Airgun Shooter

BACK ON THE BUNNIES

After a winter layoff from rabbit shooting, Mat Manning makes a return to coney control with an evening on the pony paddocks

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Rabbit numbers have been up and down on my patch over the past few years. Myxomatosi­s, which has been around for decades, takes its toll, but there always seem to be a few resistant rabbits that make it through and create a new breeding stock.

Far more devastatin­g over recent years has been the impact of rabbit haemorrhag­ic disease, usually referred to as RHD or RVHD. This highly infectious disease kills very quickly, leaves barely any external signs and has a mortality rate of between 70 and 100 percent. Rabbit population­s can disappear very swiftly when it strikes.

RHD has been the reason for the decline in rabbit numbers where I live – certainly over the past two or three years. Last year it struck just as the bunnies appeared to be making a comeback, and the result was that I did almost no rabbit shooting at all through the winter and early spring months – there was simply no need to keep their numbers in check.

I am pleased to say that my local rabbit population has been doing a lot better over the last few months. Rabbits have a remarkable ability to bounce back from the brink. Their ability to rapidly multiply is the stuff of legend and it’s a reputation that they continue to live up to.

The rabbits’ return is patchy and while some areas remain almost devoid of them, others now have large numbers – so many that they are causing serious damage. The farm where I am shooting this evening is one such place.

Several fields are used as pony paddocks, and the rabbits here are burrowing around the field margins and the surroundin­g hedge banks. This is a serious problem on an equine holding as horses and ponies can break a leg when a hoof goes down a rabbit hole. For this reason, the owners are eager to see the offending bunnies thinned out.

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