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Q&A: humane rabbit hunting

PUBLISHED: 09:20 12 June 2015 | UPDATED: 15:08 26 June 2015

Learn where the rabbits go (and when), and how to get within range of them

Learn where the rabbits go (and when), and how to get within range of them

Archant

A recent returnee to the world of airguns asks: 'Can Guru give me some measure of accuracy that he believes is necessary for humane rabbit hunting?'

Q.

As a recent ‘empty nester’ returnee to the wonderful world of airguns, I did a lot of research before deciding to buy a TX200 (.177) with a Nikon Prostaff 3-9x40 AO scope, and I’m chuffed with the performance of both.

So far, I am only shooting at inanimate targets, mainly half-inch spinners or paper targets, though my ultimate goal is to get into airgun hunting. One of my friends has a mixed farm that’s plagued by rabbits, and he’s more than happy (in fact he’s very keen) for me to shoot there, but I don’t want to hunt until I know that my shooting skills are up to the mark.

Can Guru give me some measure of accuracy that he believes is necessary for humane rabbit hunting?

A.

GURU SAYS:

First, I applaud you for recognising that a certain standard of marksmanship is needed for humane hunting.

There are two aspects to airgun hunting, one being the shooting, the other being the fieldcraft, and either can make up for a slight deficiency in the other, to an extent. A top shot can make up for less impressive fieldcraft by shooting at slightly longer ranges, and a less than top shot can make up for his shooting ability by getting closer to the target.

The target, in the case of a rabbit, is the brain, preferably near the brain stem, which connects it to the rest of the body, and a hit to the brain is lights out. For many years, the recognised standard for hunting accuracy was the one-inch circle, the consensus being that if you could get pellets within half an inch of the intended point of impact, the shot would result in a clean kill. That is what I used to advise, but years of experience have made me think again, and I now believe that the accuracy ideally needs to be based on a half-inch circle.

We’re not talking about shooting ½” groups, because airgun hunting is not about shooting groups, but taking shots separated by minutes or hours, and getting every pellet within, or with a good overlap of the edge, of a half-inch circle. Your half-inch spinners are the ideal training target, because if they spin, that would indicate a clean kill, and I’m going to suggest something that’s at once a game, a training regime, and a way to discover your current maximum hunting range.

Start at 20 yards from the target for standing shots; say 25 for sitting or kneeling shots, or 30 for prone shots. Take a shot and, if you hit the spinner, take a step back, if you miss, a step forward. Don’t rush, you’re trying to simulate hunting shots, so the longer between shots the better. Eventually, you will end up at your own personalised maximum hunting range, and you will know that your marksmanship is up to the job.

Don’t forget to practise at various gradients and in varying wind speeds and, if you have any time left over, why not visit the farm and learn where the rabbits go (and when), and how to get within range of them?

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