STEEL | STRENGTH | UTILITY

The Diary of an AirGun Hunter – Part 1 by Steve Miller

I have a few places where I hunt using air rifles. These places have rabbit and pigeon problems and I’ve been going there for years but mainly to practice shooting at targets etc and, in exchange for these shooting permissions I help to control their pest problems for free.

It’s also a great opportunity to just walk around the countryside and enjoy the natural beauty and also to lower the old blood pressure caused by the stresses of working life in the city.

My job is a professional pest controller so having somewhere to practice shooting and to zero the rifles is very handy and helps me to achieve clean and humane kills. My largest shoot is a small farm. I find farms can sometimes be challenging places to shoot due to the open spaces that make some areas difficult to get close enough to the rabbits to be able to take any of them from short enough range to ensure clean and humane kills.

One of the other places where I shoot is a Props company that mainly grow trees, bushes, tropical plants etc and produce other props such as statues, backdrops, temple columns etc etc all for the television and film industry. There they have a real issue with rabbits that do an awful lot of damage, so I was there again for a shoot.

Strange place to shoot because one moment I’m walking through Greek statues and Roman arches and round the corner I’m taking a stroll through a bamboo ‘jungle’. Anyway, whilst there the other day I noticed they had a great pile of camo netting. I asked the owner if he could spare any and I was invited to help myself. Great! I sorted through it and chose what I thought was the best conditioned net.

However this presented me with somewhat of a dilemma. Camo nets don’t exactly come with handy tent poles to make a nice neat little hide, so I wondered, could I make a hide using just a knife and whatever I find around me?

I started by taking the net to my farmland. This place is great because it is no longer used as a farm and is gradually giving itself back to nature.

I should explain that although the farm is no longer worked, the rabbits here still need to be controlled to stop them becoming an issue for neighbouring farms or harming the numerous deer that roam these lands with the burrows they dig, that are sometimes hidden in the grass.

Also the rabbits like to undermine the foundations of the barns (which are ancient and listed) and can become unstable if the rabbits are left to their own devices.

I took the net to a part of the land where the rabbits are particularly active along a stretch of trees and bushes that can only be approached across an open field. I surveyed the field and found an ideal spot where the ground dips creating a shallow ‘scoop’ in the ground.

I set down the camo net and opened it out. Quite a bit larger than I though it would be and it appeared to be made up of two nets cable tied together, I had thought it was a nice big healthy one when I chose it! Still, should prove to be very useful and there is always the option of splitting it into two if it proves to be too cumbersome to move around.

I then needed to find something I could make a frame out of, ideally three long branches. So I headed into the small woodland copse behind the where the rabbits were living. I didn’t have to search for long at all as I found several old branches that had blown down in a storm some time ago.

They were nice and dry so it was easy to snap off all the twigs and drag them to where I proposed to to build the hide.

Moving back into the woods I began searching for something to use to strap the branches together. Something long, thin and flexible enough to bend and twist without breaking. This, it seems is a harder proposition than sourcing the branches OR the camo net! (I may have to look into a natural cordage course!) I looked at tree bark but although very thin bark is nice and flexible I found the trees on offer had no real strength. In the absence of something obvious like a nice willow or some reeds I headed back out into the field scratching my head trying to think of a way around it. It was then, whilst looking down at the branches on the ground that I saw brambles threading their way at grass level through the field. Perfect!

Anyone who has ever done a spot of gardening would know all too well how incredibly strong and flexible the average bramble is! I carefully lifted the brambles out of the grass to get nice long lengths cutting them at the base and, using the edge of the knife blade I stripped off all the thorns.

What I was left with was several long lengths of thin cords with great flexibility. I hooked up the three branches and began wrapping the apex with the bramble.

One thing that surprised me was the fact that the bramble tends to grip to itself so it didn’t even need to be tied. Frame complete!

I then threw the camo net over it. Not as easy as it sounds! Net has an annoying habit of catching hold of absolutely everything! So, using the knife I smoothed out the problem areas and about five minutes later after a bit of adjustment I managed to get it the way I wanted.

Using the gap in between the two halves of the net to peep through I set up my bipod to a comfortable height, rested the rifle on it and waited.

I didn’t have to wait long before I bagged the first unsuspecting rabbit with a nice clean shot from a respectably short distance.

So, to answer the question. Can I build a hide using just a knife and the things I find around me? Yes as it happens, I can!

All in all the hide did it’s job well, cost nothing and was easily done by using what was lying around in the wild. The best thing was that two weeks later when I returned, it was still there as strong as when I built it!!

Now if only I could whittle a comfortable chair to sit on I’d be all set….

Steve