing an eye on the wind di­rec­tion for a few days, and I knew that it needed to be com­ing south-east, which it had been for the pre­vi­ous two days. This co­in­cided with some pretty typ­i­cal au­tumn weather fronts that had given two days of rain.

The ground was wet, the clouds were con­sis­tent and the wind was per­fect – it was game on!

SOGGY BOT­TOM

There’s noth­ing worse than ly­ing in a field for a length of time and get­ting damp or wet, and I made sure that the Jack Pyke clob­ber I bought was fully water­proof for that very rea­son. That said, it doesn’t mat­ter how ‘water­proof’ your cloth­ing is, when you’re ly­ing on the ground on top of soggy mud and grass, the ‘ris­ing damp’ ef­fect can still cause prob­lems and make you un­com­fort­able and cold. That’s where my trusty carp mat comes in – it’s nicely padded and com­fort­able to lie on, plus it helps to in­su­late my body from the cold, damp ground be­neath me.

Not only that, but by a pure stroke of luck my mat is the per­fect size in which to fit my trusty new BSA R10 car­bine ri­fle, too! It fits like a glove, and elim­i­nates the need for me to carry the ri­fle in a slip dur­ing these evening shoots – the whole thing zips up securely – they’re man­u­fac­tured to hold a feisty 40 or 50lb carp safely – and the car­ry­ing straps fit neatly over my shoul­der for car­ry­ing the gun to my van­tage point. It’s a win-win all round.

WATCH­ING AND WAIT­ING

You know some­times when you get that feel­ing of im­mense con­fi­dence in what you’re do­ing, that ev­ery­thing is right and ‘tonight’s the night’? Well that’s how I felt on this hunt.

They say ‘con­fi­dence breeds suc­cess’ and I truly be­lieve that. Many a time I have been shoot­ing or fish­ing and I’ve had the over­whelm­ing sense that ev­ery­thing was go­ing to plan, and then it has all panned out as ex­pected. As I lay there on the mat, my ri­fle in po­si­tion, I knew that I was go­ing to get my first shot off at a rab­bit that evening.

WAIT FOR IT

I’d been ly­ing in wait for about 15 min­utes when I saw the first rab­bit hop out into the field right in front of me. I could have quite eas­ily taken a shot there and then, but it was only a small one – a good sign that they are breed­ing in the area. I still had a good 20 min­utes be­fore it would be too dark to shoot, so I let baby bunny hop about to see if its par­ents would fol­low it.

My hunch paid off, and within just a few min­utes I had five rab­bits in front of me – spoilt for choice, or what? They were ex­tremely wary though, and kept lift­ing their heads and look­ing around. They knew some­thing wasn’t quite right, and now, more than ever, was not the time for me to get an itchy nose! For 60 sec­onds or more I bat­tled with my pain. Know­ing that you can’t scratch and itch is tor­ture, let me tell you. It height­ens the

sen­sa­tion and makes ev­ery­thing worse. If I’d moved to re­lieve the itch, I would have al­most cer­tainly sent the rab­bits scat­ter­ing, so I just had to muster all my men­tal en­ergy to work through it.

PER­FEC­TION

I’ve watched films where some­one is tied to a chair and is be­ing tor­tured with blow­torches etc, to make them ‘spill the beans’. Well, that’s noth­ing. They should just leave them there and wait un­til they get an itch – that would have them blab­bing in no time!

I don’t know how, but my itchy nose sub­sided and I had my cho­sen rab­bit scoped. It was huge, def­i­nitely one of the big­gest I’ve ever seen. I lay there watch­ing it for 30 sec­onds be­fore the op­por­tu­nity arose and I man­aged to squeeze off a per­fect shot.

The rab­bit jumped up in the air and came crash­ing down with a thud – it was dead on the spot. When I ran over to pick it up I could see that I’d hit my mark, al­beit just a few mil­lime­tres lower than ex­pected. I was over the moon. In the words of Han­ni­bal Smith, ‘I love it when a plan comes to­gether’.

GET­TING LIGHT-HEADED

Need­less to say, that was my one and only chance of bag­ging a rab­bit that evening. I knew that was go­ing to be the case, but I got back into po­si­tion for the last ten min­utes or so any­way. I ended up stay­ing there for half an hour, well into dark­ness, though. I’d taken my new Cole­man recharge­able head­lamp along, and I wanted to see just how pow­er­ful the high beam was. Plus, I won­dered if the rab­bits would con­tinue to hop about the field un­der cover of dark­ness.

Af­ter 20 min­utes, I po­si­tioned my head­lamp and quickly turned it on to full beam, then made a quick but steady sweep of the area from left to right in or­der to see if there were any rab­bits on the field. To my sur­prise there were, three of them!

ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL

Not only had I made my first rab­bit kill with my new ri­fle on my new per­mis­sion, but I’d also done some recce and dis­cov­ered that it would be well worth set­ting up my night-vi­sion kit for another at­tempt – but that’s a dif­fer­ent story, and now I know there is scope for some night sport, I will most cer­tainly be back.

I was so happy and glow­ing with achieve­ment, that I dropped the gun home and walked to my lo­cal pub for a cel­e­bra­tory pint – it’s thirsty work ly­ing in a field for an hour! As I sat there, chat­ting to some of the lo­cal farm­ers, I was al­ready plan­ning my next hunt­ing ses­sion. I just need to keep an eye on the weather, but I can't wait to get out there!

Full camo was in or­der so Dave could lurk in the field un­no­ticed.

Ly­ing in a field on wet grass and damp ground can be made more com­fort­able with a water­proof mat.

Dave’s BSA R10 Car­bine fits snugly into the zip-up carp mat.

The new recharge­able Cole­man head­lamp is a thing of beauty – and func­tion­al­ity.

Well, would you be­lieve it – it’s a per­fect fit!

A per­fect shot knocked this rab­bit over stone cold.

Dave was re­ally chuffed with his first kill – look at the size of that rab­bit!

Mis­sion ac­com­plished!

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