JUNE 5, 2013: Tim Tyne advises a smallholder whose land is overrun by rabbits

Tim Tyne advises a smallholder whose land is overrun by rabbitsQ My smallholding is fairly overrun with rabbits, and now they’ve started invading the vegetable garden! I’m thinking of buying an air rifle to keep them under control. What’s your view on this? I understand that air rifles under a certain power [below 12 ft lbs] don’t require a gun licence. A Personally, I won’t consider hunting with an air rifle, and this is why: Once upon a time, when I was in my mid- teens, an old buck rabbit was feeding in the lettuce field alongside my parents’ driveway. I stalked him with my air rifle, well within range, took careful aim, fired and missed. The next morning, and every morning for a week, I repeated the exercise with the same result, merely startling the rabbit and making him bolt for cover. By the weekend I’d had enough of this ritual, so I borrowed my father’s 12 bore and shot him dead. Success at last, although on processing the rabbit I discovered five air gun pellets – one for each day of the week – lodged under his skin, and all within the supposed “kill zone” of the chest and neck. Since then I haven’t felt comfortable with the use of air rifles for hunting live quarry in the field, and mine is now reserved for “light duties” such as human dispatch of small vermin at point-blank range (e.g., rats caught in live traps). I’m also inclined to be sceptical when I hear people talk about having made a “clean miss”. How do they know? Having said all that, it was a long time ago, and there are some very good – and very powerful – air rifles on the market nowadays, which can be extremely effective in the right hands.

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