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Dave Barham gets his first real taste of night vision hunting with a productive evening on the rabbits
I've dabbled with night vision scopes and various set-ups over the years, but it has always been while I have been out shooting with someone else, using their kit. Just recently I was sent a rather magnificent new NV scope to test and play with for a few months, and boy has it opened up a new world of hunting to me!
You may recall that last summer I obtained permission to shoot at a friend of a friend's stables, where the rabbits were beginning to dig under fences and into the paddocks where the horses spent their days galloping around. Well, just a few weeks ago I received a rather distraught phone call from the paddock owner begging me and my good friend, Roger Cooling, to revisit the grounds and 'deal' with a rabbit infestation. By the sounds of it there was a serious problem, and the owner was becoming increasingly worried that one of the horses was going to injure itself in the very near future.
I didn't need asking twice, and it just so happened that I'd recently taken delivery of a new night vision scope - what better way to put it to the test than on a rabbit shoot?
The scope in question is the new ATN X-Sight 4k Pro, which is a rather swanky day/night scope packed full of features. I won't delve too much into the specs now, but you can turn to page 85 of this issue to find out more. Let's just say it's pretty much ready to go out of the box, and is an absolute doddle to set up.
When Roger and I arrived at the paddocks we were amazed to see about a dozen rabbits hopping around the field. It was a small area, too, which had been boxed off with an electric fence at one end with a horse in the field behind it.
At a guess I'd say we're talking an oblong paddock measuring 60 yards wide by 80 yards long - and it was full of scrapes, big holes and a full-on rabbit warren! No wonder they wanted the problem dealing with.
Our first job upon arrival was to zero-check our rifles in the field next door, just to ensure that they were bang on the money. I do this whenever I go hunting, just to make sure - you never know if vibration in the car during the journey may have knocked the zero a smidge.
We could see plenty of rabbits in the paddock we were going to be shooting in, but they were mostly towards the far end, right where the electric fence was with a horse in the paddock behind it, so that was our first problem - we simply had to be shooting from that end back toward where the car was parked.
From that electric fence end, looking back toward the car, we had a very thick hedgerow to our left with more paddocks and open fields behind it. The owner had put the horses from these paddocks in the stables, so we knew we could shoot to the left. Directly in front of us, looking down the field, there are open fields as far as the eye can see, so we were confident of shooting in that direction too. To our right there is another thick hedgerow, with hectares of open fields behind it, so again we were clear to shoot in that direction. Shooting from the electric fence end gave us loads of options, but there was one slight problem - the gentle breeze that was blowing straight over our backs and down the field!
We had no choice but to set up at along the electric fence end of the field with the horse in the paddock behind us. I chose to cover the right side of the paddock, whilst Roger took the left.
As I walked along my part of the hedgerow, zig-zagging toward the centre line of the field, I came across a huge burrow that had rabbit fur and droppings all around it. This was obviously part of the warren and it was smack bang in the middle of the paddock. Further inspection revealed a further two 'bolt holes' in the paddock - these rabbits had been busy and had obviously burrowed underneath the paddock to make their warren. No wonder the owner wanted them gone!
As I settled down it was around 8pm and we had a couple of hours before it got dark, so I kept my scope on 'Day' mode.
It didn't take long before Roger was letting off shots, and in the first hour or so he managed to shoot three large rabbits. I, on the other hand, hadn't even seen one from my side.
As the light began to fade, I got my first chance and took a clean headshot at 30 yards, dropping the rabbit where it sat. I ran down and picked it up, got back into position and waited.
Sight at night
As the light dipped away, Roger packed up and went to wait in the car, but I stayed put and switched the scope to NV mode and turned on the IR torch.
Within ten minutes of it getting dark I could see eyes all over the place along the hedgerow to my right. I couldn't believe the clarity through the scope, and I couldn't believe how many rabbits were there for the taking in darkness.
To cut a long story short, I stayed put for exactly one hour and managed to shoot five rabbits during that time, thanks to the night vision.
I was buzzing, I can tell you. What an amazing night's shooting, and what an awesome scope! I ended the night with six rabbits to Roger's three, in just over three hours of shooting. We've since been back and taken a further 12 rabbits from the paddock. As I sit here typing this, I'm getting ready to go out again tonight, for our fourth visit, and I absolutely can't wait!
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