Right TIme, Wrong Place!
PUBLISHED: 09:50 15 August 2013 | UPDATED: 09:50 15 August 2013
Eddie Jones sorts out a rabbit problem … after finding the right location
This month I finally got out to have a go at a growing population of rabbits a farmer had tipped me off about. I’d decided on an evening sortie because this is usually the most productive time of day where you will get rabbits feeding in numbers as the hot day cools down, making it more comfortable for them to sit out.
Armed with my new Jack Pyke Woodland Green LLCS suit, I’d planned to lie out in the field some 30 yards from the holes in the fence line where they were coming through from the wood they live in. This time of year the wood is overgrown with ferns and it’s hard to see them while walking around in there so ambushing them seemed the perfect plan.
At around 6 o’clock I was ready and waiting for the first rabbit to show itself. The sun had gone down below the tree line behind me and I had a gentle breeze blowing slightly towards me and to the right. The wind wasn’t strong enough to blow the pellet off that much, so only a few millimetres of windage was all that would be needed.
Lying patiently for half an hour produced nothing, but I knew there were usually a few rabbits here, so I didn’t panic. Another half hour went by and still nothing showed, which was very unusual for this field, so I was getting a little worried that nothing was going to show.
It was another 15 minutes before I saw my first rabbit. It had come out 80 yards down to my left and was well out of range. I thought more would show, but that little rabbit was the only thing I saw for the remainder of the next hour.
I gave the farmer a ring and asked him exactly how many he had seen and if I was in the right spot, because this was rather worrying to say the least. The last thing I wanted was to go back to the farm empty-handed and look a right mug. The farmer informed me that when he’d cut the field he’d rested up in the wood where he’d made a clearing for a summer house. He’d cut a ride through the trees and this was where he’d seen most of them feeding on the grass that had replaced the ferns.
Two hours in and I was greeted with the news that I was in the wrong place, but after climbing the gate into the wood, I located the ride where the farmer had seen the rabbits feeding. I saw a couple about 40 yards down the ride and I didn’t want to disturb them by trying to creep up through the trees, so I crawled a little closer through the longer grass and waited for them to edge just a little closer.
A lot of you will be saying that I could easily have taken them out at 35 yards and you would be right, but my plan was to sit it out just a little longer and hope that one might come out a bit closer and give me an easier shot.
It’s a worrying thing when you’re out trying to shoot something for these features, you can go for the longer shots once your bag is sorted and you have something to write about because the pressure is off and you relax more.
My plan worked. Within no more than ten minutes, two smaller rabbits ran out into the open, about 20 yards in front of me. They were oblivious to my presence because I was nicely tucked away in the long grass and the leaf suit really hid me well. I covered the head of the larger of the two rabbits with the crosshairs and once I was on the mark, I pulled the trigger. The thump of lead hitting bone sent the other one scurrying down toward the two rabbits further down and surprisingly, they only stood upright, on edge, wondering what the loud noise was.
Now I had something to write about I decided to take one of the longer shots. Yes, 35 yards is pretty easy with no wind and a rifle set-up you can trust, so number two was soon on its side, giving its last twitches. Unfortunately, the other two soon made haste, so I emerged from my position and collected the ones I’d shot. While picking up the further rabbit, I noticed where the others had run to. Their warren was at a far corner of a small conifer plantation.
Looking around, I thought my best vantage point would be in the middle of a bed of nettles. I know hardened, stupid hunters wouldn’t think twice about settling down in them, but me and nettles have never really got on, so as you need something to read about I decided to join in the stupidity and waded in. Luckily, I had some tough trousers underneath the suit, so I didn’t get stung much and right in the heart of the nettles was a nice rock, perfect for sitting on.
I’d been sitting, rubbing my stings for just over 20 minutes when I got my first sign of activity. Two young rabbits emerged from one of the holes and started to feed on the little bit of grass around the warren. It’s a hard choice not to shoot one when your time is running out, but if the young are out it won’t be long before an adult emerges. It’s worth the wait if you’re not getting pressured into killing every one you can, and don’t have to perform a full cull of all the rabbits on the ground.
Ten minutes later and I got my reward. I spotted an adult poking its head out of the hole, looking around for danger. I lined up the scope on its head and waited for it to emerge fully. It wasn’t long before it was sitting at the edge of the hole and a perfect head shot rolled it down the little bank out of view. I knew it was dead, so I sat still and waited just in case another came out. The two young rabbits ran for cover in the ferns instead of back down the hole, so there was no cause for concern to any other rabbits below ground.
Time was pushing on now and thoughts of moving to another area were going through my mind. I was just ready to go and collect my rabbit when I noticed one to my left in the clearing. It was a big buck, about 45-50 yards away. The LLCS suit was put to the test as I stalked through the conifers. l slowly pushed myself out of the nettles and slid into the conifers. There were narrow walkways through the plantation, so my job was made a little easier because there were fewer branches to get hooked up on and so less to crunch underfoot. I’d got myself to within 30 yards and I could see the rabbit still feeding with its back to me. I slowly pushed myself through some of the thin branches and lined myself up ready to get my fourth kill.
The cross hair was perfectly lined up and I pulled the trigger. To my surprise nothing happened. I had forgotten to re-cock the rifle. What a numpty! I slowly pulled the bolt back on the Rapid and the click of the next pellet cycling alerted the rabbit of my presence. It lifted its head looking in my direction for at least a minute. I thought my chance had gone but luckily it hadn’t seen me tucked in the trees and carried on feeding without a care in the world. I made no mistake this time and the little .177 pellet was on its way and rabbit number four was mine.
It was getting a little late now and I decided to pick the rabbits up and take some pictures. It’s hard to stop shooting to take pictures when all you want to do is carry on and shoot more. I even had the pleasure of going back in the nettles, just for you, to see how effective the leaf suit looked and got stung again in the process.
Pictures all sorted in record time, I decided to take a quick look around just in case I could see more out. A quick walk along the fence line gave me a good view over the grass in the wood. About halfway up I saw a half-grown one out feeding near the top end. Keeping low, I crept as slowly as I could through the ferns hoping to get within range. I was about 40 yards away when I noticed the ferns moving about 20 yards in front of me. I stopped straight away and watched them twitch all the way to the grass area. Without hesitating I got to one knee and lifted the Rapid in the direction of where I’d seen the ferns last move. I stared straight at a full-grown rabbit through the scope. All I could see was its head through the top stalks of the ferns. It was looking straight at me, so I knew it had seen me but it hadn’t got a clue what I was. How could it see me as danger when I looked like a little bush. I took my time to make sure I had a clean run to its eye and as soon as the trigger was pulled, it seemed, the rabbit dropped. I went straight to it just to make sure I had done my bit and I was happy to see that it lay there perfectly still.
After collecting all the rabbits and taking one last picture, I headed off back to the car. It was getting pretty gloomy in the light when I got changed, so I decided to quickly take a picture of the rabbits to finish off a hard but pleasurable night.