GROUND (AIR) FORCE!
PUBLISHED: 16:04 14 August 2013 | UPDATED: 16:04 14 August 2013
Keith and Steve take their allotment of rabbits from a surprise permission
Well, due to being so busy with our Team Wild duties we managed to miss out on the ‘branchers’ session that we had been practising for. The only available date with the keeper was one that we had a day of filming to do, so we had to pass up the chance.
The keeper was happy enough when we had a chat. He always says that pigeon roosting, lamping rabbits and shooting the branchers are easy to find volunteers for, but painting and erecting pheasant sheds is a different story.
I think he might have been dropping a hint there but it fell on deaf ears as Wildy and I played dumb … something we’re really good at! If the keeper is stuck, he knows he can give us a shout and we will be there to help him with whatever problem he has or task that needs doing. Helping out like this is a brilliant way of getting into shooting and is pretty much how we managed to secure most of our hunting ground. Local shoots are always looking for helpers so why not find your nearest one and offer some help? Usually the keeper will return the favour.
Rabbitting in return
That’s exactly how we got the rabbit-shooting featured in this month’s article. A friend of the gamekeeper had a problem with rabbits in his garden and wanted them shifting. The property was close to roads so the normal shotgun or rimfire method was out, which then left the door open for a spot of good old airgun pest control.
We met up with the landowner and went over a game plan. The rabbits had been causing havoc in the gardens and were burrowing in a field that he was going to be using for camping. It’s always a good idea to check over a new bit of ground in daylight to see where any problems might occur and get a feel for the groundWe decided that we would tackle the job either early morning or early evening, because this was when the owner said he saw most activity. We sat and had a chat with him over a cup of coffee and it turned out that he also had a golf course which was suffering from rabbit problems, so once we had dealt with the troublesome flower munchers we would then be able to tackle the naughty blighters that were messing up his greens.
He went on to explain that the young rabbits tend to scrape for the sake of it. They are testing their newfound digging skills and often practise on nice soft ground such as the edge of the bunkers and the greens. This causes problems for the groundsman whose job it is to keep everything spick and span. Sounds like an Airgun World article in the making!
Back to the job in hand and a date was set for us to get down and have a go at the rabbits. Steve was hoping that we would get a few so that we could skin them and sell them on for some ‘beer tokens.’ We worked out that we could set up behind a small fence and use it as a natural hide. From the fence to the hedge line where the rabbits would be was perfect sniping range for our .177 Daystate Huntsman Classics.
This might be the last trip out for the Classics for a while as Wildy and myself both have new .177 Huntsman Regals on order. The Regal is the model that Daystate have brought out to take over from the Classic and on the launch day, I had a chat with Daystate head man, Tony Belas, who explained that their new gun was an updated and improved version of the Classic. My question was how on earth can you improve on something as good as the Huntsman Classic?
Tony replied, “Have a look for yourself,” and handed me the new Daystate Huntsman Regal, and I have to admit that although I don’t know all the ins and outs of the building process, the new model looks awesome … or ‘even awesomer’, as Wildy would say.
There is a larger air reservoir fitted that is easily removed and can deliver up to 20% more shots. This will be of great use to anyone thinking of taking their gun up to FAC levels. The Regal will lend itself well to the pest control industry and even more so with the FAC options. The block and inner working parts are made from lighter, stronger metals and as you would expect from any Daystate rifle, it balances perfectly. The gun itself is not too heavy and still works on the principal of the Harper patented Slingshot valve system, so it delivers a very efficient shot return with little variation throughout the charge.
The woodwork is very nice and has a few subtle differences. ‘Regal’ and the ‘Daystate’ logo are etched onto the stock and the fore stock has been chequered all the way round. This is a feature that I really like and gives you a good feel of the gun. Overall it looked a great gun and Wildy and I put an order in for one straight away. With a bit of luck we should have them for our next article so watch this space.
Better late …
Back to work and the day arrived. I picked Wildy up late as usual and listened to a barrage of abuse because he had to stop and clear up in the butcher’s shop with his dad. We trundled off to the new permission and let the landowner know that we were there. It’s always a good idea to let the owner know that you are going to be on the ground and the times that you will be there. If the area that you will be shooting has houses in the vicinity, or if you are covering a golf course, it’s sometimes a good idea to let your local firearms dept know that you will be paying a visit. it helps the police if they get a phone call and a report of camouflaged men wandering around with guns. They can simply give you a call and check to make sure it’s you.
We gave the landowner a call in the morning to let him know we would be down in the evening to tackle the furry fiends. He told us that we had to shoot at least four rabbits before we had earned ourselves a mug of tea. Mug of tea? He clearly didn’t know us very well!
We unloaded the gear and went through the usual checks before loading the Classic’s 10-shot pellet magazines in preparation for the job in hand. We could already see two rabbits about 60 yards from where we were standing, as they grazed the far end of a lovely lawn. There were a couple of picnic-style benches between us and the feeding rabbits, and the plan was to stalk over the open ground and get to one of the tables which would put us well within range of at least one of the rabbits.
We tossed a coin and Wildy won, so I watched as he set off across the lawn. It was surprising how well the cammo worked in this setting. He kept low and was using the backdrop of shrubs and large bushes to break up his ample frame. I watched as he froze every time the rabbits looked up from their munching, and then carried on stalking when they resumed their eating. He got to the first table as planned, and then took aim from it, which looked like it made the perfect shooting bench. I didn’t even hear the report of the gun and instead saw the rabbit leap into the air, so I knew that his shot had struck true. He fetched the rabbit, which was a nice, half-grown specimen and would be just perfect for the barbecue.
We set off around the lovely lawns and now it was my turn. I took Wildy’s advice on using the picnic tables as a benchrest and headed off in the direction of a rabbit that was eating merrily away at some very nice-looking flowers, or at least they would have been if the rabbit hadn’t eaten all of the heads off them! A well-placed shot from my Daystate meant that this rabbit would be beheading no more blooms.
I went over to pick up my rabbit but froze on seeing another sitting bold as brass, eating the landowner’s shrubbery. With no rest I dropped to my knee, a position I’d been practising since my last article as I had felt very unstable the last time out.
Thankfully, it all fell into place and I was able to pull off a nice 35-yarder. I looked up to see the landowner standing in his conservatory giving me the thumbs-up with a big grin on his face.
We headed off around the back of the property to a patch of ground that had been worked and planted with a small vegetable garden. We couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw two rabbits sitting on a raised bed packed full of lettuce. One of the rabbits spotted us and made a dash for it but the other just sat there filling its face with juicy lettuce leaves. A dull ‘phut’ from the Daystate and rabbit number three was in the bag. It was turning out to be a great night.
Back on to the lawn and the rabbits were out again. I made my way across the freshly cut grass to get within range of three rabbits on the edge of the sprawling lawn. It was a hard stalk this time, with nothing to break up my equally ample frame. It would have been easier if there had just been one rabbit. Due to the fact that I had three sets of eyes on me I literally had to move forward inch by inch until I was within range of the picnicking trio. For once, taking the shot was the easy part after such a long stalk and eventually, rabbit number four was in the bag.
Wildy’s turn again and we headed back round the property to the veg patch. It pays to move about like this on new ground because the rabbits haven’t quite got the idea of what’s happening. After a ten-minute wait, you’ll find that they have ventured out again. This will happen until they wise up and then you will find that you just get one chance at them.
Sure enough, they were out again and Wildy lined himself up on one rabbit that was taking an unhealthy interest in the landowner’s sweet peas. The shot once again was good and the rabbit rolled over next to the canes. The noise of the shot bolted an unseen rabbit and it dashed rapidly across the lawn, stopping in the middle to see what was going on. Bad move! The Daystate coughed out a deadly .177 pellet and the rabbit fell on the spot.
One last look
That made it six rabbits in just over an hour and a half. We were very happy with the night so far and headed off to the lawns for one last look before packing up and going home. Our streak of accuracy had come to an end, though, and we both missed our next two rabbits on the lawns. I missed high after giving a long shot a little too much holdover, and I saw the rabbit duck as it heard the noise of the pellet flying overhead. Wildy had a rabbit sitting front-on to him and pulled the shot to the right slightly but it still meant a miss.
We decided to call it a night and walked round to let the landowner know how we’d done. He met us at the back door with two cups of coffee and £20 to get ourselves a drink. We accepted the coffee but declined the money and instead asked if we could shoot his lawns on a regular basis. The result was an open invitation to shoot the lawns and keep on top of the rabbits whenever we want and also to have the contract on the golf course to shoot the rabbits and foxes.
Every cloud has a silver lining; we missed out on the crow shooting which we were gutted about, but ended up gaining a new permission and a contract for the pest control on the golf course. ‘What do you reckon to that then Wildy?’ I asked as we drove back to the village with our six barbeque rabbits.
“That’ll ding-dang-do me kid,” was the reply!
Happy shooting - and dunna miss!