How to: prepare for the spring air rifle hunting season

Man taking kneeling shot with air rifle

I take a lot of kneeling shots when hunting rabbits on the move - Credit: Archant

Dave Barham offers some advice on how to prepare for the spring hunting season now that lockdown looks set to be lifted

The combined efforts of us all staying at home to protect the NHS, coupled with the monumental vaccine rollout, means that the roadmap out of lockdown is all going to plan. Hopefully, in the coming weeks and months we will all continue to be allowed out to do what we love doing, so with that in mind, here are a few ideas to help you prepare for the coming spring hunting season.

SPRING CLEANING
One thing I always do come spring is to give my trusty old boots a proper clean and polish. Quite often, I will have worn them throughout the winter whilst fishing, and they tend to take quite a battering, so it’s important to try to keep them in good shape. I’ve had these particular boots for nearly a decade now, and they’re still going strong! Give them a quick wipe down with some warm water and leave them to dry for 24 hours, then give them a good dollop of wax oil to keep them waterproof.

The same goes for my hunting clobber. Now is the time to repair those tiny rips in your camo gear, either by needle and thread, or a simple fix with superglue or patches.

It goes without saying that now is also the perfect time to strip down your rifle and give it a well-earned clean. It’s something we should all do if our rifles get wet out in the field, but it’s also worth doing if you have a spare afternoon, regardless, and spring is the perfect time to do so. Remove the stock and scope. Give your stock some TLC and oil it if it’s a wooden one. Wipe down moving parts and grease them. Add a little dab of grease to screws and bolts before replacing everything and putting it all back together.

old boots

From old and tired (left) to shiny and ready for a new season (right) - Credit: Archant

Wax and cloth for boots on a wooden background

Always use a good quality wax on leather boots - Credit: Archant

SCOPE OUT YOUR PERM 
If, like me, you haven’t ventured on to your permission during lockdown, it’s a good idea to spend a couple of mornings or evenings just checking the place out and looking for signs of pest activity. A lot can change in the space of a few months, not just with the wildlife concerned, but the permission owners may have moved things about, too. I know on one of my perms they have been erecting various outbuildings, so I’m going to need to know exactly where they are before I recommence shooting there, to make sure they aren’t in the line of fire. 

It’s vital that you reacquaint yourself with where you are going to be shooting. Use your time to see where your quarry has been and observe their movements. Make plans for different wind directions and build up a picture in your mind for potential shooting positions and what lies beyond you in the direction you intend to shoot. 

a track through a green field with trees to one side

Make time to check out your perms to see if anything has changed - Credit: Archant

A rabbit hole

Look for signs of fresh activity - Credit: Archant

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
With luck, you’ve been able to keep on shooting throughout lockdown within the confines of your back garden, if you have one. Now’s the time to work on a few key basics in readiness for a day back in the field. 

Try shooting from different positions, such as standing and kneeling. Unless you’re digging yourself in and shooting rabbits from a bipod, you’re going to need to be able to react quickly and efficiently to any potential quarry that presents itself during a hunt. It’s all too easy shooting from a bench or from a controlled environment at a set distance in your garden. Try to get yourself into the hunting mindset and place targets at varying ranges and angles to work on your skills.

The quicker you can settle into position and release your shot, the better your results will be. If you spend too much time thinking about it, you’ll begin to tense up and this will affect your aim. As far as breathing goes, get used to taking a couple of deep breaths before raising your rifle, then look through your scope, breathe in and slowly exhale. Once your crosshairs come to rest on your target, you can pause your breathing for a second and release the trigger. 

You can also try breathing normally, then holding your breath for a second or two once you have the crosshairs on target. 
 

Air rifle target with small groups

Taking shots from a bench or prone is much different to standing or kneeling - Credit: Archant

man taking standing shot with air rifle

Practice your standing shots - Credit: Archant


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