Eddie Jones: In-depth lamping advice
- Credit: Archant
Eddie Jones responds to a reader’s question with some in-depth lamping advice
I went on a lamping session. I received an email from a reader, Matt Lewis, who asked me to write more in-depth about lamping. He was getting some results on fields that were full of rabbits, but once he shone around to check for more they all disappeared. He was also walking out to where the rabbit had been, and then turning the lamp on again to shoot it. This sometimes works in very windy conditions, but most times the rabbit will have heard or seen you coming and run back to its warren without you even knowing.
So, I will try to explain how I approach the shoot and what I do to maximise my chances of shooting as many as possible in the one session, without all the latest technology, and base this on a session when I would take just a torch. I get a lot of stick from readers who would prefer me to shoot with the basics because not everyone has access to thermal spotters and night-vision equipment. I do know where you guys are coming from because I was in that position for many years myself, but now I do use a lot of gear to make my job easier.
Know your boundaries
The ground I chose for this night was a local one, which I hadn’t shot on for a while. When shooting at night, it is pretty important that you know where your boundaries are and the lie of the land. It’s bad enough when shooting in daylight if you’re not aware of any unsuspecting ditches or little streams that are covered over with greenery. I know this only too well when I have been shooting on new grounds myself, and received a good drenching after falling into a raging torrent of a stream at night.
I had planned to go an hour before dark so I could have a walk around, check the hot spots where I should see a few rabbits, and any obstacles that could hurt me that were not there when I last visited. Farmers are constantly working, so they do leave machinery around and if it hasn’t been moved for a few weeks, grass can certainly grow through it and cover it over.
Noise and scent
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I’m using pictures to show what I would do on one part of this ground; how I approach the field depending on wind direction and how I scan the field so that I spook the least number of rabbits. I’m covering one part of the ground in detail, and this gives me opportunities in two fields, but how I go about trying not to spook them in the other field I intend to shoot will help you if you are faced with the same situation on your ground.
Picture one shows all the ground in question; you can see wind direction and where I need to get to so that I can start my walk. It is important to stay well away from the fields you are going to lamp first because any sound you make walking will be picked up by the rabbits. So many times when using the thermal spotter, I’ve seen just how far rabbits can hear you coming and run to the safety of the burrow, but the route I have taken is not as good for rabbit numbers, so I don’t mind spooking any here. The wind is carrying any noise and scent well away from any rabbits feeding in my chosen area, too, so I know that when I get there the rabbits will still be feeding confidently.
Have a plan
So, I have arrived at the spot where I need to start lamping, and from the second diagram you will see the direction that I am going to take to cover all of the fields where I know there are the most rabbits.
The first field is around 150 yards long and 100 yards wide, and in front of me there is a tree-lined bank that separates the two fields. I know I will get the odd rabbit from those trees in the field I will be lamping, but I won’t be able to stop them. I am trying to get the rabbits that will want to come back to my hedge, so I won’t be tempted to walk all the way across to reach them, they will run.
I set my furthest shine point two-thirds of the way across the field, and usually, if I see rabbits at that distance they will be the ones I’ll go after. So, now the plan; walk 20 yards then shine straight out in front of me, then scan to my right to see if any eye-shine reports back to indicate a rabbit’s presence. If there is no eye-shine, walk another 20 yards and shine straight in front again before shining to the right – I don’t want to shine to my left and scare any rabbits before I have got in front of them.
When you are shining in the next grid, always carry on to the previous one – you could have missed a rabbit’s eyes because it could have been facing away from you. Many times, I’ve spotted rabbits doing this because you catch the eye-shine from a different angle. If you are lucky enough to see a rabbit in front of you, maybe it will be less than 30 yards away and you will be able to take your shot from the edge of the field. If it is further, then start walking slowly toward it.
When I am walking toward the rabbit I try to keep the strongest part of the beam just in front of its nose, and have a slight angle on the torch so it stays in that position when I am ready to take the shot. The rabbit won’t want to go into the brightest part of the beam, and it will sit tight thinking that you haven’t seen it. If the rabbit turns away from the beam, just place it back in front again and carry on toward it until you are close enough to take the shot. Rabbits will run no matter what you do, but just head back to the hedgeline and continue with your walk along to the next spot.
Pick ‘em up!
If you’ve been lucky enough to shoot one, pick it up, walk back to the hedge line and hang it on a branch or the fence. You don’t want to be carrying rabbits for an hour on your back as you’re shooting. Fatigue is one of the worst causes for missing a shot, so I always leave them to pick up later.
Once I have finished the planned route, I take a long route out of the way and back to my starting point – this is when I go along and pick up all the shot rabbits and whilst doing so, have a quick shine back out into the field – just in case a rabbit has come back out to feed, or a new one that wasn’t out the first time and would not be aware of the lamp.
I always carry rabbits in a rucksack because this will keep your arms free for the extra chances, and if you’re lucky enough to get an opportunity, try to take a shot from the knee because this will be a lot more stable and give you a better chance of hitting the rabbit cleanly.
Well I could go on all day talking about it, but I’ve already gone over my allotted space and will be giving my editor a headache. If you are new to this type of shooting, I hope I’ve given you an idea of how to go about trying to lamp rabbits, and maybe give you results that previously were not possible.
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