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RABBIT RAIDERS!

PUBLISHED: 12:39 11 October 2012

Archant

The last few weeks have been filled with doom and gloom due to the reliably wet British weather.

Nearly all of our permissions have been out of bounds due to the sodden state of the ground. Even the golf course shut its gates, so it was a welcome relief to get a couple of weeks of dry weather along with a few sightings of the elusive sunshine that we sorely needed.

Combines and balers roared into life and the fields in my local area were a hive of activity with landowners trying to reap as much as they could before the weather broke again.

This was great news for Team Wild as it meant that everything was now on the move and our quarry no longer had the advantage of knee-deep grass and rape fields to hide in. It was show time!

A missed call from Wildy had me ringing him back on my breakfast break, and he told me that his uncle Roo had asked if we would have a drive round his farm and take some rabbits out of the equation. He went on to say that there were hundreds of rabbits darting and racing around as he was cutting the rape fields but as Wildy and I both know, how many times have we heard, “There’s hundreds!” by an irate or over-excited landowner only to go down and see a handful of rabbits?

Rendezvous

I met Wildy at the usual rendezvous point (a pub car park) and a word of warning to readers who meet in similar or public venues. A friend of mine recently bought an HW80 that he had seen for sale on an airgun forum. He met the seller in a service station, which was roughly halfway between where they both lived, and discreetly looked over the gun in the boot of the seller’s car. They agreed a price, the gun was purchased and they both headed their separate ways. My friend put the gun straight into his gun cabinet and headed off out again to buy some shopping only to be met at the front door by two armed response officers screaming at him to get on the ground and not move.

Apparently, a member of the public had watched the pair do the deal in the car park of the service station and came to the very wrong conclusion that they were up to no good and so phoned the police, who in turn sent out the armed response unit.

If you are meeting in a public place, my advice is that you keep the gun sleeved at all times and act as discreetly as possible. We aren’t doing anything wrong but I think it’s one of those times when the fewer people know about it, the better.

Anyway, back to the story; I can hear Wildy yawning already. We packed the Great Wall Steed and made sure that we had everything; battery charged for the Nite Site, ammo, written permission from the farmer, cans of diet Coke (our bodies are temples, obviously) and two sets of steely determination.

We got there at dusk and as it was ground that I used to go beating on, we knew where we were going and didn’t need the landowner to come with us on the first visit.

With the ground still very soggy we decided that we would walk as much of it as we could and parked the Steed up just inside the gateway to one of the fields. In a few moments I had the Nite Site NS200 rigged up to my Daystate Huntsman and was able to scan the whole field from where I stood. I could see eyes twinkling back at me at about 150 yards up the field so I loaded the mag with ten, small but very deadly, Daystate Li .177 pellets.

I have been considering taking on a .22 Airwolf recently for my hunting but I’ve really found a love for the smaller .177 calibres and I’m of the opinion, ‘If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it’ nowadays and the Huntsman has proved itself time and time again in the field pulling off some incredible shots. Even Wildy has agreed that the accuracy of the Daystate rifles we use has greatly improved our already world-class marksmanship...yes, I’m taking the wee again.

Mag loaded and ready to roll we walked off into the night darkness. It’s very important to use the wind to your advantage when stalking like this because your scent will carry a long way on a stiff summer breeze, and this will make everything scurry off into the hedgerows before you can draw a bead on it. I won’t even use aftershave when showering before going out on a rabbit foray or a deer stalk, purely for that reason.

Moving into what we imagined would be within range of the nearest of our furry friends I clicked the Nite Site on, only to see that we still had another 15 yards of a stalk to get within range. That’s the only downside we have found with the Nite Site, the field of vision is small and although once the target is acquired it’s clear to see, it can sometimes take some finding, especially if trying to scan a whole field; but fear not: armed with this feedback Jake at Nite Site informs me that a ‘spotter’ has been put together and should be in our hands ready for testing by the time this goes to press.

Another 15 silent yards later and the Nite Site was clicked on to show that my intended quarry was now at 35-ish yards and chewing merrily on the lush green shoots that were sprouting in what was left of our summer. A clumsy ‘click’ of the safety catch alerted it to our presence but it wasn’t one bit bothered as it couldn’t see or smell anything, so much so that it didn’t stop but carried on busily eating.

First Rabbit

As usual, the sound of the impact was louder than the report of the gun and the first rabbit of the night rolled over kicking, alerting the others to danger, but this was a hidden danger and as we watched them all sit upright and strain with those big ears of theirs I drew the crosshairs on another one, which sat slightly further out. I allowed a little height for this shot and was gutted to see the pellet whizz past the top of the rabbit’s head, meaning that I’d given it too much elevation, but to my advantage the confused rabbit just ducked and lay flat in the grass, choosing not to run which was a costly mistake for the grey menace. A shot placed directly behind the ear saw it leap up in the air and fall back to the ground to kick its last.

The others in that little group took to their heels and bolted off into the hedgerow after hearing the commotion, but a quick scan up the hedge showed us another two or three sitting tight further up the field and about 70 yards away.

An easy stalk on the nice soft ground had us within range in no time at all and I managed to add another to the bag. We decided to head over and work our way down the other hedge but would have to be careful as we would not have the wind on our side, which meant stopping and scanning more often; this is where the spotter would come into its own.

Wildy took over on the other side and it was my turn to watch events unfold, and Wildy also missed high with his shot but to our amazement, instead of running away, the rabbit ran towards us, and ran so fast that by the time Wildy had another pellet up the spout, it was past us and doing a Usain Bolt impression in the other direction which made us howl with laughter, but at the same time it made us realise that the little critter really had no idea that we were there, proving that the NS200 really does what it says on the tin.

Wildy managed to bag four on the way back down to the truck with an impressive left and right included - such is the cycle speed of the Huntsman that it can be loaded and ready for the next shot uber-quick. It can be done effortlessly from the shoulder without having to lift your head from the stock which, in my book, is a big advantage over single-shot and break-barrel guns, due to the fact that you can keep in the aim and follow in with a second quick shot if you need to … and yes, I need to now and again.

Back at the truck we checked the rabbits over before putting them in the back and found that they were all in really good condition.

We had an order for the butcher’s shop and these would be ideal once gutted and skinned; they’d also help to fund a few more tins of pellets.

We then started to pack our kit away and place everything back into boxes for safekeeping otherwise we end up with chargers and batteries all over the place, not knowing which one fits what.

Fox Call

While waiting for Wildy to pack his away I began to scan the field that we had just walked down, more for boredom’s sake than anything, and I picked up a faint glow right at the back of the field, high up on the bank. It must have been around 400 yards away and I couldn’t make out what it was but I was hoping it would be a fox.

I always carry a fox call on a lanyard when I’m out so I popped my fox call to my lips and gave it a burst. The one I have been using lately is ‘bestfoxcall’ and gives off a rather raspier, coarser sound but whatever the sound it seemed to get the fox’s attention, and Wildy’s.

“What are you playing at? You nearly gave me heart failure; tell me when you’re going to do that, moron!” he snapped at me.

“Moron?” I replied, “You’d better get your Nite Site on the .243 because this moron has got a fox trotting down the field, and keep your voice down, moron!”

Wildy pulled his foxing rifle from its sleeve and swapped the Nite Site from my gun to his in the space of two minutes. This is a great feature of the unit and means that two hunters can share one between them if need be.

A few rasps of the fox call and Charlie came bounding into view, clear as day in the NS200, at about 150 yards he moved into the hedge and walked the same path that we had done moments earlier, no doubt scenting the dead rabbits that we carried back.

A few quieter rasps had it picking up speed and he was soon below 100 yards which in an open field like this and with a good back stop would be an easy shot for the big lad.

Fox fall

We both stared at the screen like a pair of teenagers playing on the X Box and every time he stopped I gave it another squeak, it was amazing to actually see the fox’s reaction to my call and at about 80 yards Wildy put paid to the fox’s pheasant poult and rabbit munching days. A loud crack, followed by an immediate and tell-tale thud let us know that the shot had struck true.

Now, some of you reading this will ask why on earth we shot the fox. Surely, if it eats rabbits then it will be doing the farmer a favour? No, we do the farmer a favour and Charlie is eating our rabbits. Joking aside, the farm prides itself on rare breed poultry and wildfowl and over the past year they have been hit hard by foxes taking birds, so you can imagine how happy the owner was when we showed him our harvest for the night.

With the words, “Come back whenever you like lads,” ringing in our ears we went on our way, happy to have secured another prime piece of hunting ground.

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