Finger on the Pulsar
At my new permission I’d noticed some rat activity while shooting there, and the big one that I’d shot last time on the rubbish mound was certainly making me want to go for a night out with the Pulsar 550.
I returned armed and ready for a rat fest but it never happened. In my absence, the farmer had cleared the mound and any other mess that the rats had been living in so the farm was as clean as a whistle.
I was annoyed as I walked around to rat city because the farmer had known I was coming, and why, and he’d let me drive 25 miles to his place for nothing. He could have easily let me know about the mass clear-up and saved me a few quid in fuel.
I was further disappointed when the ‘masses of rabbits’ he had on the ground turned out to be just three in one field and nothing more. I’m sure a lot of you guys and girls have been in the same situation at some point in your hunting careers, but we have to take it on the chin and move on.
I had been sent a Pulsar Challenger from my good friend, Phil Hardman, who writes for sister magazine, Airgun World. He’d been having some pretty good results but I’d never used it and it was certainly something I might want in my armoury in the near future, so I had to try it.
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- 6 Is a springer or gas-ram air rifle best for HFT?
- 7 How far can a sub-12 ft.lbs air rifle shoot?
- 8 Introducing 'still hunting': immersive, effective escapism!
- 9 Gun test: BSA Meteor Evo Silentum springer
- 10 Gun test review: Hatsan Predator
I received the unit a few days prior to my trip and as it was the only night when the rain finally let up, I decided to take a drive around one of my permissions. I could have walked but if the rain started again and I didn’t want to be caught out with this kit on the rifle. They might claim that it’s waterproof, but it’s not mine and I wasn’t taking the risk. I won’t make this into a full review of the Challenger because I know it’s been done already, but I will give my own opinion during the course of this feature.
I pulled into a quiet corner on one of the fields and set up the Challenger on the Hawke Varmint scope, mounted on my trusty Theoben Rapid. At first, I wasn’t sure about the unit but after a little fiddling with it and the ocular lens, I had a pretty good sight picture. I was using an extra IR illuminator but only because my old man brought it with his N550. The unit was now set up and was good enough for me to have no problems shooting out to 30 yards. I’m sure that with more time to fiddle about I would have got a bit better picture, but more rain had been forecast, so I certainly wasn’t going to hang about.
I decided just to have a look over a gate on one of the fields next to where I’d pulled in. There are usually a few rabbits in there that bolt on sight of a lamp, so it would be a good test and I might just get one to open up my account.
I crept up into position as slowly and quietly as possible. I wanted use the gate as a rest; you can’t hold the rifle steady when free-standing because the unit sits back over the cheekpiece of the stock, so a rest is more favourable. I turned the unit on for a scan around the field and was greeted with at least five pairs of eyes. These ranged from 20 yards, to right out at 80. I saw the close-in rabbit clearly, so I cocked the Rapid as quietly as possible and crossed my toes that the bunny wouldn’t hear me. It’s important that you don’t scan around with a loaded rifle because this could lead to a shot animal, or worse, and you should never rely on the safety catch of any rifle.
Luckily for me, the rabbit sat calmly and let me get the crosshairs perfectly aligned with its brain. The .177 didn’t let me down and the rabbit rolled over without much of a kick. I quickly scanned the field again and was fortunate to see a couple still out near the hedge line. The crack of lead on bone spooked them, but I could still see one about 25 yards to my left.
I cocked the Rapid and got the rabbit into view. It looked a little hazy so I adjusted the side parallax wheel just to get a crisper picture; it also told me it was a little further out than I’d thought, but putting the cross at the base of its ear gave me rabbit number two.
When I went to retrieve my bounty, I was thinking about the fiddling about I had to do just to get the second shot off and wondered if this would hamper me if I were on foot. There was only one way to find out really, so I ditched the motor and decided to do a proper test.
I decided to have a walk around the big field because this would give me the best chance of getting rabbits way out in the open and block their escape route back to the warren. It wasn’t long before my first target’s eyes shone like emeralds in front of me. Although it was twice the distance the scope was set up for, I could still just about see it. My tactic was to load up and walk toward it until it became clear in the scope. I would then be bang-on for my range, and I’d go for the shot.
It worked a treat and rabbit number three was in the bag. The only downside was that my arms would be dropping off if I had to do this every time. I decided that I’d walk out in the field a little and my plan was that if the rabbits ran toward their warren, then I should be pretty close to the range I’d set up on the scope; they always seem to stop for a last look, so I would still get my shot. If they stayed out in the field, then I would still have to walk toward them, but kneeling was the only option because there was no way I could keep steady if I kept this up all night.
I set off once again and it wasn’t long before I could see eyes on both sides of me. Rabbits were outside one of the bigger warrens and well out in the field in front of it. I walked slowly to where I thought the warren was, and scanned again. Most of the rabbits had run back to the warren, but I could see a squatter no more than 25 yards from me. I cocked the bolt as I sank to my knee and took a look through the scope. I was struggling now; the rabbit was in grass just a little too long for me to get a clean shot because I was so low, so I had a quick look toward the warren. I could see a rabbit sitting near a hole and it was in the clear, so I decided to take that one.
Kneeling was definitely more comfortable, and a lot steadier, and I added another rabbit to the bag. As I scanned around the place, I saw that the first rabbit was still sitting tight, so I quickly reloaded the Rapid and went for a standing shot. It wasn’t the most clinical shooting I’ve ever done and I was wobbling like a lone sunflower in a breeze, which resulted in a miss.
I thought I’d composed myself for the shot, but watching a shiny little pellet in the light of the illuminator as it flew past the rabbit’s ears showed what a bad shot it was. I made up my mind; that was the last standing shot I was going to take. I would rather walk past 20 rabbits than risk injuring one because of my ignorance.
The next shot took a good while to present itself. I had a few opportunities out in the field, but each time I wasn’t able to see the rabbit because of the longer grass, so I passed on taking a pot-shot. I decided just to stalk the hedge line and hope that I could creep up on one sitting in front of a warren where the grass had been chewed shorter.
I finally got my chance just as I was looking through the scope, when two ran out of the hedge no more than 20 yards in front of me. It was lucky that I was looking through the scope at that time, but I think luck plays a big part sometimes when we’re out shooting, so who am I to complain? I dropped to my knee as quickly as possible, loading up at the same time. The rabbits knew something wasn’t right, but they were too far out in the field and the sense of something close to the hedge that they couldn’t make out was certainly working in my favour.
I wasted no time on this shot because they were on high alert, but one of them didn’t make it back to safety and I carried on with this tactic for the rest of my walk, managing to get another three in the bag. I know that on another day I could have been well into double figures by now, but as I was in virgin territory and with new equipment, I was pleased with the results so far.
The night took on a bit of a twist as I got back to the car, thanks to a bright light in the sky. I had just met up with the old man who had been shooting on the other side of the farm and was just unloading my rabbits into the box when he called over to me and pointed skywards. I’m sure you read the news reports or maybe you were as lucky as me to witness the ‘once in a lifetime’ event of a meteor breaking up in our atmosphere. It was a show I’ll never forget as long as I live, but it took away what I was out to achieve with the Challenger. We had been sitting listening to radio reports of an alien invasion, and filling our Facebook statuses with what we’d seen, when I just happened to look through the scope along the hedge line to the side of me. There were five rabbits no more than 30 yards away, feeding like we weren’t even there. I can assure you we were not sitting quietly in the car, so you can appreciate how surprised I was.
Slowly, I got out of the car and took a rest on the bonnet. I had no problems keeping still and number one was soon lying on the floor. Two of them had hopped back into cover, but the rabbit right next to the shot one just sat and looked at him. As I loaded the Rapid again, the click of the magazine got some sort of reaction, but I was quick to put the cross on the mark and the rabbit lay twitching right next to its mate.
Feeling chuffed with myself, off I went to pick them up and with ten rabbits, I decided to call it a night. The old man had added a few to the bag as well and as he was the one skinning them this time, he decided he had enough to keep his beer mates happy for another week or two.
I know I didn’t do the unit justice and I could have set my scope up better for standing shots because I had room to move it forward more, to give the eye relief that I could get away with. Also, I could have focused it better, but with practice it will become second nature. Definitely get a better Illuminator if you are rabbiting; the on-board one won’t cut it for rabbit ranges, in my opinion, but for ratting it will be fine.
On what I have done with the unit so far on my first session, my impressions are that I would pay for one without a doubt. If I can get results like this while it was not set up to its full potential, then I’m really looking forward to my next outing!