I climbed a fences and then - after using the trunk of a fallen willow as a bridge over a brook - started to walk cautiously up into the field. I've become more aware, recently, of the runs that rabbits create in the grass around their burrows - the indented highways they make by running over the same paths in the fields; and so, when I noticed, up ahead, a convergence of runs towards a burrow under a fence, I decided that here might be as good a place as any to lie in wait a while. I lay down on the ground, downwind of the burrow and used the roll of my camouflage gun slip as both a prop for the rifle and a partial screen to hide myself behind.
Hunting in mid-afternoon still feels like a strange thing to be doing; despite having had a good deal of luck at this time, of late, I still can't seem to fully convinced myself that it's not a complete waste of time to lie in a field in broad daylight. Thirty minutes of lying still and seeing nothing later, I was again beginning to think that this was folly. To relieve the tedium, I sat up and cast my eyes around. Over on the far side of the field I noticed a wooden fence running up a rise in the ground and, in a dark area between two clumps of grass, saw a little reddish-grey lump that raised my attention. I swung the rifle round and peered through the scope to find that - about a hundred and twenty yards away - there was indeed a rabbit sitting there, placidly looking out at the field.
The ground was completely flat between myself and the rabbit and I was in plain view - so attempting to move closer for a shot was hopeless. I decided I'd get up, double back and then cross the field to the bottom of the fence line and try and work my way up towards it. When I got up, of course, it vanished straight away; I was hoping that, after it had recovered from the shock of seeing me, it might venture outside again after I'd moved myself to within shooting range. Once I'd got there, however, I realised at once that there was no good place to lie; twenty five yards downwind from that burrow was a muddy area in a gully from which I would be able to see almost nothing up ahead of me. Giving up on this spot - and close to giving up all together - I started to walk up the rise towards the corner of the upper part of the field.
As I started to walk I noticed, up the field ahead of me, the flash of a white tail hopping away. I crouched and looked through the scope and saw that this rabbit had come rest just beyond the brow of the rising ground. I realised that its position would work in my favour if I crawled up the hill towards it since, by staying close to the ground, I could stay below the level that the rabbit could see. I dropped my bag, lay down flat on the ground and, cradling the rifle across my arms, set off up the hill by moving my elbows and knees to propel me.
I've not done much crawling in fields; the weather up till now has meant that the ground has been too muddy to do this without getting covered in mud and cow dung. But yesterday the ground was fine - keeping away from young stinging nettles was the only real problem. As I've not done much stalking on all fours with a gun, I'd not really figured out how to do it all that well, but yesterday, after about thirty yards, I found that I was learning how to get a good rhythm going and cover the ground at a decent rate. I stopped now and then to check through the scope that the rabbit hadn't moved and also to try and figure out, using the distance-guide reticule in the scope, how close to it I'd got.
I managed, eventually - and all the time feeling quite astounded that I'd not scared the animal away - to close the distance to thirty yards. Sensing something perhaps, it hopped a little further up the field away from me and I raised the rifle to judge its distance again. Just then, another rabbit hopped out from under the fence straight ahead of me, about twenty yards away. I took a shot at it at once - rather hurriedly - which didn't quite do the job, so I got another one off, and quickly, which thankfully did.
I gutted the rabbit and thought for a while about staying on to try and get another one from this - as it had turned out - very promising new field, but I decided against it and started for home.
I'm out of work at the moment and, looking at the local job market, there's little to feel enthused about; it's easy - for me at least - to become rather gloomy about this. So what a welcome and happy tonic it was to walk home from the fields with dirt on my elbows and knees and a rabbit for dinner; with the feeling that today, in this endeavour at least, I'd achieved something.