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
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.
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.