BACK IN THE CHAIR Dave Barham re­veals how a re­cent re­turn to rab­bit hunt­ing af­ter a twom­onth lay­off was not as easy as he’d an­tic­i­pated

Airgun World - - Dave Barham -

It’s been al­most eight weeks since I had a rather un­for­tu­nate ac­ci­dent that saw me crack two ribs. Al­though the pain has now sub­sided and life is be­gin­ning to re­turn to nor­mal, I’m still feel­ing un­com­fort­able ‘twinges’ when I move in a cer­tain way or sit in one po­si­tion for too long.

All the time I’ve been sit­ting at home I have been itch­ing to get back out shoot­ing. Sure, I’ve had a few hours here and a couple of hours there in my back gar­den and even in a friend’s field whilst test­ing ri­fles and pis­tols, and of course, keep­ing my eye in with my own ri­fles, but the draw of hunt­ing and putting fresh meat in the freezer was be­gin­ning to give me cabin fever. I’d had enough. I had to get back out there.

EX­PEN­SIVE BUT WORTH IT

Last month I showed you my lit­tle project born from bore­dom – my makeshift shoot­ing sticks built from a couple of gar­den canes. My plan was a sim­ple one, to get my­self back out in the field in search of rab­bits, but I had to over­come a few more hur­dles once I ar­rived at the shoot.

I re­cently pur­chased a rather ex­pen­sive yet light­weight carp fish­ing chair from Nash

Tackle. It’s pur­posely de­signed for us ‘lankies’, and mea­sur­ing in at over 6ft 5ins I jus­ti­fied the price tag to my­self. I did buy the chair for fish­ing, but I also had it in the back of my mind that I wanted some­thing com­fort­able for sit­ting on in the mid­dle of a field for three hours, wait­ing for rab­bits to pop out of the hedgerow.

With my chair, ri­fle and shoot­ing sticks in the boot of my car I made my way to the pad­docks, full of an­tic­i­pa­tion.

It was a sim­ple plan, re­ally; ar­rive at the pad­docks, set up my hide poles and net in the field, set up the chair and sticks then sim­ply wait, ex­actly as I would do when ly­ing on the ground there, for the rab­bits to show them­selves.

SOLID AS A ROCK

The first prob­lem I en­coun­tered upon ar­rival was the heavy un­der­growth along the hedge line where we’d been shoot­ing the rab­bits in the past. Closer in­spec­tion of the pad­dock re­vealed that the fence had par­tially fallen down at one end, which is why there was no longer a horse in the field and prob­a­bly why it had been ne­glected and not cut.

To my mind, that wasn’t too much of a prob­lem though, be­cause on our last visit, my good friend, Roger, and I man­aged to shoot nine rab­bits, with some pretty heavy fo­liage along the hedgerow – we sim­ply had to wait that lit­tle bit longer for the rab­bits to ven­ture out in front of said fo­liage in or­der to take a safe shot.

My next prob­lem was far more se­ri­ous, though! As I tried to push my hide poles into the ground it was like try­ing to push a pen­cil into con­crete! With lit­tle or no rain for over a month, the ground had tight­ened up so much that it was rock solid. So that was the hide out of the win­dow.

LOOK­ING FOR COVER

Set­ting up in the mid­dle of the field was not an

“didn’t see a sin­gle blade of grass move. There were no rab­bits to be seen any­where”

op­tion, it’s way too ex­posed and sit­ting in a huge chair is about as ob­vi­ous as it gets, so I opted for the cover of a rather gnarly-look­ing sloe ‘tree’ in the far cor­ner.

I had to go in there on my hands and knees to get un­der it, but once in place the over­hang­ing tree gave me an im­mense amount of cover, and I could safely shoot the top quar­ter of the pad­dock to­ward the hedgerow.

A quick flick with the rangefinde­r gave me 35 yards at the fifth post along the hedge to my left, so I had a rough idea of where I could and couldn’t take a shot safely.

ELU­SIVE RAB­BITS

As luck would have it, the slight breeze on my first visit back to the pad­dock was blow­ing to­ward me. How­ever, no­body told the rab­bits that it was a great af­ter­noon for them to be out and about! I don’t know if it was be­cause the pad­dock hadn’t been used for some time, or if my pres­ence and curs­ing whilst try­ing to get the hide poles into the ground had spooked them, but I sat there un­der the sloe tree for two-and-a-half-hours and didn’t see a sin­gle blade of grass move. There were no rab­bits to be seen, any­where. Af­ter I gave up the lost cause I had a good scout around and it was clear that there had been plenty of fresh rab­bit ac­tiv­ity, with loads of new scrapes, holes and drop­pings all over the place, so there’s def­i­nitely still a good pop­u­la­tion there.

It wasn’t a com­plete waste of time, though, be­cause I did man­age to pick a couple of ki­los of plump, ripe sloes for my mum, who mirac­u­lously re­turns them to me each year in the form of sloe gin and sloe port!

I think a few late evening/ early morn­ing recce trips are in or­der to see if the rab­bits have changed their bolt holes. I’m not giv­ing up – watch this space! I

Off we go, chair in hand.

The sloe tree gave an im­pres­sive de­gree of cover.

All was not lost, with a car­rier bag full of these beau­ties picked!

There were clear signs of re­cent rab­bit ac­tiv­ity.

Off with the bi­pod – won’t be need­ing that just yet.

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