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Rabbit shooting with an air rifle

Rabbits love a safe environment, with plenty of food, at this time of year — I decided to make a permanent hide in a safe, fenced-off corner of the paddock for a spot of rabbit shooting. It blends into the countryside: an unobtrusive, natural-looking, safe and comfortable hide where I can sit and shoot with the one rifle I use almost as much as I deploy my ferrets.

The hide was made in advance and built to last. Not only will the rabbits become accustomed to it as they feed in the spring sunshine, but from inside I can quickly remove any newcomers to the area. I used some spare rabbit fence posts to make the rifle rest, ensuring that I had the right shooting position. Constructed around this rest is a mixture of netting and ivy so that, from a few yards away, the hide goes unnoticed. Ivy is good, as it retains that fresh-looking greenness for a while.

I filled the rifle with air from my bottle. The FX has an air regulator fitted, ensuring every shot has the same pressure. This gives a consistently accurately placed pellet, good for four refills of my 10-shot magazine.

Once in position, I put on my face veil and gloves. I was tempted to wear some face paint under my glasses but, after seeing some footage of this veil, I saw no reason to change.

As I stared intently through the perfectly constructed letterbox on my hide, I recalled previous shooting sessions when I missed a couple of “easy” rabbits. So I went back to basics. I checked my rifle’s zero at my usual 35 yards using a 16g Diabolo pellet. I charted its performance every five yards from 10 to 50. My rifle pumps out a consistent 24ft/lb, considered perfect for the rabbiting game. By using a 16g pellet, 
I was getting the balance right between pellet power and pressure, without distorting the pellet.

I was avoiding inaccuracy caused by too much power or incompatible weight of pellet for that rifle and poundage per foot. Shooting low at 10 yards rising to zero at 35 before dropping off to 50, my arc of accuracy was recorded to illustrate how I needed to compensate by raising or dropping the cross-hairs.

Experience confirms that I can easily drop a rabbit at 60-plus yards in the right conditions, but my problem was at the 10- to 20-yard range. Complacency had crept in but, by going back to basics, I could see where I had been going wrong.

A perfect combination of the Cyclone and the 16g pellet delivers the right energy to kill while being light enough to be streamlined, delivering a slightly flatter trajectory. A pellet that hits its target will do its job, which is obviously preferable to one that misses because it is too fast and inconsistent. Velocity and power aren’t everything — accuracy and consistency will always bag you more bunnies. Gravity dropped my quarry in its shadow and, as it rolled over, the other rabbits ran for home.