RABBITS GALORE

Bob Spain

Over the past ten to fifteen years, my brother and I have been very lucky to have two good back country farms to shoot on. The farms boast deer and pigs among their bounty, which is a boost to have venison and pork on the menu.

Rabbits however are in very big numbers, there has been no problem in the past to shoot up to eight hundred in a day. That’s a good days shooting. On an average day however, we would shoot about four to five hundred between us. On a lesser day we would shoot between fifty to two hundred each.

The weather has a big part to play, as rabbits, like all animals, you get a night’s rain turning nice and fine come morning, with no wind, rabbits come out of their burrows to get the sun.

During spring time all the young ones are coming out of their holes five to six in groups and having not been shot at before, they are very easy to shoot. It’s possible to pick off the ones far from the burrow, and work back most times shooting the lot.

The rifle I use is a bolt action Brno model one, fitted with a clamp on suppressor.

I like the Remington subsonic 22 ammunition hollow point and also use three ten shot mags as required. Most rabbits are shot at ranges between thirty to eighty yds. Although it’s a bit of a job to load mags when the shooting gets hot.

Sunday 6th September 2020, just a morning shoot with my brother. He dropped me off at the start of the farm and I was to follow up to him to meet at midday. I was in the area the Sunday before, after deer and saw a lot of rabbits so went back.

The weather was not good, with a very strong north westerly wind, when I could get out of the wind my first twenty shots dropped twenty rabbits which I was pleased with. I followed up, shooting in sheltered places which was good. Some of the rabbits were calm and relaxed, sitting down at spots out of the wind I would pick off ten to fifteen at a time.

Most of the rabbits were fully grown, with the young ones not far off.  As I approached the meet up point, I tried to pick up sheltered spots here and there, upon reaching my brother I had shot one hundred and fifty rabbits in total.  I use a counter clicker for tally.

My brothers tally was one hundred and seventy so three twenty shot for the morning

TO BE CONTINUED. . .

Saturday 19th September 2020, Yes off again!

The weather was good, there were plenty of rabbits around until after lunch when the rain set in. My brother and I both went different ways, I followed the bush line where rabbits were coming out of the bush on to the new grass, mostly big ones with some small ones.

Not yet at my destination, however it didn’t take me long to shoot off one hundred rounds.

I stopped for cup of tea and a sandwich, sitting by a cut down tree which gave me a bit of cover. By the time I had drunk the tea and finished the sandwich I had shot sixty rabbits as they popped out on the grass. Down the rabbits went, some good long shots too!

My mate Steve gave me a primo shooting stick, which works very well. Walking up and down hills you get to be a bit out of puff with old age!

Heard my brother shooting so he was in to them.

Time for lunch, yes, I do stop for lunch I got into a good spot again shooting and loading up the ten shot mags as fast as I could go. The spot was on top of a ridge looking down on rabbit burrows as they came out, down went the rabbits.

The rain started to set in so I made my way back to the truck, shooting as I went. By the time I got to the truck it wasn’t long before my brother was back. The tally for the day was five hundred and fifty-six, good part day

TILL NEXT TIME . . .

Goat Fail…

Napier

Well strange times indeed for everyone in the world including our staff and Fieldmasters contributors.

Napier MD Steve Rowe was supposed to be visiting Napier’s offices in  NZ and working there for a few weeks back in March then just a few hours before departure the world and the rules changed, no one is going anywhere. Usually Steve manages to catch up with Jim Jackson and Bob Spain on these trips and was due to meet Gibbo in Australia on the way home too. But as we all know lockdown everywhere has prevented that, it was planned that we would record the outings planned in NZ and Australia for this Fieldmasters post.  But to the rescue Jim has kindly recounted the last visit and although there is no photograph to attach, ( for reasons you will read) he has recalled that moment from his vivid and somewhat strange memory, by pen and paper, I hope you enjoy this read, we are all living off memories of past hunts for the moment.

Steve

So , having St Eve Rowe back over from the UK for another visit , a day goat culling was called for . Being super hot and dry most forestry blocks were out of bounds due to fire risk . After much wheedling , pleading and outright grovelling to the then forestry manager of the pulp mill a permit was gained for the goat infested Waipatiki block on the way to the popular surfing beach . Great ! Guaranteed goats , can’t miss. What could go wrong?

Having followed the sound of bleating through dense pine on steep terrain for quite a while and no clear shot we decided to head for “goat gully”, this is a very deep ravine too steep to plant pine and so full of dense grass and weeds and a favourite grazing spot for the smelly target critters. Getting there means driving the trusty HiLux to the start of about a kilometre of forestry access road and walking quietly to the end before descending through pine forest to the edge of the gully itself with a panoramic view of any goats unfortunate enough to be munching on all the nice green stuff. Halfway down we could hear much bleating coming up from below .Great , can’t miss much slaughter will be done. Steve has the trusty old sport converted Lee Enfield so lines up on a very large nanny and starts shooting .Down goes the nanny, the biggest Billy we’ve seen in years gets two of the last three rounds as we only have the five shot mag, my first oversight -meant to bring the ten . Never mind , still plenty of targets whizzing about all over the place so Steve sticks his hand out for five more. He then sees me standing there wearing a sick grin and patting all my pockets in the manner of the smoker who is about to ask for a match. Second and biggest oversight – ammo box still in HiLux over a kilometre away!

Sent back in disgrace amid much mumbling about useless bloody amateurs etc , etc I trudge all the way back and stuff my pockets full of rounds . Getting to the end of the access road and starting down through the trees , I smell goats .I hear goats ! As I get near the edge of the trees I am treated to the sight of Steve parked on his bum next to a stump right on the lip of the ravine peering through his binoculars trying to spot more goats . He is completely unaware that he is totally surrounded by a herd of about two dozen  curious goats all staring at him with the lead billy looking at him round a stump not more than fifteen feet away. He has the rifle , I have the ammo and all the goats are between the two of us.  I went “Er….Steve” illogically trying to ‘shout quietly’ and got the expected reaction of panic from the goats and frustration from Steve who could only point the gun at point blank range and shout “bang” at them . Despite a frantic reload , no more goats were shot in the gully that day and I had to buy the beer!

One day , possibly, I will hear the end of this .Only wish I’d had the camera with me . It was (ahem) still in the HiLux.

Jum J

Rock Lobster

Greg Gibson

The Western Rock Lobster off our Western Australian coast can grow up to 5 kilograms though most harvested would usually only average 750 grams. They are a member of the spiny lobster family and taste fantastic. Though the large portion of the available catch is taken commercially, us amateur fishers have ample opportunity to catch our own. For $50 you can add the rock lobster catch permit to your annual fishing license. Amateurs catch them by either using lobster pots or diving. Divers can only use a snare or catch by hand.

As a young fella I chased these on a regular basis. We would go down the beach and swim out to the inshore reefs only few hundred meters from the shore and free dive to catch our quarry. Using, in them day a simple gidgee to prise the young lobsters from under the reefy ledges. During late spring and again later summer the younger lobster come into these onshore reefs to moult their shells and we would take great advantage of this. This was the christening for me on an annual pursuit of these much sort after delicacies. In these early days my mother, though cautious of me diving, loved me even more with every mouthful.

Western Rock Lobsters are a real delicacy. They are exported worldwide to supply the restaurants from China, USA and Europe. It is Western Australia’s biggest export fishery. Western Australia’s Western Rock Lobster Fishery has received international acknowledgement as one of the best managed and most sustainable in the world.

As time has gone by we have improved our method of catching and invested in diving gear. This has increased our chances of catching our share. On a couple of occasions this year, when the weather gods shine we have had the opportunity to chase a few. These day a lot of our diving is done in the 20 to 35 meters range to increase our chances and sizes of our target. 

I hope you enjoyed this article as much as we enjoyed our feeds.

Olympic Shooting Champion Opens Sparsholts New Outdoor Rifle Range

Rod Greenwood

Sparsholt College’s 450-acre countryside campus has officially added a state-of-the-art new 100 metre Outdoor Rifle Range to its comprehensive list of student facilities.

This is a fantastic new addition to the college and Sparsholt is the only land-based college in the UK to have a resource of this size on their campus, approved for use by the National Rifle Association. The new Range complements Sparsholt’s 25m Indoor .22 Range and provides another great resource for students to build confidence, discipline and accuracy.

Ten years in the planning, Sparsholt College has been fortunate to be able to complete the range with its imposing 11.5m high stop butt created from 30,000 tonnes of clean white chalk, moved by TJ Transport from a recent local housing development in Winchester.

Guest of honour at the event was Great Britain’s Olympic medallist, Steve Scott, winner of the Bronze Medal in the men’s Olympic double trap shooting event in Rio where he notched up a perfect score of 30. Steve spoke at the opening event and unveiled the commemorative plaque. Steve then joined a shooting demonstration by Sparsholt’s Land and Wildlife Management students to celebrate the official opening of the range.

Steve Scott commented: “It’s been fantastic to officially declare the Fullbore Outdoor Rifle Range open for Sparsholt students to use as part of their extensive training. It was great to try the range out for myself and it’s brilliant to see this new facility in place to support students in developing their skills and confidence for their future careers.”

Guests attended the event from the many organisations and businesses that support the work of the college including BASC, Natural England, National Trust, Napier of London and Zeiss Optics.  The College Vice President, the Earl of Malmesbury and Chair of Governors, Neil Hopkins OBE were also in attendance, joined by other members of the Board of Governors to welcome Steve Scott.

Tim Jackson, Sparsholt College Principal said: “I’m delighted to have welcomed Olympic Champion, Steve Scott to the official commissioning ceremony of our new Outdoor Rifle Range. We are so appreciative to have the support of our partner organisations and employers within the Game and Wildlife Management industry that have been involved with this exciting student facility and are looking forward to seeing our students’ skills excel with its use.”

Rod Greenwood, Land and Wildlife Management Senior Lecturer added: ‘The new Fullbore Range is a great resource that has been in the planning for some years. We put a huge amount of emphasis on safety, and our students are all very skilful. It’s a learning resource that can be used by students on a wide range of courses offered here at Sparsholt and will be a key tool in increasing learners’ confidence, discipline, attention to detail as well as their accuracy.’

Sparsholt College’s next open day will be held on Saturday 16 November between 10am-2pm. Register online at www.sparsholt.ac.uk/opendays or simply turn up on the day.

Christmas Stalking

Chris Dalton

As we are thinking about a few days off in front of the log burner and eating too many mince pies, I find myself working up an appetite on the hills above Aberfeldy in the second week of December chasing hinds about as we work on the cull and at the same time filming for The Shooting Show.  One of my most valued bits of kit here is the Napier Apex predator. Now I accept that its quite tricky fitting a Hind with larder weight of around 65 kilo  into the opened out predator ! However,  neatly  contained inside is  all the kit  that I need – conveniently wrapped around my waist . I do not have to think, have I got this or the other, it’s just there . In and amongst the drag rope, bone saw, tracking harness disposal gloves etc is another essential item in the hill, the apex air glow wind checker. With a red hind able to  smell me at around  2 miles in certain conditions, even more with the old spice or brut ! ( I will likely be getting re supplied on the 25 th)  and now I am really showing my age;  it’s fairly important I know which way I am blowing or else I am wasting my time up here. Zosia is clearly not impressed either with my chosen perfume !

Have a good one !

Chris Dalton

Napier Field Master

Camel Cull

Greg Gibson

Distance is always a problem for our pursuits here in Western Australia. Isolation an inconvenience. To help with the control of camels on Cattle Stations on the fringe of the Never Never (arid uninhabited dessert regions) you need to be prepared. Prepared in the sense that you will need to carry all essentials required for the trip, fuel, water, food, communications and emergency supplies. Planning is essential. So after packing extra water and food, first aid kit, satellite phone and 120 litres of extra fuel, off we go. 14 hours later and we arrive at the cattle station and get the run down and good old chat.

Over the next 7 days we will travel around the Cattle Station and adjoining properties to locate and cull all the camels encountered. Camels are very nomadic beasts and travel huge distance to find feed and water water water. Conditions have been very bad in these semi-arid areas with no significant rain events for the previous two years. Things were dry and feed was sparse. The camels have to search far and wide for their survival. All the camels encountered were in a very poor state. Hence needing to come into the Stations from their usual desert habitat to find water. All the Stations have bores and or windmills to water their cattle and the camels invade these watering points in huge numbers. Water is a rare commodity in this environment so the Cattle men can ill afford to be sharing it with these brutes. A large bull camel can consume up to 200 litres of water in one drink. Camels because of their size also do damage to these watering points by breaking pipes, floats and infrastructure causing expensive repairs and putting the cattle at risk of dying from thirst.

Camel meat is a very good to the palate, being similar in texture and flavour to beef. So any of the young culled animals in reasonable conditions had their backstraps removed. The skin on a camel is not that tough, but it is fully impregnated with sand and vegetable matter tangle and entwined in the thick woolly hair so is dynamite on knives. The Apex 46 knife came to the fore. This knife surprised me. Camels are large animals with bulls standing 2 metres tall and weighing 1000 kilograms.  The Apex 46 is a weighty sturdy knife but still a size that can be used articulately. I removed the backstraps from numerous animals and only used a steel to touch up between each. Kept its edge, certainly did. A permanent addition to my kit. This here knife is a bloody beauty.

Well what a week. We culled 122 camels. This should keep the Station owners happy though this is an ongoing issue for them. They pray for rain for their cattle but also for the Never Never country so the camel move back out into the desert.

Ayrstalk – Airglo

Chris Dalton

Often the best ideas are the simple ones – but having said that they need to be refined and tested in the field. The Apex airglow is one such product – simple but it has been thought through. The powder comes in a small, convenient sized tube, carried in a pouch which can be worn around the neck and inside the coat jacket. With older systems I would have carried this in a pocket or pouch, requiring much fumbling and searching by which time the buck I have just seen, and wanted to check the wind for has had a good whiff of me and is off .

But now I know exactly where the powder is and hands on is quick. Not rocket science; simple, cleverly though out and it works .                               

Chris Dalton, South Ayrshire Stalking

Large Feral Herbivores

Greg Gibson

Reflections are a sad thing at times. Especially when looking back at a great trip away.

I have been invited to many places to help with the control of Large Feral Herbivores (LFH). These include Camels, Feral Cattle, Wild Horses, Donkey’s and Asiatic Buffalo and are all introduced into the Australian environment and thrive on our diverse habitat.

This current job was to initiate some ground shooting on a couple of Cattle Stations in the Upper Gascoyne region of Western Australia, my home State. The LFH that requires culling to reduce numbers are Donkey’s. These pest breed well in these conditions and all animals seen were in good condition. This location is 1500 kilometres from my home base so we took a leisurely couple of days to get to site. Due to the rough terrain the modus operandi is to travel around the 1.5 million acres in our control area on quad bikes. This may not be the most comfortable method of transport, though essential to get into some of the “off the beaten tracks” etc. where our quarry prefer to locate themselves. Our next 8 days was spent on our quads though we did have a couple of rest days to rest the saddle sores.

Not an overly exciting hunting experience hence classified as a cull. We are bound of course to our ethics and legislation to use our Agricultural Department guideline for the humane controlling of LFH. Donkey’s present themselves on most occasions and will even stop and look back after the initial shots.

The environment here is semi-arid with an annual rainfall of 215mm and average mean temperature of 32C. So conditions are dry, dusty, dusty, and dusty. I use a protective cover over my Savage 300WN while travelling but, and I don’t know if you have ever experienced it, you cannot keep out that bloody red outback dirt. It gets into everything.

I always travel with a Napier Universal Rifle Pull Through Kit. These take up little room and are easy to use. Keeping your rifles clean in this environment is essential for repeated reliable use. In the evening after a day in the bush, a couple of bore cleans and a wipe down with the VP90 Field Patches and you’re all good to go next day. Those VP90 Field Patches are just the shot in this dusty environment. Cleans but doesn’t leave a thick oily film to attack the dust. Very good.

During our stay we accounted for 76 donkeys. These are recorded in the Stations records for the Department of Agriculture for future reference and proof that the property owner is keeping all LFH numbers controlled. 

Well back to the grind of everyday vocation and life.

P.S. Just had a call from another Cattle Station, dry in the interior, camels coming into Station watering points and causing havoc. Well better start the planning.

Ayrstalk – Apex Predator

Chris Dalton

As an outfitter , I am stalking or managing deer in one form or another most days, for me kit is not a gimmick, it is an essential tool and has to be good and functional . If it is not I don’t use it or endorse it, simple as that. For many years I used a leather strap for carrying my Roe off the hill, I cannot get on with roe sacks – I find them cumbersome and they interfere with carrying and deploying the rifle. Then the clever folk from Napier came up with the Apex predator – perfect! now we have something that wraps around my waist, has pockets for all my stalking essentials that I take out to the hill and cleverly deploys to a full size roe sack when needed to carry my deer of the hill.

I could go on but suffice to say I have been using an Apex predator now for over 5 years, it is out with me whenever I stalk and is I feel one of the best products on the market for recovering the smaller deer species. I have had 2 roe in it which was admittedly a squeeze, they were yearlings but it easily copes with the largest roe buck. The detachable, inner liner is simple to remove and clean – it comes with two so one can be washed and drying while you fit the spare. The many pockets are well thought out and functional – all of my gralloching kit is in there so I simply leave it in the car, grab it as I head off for my  stalk knowing that I have everything with me I need .

Apex Airglo Trail Marker & Wind Indicator

Napier

New for 2015/16 season, the Airglo hunters pack is now available from all Napier Dealers.

All hunters know how quickly a stalk can go horribly wrong if the wind changes direction part way through an approach, so successful stalkers use skill, and appropriate kit to maximise their performance.

It is well known that Deer rely on their 3 senses to survive, and that some species have better eyesight than others, but what is common to all is their primary defence is scent.

Airglo -Napier

The consencus from leading stalkers and pro hunters is that on average Deer rely on 65% Scent 15% Eysight, 20% Hearing

Over the years many attempts have been made to overcome this, deodorant sprays, pine flavoured chewing gum, scent treated garments etc.

BUT the basic fact remains, a Hunter exhales 10,000 litres of HUMAN scent every day, & no amount of kit and skill will produce results if a deer catches your scent. Its game over and often you never even saw them!

Some folks check wind occasionally, especially at the beginning of a stalk, with powders, cigarettes, or just observing the trees.

Rarely is the ground level air moving in the same way as the tree tops, and it can change instantly as you walk, affected by hedges, terrain & turbulence, sufficient to wreck an approach.

It is therefore important to check and re check often.

Airglo was developed by Napier to be easy and convenient to use.

First we looked at the alternatives and found that most use quite large particles & just pack in squat bottles, very difficult to grip and never easy to find in the pocket just when required.

Worse still one major brand states clearly on the pack.

“WARNING this product contains chemicals, including lead, known to the state of California to cause birth defects and other reproductive harm. Wash hands after use”

So Airglo is Made in England, by Napier of London & is completely NON TOXIC and non staining.

ULTRA FINE PARTICLE powder is packed in a special ergonomically designed BATON dispenser with sufficient air space that when used vertically it dispenses a tiny amount each puff. & it’s is easy to grip and use even with wet cold or gloved hands.

Even the slightest air movement will be detected with AIRGLO.

Supplied with a Realtree AP Neoprene sleeve

It can be attached by its lanyard or belt clip, and is always ready to use.

The SILENT one handed dispenser cap can even be used with gloved hands, whilst in its protective Realtree sleeve it can be worn around the neck.

Airglo is also an effective TRAIL MARKER, just invert the bottle to mark a shot position or to re trace travel, being insoluble in water, AIRGLO will maintain trail capability for some time but will disperse naturally and is non staining to skin and clothing.