Hunting: Dave Barham's first success on new ground
PUBLISHED: 16:55 27 November 2017
Having recently acquired a new permission, Dave Barham goes flat-out for a rabbit
Did I mention that I’d managed to secure a permission up here in Lincolnshire? Ha ha, I haven’t stopped going on about it have I? It’s such a wonderful feeling to find somewhere to shoot after the many years of searching. I mentioned in last month’s piece that said permission was fully laden with roosting pigeons, but there was very little on the rabbit front. So few, in fact, that I made it my next goal to try to take one of the handful I had seen for the pot. When I set my mind to something it consumes me and I become obsessed with it. I’d only seen half a dozen rabbits during my two visits to the new venue, but that was enough for me to plan an evening shoot. I knew it was going to be hard, but just how hard I could never have envisaged.
Picking the right spot
Both times I’d seen the rabbits entering the field from a tree line, so I knew roughly where they were coming from, and from which direction. However, in order for me to get a clean shot at them I’d either have to build a hide, or position myself in the middle of the grassy field at dusk to just lie there and be patient.
I decided to opt for the latter and just laid in the field, trying not to move for half an hour or more. I’ve got quite used to this approach, and it’s very relaxing. So relaxing that I have dozed off on a couple of occasions, awaking to absolutely nothing due to my amazing snoring abilities.
A plan of action
I had to pick the right evening for this shoot. I had absolutely no cover at all from where I needed to shoot from, so full camo and a stealthy approach would be in order.
I was going to be ‘on show’ in the middle of a grassy field, almost a lawn, so to speak. I wanted the wind blowing into my face, and I really needed a little cloud cover to lessen the light as I got myself into position.
All about the timing
Timing would be critical, because if I got there too early I’d end up getting the fidgets (and probably cramp) whilst waiting for a long time, but leave it too late and it would be too dark to shoot without a lamp before the rabbits had enough confidence to venture into the field.
As luck would have it, I’d planned my trip to perfection thanks to Mother Nature. I’d been keeping an eye on the wind direction for a few days, and I knew that it needed to be coming south-east, which it had been for the previous two days. This coincided with some pretty typical autumn weather fronts that had given two days of rain.
The ground was wet, the clouds were consistent and the wind was perfect – it was game on!
There’s nothing worse than lying in a field for a length of time and getting damp or wet, and I made sure that the Jack Pyke clobber I bought was fully waterproof for that very reason. That said, it doesn’t matter how ‘waterproof’ your clothing is, when you’re lying on the ground on top of soggy mud and grass, the ‘rising damp’ effect can still cause problems and make you uncomfortable and cold. That’s where my trusty carp mat comes in – it’s nicely padded and comfortable to lie on, plus it helps to insulate my body from the cold, damp ground beneath me.
Not only that, but by a pure stroke of luck my mat is the perfect size in which to fit my trusty new BSA R10 carbine rifle, too! It fits like a glove, and eliminates the need for me to carry the rifle in a slip during these evening shoots – the whole thing zips up securely – they’re manufactured to hold a feisty 40 or 50lb carp safely – and the carrying straps fit neatly over my shoulder for carrying the gun to my vantage point. It’s a win-win all round.
Watching and waiting
You know sometimes when you get that feeling of immense confidence in what you’re doing, that everything is right and ‘tonight’s the night’? Well that’s how I felt on this hunt.
They say ‘confidence breeds success’ and I truly believe that. Many a time I have been shooting or fishing and I’ve had the overwhelming sense that everything was going to plan, and then it has all panned out as expected. As I lay there on the mat, my rifle in position, I knew that I was going to get my first shot off at a rabbit that evening.
Wait for it
I’d been lying in wait for about 15 minutes when I saw the first rabbit hop out into the field right in front of me. I could have quite easily taken a shot there and then, but it was only a small one – a good sign that they are breeding in the area. I still had a good 20 minutes before it would be too dark to shoot, so I let baby bunny hop about to see if its parents would follow it.
My hunch paid off, and within just a few minutes I had five rabbits in front of me – spoilt for choice, or what? They were extremely wary though, and kept lifting their heads and looking around. They knew something wasn’t quite right, and now, more than ever, was not the time for me to get an itchy nose! For 60 seconds or more I battled with my pain. Knowing that you can’t scratch and itch is torture, let me tell you. It heightens the sensation and makes everything worse. If I’d moved to relieve the itch, I would have almost certainly sent the rabbits scattering, so I just had to muster all my mental energy to work through it.
I’ve watched films where someone is tied to a chair and is being tortured with blowtorches etc, to make them ‘spill the beans’. Well, that’s nothing. They should just leave them there and wait until they get an itch – that would have them blabbing in no time!
I don’t know how, but my itchy nose subsided and I had my chosen rabbit scoped. It was huge, definitely one of the biggest I’ve ever seen. I lay there watching it for 30 seconds before the opportunity arose and I managed to squeeze off a perfect shot.
The rabbit jumped up in the air and came crashing down with a thud – it was dead on the spot. When I ran over to pick it up I could see that I’d hit my mark, albeit just a few millimetres lower than expected. I was over the moon. In the words of Hannibal Smith, ‘I love it when a plan comes together’.
Needless to say, that was my one and only chance of bagging a rabbit that evening. I knew that was going to be the case, but I got back into position for the last ten minutes or so anyway. I ended up staying there for half an hour, well into darkness, though. I’d taken my new Coleman rechargeable headlamp along, and I wanted to see just how powerful the high beam was. Plus, I wondered if the rabbits would continue to hop about the field under cover of darkness.
After 20 minutes, I positioned my headlamp and quickly turned it on to full beam, then made a quick but steady sweep of the area from left to right in order to see if there were any rabbits on the field. To my surprise there were, three of them!
All’s well that ends well
Not only had I made my first rabbit kill with my new rifle on my new permission, but I’d also done some recce and discovered that it would be well worth setting up my night-vision kit for another attempt – but that’s a different story, and now I know there is scope for some night sport, I will most certainly be back.
I was so happy and glowing with achievement, that I dropped the gun home and walked to my local pub for a celebratory pint – it’s thirsty work lying in a field for an hour! As I sat there, chatting to some of the local farmers, I was already planning my next hunting session. I just need to keep an eye on the weather, but I can’t wait to get out there!
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