I was sitting in a hedge earlier on today with a gun on my lap while reading a text message from Mrs. Hubert. In response, I took a photograph of myself - sitting in a hedge with a gun on my lap - and sent it to her by way of reply.
I've been out shooting a lot recently - almost every day for about a week - and I've had no luck at all - nothing: much dispirited trudging home has taken place. The best catch from the whole week so far was a bunch of daffodils that I found growing in secret, hidden away on a railway embankment. I hacked the whole bunch off with my knife and put them in a vase at home: the virile hunter returns with a bouquet of wild flowers.
The flowers brightened my Lenten lounge up a treat - but they didn't manage to brighten the gloom in which I contemplated my shooting abilities. This is all a nonsense, I thought, you should be reconciled to buying your meat in pink plastic packets from the supermarkets and give up this barmy fantasy of shooting damn rabbits.
Nonetheless I found myself, once again, in a hedge this afternoon, the first day of Spring and a glorious day to boot. Looking out at the brilliant sunshine form home I remembered something I'd read on the Net about rabbits coming out in the day if it's very sunny so I thought I'd go and camp out a while in the field and see if anything was happening. So I sent Mrs. Hubert a doubtless impressive self-portrait and then went back to looking at the rabbits I could see about a hundred yards away up the field. They had indeed come out to enjoy the sun, But they might as well be on the moon, I was thinking, as a hundred yards away since I can't shoot anything like that distance and I'm no good at stalking.
I sat and watched them a while and thought, Oh well, I'll try and crawl up there just for the hell of it - I'd never managed to stalk and shoot a rabbit before - I'd never got close enough, or I'd scared them off or I'd just missed the shot every single time I'd ever tried, so I set off with little belief that I'd do anything more than waste my time again.
I set out, crawling most of the way but also - when the rabbits had ducked back into their burrows for a while - advancing in a crouch to cover the distance faster and then dropping back to lying down again and checking the burrow through the scope. I could feel a gentle breeze blowing directly into my face all the time so I knew I was well set with the wind carrying my scent - and some of the noise of my crawling - off behind me downwind and away from the rabbits. I worked my way closer, had another peer through the scope and then scurried or crawled a bit more. I settled down finally in a little grassy depression about twenty yards away from the burrow and propped my rifle up on the rolled-up camouflage material of my gun slip and waited.
Nothing happened for quite a while -then suddenly a rabbit bounded out of the fence line and sped across the field before I could so much as raise the scope to my eye. Oh well, I thought - and settled down to do some more waiting. Just as I was gearing myself up for another empty-handed walk home a rabbit emerged from the burrow, hopped up the fence line towards me and sat down.
After I shot it I carried it back and walked the distance to where I'd shot from: 21 yards. I'd aimed via the thirty-yard cross-hairs in the centre of the reticule rather than at the twenty-yard mark a little bit above - but the shot had still been on target. I remembered the trajectory path I'd been looking at earlier in the week that had suggested - for the pellets and gun I was using - that there'd be an almost completely flat flight-path between twenty and thirty yards. If I'd read the path right then this shot seemed to bear that out: I'd aimed at a thirty-yard impact point and the pellet had hit exactly where I'd aimed it on the rabbit - but at 21 yards instead.
Pleased with myself and chuffed that I'd finally managed to stalk and shoot a rabbit - rather than just lying in wait and, as it were, ambushing them, I reflected that if I'm going to carry on being rubbish at estimating distances then perhaps I could try to be rubbish more often at distances between twenty and thirty yards.