Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Air Rifle Hunting & Wandering

I went out shooting early today. I wanted to walk around some parts of the fields that I've been neglecting and get to know them a bit better. I was also trying to see if I could spot any Wood-Pigeons coming back to roost since I've yet to shoot one of these and I'm keen to add them to the cook pot. Quite early on in the afternoon I settled down beside big tree - well sheltered from view by some dead nettle stalks - and watched the field next to it, to see what sort of rabbit activity would go on while it was still light.

After fifteen minutes I saw two pop out, run a bit and then sit looking warily around - but I ended up deciding, after spending a while trying to figure out what distance away they were that - despite being nicely concealed - my position was no good. The rabbits all seemed to be showing up at about fifty yards away from me. At this distance through a x6 magnification scope this always looks to me like a target I can shoot at, but appearances are deceptive - fifty yards is just too far away, for me at least, to stand any chance of making a humane kill. So I wandered off again.

I found a little, dense, shrubby green wood which, in one part, was carpeted with old bottles - a glass dump for the farms out this way, I guessed. I lay down near the edge of the wood and looked out onto a stretch of field where I've seen rabbits before, I lay there for fifteen minutes or so but I think that while there was very little wind this afternoon, what there was might have been taking my scent towards them and keeping them in their burrows. There was obviously nothing doing there, so I moved on again.

I've taken to lying just along the boundary of a field right up against an overgrown wire fence in the hope that rabbits hopping out of their burrows further down the field will not notice me. So I lay there for another twenty minutes and, while I certainly saw a few rabbits again, they were at a hopeless sixty yards. I decided to move down along the fence a little towards a corner of the field that gets a little illumination from some street lighting not too far away. The little bit of extra light there makes it possible for me - if I'm looking down the field towards it, at least - to see rabbits in clear silhouette for some time after dusk has turned into early evening. I lay there for a good while, starting to get rather cold and aware that the happy, good spirits that I'd enjoyed all afternoon had started evaporated into a fog of impatience.

A little more of this and I was reaching the point where I was starting to be more occupied with cursing my own ineptitude than I was with noticing my surroundings. Sometimes I can just shrug off off a fruitless hunting trip but this evening I was becoming increasingly cross with myself for having failed again as well as stubbornly unwilling to make the walk home with empty hands. This - for me - is a recipe for a very unhappy state of mind and one that it's difficult to get out of.

Right then, about twenty yards away, two rabbits hopped through the fence into the field right in front of me. Moving extremely slowly, I inched the rifle up and brought the scope towards my eye - and took a head shot on the nearest rabbit.

I felt a fool for feeling proud, walking home with a rabbit that I'd shot, but I did feel proud - and happy that there was some meat for the pot tonight.

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