PUBLISHED: 09:38 22 March 2012
Copyright Â© 2012 Ian Harford
We had been trying to get some ratting for this month's issue, which is not only great fun but would be new content for Team Wild as we have done rabbits and pigeons, but try as we might we just couldn't make it happen. We travelled to no fewer than five permissions in the pursuit of the scaly-tailed rodents and saw signs of rat infestation, from droppings, to numerous holes around feeders and inside pheasant pens, to wood chewed off from around the bottoms of doors to allow them access to the valuable food stores… but nothing to shoot!
We’re not sure if it was the change in weather from mild to freezing that stopped them feeding, but one thing was for sure, we had no rats.
Just to add insult to injury our good friend Mr H gave us a call to let us know of his latest awesome hunting trip in the States, which consisted of shooting giant rats from an airboat in Louisiana, with a semi-auto rimfire rifle. Not just any old rat, but giant rats - and we would be able to watch it on the latest Fieldsports Britain programme.
We watched it and it did look pretty cool. The rats were, in fact, coypu, also known as ‘nutria’. They’d been released into the wild from fur farms, years before, and began to breed in the swamps of the Bayou. Unfortunately for them, they just don’t fit into the ecosystem in that area and have rapidly become such a major pest that the American authorities have put a bounty on each coypu. All the hunter has to do to reap the reward is to produce the tails of the animal. I think Ian shot enough for a Mars Bar and a bag of crisps but the money might have been better spent on more ammunition.
Well, back to Blighty and Steve and I found ourselves drowning our sorrows in Team Wild HQ (we don’t need much of an excuse to get out for a beer, but you’ve guessed that already, eh?). We were scratching our heads as to what to do for our next article when we were approached by an elderly gentleman. “Are you the Wild boys?” he asked in a hushed tone.
“We are the Team Wild boys if that’s what you mean, buddy,” replied Steve.
The old guy looked around like something from a spy movie and said, “I’ve got a job for you, but it’s got to be done on the quiet!”
We leaned in closer as he explained. He had a vegetable garden that took a hammering in the summer, a lot of his produce had been nibbled by our arch enemy, the rabbit, and he wanted them clearing out. We said that it shouldn’t be a problem, told him about the high-tech gadgets we had on hand, and now it was his turn to scratch his head. Guns filled from a diver’s bottle? Walnut stocks? Range finders? He couldn’t get his head round the fact that air rifles had advanced so far over the years and was amazed when we showed him a few copies of Airgun World and the wonders within.
He then went on to explain the tricky bit. His next-door neighbour was seriously against any kind of hunting, whether it be for pest control purposes or sport, and having had a great rapport with the neighbour he didn’t want to jeopardise the relationship and had come to the conclusion that what the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve over.
“That does cause a bit of a problem for us,” mused Steve, and he went on to explain that we’d need to use a lamp for the garden work, which might mean his neighbour seeing what was going on and asking questions.
“Wildy…I have a cunning plan!” I announced, and put it to him that we use the new NiteSite on one air rifle and the tried and tested Clulite Masterlight on the other - supreme to spot. Clulite had just sent us some filters to use with the light so we should be able to dull it down considerably for use in the garden.
“Sounds like a plan, lad, but I haven’t got a blooming clue what you’re going on about,” said our new friend, but Wildy knew what I meant and a cheesy grin spread across his face.
“You boys sort those rabbits out and I’ll make sure you have plenty of veg when you need it later in the year,” said the chap. Wildy laughed.
“You think we got to be this shape from eating veg, mate?”
With a chuckle, the old boy agreed and said he should have sussed we’d rather be paid in liquid gold. The deal was struck, the date was set, we had the address and all we had to do was turn up and blat a few bunnies. Sorted.
I don’t remember leaving the pub that night and I awoke the following morning with the instructions to the NiteSite lying beside my bed and a thumping sensation in my head. I couldn’t remember any of the details the guy had given us and neither could Wildy, so it was lucky for us that the pub landlady had written it all down for us.
On a Mission
A couple of evenings later found me driving to Steve’s house to pick him up for our mission. He answered the door, ready to roll in his Rivers West Ranger kit which is in Realtree AP. We might do a bit of sitting around waiting for them to show, so the gear would keep us warm and dry.
I ran through the NiteSite NS200 with Steve and explained how it works. It truly is a great piece of kit and we have gone on to use it loads with both airgun and centrefire. There’s a write-up of the unit elsewhere in this magazine, so I won’t go over old ground, but I think it’s important to mention just how versatile the unit is. It can be swapped from rifle to rifle with the minimum of fuss and as long as your rifle is zeroed properly, it’s just a case of fit and forget. Yes, it’s a little bit strange to get used to looking at the screen, as opposed to through a scope’s eyepiece, but with a little practice you’ll find it easy enough.
The NiteSite can also be used in daytime, which is great if you use a video recording device which means you can capture all of your shooting day or night and let the viewer get a scope’s eye view of all of your hits … and your misses!
We met at the address given and were ushered into the rear of the house and our host gave us the layout of the garden. Mags full of pellets were loaded in the doorway and then we ventured into the darkness, remembering the spots where we had been told to look for the rabbits.
A tap on Steve’s back and the Clulite flicked into action and a quick scan of the garden from left to right immediately picked up three pairs of gleaming eyes. The lamp hovered over the last pair of eyes at around 25 yards and a faint ‘ping’ rang from the Daystate, followed by a rewarding ‘crack’ as the pellet struck home. The lamp stayed on just long enough for us to see that the rabbit was cleanly shot and then turned off.
My turn to do my thing and the NiteSite clicked into action, allowing me to see the whole of the garden from where I was standing. I scanned across to see Steve’s kill and moved to the right where the other two had been sitting. One was pretty much in the same position and the other had run off to the fence, but had stopped and was now hunched-up, looking around to see what all the fuss was about. I rested the Airwolf on the back of a bench, just to steady myself, placed the cross hairs over the back of the rabbit’s eye, and then slowly squeezed the trigger. At 35 yards I could make out the target clearly and the rabbit rolled over to a clean shot, hardly kicking, which meant no disturbance.
Sure enough, when I scanned back across the garden the third pair of eyes was still there, the owner munching on blades of grass, unaware of the demise of those around it. Drawing a bead on it, I held my breath and was about to squeeze the trigger when I felt Steve’s hand tap me twice on the shoulder. Someone from next door was fumbling around with the lock and was either coming outside or locking up for the night. My heart was in my mouth as the neighbour opened the door and came outside. The NiteSite was switched off and, as Steve and I crouched on the lawn, I prepared myself to talk our way out of the situation, hoping that the neighbour wasn’t going to freak at the sight of two cammo clad blokes with lamps and night vision gear, skulking in the undergrowth.
We weren’t doing anything wrong, so we decided to stay put and it took me back to my younger days when I used to go out with my mates knocking on doors and legging it. Occasionally, we were cornered in a garden and an irate homeowner chased us down the street. It was totally irresponsible and not to be encouraged but that was in the days before PlayStations and X Boxes were around.
A dim glow lit up the face of the neighbour and it became apparent that he was out for a cigarette. That’s a filthy habit and it was hampering our rabbit hunting! After what seemed an age, but was probably only about four or five minutes, the neighbour returned into his house, the door was locked again and it was time for Team Wild covert ops to continue. The earlier rabbit had vanished, probably due to the smoking interruption, and a scan with the night vision showed why there was always going to be a problem with rabbits here. The garden was adjacent to a wooded area and there was only an ancient picket-style fence bordering the two, which meant that the rabbits had perfect cover for their warrens in the wood and plenty of lush eating on the lawns and vegetable patches of the neighbouring gardens in the village.
We walked further down the garden, using the night vision to guide us, weaving our way around wheelbarrows and watering cans left out by the owner. A flash of eyes on the screen and we had another bunny sitting in the scope, but without a safe backstop the shot could not be taken as a miss would mean the pellet entering the neighbour’s garden. Besides being illegal to shoot over someone’s property without permission, I had clocked a rather fancy greenhouse in that direction and didn’t fancy forking out for a couple of panes of new glass.
Further on, the night vision found a few rabbits sitting way off down the garden at about 70 yards, way too far for a shot with the air rifles but with a rimfire or .17 HMR the NiteSite would have picked them off, no problem. Steve also liked the fact that when taking a shot or scanning around, we could both watch the screen which is unique and means we can both take the blame for missing. Well, that’s my excuse, anyway, as my next shot was a miss. We had stalked down to the rabbits by the shed and I picked one that sat in front of it. They had winded us and were aware that something was up, and a flick of the now would have them on their toes, but the with the NiteSite they were none the wiser and the shot was taken … and missed!
We went back up to where we’d begun, had a sit on the bench and gave it ten minutes before moving again. A quick scan with the lamp and, ‘hello’, they are back out again! That’s the real beauty of modern airgunning; the rigs we were using are nearly silent in operation, deadly accurate (usually) and mean we can carry out effective pest control safely, efficiently and without any disturbance.
The lamp now off and the night vision on, I moved down the garden to get myself into range of the rabbits. I took a kneeling shot, which isn’t my favourite, but managed to hold the crosshairs steadily on the rabbit’s head. The lock time on the electronic Airwolf helps as well, being around six times quicker than the Huntsman rifles we normally use, and it means that the time taken between pulling the trigger and the pellet leaving the barrel is much quicker.
This time the shot was good and the rabbit leapt into the air and dropped, kicking around the garden, a sure sign that the pellet had struck it in the head. Steve was close behind and as I moved off to fetch my rabbit he had a quick scan with the lamp, showing more eyes at the bottom of the garden. No wonder the veg was taking a hammering; the little blighters were everywhere! I handed over my rifle to Steve and he headed off in the direction of the rabbits. After about a three-minute stalk, I heard the Airwolf do its thing and Steve returned with a long-eared reward.
We retired to the bench and sat for a bit but this time there were no eyes waiting to greet us when we looked over the garden, and we decided to call it a night.
We went back into the house and arranged for the rabbits to be picked up from Steve’s butcher shop, dressed and ready for the oven, which seemed to really please our new friend. I think he saw it as a type of revenge for all the nibbled produce he’d suffered over the summer months.
We agreed to meet up with him again in one month’s time to do the same thing again, knowing that there will be more rabbits to take the place of the four we’d removed.
“And remember lads, mum’s the word,” we were ordered as we left the house. I just hope his neighbour doesn’t read Airgun World!