Not long ago, I reviewed the Haenel Jaeger in .243 Win. I enjoyed the rifle, and was keen to try and get it to a hunting outing, but unfortunately time curtailed those efforts, and I didn’t get the chance to take any deer using that Haenel. Luckily, I managed to secure a Jaeger Pro Varmint .308 Win for an extended period, giving me plenty of chances to get this rifle properly into the field. I have some Lapua 150gn Mega ammunition, and the rifle is topped with a Meopta 2.5-15×56 illuminated. Up front, a Brugger & Thomet moderator tames the noise and a little of the recoil.
After booking on to my stalking lands north of the border for the weekend, I had a few days to get the rifle zeroed, and hopefully get familiar with this model and the new scope. A quick assembly session saw the Warne mounts secure the scope to the Haenel’s weaver rail. I checked for eye relief, and made sure the reticle was plumb. On first impressions I much prefer this standard synthetic stock – the rubberised finish of the last Haenel was fine, and shouldering this stock makes it obvious that this synthetic stock is more practical and should prove more durable.
When checking for eye relief – something I usually do with the rifle rested on a bipod while sat at a table – you get a good feel for the dimensions and the areas of the rifle you will be holding. The length of pull is good, and the forend is also effective at pulling the rifle securely back into your shoulder. The butt pad is soft and forgiving, and the real winner in this configuration is the adjustable cheekpiece. The ability to get your cheek higher when needed to comfortably view through the scope is a great feature – it is possible to manage, but once you have tried adjusting a cheekpiece and felt the difference in both handling and shooting, I for one will be reluctant to go back.
The Haenel Jaeger Varmint Sporter adjustable would be the type of rifle that I would lean towards – semi-weight barrel, threaded for a moderator (M15x1), synthetic stock, with the added benefit of an adjustable cheekpiece. With a muzzle-mounted moderator the length does increase – it’s not unbalanced or unwieldy, but I certainly noticed the added length. My own preference would usually be for a reflex-style moderator. That said, with the rifle, scope and moderator assembled, then with a bipod underslung and a basic unpadded sling, the whole combo sits on my shoulder effortlessly. It does not rotate back as some rifles will with a bulky moderator attached, and the bipod doesn’t dig into my shoulder, as the weight is very good as well.
The final job before venturing out to put some rounds on to a target was to set the cheekpiece height. Two knurled screws sit out on the right-hand side of the cheekpiece; they slacken off to allow the cheekpiece to be moved up and down. I settled on around 20mm – around one thumb knuckle. It is important to be able to set and reset this height, as the bolt will only extract from the rifle when the cheekpiece gives enough clearance.
The Haenel Jaeger mag is a three-shot stacked magazine. The release lever is on the trigger guard; pushing down on this lever allows the magazine to drop into your hand. Loading is simple, and reinserting the magazine is usually fuss-free. With the rifle off the shoulder as you leave the vehicle to begin a stalk, you tip the rifle so you can clearly see the magazine going in and clicking fully home, before cycling the first round into the chamber at the appropriate time. It is, however, possible to click both the front and rear of the magazine in, or just one of the front and the rear. If the magazine is not fully engaged front and rear, rounds will not feed from the magazine.
Generally you will have no problem with this, but if you shoot from sticks or prone using a bipod, occasionally you might partially engage the magazine after recharging with rounds. On a couple of occasions with a round in the chamber, I have dropped the magazine out to refill it, with the rifle resting on a bipod or sticks, then reinserted the magazine and failed to engage the front and rear properly (operator error). On both occasions I was self-filming capturing reloading sequences, so there was no harm done. It is a minor niggle, and really I am only mentioning this point with the intention of highlighting it to any potential hunters to avoid difficulties in the field in the heat of the moment. Just make sure you click the magazine back in fully front and rear – listen for two clicks.
After quickly boresighting on to my target board, looking down the barrel of the gun then checking to see if the scope is putting the crosshairs (or dot in the case of the supplied Meopta) in the same area, the first two rounds found their mark less than six inches from the bull. As I was shooting at 100 yards, I wanted the zero slightly high to allow me to shoot out to 200 yards. I settled in to shoot a 0.75-inch group at 100 yards that clipped the target 1.5 inches high; walking the target board out to 200 yards, I placed another couple of shots to see how much drop I would be dealing with, two inches low, but nicely central and no more than 1.5 inches apart. The Haenel had shot well, with very few rounds to get everything zeroed, and I would be happy taking roe out to 200 yards with solid chest shots.
The stalking test
Dumfries and Galloway is not known for its forgiving weather. The last time I ventured here, the Beast from the East very nearly saw me spending the night stuck on the A66; my truck fortunately got me through before much of that road became closed. The second Beast from the East was closing in as I arrived for the last hour of daylight for a quick ‘glass’ over some likely areas for tomorrow’s stalking. No deer were spotted, but I earmarked some areas for the Haenel’s first outing. My alarm broke my sleep at 5.30am, and the heavy rain did not encourage me out until after 6.30am. The clearing skies lulled me into a false sense of security – halfway into my stalk, the heavens opened again and a bitingly cold wind pelted rain horizontally. I saw two deer bounce away as I made my way around the wind to stalk up a central clearfell. Cold, wet and deerless, the Haenel and I retreated to the vehicle, I had enjoyed the exercise, and it had been good to have the Haenel on my shoulder.
Exploring stalking ground is always a good exercise. I like to go armed and ready, but I am conscious of seeing as much of the ground as possible, using satellite maps to tag areas that I want to return to. After my wet morning, I returned for my afternoon stalk, with camera and tripod weighing me down along with rifle and binos. I was aiming to get around the far boundary as far as I could to get the wind in my face, and then pick a route up through trees leading me back to a central track. I had a headlight in my pocket and sufficient charge on the phone to use maps.
Biting cold wind seemed to follow my turns, effectively ruining any chance I had of keeping my scent from any deer. Even full 90-degree turns saw the wind bluster up and away, taking my scent forward. I was exploring the ground and finding good sign, along with plenty of likely spots for future stalks. Eventually I seemed to get into the right place for the prevailing wind, and through some trees I could see the dried grassy slopes to the edges of the planted trees – the perfect habitat for browsing roe deer. I carefully teased myself, with more kit hung from my person than you can imagine, through the last rows of trees to reveal my target destination: the river.
Crossing the glade, I tucked myself into position amid the trees. I was looking over a sizeable area of tree-margined grassy glades leading in three directions. The wind was perfect in its direction, but still very cold, the rain now replaced with light but intermittent snow flurries. I spent 20 minutes contemplating the area, Haenel, camera and tripod still strapped around me. Dropping the binos to my chest, I was just in time to spot two winter-coated roe emerge. I now had to get the rifle on to the sticks, the camera on to the tripod that was hung over the opposite shoulder to the rifle, get everything in frame, and set the rifle on to the sticks to take a shot.
I slowly sunk to my knees, and methodically peeled the gadgets off my person. I glassed to confirm there was a mature roe doe and a small buck kid. While the deer browsed happily, blissfully unaware of my actions, the camera was set and levelled on the tripod nicely framing the two deer. I dared not try and stand, meaning I had to use the sticks from a kneeling position, but as the deer were at a comfortable 125 yards, I would be okay. I waited for a broadside shot on the doe, which ended up slightly high and a touch too far back. There were no problems – it put the doe down smartly – but the gralloch later revealed I had clipped the top of the stomach (operator error again). I had reloaded and watched the doe to ensure a follow-up shot was not needed. At the same time, the small buck kid had bolted to the tree line and was out of view behind a larger tree. As I waited, some movement caught my eye, and as I glassed I could see the kid making his way back to his mother. He was small, and certainly not confident enough to leave the scene, so if I could take him as well, I would.
The kid eased out into the clear to allow a shot, fully broadside. I took the kid with a solid shoulder shot, dropping him instantly. The Haenel-Meopta combo had done the business, and the Lapua ammo had performed. Now the real work would begin: gralloch and extraction. I knew that if the river allowed I could extract the deer out the far end of the ground rather than drag them both all the way back to the central track. Careful planning and execution are key. After the grallochs, I checked the river depth with my sticks and thankfully was able to carry both deer to a suitable point before loading up and extracting myself back to my vehicle. The head torch proved invaluable, as did the guidance arrow on the map of my phone. After blood, sweat and tears, I had two good carcasses in the chiller.
With prices for this model starting at around £1,600 for a well-engineered, rugged rifle that will stand up to some difficult conditions, the Haenel has proved its worth. I really value the adjustable cheekpiece, the matt finish on the barrel and action have stood up to the elements, and the synthetic stock has taken all that has been thrown at it. The rifle shoots well and sits on the shoulder effortlessly. I will have the Haenel out for more stalks this year, and I hope to get the target turret fitted to the elevation turret to help where situations dictate slightly longer shots.
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