Coney control

Big problem: The humble rabbit is seemingly ingenious at evading methods of control

Tony Megson brings about the demise of a number of crop-raiding coneys and longs for the crops to be away so he can get at them properly

There is nothing more likely to incur the wrath of the farmer or gardener than the destruction of his carefully tended crops. Books, magazines, radio and television programmes dedicate themselves to the many ways in which to eradicate the multitude of voracious munchers currently having it away with their precious produce, be it mammalian, avian or insectivorous. The ingenuity of some of the methods has to be seen to be believed, and as for the famous slug beer trap, well I tried it once but thought it best to leave the guns in the cabinet – after the fourth trap it became extremely difficult to focus.

Enough said, back to the shoot. The field margins were beginning to show the signs of rabbits re-colonising in varying numbers. Wheat fields had runs through them culminating in bare patches of varying sizes. Droppings appeared to be everywhere and it was obvious something had to be done about it before the damage took on catastrophic proportions, meaning the rimfire would once more have to come into play.

The only problem when shooting in corn is getting a clear shot through all the vegetation. Your bullet only has to touch a leaf and we all know what the outcome of that is. It’s not so bad if the rabbits are operating the edges of the crop, but if they are working through the runs and into the crop itself then you have a problem. The only answer was to sit out in the fading light and wait, and wait and wait.

Patience is truly a virtue, and being an exceptionally virtuous man I was duly rewarded by the eventual appearance of a crop-eating culprit. It was barely visible, inching cautiously out from its bury into the edge of the field. Only its head gave a clear line of sight for the bullet. But this was more than enough for the combined efforts of the .22 CZ, Weaver and Remington. This set-up is deadly accurate over these sorts of ranges and the moderated report announced the end of one coney.

Day of the Jackal: Danner’s boots proved themselves as a sturdy ally

I suppose you could say the rabbits were an integral part of their own demise, as the areas where they had gnawed the wheat away meant I had a couple of places that made visualising them possible amid the waist-high crop. My chosen place of concealment offered a field of view both in front of and across the dyke to my left, where yet more damage had been done.

Thankfully this gave me the opportunity to shoot in two different directions, allowing the area where I had just shot a rabbit to remain quiet and give things time to settle, and enabling me to continue to reduce the problem a little further away without moving locations.

And so it proved. After the first shot I turned my attention to the other side of the dyke, and as expected a couple of crop munchers were doing their very best to reduce the agricultural input to the economy. Drawing a bead through the Weaver, I picked the left one of the pair still avidly slicing through the wheat stalks. Totally unaware of my presence, the first one fell over to a perfectly executed headshot. Its colleague appeared not to know what had occurred and sat back on its haunches somewhat bemused. It was quickly relieved of any need to ponder the situation further, as the CZ once again hit the mark.

Cooking up coneys: The haul promises some fine organic dining for Tony

The beauty of the little moderated CZ-Weaver combination is the quiet way in which it goes about its business. There is hardly any noise with the Remington subsonics, and the clarity of the Weaver optics means targets are visible, even in that critical time in the half-light when our rabbit friends start to appear in numbers. I was just pondering such things when I caught sight of another bunny emerging back where I shot the first one, but it ran straight into the wheat where it was invisible. Perhaps if I hadn’t been considering man’s inhumanity, the meaning of life, red-headed women and politics, I might have had the chance to get a shot off – but for the moment it was safe.

It was because I was staring intently at the area that I was able to rapidly bring the gun to bear when another made its presence known. The Weaver dot was on it in a flash, but as the pressure went on the trigger I lost sight of it. Slightly offsided, I knew it was still there, I just couldn’t see it. Scanning the area brought no joy as it now appeared to be totally devoid of any quarry. Disbelief set in – I wasn’t sure if it had gone down a bolthole in the field or whether it was squat tight to the ground. Either way I couldn’t see it. Taking my gaze away, I scanned the other side of the dyke again and sure enough another coney had come out. The dull thud of impact assured me of one more in the bag. Turning back to where I had initially lost sight of the other rabbit, I saw it, sat up alert and obviously listening hard in an attempt to ascertain what the noise had been. It didn’t think long as it, too, fell to the unerring accuracy of the CZ.

Five bunnies safely ensconced in the bag and an end to a pleasant evening shooting. Ok, Watership Down it wasn’t, and many more evenings’ work would have to be put in to reduce the population. But I had done the best I could – until the crops come down, enabling me to embark on a major offensive.

The rabbit’s culinary value is often underrated. It’s an organically grown meat, lean in its make-up, tender in texture and a delight to the palate. I had homes for all of them, and knowing the nature of our editor’s appetite I knew none would be wasted.

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