Hunting squirrel & rabbit with an air rifle

PUBLISHED: 18:35 31 March 2021

The sidelever makes loading quick and silent

The sidelever makes loading quick and silent

Archant

Eddie Jones heads out hunting with his air rifle, and finds some great squirrel and rabbit action!

The last shot of the day got me a pigeonThe last shot of the day got me a pigeon

It is a miracle when we get sunshine here in Wales, lately, so I was over the moon when deadline day approached and it was sunny because I wanted to have another go at some squirrels that we had been asked to remove from a small-holding. The owners love feeding the songbirds and finches, but the squirrels hammer the feeders so much that they either empty them or trash them. Alan had been there on a previous occasion. He knew the area pretty well and he told me roughly where to go so that I could get something for this feature. This is something of a rarity for Alan because he always goes for the best spots, so I was shocked when he gave me this option.

We arrived at around 11am and drove straight to the field that had produced well previously for Alan and he talked me through the route I should take. He intended to go to another field where he had seen some rabbits sitting out, and as he wasn’t wearing any camouflage clothing, he was just going to sit up and wait, in the hope of getting something whilst I did what I wanted. Alan pointed out where he was going to be and I had a quick scan through the scope. I could see some rabbits sitting outside their warren in the morning sun, and a few pigeons feeding under some oaks not far from them. I really wanted to go at a mixture of quarry, so I asked Alan to go for squirrels, in his laminate stock colour-coded clothing, and I could head off for a stake out. I was surprised when he agreed, but off I went to scare everything off and find a nice shaded place to sit it out.

What a good result, considering its winterWhat a good result, considering its winter

PEST GODS

It is always best to be in view of your quarry at a distance that makes them think you are not being a threat. The rabbits will always hop back underground and the pigeons take flight the moment they see you, but there are no threats from your actions. You will now need to change direction quickly, and head to wherever you think is the best place to sit it out, with a good view of your target area. I found a nice spot deep into some small trees and I had full view of the main warren on a bank in front of me, and some of the oak trees to my left.

Forty minutes later, I caught sight of my first rabbit. It had come from under a holly bush and was sitting right in front of a large hole. Slowly, I rested the Ultimate S510 on my knee, looked through the Hawke Vantage and I had a nice clear shot through the branches. The .177 AA Field pellet flew straight and the rabbit slumped onto its side.

My next chance was a squirrel. I was looking through the Hik thermal monocular for a couple of pigeons that had flown into one of the oaks, and picked some heat in the tree. Thinking it was one of the pigeons, I lifted the scope, but was surprised to see the squirrel. I was in two minds whether or not to shoot the squirrel, I wanted to get more rabbits, but the urge to do what we were there for in the first place took over and the squirrel was soon lifeless on the floor.

The pest gods must have been looking down on me at that minute because the thump of the squirrel hitting the floor scared a rabbit that I hadn’t seen from behind a tree. It ran right in front of me below the warren. Quickly, I reloaded the rifle and was on it in a flash. The rabbit didn’t know what had hit it and gave out a couple of kicks after the pellet struck and then laid still on the floor.

A great session and great resultA great session and great result

SQUIRREL TIME

After that bonus, things went quiet so I decided to go for a walk. I knew roughly where Alan was shooting, so I decided to go along the river opposite to where he was – there were some good little woods along there and that gives you the chance to creep up on something. I looked through the thermal and spotted a squirrel amongst some ivy that was growing around a tree. I had been looking for ages before I could actually see it through the scope. It was tucked right behind a small fork, with just its head showing through the ivy. I took aim just behind its eye and let the pellet go on its way. I hit the squirrel solid in the head and waited for it to fall … five minutes later I was still waiting. The squirrel had got stuck by its back legs and there was no way it was coming down.

I decided to have a few minutes waiting in this wood. I had seen more squirrels through the thermal so I waited for one to come to me and it wasn’t long before one turned up. I watched it from 80 yards away, running through the trees, and I could hear another chuntering behind it, so I presumed it was either its partner or a cheesed off male wanting its territory left in peace.

The squirrel I was watching had come closer and was starting to come down to the floor. I was nicely resting on a fallen tree and tracking its every movement when it decided to stop five feet from the ground and give me the chance I had been waiting for – this was turning out to be a good session! I knew there were more squirrels to be had, but the grey laminate, colour-coded hunter had found me.

A nice shaded spot was found to sit it outA nice shaded spot was found to sit it out

BAG OF RABBITS

Alan had done pretty well, too. He came over the hill like someone from a movie set, to join in my fun. We had only been together five minutes when a squirrel sat right in front of him. It was chewing on a pine cone, right on the end of a branch, resting on a fallen tree root – he dropped it on the spot. I decided to have a walk back along the river whilst Alan stayed in the wood. I would have loved to stay with him, but I had rabbits on my mind.

I had walked halfway to my old spot when another squirrel popped out in front of me. I wasn’t sure who was more startled – it was only five feet in front of me! The squirrel made a run for it, but I could see where it had gone, and a quick look through the thermal confirmed it. It was only a 20-yard shot and the easiest of the day; the squirrel joined the growing bag and I set off for more.

I was now close to the rabbit warren, and I was slowly working up the tree line when I saw a rabbit hop up the bank. It saw me before I saw him, but it made a fatal error and ran into some brambles where I could still see it pretty well through the Vantage scope. I managed to get to a small tree and took a rest off it; the little .177 pellet threaded through the brambles and another rabbit was in the bag. I spent another hour back in the spot where it all started, and took another rabbit from the warren, with the Ultimate, and an unlucky pigeon.

Alan was taking some pictures of me when I saw a pigeon land in a tree behind him. Quietly, I told Alan to stand dead still as I cocked the sidelever on the Ultimate, and slowly rising to my feet, I took aim between the pigeon’s shoulder blades. The pigeon fell to the ground with a thump. You couldn’t have written the script for this shot!

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Well, that was it for the day. We’d had a great session between us. Alan had done well just wandering around, and the landowner was over the moon so that was it – let’s hope the next session will be as good as this one.

I managed to rest on a small tree to take the rabbitI managed to rest on a small tree to take the rabbit

The Air Arms magazines are so easy to load quicklyThe Air Arms magazines are so easy to load quickly

The great white hunter came over the hill like a film starThe great white hunter came over the hill like a film star

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