Stuart Wilson’s rabbit raid

Credit: James Gledhill / Getty Images

Stuart Wilson recruits two shooting buddies while on a .22 rabbit control mission, and is even kind enough to hand one of them the rifle.

Don’t forget to check out the equipment used at the bottom of the page!

Firstly I would like to thank the two gents who made a good night’s rabbit lamping happen, and will ask for forgiveness in advance for anything I subsequently write!

The night was set for some lamping around various grass fields that had too many rabbits on them  We had a lamper/driver, a shooter, and me filming and not helping in any other way unless there were biscuits to eat or coffee to drink.

Quickly lifting the shooting frame onto the Gator to be bolted down, and assembling all our associated kit from lamps to cameras, 10 minutes of prep saw us entering the first fields to pursue the local bunnies, which had been doing some damage in a rearing field and generally causing a nuisance undermining banks and gnawing on carefully planted hedging plants. So the die was cast, and the Ruger was loaded.

Putting the Ruger’s adjustable cheekpiece to good use

The lamp flashed across the first field and three or four rabbits, objecting to our illuminating activity, made for home, hardly stopping once to give our shooter chance to draw a bead and get a shot off.

We may be in for a tough night. Despite the lack of shooting pressure, the first rabbits just seemed to want to get out of our way, and the shooting and the filming were proving difficult.

Eventually we started to get into our groove – with a little more cover in some fields rabbits were now sitting, and after some settling in, our shooter began to find his mark and the first couple of rabbits were bagged and collected after a chest shot and a pleasing headshot. 

Night shooting using a lamp can be difficult with a .22LR. The trajectory has enough loop to it to make range estimation an acquired skill, further compounded by the changing position of the Gator, and the narrow beam of lamp light causing targets to appear closer and at a certain point much further than they really are.

Our team would surely get into the groove, with the lamper proving invaluable with his knowledge of the ground, hopefully then leading the shooter on to rabbits at optimal distances, which can be difficult to accomplish with safety being paramount.

The Ruger Precision .22 was finding favour with our shooter, with the adjustable stock, and Harris bipod. The fit was proving good.

Our only slight problem was manoeuvring the rifle as the mildly skittish rabbits made getting the rifle moved a little awkward; next time we will move the bipod back a little, just to allow the gun to pivot round more, which in turn lets the shooter move less. 

Rabbits were everywhere if you knew where to look

On the third reload of the magazine, and with a reasonable six rabbits picked (some always make their way down holes or can’t be found in undergrowth), our shooter slipped the safety catch off, drew a bead on a squat rabbit and released the bullet, which cleanly found the rabbit’s head, causing a somersault and drop to the same spot.

The satisfying thwack quickly followed by a slick eject and reload – now that’s how things should sound.

The lamp quickly found another bunny, with the second head shot dropping the bunny without a flicker. On to a third rabbit, converting a potential hattrick into a reality, and all on film – fantastic.

Things were starting to come together, and armed with some high-tech gear, the thermal spotter caused a brief stir. A potential fox upset the flow; the .22 was unloaded, the .22-250 came out along with its NV scope, and as we closed the gap to shootable range, the potential fox turned out to be a roebuck laid in the undergrowth. Rifles juggled again, back to bunny bashing. 

The Ruger Precision 22’s magazine is a 15-shot straight feed with a slight curve. It performs best and loads easiest when 10 rounds are put in. I find it easier to keep track of shots, the spring isn’t over-compressed – it just suited me better to stick to this method. A second magazine would be useful next time.

Our shooter, because it was a colder night, had opted for thick gloves to keep his fingers working, and the Ruger’s oversized bolt handle was proving invaluable. The trigger was also not suffering from a gloved hand either, and our bag was developing nicely.

A switch to the thermal for spotting duties was occasionally necessary

The next field was a wheat field with enough leaf height to fully cover a bunny, meaning the rabbits were quite happy staying put as our lamp picked out their eyes, some even raising their heads, oblivious to the danger.

As a few rabbits stayed straight in front of the Gator, the bullet’s base lit up like a tracer as it zipped directly down the lamp’s beam to its target, connecting heavily and decisively. Feeding the Ruger a diet of Winchester 42gn subsonics, our kill ratio was coming on nicely, and the footage was looking good. 

Focusing quickly enough to keep up with our shooter was the main problem now! To help my situation, I put the OLight OD40 light on top of my camera – it’s a brilliant clean white circle of light, complete with an adjustable mount, making it perfect for lining up centrally inside the camera’s field of view, and the extra light really helps with auto focus.

The next fields we pulled into were short grass, with patches of nettles, and sedges – perfect for our rabbits to remain confident enough to sit still for our shooter.

It’s satisfying to get the job done efficiently, and I am quite happy to be seen enjoying my shooting, whether I am filming or behind the rifle – the quarry is treated respectfully whether it’s a rat or a red stag.

The lamp found the next rabbit, which made a couple of hops before stopping and presenting for a head shot at around 80 yards, followed by a couple of clean chest shots on a brace of bunnies nearing the 100-yard mark.

Straight into the next field, which led up to a wood side, a good few bunnies scattered as the lamp flashed over. Quickly negotiating into a cutoff-type position, our lamper/driver did a sterling job of getting some rabbits to ‘clap’, where the rabbit lays flat and tries to hide on the spot.

Lamper and shooter worked in silent harmony: thwack, reload, next bunny, thwack, reload, lamp off, move round to catch the last few bunnies at the edge of the wood, thwack, reload.

The Ruger was doing the business, as was the shooter, and one final bunny in this field just visible in the cover growing on the wood floor was dispatched before being collected into the back of the Gator. 

Another rabbit illuminated in the lamp

We were nearing the end of our foray and hadn’t done badly under the circumstances, with only a couple of fields left. We quickly zipped along a tramline and got the double orange flash that can be only one thing: Vulpes vulpes.

I still get a buzz when you pick one up in the lamp, and we were, of course, geared up with a thermal and a .22-250 with night scope. A slick swap, the IR illuminator on my camera saw the fox’s eyes shine like beacons, and I had just focused when the shot was sent to down the fox – unfortunately before I had time to press the record button.

All the same, we had bagged a useful fox before the crops made any lamping impossible.

In all we picked 20-plus rabbits and a fox, with some shot rabbits disappearing down holes, into cover or drainage ditches. A successful night for a new team of lampers, in less than ideal conditions, with the shooter thrown in the deep end with a new rifle, the Ruger Precision .22 topped off with Leupold’s VX-Freedom Rimfire scope.

I will look forward to our next session, which is most likely after harvest now, and perhaps we will even get some fox lamping done as well.

Equipment used

Product: Ruger Precision .22LR
Viking  01423 780810

Product: Leupold VX-Freedom 3-9×40 Rimfire scope
Price: £252
Viking  01423 780810

Product: Winchester 42gn subsonics
Browning  01235 514550

Product: Ariat Catalyst Defiant boots

Ariat  01367 242818

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