Vermin & Varmint Hunting

Corvid Hunter - Morning Farmyard Hunt March 19th

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The excitment was building the night before, all my kit was ready but the weather forecast was predicting 2" of snow overnight. Due to work commitments the opportunities to shoot had been few and far between lately, I was determined to visit the farmyard for daybreak and went to sleep with nervous anticipation. The sound of the alarm clock woke me from a light sleep and so the mornings foray had begun, I took a peak through the window and sure enough the snow had arrived. Half an hour later and with my kit packed off I went.


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The Handy .22 Hornet

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Someone once said that the .22 Hornet was once the most accurate small centrefire cartridge going. The good news is that it’s more alive today than ever before. Being a professional pest controller for the past 32 years I rely on good equipment, and although guns and ammo do play a part for me in pest control, they are not the be all and end all when it comes to controlling vermin for me…but I do enjoy shooting for the pot.

From a very early age of 5 years old, I have been interested in shooting, having been out with my father on many occasions trapping and shooting rabbits with some sort of gun my father owned from time to time,usually his shotgun was at his side most times. On a few occasions I recall, he would use his 22 Hornet rifle (which I was never allowed to handle) but the shotguns didn’t interest me, they were too loud; it was his rifles that intrigued me, especially the Hornet. He had a variety of rifles, from an old .22 BSA air rifle to a Winchester Model 54 .22 Hornet and being only 5 years old, it was a very loud rifle as I recall no sound mods in those days.

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Despite having grown up with guns all around me, since my father had passed away when I was only being 8 years old, it was a while before I was old enough to own my own rifle, around 14 years old I think it was. I got my hands on a very old .22 BSA air rifle, rusty as hell, but it got me out and about shooting rabbits for the pot… missing most shots, as I didn’t have any telescopic sights attached to it.

Montana Christmas Jackrabbit Hunting

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 I'm going to attempt to explain to you how exhilarating chasing jackrabbits and other varmints in a 4x4 truck is in the snow, I'll start by saying it's probably the next closest thing to helicopter hog hunting, for those of us on a more modest budget. All that you need to take part is some Montana farm land where you have permission from the land owner to hunt, spotlighting (lamping) equipment and rimfire rifles. It basically works like this, you drive around farm tracks and over stubble fields (to chase high value targets), you spot them in the headlights then follow them with a lamp and shoot them from 10-200 yards depending on conditions and whether they'll sit still or not.

Bare Necessities of Stalking Rabbits with Air Rifles

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Here we are, question and answer time?

“How do you creep up on rabbits but not get spotted by them?”

Well to answer that I’m going to run you through a simulation, use your imagination on this one folks!

So, you are creeping through the fields and and you notice the bunny sat at the other end the hedge about 70 yards away. You want to try and shoot it but with your sub 12ft lb. air rifle you are finding this quite a challenge to do from a distance of over 30/40 yards. Unless your packing an FAC air rifle or one of them Rimfire jobbies then just follow where I’m going with this. The problem your currently having is closing the gap between you and your quarry.

Although rabbits don’t have the best eyesight in the world they can still see reasonably well and will spot you silhouetted against the sky if you make yourself stand out. Your first port of call is to assess which way the wind is blowing. Either way you need to be down wind of your prey in order to avoid detection with the wind blowing into your face. To help with this try not to lather yourself in your best Dolce and Gabbana aftershave, you will smell great but fail miserably at the stalk!

Next, get yourself as low as possible to the ground and walk slowly forward using any cover you can to hide yourself out of view of your prey. I cannot highlight enough  how slow you need to be on approach to your quarry, slow and steady really does win this race! If you find the rabbit popping it head up, you can be sure that it has heard you, seen you or can smell you. Stand/lie/crouch in position until the rabbit lowers its head to feed again, then set off again… SLOWLY! try and avoid walking under trees as you can quite often step on crunchy leaves and brittle sticks that make a loud snap! 

Once you have got yourself close enough to your prey that you can safely head or heart shot it without causing suffering, you need to get down into a comfortable shooting position whether this is on your knees or in a sat down position OR in prone on your belly to take your shot. if you are out of breath (which is normal for me) i take a minute to gather myself before taking the shot assuring that i am set for a clean and accurate kill. Always make sure you shoot between the eyes and ears if possible or a heart shot. Anything else is just likely to wound the animal and make it suffer which is not the aim of the game! 

If you find that you are scaring the rabbits away, DON’T WORRY. We all learn over time and learn from our mistakes. Make sure you have sufficient camo gear on to blend you into your surroundings. Take your time with this, Enjoy the experience and make sure you have the right gear for the job.

Before going out hunting for anything, make sure your rifle is zeroed correctly to your chosen range, I find 5 pellets in a 5 pence grouping is good enough. Pellet choice is vital for the hunting game as much as it is target shooting.

I find domed pellets such as RWS Superdomes or Bisley magnums work well with my .177. If you are struggling to find the Right pellet for you then you can find out a couple of ways. 

The first is, buying a sample pack of pellets and trying them out. This is a little time consuming but it works. Another way for you to choose the right pellet is ask at your local gun shop for advice, there’s no one better qualified to answer your ammo quiestions than a gun shop owner, right? Last but not least… The Internet! It’s the place we turn to for most of our questions, pellet exchange forums and airgun forums are the best places to start. Checking manufacturers websites for pellets can be done HOWEVER you will gain more experience and options on the forums. A lot of people will have the same rifle as you and a lot will be happy to help you find the right pellet for the job!

If it is a new rifle you have, make sure it is shooting at a sensible ftlbs power for the quarry you are hunting, it is your responsibility as a hunter to give your quarry a respectful and swift dispatch. So there we have it, a brief guide for beginners who are setting out on their shooting journey.

Happy Hunting!

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