THE HUNTER’S WAY

Eddie Jones is shar­ing his tips for sum­mer rab­bit stalk­ing

Air Gunner - - CONTENTS -

Rab­bit stalk­ing in high sum­mer needs a spe­cial tech­nique, and Eddie Jones is the man to tell us how it’s done

In this month’s fea­ture, we are go­ing to take a look at how we can stalk up on rab­bits with a bit more con­fi­dence in or­der to shoot one. I have spent count­less days stalk­ing them at this time of year, and over time I have got to be pretty good at it. When you have a shoot that’s just open cat­tle grounds or horse pad­docks, it can be a very daunt­ing ex­pe­ri­ence try­ing to get close enough for a con­fi­dent shot. I have had thou­sands of failed stalks on this type of ground, so now I mainly use the blind method that I dis­cussed last month to get the best out of an evening. It is also bet­ter to use a blind when it’s hot be­cause it’s no fun walk­ing around open fields with sparse cover in the bak­ing heat.

When stalk­ing rab­bits, I would rather go on a morn­ing shoot and pick a ground with plenty of cover to break up your out­line as you try to get close enough for a shot. When the sun first hits the fields in the morn­ing you will usu­ally see rab­bits above ground feed­ing. How many you see will cer­tainly de­pend on the weather dur­ing the night, and I’ve found that the best time to go out is just af­ter a good bit of rain. Al­though plenty of you guys who go out and shoot with a lamp in the rain will see rab­bits out, the ma­jor­ity will be un­der­ground wait­ing it out for bet­ter con­di­tions to feed in. This is when you will have a chance to get close. They will be more con­cerned with fill­ing their stom­achs to last them the rest of the day un­der­ground, be­fore they emerge again for the evening feed. This time of year will also be when the sec­ond grass cut is planned; the rab­bits will be feed­ing low down and with the grass quite high, they will not see you. It’s also go­ing to be hard for you to see them, but when you know the ar­eas where you should see one, it will be a good bet that you will get the chance of the shot.

SUM­MER STALK­ING

Wind di­rec­tion is cru­cial for your stalk. If the wind blows to­ward a rab­bit, you are go­ing to cut your chances of a shot dra­mat­i­cally. Rab­bits will soon pick up your scent and will be on high alert from a long way off. Al­ways have the wind in your face, or blow­ing from the hedge line out into the field you are walk­ing along. If you have a wood line that you are stalk­ing along­side, you still have chances of see­ing one sit­ting on the floor amongst the fo­liage, so look for­ward and into the wood as you walk.

Stalk­ing woods in the sum­mer is a chal­leng­ing way to try to shoot a rab­bit for the pot. The woods I shoot in get cov­ered in bracken in the sum­mer, and it’s very hard to see any­thing, but this has not de­terred me. I take time out ev­ery win­ter to iden­tify where the war­rens are, and then clear paths to them. I also clear small ar­eas of the bracken to let the grass grow. When set­ting up the grass ar­eas, make sure you have plenty of cover to get there qui­etly and con­cealed. I try to make the walk to­ward the area where they’ll be feed­ing, to look like a snake. This will give you cover if you keep low, and only when you get in po­si­tion should you be able to see the grass area. It pays to visit the ar­eas that you cre­ate ev­ery cou­ple of weeks to clear any fallen branches or new growth that could ham­per your ap­proach. Why go through all the trou­ble and hard work only to let it slip when it will be pro­duc­tive? These ar­eas prove pop­u­lar in the morn­ing be­cause when young rab­bits emerge, the adult rab­bits will def­i­nitely join them af­ter a while to feed. When they feel safe and if you get there at the right time, you will get a shot off.

ADRENALIN PUMP­ING

Cam­ou­flage cloth­ing is a big help when stalk­ing. You don’t need the best kit in the world, but you do need to break up your out­line as much as pos­si­ble. When walk­ing down a hedge line you will want to use any over­hang­ing bush or patch of net­tles as a back­ground. You will also use these to your ad­van­tage to hide any move­ment when stalk­ing up to the rab­bit. You need to re­mem­ber that if you can see the rab­bit, it will un­doubt­edly be able to see you. Cam­ou­flage cloth­ing will help in these sit­u­a­tions, and I would cer­tainly

“You need to calm the nerves and ex­cite­ment that is rush­ing through your body, take your time”

rec­om­mend gloves and a face veil as es­sen­tial parts of your cloth­ing. Your skin is a def­i­nite giveaway to any quarry, so try to cover up as much as pos­si­ble, the rest is down to your per­sonal pref­er­ence.

When you do get close enough to shoot the rab­bit, give your­self time to con­trol your breath­ing. You have done all the hard work now and to fluff the shot by try­ing to rush is the most frus­trat­ing part. I usu­ally try to get on one knee if pos­si­ble. When you are low down and out of sight you won’t need to worry about be­ing seen.

I have made the mis­take of spend­ing ten min­utes creep­ing to my lo­ca­tion, with adrenalin pump­ing through my body, and you can feel your pulse thump­ing away as you are lin­ing up the shot. You will be wav­ing the cross hairs around like a mad­man, just wait­ing for them to land on the point of im­pact so you can squeeze the trig­ger quickly. Eight times out of ten you will miss, it’s a fore­gone con­clu­sion that it will hap­pen; I have done it many times. You need to calm the nerves and ex­cite­ment that is rush­ing through your body, take your time and make all your hard work count.

When your pel­let con­nects and you see the rab­bit ei­ther lie down and kick, or do a som­er­sault, you will be en­joy­ing what hunt­ing is all about. That one per­fect stalk will stick in your mind for a long time, and it comes about be­cause you have put all the graft in be­fore the sum­mer even starts.

Try to stay in the shad­ows if you can

RIGHT: Al­ways scan around for other pests as you go

TOP RIGHT: Tak­ing a breather to com­pose your­self will help you to shoot straight

BELOW: A hard-won mixed bag can make for a sat­is­fy­ing day

TOP LEFT: Even sparse cover can be a help

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