When I was asked what my thoughts were on this subject, and could I put pen to paper as it were. I first said No! As I had already covered this in other articles, on long range shooting like in my F,A,C,ts about Long range air rifle shooting. But then I got to thinking perhaps we should explore this subject a little more.
You see with all shooting I don’t call it long range shooting, I like to call it common sense shooting… By this I mean why try and take long shots if you don’t have too, I like to teach the Young sports or indeed the Novice hunter field craft, and how to get so close you can see the whites of their eyes, as my pappy taught me oh so long ago.
But sometimes you have no choice, but to take these extended range shots, and to achieve correct results takes time and practice, on the range at various distances, topography of land and weathers all play their part. With whatever rifle you have for the job in hand, I also say you must use the right tool for the job in question. I have said this before using my builders term, you don’t use a screw driver to lay a brick thus, you don’t use an air rifle to take a fox!
Now I know many of you will not agree with me, and will say I can do this or that at daft ranges. But only with practice and time spent on the range, will you know what you and your rifle are capable of. In fact in many cases the rifle is capable of more than what you can achieve, as you are the weak link in the chain. A lucky shot here or there is nothing, only when you have disciplined yourself, practiced in all winds weathers and terrains, and are able to hit the target time after time should you go out on live targets, especially extended range one.
I will tell you of a couple of trips out hunting, both with myself and with the Pass It On Young Sports. I have trained them on the range and how a 9 year old boy eye wiped an experienced shot with an air rifle that came down to pure training on the range and how he took it to the field using field craft. But First here’s what my Ole Mucker Mike Bell had to say on this subject from www.t4rd.co.uk who he himself is an ex Paratrooper regiment Sniper and fellow sky hound.
What Distance to shoot Vermin at and how to cleanly dispatch vermin?
The main question I get asked and have seen asked, what distance you shoot at, and what distance can you shoot at when using a sub 12 air rifle (12 ft. lb.)?
The answer to this would be what’s you comfort zone, when shooting and how much practice have you had.
I’ve seen a lot of people out there, that play Xbox games and think if they pick up an air rifle they can shoot whatever they want at any distance they want. Unfortunately life is not a computer game and there are rules we have to stick to.
Me, myself-have a lot of shooting experience sum 20 odd years at it. My comfort zone for Rabbits pigeons is anything from 5 yards out to 60yards-But this came with a lot of practice, everyone always asks what’s the best Calibre to shoot with .22 or .177
.22 moves’s a lot slower than a .177 and drops a lot faster but hits with a lot more thump. .177 However moves’ a lot faster has less drop which means your shots are on a flatter trajectory but does not hit as hard as a .22 .
There are a few simple steps to know and learn when it comes to vermin control, so I’ll work with the rabbit on this. Whether or not you are using a .22 or a .177. As long as you know the sweat spot to hit them they both do the same thing a nice clean painless kill shot. I only work on the basis if it’s not 100% clean kill I won’t pull the trigger at all.
When it comes to zeroing your rifle the things you will need if you do not have a range near you. Firstly is permission the shoot on the land were you want to zero. Once you have obtained permission then take a selection of pellets (domed pellets for hunting) a pack of targets a tape measure and either a bipod for your rifle or a hunting bean bag/pillow. Now mark from where you are shooting from and measure out 27.4 meters =30 yards.
Make sure that behind your target it has a suitable back stop to stop the pellets leaving the field you are shooting in. now set a target at 18 meters = 20 yards and another at 9 meters = 10 yards. Now time to work on getting your groups when shooting always try and group your shots into a 2p coin. Once you feel confident at doing this then do the same on the 20 yard target and same after for the 30 yard target. Once you have done that then keep doing it until you can do it all the time into a 5p coin, this takes a lot of practice. Never shoot out of your comfort zone because all you are going to do is either miss or worse hurt the pests,
The 3 shooting stance you need to practice all of the above are these
Whilst you are putting all these in to practice you need to make sure you know the rules and responsibility that come with owning and shooting a fire arm.
- ALWAYS treat any fire arm as if it is loaded
- ALWAYS point your fire arm in a safe direction and never at anyone.
- ALWAYS keep your figure away from the trigger unless you are ready to shoot
- ALWAYS keep the gun in an unloaded state until you are ready to shoot
- ALWAYS make sure your rifle is of the legal limit (chronograph)
- ALWAYS have rifle shooting insurance
- NEVER shoot over your boundaries
- Never shoot towards a public foot path or roads
And carry a GUN ICE card they can save your life.
Once all of this has been put into Practice and becomes second nature then you can go start doing pest control, but always remember event thought you have become good at shooting still always practice, and if you are unsure one simple thing to do is ASK! Contact your local FEO, ranger, Pass It on Young sports/CnG Marksman Instructor.
Now back to my times out in the hunting fields or on the Pass it On Young Sports/CnG Marksmanship ranges. I have had many great teachers and coaches in my life, first and foremost my Pappy, Ex Royal Navy man and boy Sniper Trained and one hell of a shot, My ole Drill Sergeant, Marc. Who I impressed on a range many years ago now, using open sights on a Lee Enfield 303, my Pappy taught me well, Sadly both Men who were my hero’s stand guard outside the gates of Saint Peter now, so with this article I salute both of these men as I still pass on their teachings now.
I get lots of calls from several local land owners all stating they have a major rabbit problem. So it’s time to get the Woodspring Pigeon Shooting Club (www.woodspring-pigeon-shooting.co.uk) boys in to help and get our Young Sports out practicing what they have been learning on the ranges.
Three of the pieces of land were all next to each other, one being a riding centre a golf course and a conservation area. All being overrun, with rabbits, and indeed Corvids (crow family) and also, a good number of wood pigeons too. So I did my initial recce and made a plan of attack on how we would manage this population of vermin.
I first took the young sports out on the range to make sure they were on target and both them and their rifles were performing on top form. This done and I will say the Young sports were bang on and did everything from gun safety to pin point accuracy just how I had taught them.
So to the riding arena we headed first the Dads had a go and well they had moderate success and bagged a couple of rabbits and a pigeon or two, One Dad even saying blimey those rabbits I could not get within 50 yards of them so had to take long shots with his Air Arms TX200.
Now it was my Young Sports turn using Air arms S200 PCP air rifles fitted with the Simply Brilliant Huggett (www.huggetpresisionproducts.co.uk) sound moderators that are so quiet they literally whisper good night on target.
Well my Young Sports turned from giggly kids into focused young hunters in the blink of an eye, One dad saying to his son you won’t get close enough to those rabbits as the boy turns round and says watch this dad this is how it’s done I have The Ole Hedge Creepers eyes,
I did laugh as we entered the paddocks these kids eyes were like hawks looking for the slightest movement Jake spots a rabbit a good 100 yards away, Now I know I can make this shot with my FAC rifles but why when the real challenge is using field craft and getting up close and personal,
I sent Jake on to stalk it as the rest of us watched the boy do exactly what I had taught him, He stalked round on the wind using every fence post grass bump and water trough to cover his stalk, As I sat there watching with the other Young Sports all of whom were deadly silent watching like a Harris Hawk for the rabbit to bolt, I saw myself as a boy right there in front of me and my pappy watching me, I must admit I felt a wave of pride come over me as a tear fell down my cheek,
Jake stalked right into 20 yard as i saw this young sport drops to a kneeling position behind some long grass as he steadied his breathing and took aim, THWACK as the rabbit literally did a summersault in the air and dropped stone dead on the ground much to the cheer of his fellow young sports and well I think they heard my YES out in the car park of the stables,
Each of the young sports had their chance this day and what can I say young Tyler bagged his first rabbit too and my Emilie well she does what she does best and filled the game bag with rabbit/pigeon and corvid,
Next was the golf course and the dreaded driving range, Why I call it that is there is no cover for 400 yards so here we have no choice but to shoot the rabbits and corvids at an extended range, This is where the 22 rim fire and the .17HMR comes into play as here we cannot stalk in close at all its completely open since they took the woodlands out to extend the driving ranges, It completely open and as it rises up the slopes the rabbits can see us coming 400 yards before we get near them and are gone in a flash,
So here we shoot from the driving range tee off point off a table using the simply brilliant Jack Pyke (www.jackpyke.co.uk) sand bags, These really hold the guns firm and steady especially needed for these long range rabbits, Now for the 22 rim fire I won’t shoot passed 100 yards with it, Now I know I hear people say they take longer shots etc. but I much prefer to keep the shots no further than 100 yards with that calibre and actually if I cannot take any shots at all passed 70 yards, Again I practice a lot with my rifles and know exactly what I and the rifle can do, I also never ask my rifles to do anything I myself am not capable of either,
The 17HMR is a different kettle of fish as with all my rifles I only ever go for a head shot on rabbits and how I teach the young sports, A head shot is either a clean hit or a clean miss I can’t bear wounding an animal I would rather miss than wound, But a clean head shot is humane and the animal is dead in an instant,
Now back to the 17HMR I can shoot rabbits out at 200 yards all day long with it but it’s when you start getting out further the real test of the man comes in, The gun can reach out there but can you, So many people just don’t practice and for these longer range shots practice is what makes the difference, You have all sorts of things coming into play hot and cold spots wind topography of the land barometric pressures even the Coriolis and the time travel of the projectile (bullet) effect etc. etc. etc.,
Now I know some people will say I am going over the top but I have barely touched on the subject but don’t forget we are dealing with a live animal whose head moves. Not missing or wounding a paper target. I try to achieve a clean kill every time or a clean miss and another thing is good secure back stops what’s in the area etc. can live stock etc. walk into the shot. If the shot is not 101% safe don’t take it or rely on chance or luck.
These are all points you should have running through your head before you even put your finger near the trigger. I am lucky on the driving range too as there are markers clearly identifying the meterage from 20 meters right out to 400 meters but again you must learn to be able to identify ranges some times in a split second. If you cannot identify ranges I would suggest a good range finder and practice with it and your shooting on a range before heading out hunting on live quarry.
Sorry about the rant but it drives me nuts how so many people have no idea and the odd lucky shot they get they think they can shoot at ranges passed their ability or that of the rifle in hand.
On the driving range I bagged 23 rabbits this night for 24 shots with the 17HMR and the 22 rim fire the one miss was from a double loaded round in the 22 and made one heck of a crack even with the moderator on, I have had this a few times with this batch of ammo and I am in the process of writing to said ammo company.
The Next place was the conservation area that is also a working farm again. The Lads and Dad’s and Daddy and Daughter duo’s came to help, All of us splitting up into teams taking a woodland and grass field each, I went down with my Young shots on the sheep fields next to the big house as they were complaining of the corvids attacking the lambs and the rabbits digging up the lawns.
Young sports Connor and David were there kitted out in all their new Jack Pyke Gear and their Air Arms S200 air rifles. David took up a position near the gate using the bottom rail of the fence to steady his rifle and using binoculars for spotting Connor tucked himself in the long grass 10 meters away with a Jack Pyke sand bag as a gun rest and I sat between them just watching and coaching.
The first to make an appearance was a rabbit on David’s side it was 39 yards away with a light left to right breeze. I whispered in his ear remember what I taught you on the range allow for the windage and hold over ad breath out and take the shot.
He did all I had taught him in fine style as I heard the Hugget sound moderator whisper as the pellet left the gun. Then a loud THWACK as the pellet sailed true and this big rabbit did a back flip and landed stone dead on the ground. David made the gun safe and went off to retrieve his prize.
I was one happy Ole Hedge Creeper I telle as Connor looks over to his younger brother and said he was proud of him, Well my eyes welled up as they are now just remembering it.
No time to rest as a rabbit pops out on Connors side again this one was way out there I used my range finder it was 43 meters so I whispered to the boy some pointers and to do what we had practiced on the range. He breathed out took his final aim then the gun whispered from the Hugget Sound Moderator. It seemed like an eternity as everything went in slow motion, The sound of the THWACK from another clean head shot as the fryer rabbit did a back flip and landed on the floor stone dead, Connor made the gun safe and went off to retrieve his prize.
Emilie called from the other wood she had just bagged a pigeon with her S200 in front of her Pappy so a good shoot all round, All the other lads had a brilliant time bagging squirrels etc., Then the young sports were taught how to field dress their game properly.
So there you have it I don’t call it long range shooting I call it common sense shooting that comes down to practice if you want to hit the nail in the hole time after time and don’t ask your rifle to do more than you yourself are capable of. And always use the right tool for the job in hand, remember you don’t use a screw driver to lay a brick.
I hope you have enjoyed this article and if you want to see us in action look on my website www.theolehedgecreeper.co.uk
Long range Rabbit shooting
By The Ole Hedge Creeper
Aka: Rob Collins