Air Rifle Hunting
When it comes to shooting, air Rifle hunting is the easiest way to gun for rabbit. With such tight laws in the UK, using a low powered air rifle for rabbit stalking is perfect for people who don’t want to get a gun license. Because of the low power of the fire arms stalkers use, a high level of stealth and skill is needed, making it a really engaging sport.
All you need is your rifle, some good hunting clothes and a field to hunt in..
Your Gear and Gun
It’s a given that you’ll need a gun. You can not hunt with an air pistol, full stop. You need to use a rifle for its power and accuracy or you will simply hurt your target, not kill it. But which type of rifle you use is much more a matter of preference (or maybe price) then anything else.
There are two main types of rifle, recoiling rifles and precharged pneumatics. Recoiling rifles are powered by a spring that you compress with cock the gun and the precharged rifles run off compressed air. Both can be used to stalk rabbits, just as long as they have a max power of 11.5 ft lbs. These Rifles are available without a licence, but have some laws attached, read my page Fire-Arm laws to find out more.
Camouflage and Clothing
An often forgotten factor when stalking is clothing. Rabbits don’t have very good eyesight, but its important that you at least blend in. The picture above shows the classic woodland style of camo that really breaks up your ‘human shape’. It’s a good idea to cover up all of your skin by wearing gloves, a hood/hat and covering your face. When im air rifle hunting I like to have no skin showing other then a small slit for my eyes.
Rabbit do have good hearing. So keeping the first factor in mind, how noisy are your clothes? Waterproof clothes normally cause a crisp shuffling sound so it’s best to go with something like cotton.
The final thing to think about is smell. Don’t go covering yourself in deodorant or soap before going air rifle hunting. And more importantly, don’t go washing your clothes unless you really have to. Let them get muddy, dirty and smelly. It’s a good excuse at least.
Scope and Pellets
Most people will use the scope which comes with their rifle, but it’s likely it’s not suited for air rifle hunting and is mostly for target shooting. My advice is to use a scope with a range from 3-9 magnification setting. This will enable you to adjust the scope to light conditions and check the field with lower power settings. Then once you find the bunny, click to 9x for a easy shot.
Which pellets you use can be a massive decider in whether you get the kill or not. Most hunters will agree that done-head pellets are the best in the field, for any kind of air rifle hunting. Don’t go too cheap, but you don’t have to get the top range for a good pellet.
Now that you have all you need to hunt, its important that you do one thing..
Perfecting Your Aim
Before you even think about shooting at a live animal, it is essential that your practice your aim. The best way to do it is to make (or print one off from the internet) a target. Then find a place at least 50 feet away from a road (any closer is illegal) and shoot.
Its best to put the target at floor high and to shot it lying down, as this will be how you shot the bulk of your rabbits. Start with the target about 30 yards away, moving further away when you happy with your aim. This will teach you to adjust your sights and shot. Once you are able to hit the center of your target 5 times in a row from 30 yards, your ready.
Out in The Field
Now your all set. You have your gun, ammo, clothing and a good aim. You have found a field with bunnies and have the land owner’s permission to hunt. The best time to go out air rifle hunting is in the late afternoon (when rabbits feed) and when the sun is a few hours from fading.
You should already know roughly where the rabbits should be, use your scope to check the area for prey. If you spot a target, its time to enter stalker mode. Check which way the wind is blowing. Try your best to head into the wind towards the target, even if it means heading a long way round. This will cover your scent and muffle the noise you make.
When your within a decent range, get to the floor and crawl slowly. A careful, steady approach is the only way to get close enough for a clean shot. Moving Slowly is what hunting rabit with an air rifle is all about.
Avoid crawling around hedgerows or under trees as you’ll snap twigs and crush leafs. Slow and steady, the tortoise beats the hare (or bunny).
Once your within 30 yards of your prey, move extra slow and ready yourself for a shot. Take your time, make sure your relaxed and focused or you’ll mess up the shot. Once your ready, aim at the spot just behind the eyes, just in front of the ears (between the eyes if your front on, or between the ears from the back) and take your shot. Once downed, head over to the animal as quickly as possible to finish the kill if needed.
If you fail to sneak up on the prey (or they are not out of their holes yet), it is possible to wait for them just outside of their holes. This is a much slower and less rewarding method, but can score you a bunny on what could have been a wasted trip.
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