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Dogs and Air Rifles

Hunting With Pointers And Air Rifles

Now in your country, it may not be the rabbit that is the subject of this article. But substitute whatever small, furry, ground-dwelling mammal that tastes good you do have, and this article will mostly apply.

First, Let’s Talk About The Rabbit.

The rabbit, or coney as it used to be known, was introduced into Britain in Roman times. Farmed in man-made warrens, and kept by monks (as the unborn kits were not thought to be meat and so could be eaten on religious holidays), they did not become classed as vermin until relatively recently.

They have been eaten in great numbers at times, with vast quantities being sent to London to satisfy the capital’s appetite, and they did fetch good prices. In post-war Britain a law was passed to ensure that landowners were responsible for controlling the numbers of rabbits on their ground.

The rabbit has fallen out of favour with the modern diner, but for the me there are few more enjoyable meals than a rabbit cooked in a cider and onion casserole, or a younger animal pan-fried with a few mushrooms. For those who have the time and inclination, a few offcuts of smoked ham can be combined with rabbit and mushrooms, with a couple of boiled eggs thrown in for good luck, in one of the most delicious pies to be eaten hot or cold.

Now, The Air Rifle.

In the UK, the air rifle is one of the few hunting weapons that can be used without a license. These models are restricted to less than 12 foot-lbs power, and are generally available in .22 or .177 calibre. Anything higher than this requires a Fire Arms Certificate (fac) which involves a great deal of restrictive paperwork.

Fortunately the air-rifle can be used in the lower power out to twenty or thirty yards. You need a good quality sight for this purpose, preferably one that gathers plenty of light so that it can be used at dusk.

Pellets cost a penny or two each. If the rifle is manually cocked rather than using compressed gas, then once you have the basic kit your costs will be minimal for a ready supply of meat. If you go for the compressed gas option, typically CO2 gas bottles, then the running costs can go up 5 fold.


Camo gear need not be dear (I paid £30 for ten sets of camo NCB suits from eBay – shop around!), and will ensure that you get many more shots.

Your Ability To Group Pellets

You need to be able to put a pellet in a half inch circle if you are going to use the rifle for head shots. If you decide that heart and lung shots are suitable, you will need to be grouping in a one inch circle. At what distance? The distance you are going to shoot at!

You will find the .177 shoots a flatter trajectory, meaning that you can shoot over a slightly longer distance without holding the gun over or under the aiming point. However there is quite a discussion on the suitability of the .177 for an animal the size of a rabbit.

Next get to study your quarry. Make sure that you understand where the brain is, and where the heart and lungs are in relation to the forelegs. The head shot should result in the rabbit being stopped immediately, but the heart and lung shot will allow the animal to run, sometimes for twenty yards. For this reason, you need to be aware of where the animal is in relation to its burrow before you take the shot.

A rifle rest can add considerably to your abilities to group pellets and take humane shots. Go for at least a bipod, and you can make your own rest if you are handy!

Now the Dog.

The last and arguably the most important food getter you need. Ideally for use with an air rifle, you need a pointing dog that will ‘hold’ a rabbit in light cover – this is one of the most exciting things any gundog can do for you!

If you haven’t got a pointer, then one of the retrieving breeds will be useful, but it must walk to heel, or wait at the down whilst you stalk your quarry. Once the shot is taken a retriever can be sent to retrieve a wounded animal, which makes it less useful for working the dog with a shotgun.

Last and not least, the ground

Please note that it is necessary to have permission to shoot rabbits from the landowner or tenant farmer, and if the ground is used as a pheasant shoot, you will need the gamekeeper on your side as well. Remember to treat the ground and animals with respect, and ensure that you eat what you kill.

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