1. Find a permission
Don’t wait to be offered hunting land: track it down. Google Earth will show your target area and show you farms, golf clubs and other spots; and contact details can be found on the internet. Make some calls and arrange a meeting. Dress respectably.
Take your air rifle but leave it in your car unless asked about it. Have your certificate of shooting insurance with you, along with your shooting permission agreement, both of which can be found through the BASC website.
2. Know your prey
Successful hunts start with a knowledge of the creatures you are hunting. Study the habits of your prey species, and understand all you can about them.
3. Hunt alone
Company is the enemy of stealth!
4. Don’t be seen
Rabbits will detect you in several ways. Although they see far fewer colours than we do, rabbits are very sensitive to movement and their hearing is very good. Camouflage clothing isn’t strictly necessary, but you should choose ‘earthy colours’ to avoid standing out.
Rabbits are remarkably sensitive to sudden changes within their visual field. Fast movement will get you noticed and lose you the shot. Stay in the shadows close to the hedge, and avoid direct sunlight. Keep low and avoid being silhouetted against the skyline.
5. Know your permission
Visit your permission several times at different times of the day, without your rifle, and get to know the layout. Make notes on where occupied burrows are located (look for fresh poo pellets outside) and the best approaches to them. Check the prevailing wind direction and where the sun will cast shadows at the times you’re likely to be hunting.
6. Range to cover
If you don’t have a rangefinder then measure your zero distance, say 30 yards, and count the number of normal steps to walk it. Use this step count for shot ranging from cover. When ambushing rabbits, prepare your cover spot in advance of your shooting day.
7. Don’t be smelled
Don’t use aftershave or body sprays before hunting (or even on the same day) and wash your hunting rig in unscented liquid detergent. Stay downwind of your quarry to avoid being detected.
8. Don’t be heard
A sharp noise is very likely to spook your target and send it to ground, so tread softly. Avoid stepping on twigs or dry leaves, as these will give you away.
9. Avoid overhunting
While you may have success on a ‘virgin perm’, once you start hunting, opportunities may diminish as your prey becomes alert to a predator in the area. Don’t go too often to the same place.
10. Pay the rent
Keep in touch with your landowner and ‘pay the rent’ for your perm with a few rabbits or pigeons now and then. He may well alert you to areas you’ve missed or tell you of a friend with a rabbit problem!
More on airgun hunting
- Rabbit hunting with Richard Saunders
- The essential guide to night-time rabbit hunting
- Hunting for squirrels w/ Mat Manning
- Squirrel hunting: The Countryman
- Richard Saunders’ golf course permission