I, dear readers, (if I have any, if not to the blog itself), i have apologies to make, profusely. It’s been nearly a week since my last post, and you are all too dear to ignore. Although it wasn’t the fact that I didn’t want to I tell you all. Who new that after the disintegration of my bubble of everything called life, home, work, play etc. Only now the singularly faithful thing that hangs around is my cat. And even that is for food. Who new that I would have a busy week? That’s about 90% of it, the rest, I believe is called writers block. The inward thoughts, that I wasn’t interesting, the self loathing of people who don’t want to know the struggle of one man to feed himself off the land. The preparation it takes, the know how, the equipment. Then I tell myself to stop being annoying. This, in the first place, is a record I have for myself that I can come back to anytime and read and relive the moment. Making memories. And then, if only one person comes and shares in those memories, then that’s a bonus. Thank you.
Last Sunday was Remembrance Day, and Monday, Armistice Day. People who do not come from Britain find it hard to understand why we ‘celebrate’ war. World war 1, world war 2, the Falklands conflict and so many since. So we have to explain, it’s not about celebrating war, but remembering it. So it doesn’t happen again. Although it will, there is no doubt about that. Tell that to the politician who said not one shot will be fired in anger in Afghanistan, whilst persuading us that it was absolutely vital for the defense of Britain and to rid the world of the crop that devistates so many lives with the product heroin. Will he tell that to the families of hundreds of young men and women who have died for his war. And I tell you dear reader, that this years crop is as big as ever!
Anyway, we remember the end of war, the brave men and women, on all sides, who have died. Not to celebrate. In remeberance.
I tell myself that this links in to my own journey. That I’m not out to celebrate the death of a rabbit. But be proud of the fact that I have learnt to do one of the basic instincts we have as a human. The hunter! Not the bloodlust of the kill but the fact I can provide.
So to the subject of the post. Of people that I know who shoot, the forums you read and sometimes participate in, the posts and the rants. The common theme is the humane kill. And to get this you need accuracy. HH best described this in the original Rabbit Stew blog. As follows….
‘ “Never take a shot until you can absolutely guarantee that it will pass through the brain of the rabbit and turn that animal off like you would turn off a light” – was the impression I got from reading the forums. “Any other shot, any failure to instantly and painlessly transfer this animal from the state of being alive to the state of being dead is inhumane and has no place in our sport” – this was, more or less, the message.’
He’s absolutely right of course. There are a few other things you need to consider to achieve this however, and give yourself the best chance of obtaining that accuracy and the best chance of the much looked for humane kill. Namely, distance, judgement, fieldcraft, understanding the effects of wind and the weather, depth of view, the effects of hidden ground. Most of these work on human prey as well as animals. And all of these I learnt at Sandhurst, training to be an Army Officer. I must remember it. It was drilled in to me, to be automatic at any time I needed it. Unforgotten deep down till it was needed. Well it’s needed now, or soon will be.
How first to attain this accuracy, well that’s easy enough. Practise, practise, practise. And as I have been away all this week, my firing practise, like the rest of my responsibilities, have been ignored.
Everyday, I think about the first time I went out to my home made range. The perfect start. Perfect grouping. A masterly sense of achievement, and I was climbing the walls for the next fix of excitement that was surely to come.
I arrived home Thursday night and like an excited child the night before some big occasion, had a fitful nights sleep, not being able to wait for the morning. I woke early, mainly because I had no air for the rifle and the need to make the hour round journey it would take to get to the shop, refill my air cylinder, have a chat to the owner and get home. Set up the target and let rip. Having first safely put the cat inside. Though like a good attentive boy he sat at the window and never took his eyes off me. Maybe he had some 6th sense and wanted a chortle.
Jamie, the target, was ready, I lay down on some matting as it was a little damp, reached for my new faithful, who would never let me down and I lay in the prone position at 25 yards, settle my breathing, as I was told in training. Oxygenate the blood to steady the muscles and nerves. Breath slowly in, slowly out, in again and let out a 1/4 of my lung’s breath, place the crosshairs over the target and fire, keep your gaze and position through the scope so a clean follow through is achieved. Let rip. Two magazines later, I was in deep shock. Not only were the shots off target, but they didn’t even have the decency to be grouped off target. Too high, too low, left, right, maybe one lucky shot close to the middle, which was in all probability a flyer . All in all the target had looked like someone had attacked it with a hole punch rather than a high piece of engineered weaponry.
I was disgusted, who had messed around with the rifle, spoiling the scopes zero in the process. I looked at the cat. He looked back. Guilty. I told him, no rabbit for him from my first kill. He thought to himself, ‘I’ve seen you shoot mate, fat chance’. In my mind he has a monologue voice of a cockney Kray twin.
Then I took myself to 10 yards. It was marginally better. So fine! Back to 25, reloaded the two ten pellet capacity magazines and tried again. Awful. By this time I was ready to give up, sell the Hatsan AT44-10 for a fiver and go get a happy meal. I was furious, depressed, baffled. Time for a good old English cup of tea. Black, lots of sugar. Sat next to the cat and stared out of the window, with him silently judging me, the way cats do!
I sighed, went back outside, expecting nothing, reloaded, settled down and sent five pellets down rapid fire style. Actually, not too bad. I trotted down to the target, not bad at all. Not a tight grouping, but better. I replaced the target for a fresh one, reloaded the mag once again, tapped it on the side of my head for good luck, and placed it inside the rifle and tried again.
How in this world, without touching the rifle, this beautiful piece of art, ( now it had started to perform properly), without zeroing in again, with the same make of pellets, had it started to put pellet after pellet within a half inch of each other. I let loose both mags and apart from maybe two flyers, all within a space of a two pence piece. I was totally confused, but who was I to question the shooting Gods.
I felt brave. Fresh target. Placed Jamie back down the garden as far as he would go, pressed myself back up against the opposite gate. Refocused the scope, it told me about 40 yards, to be confirmed later when measured. The shot wasn’t impeded, but it was to be tricky. For one thing, my position was seated, not prone. I wedged myself between the gate and the wall to hold myself steady. The pellet would have to travel down the original range, between a wall and the conservatory, but at an angle. The distance between the two getting narrower, it looked and felt tight, with the cat inside, watching, judging, past a hedge that I had to trim to get rid of in the way branches, up an incline to the target placed on top of a grass collector from a lawn mower, long ago forgotten, so I could see the target. The adrenaline was up. Went through my breathing exercises. Put the zoom all the way up to times 9 magnification, overkill, but made the target feel closer but also magnified the slight tremble that my new position gave, tried not to grip too hard on the front of the stock. I was ready, fired off 5 rounds. Not bad, grouped together, but a little low. I cursed myself. Stupid boy pike! I’m at 40 yards. With the scope zeroed in for 30, I would have to take into account the extra yardage and raise my aim for holdover. Let fly another five. All in the centre. The first 40 unpredictable Swiss cheese target maker the rounds had caused, now forgotten.
Son of rabbit stew was back! (For now!)