On Air: Bunny bonanza

Rabbit-closeup-profileSummer is here and airgun shooters are turning their attention to keeping rabbits in check. Mat Manning offers a few ideas for retailers to cash in on the coney crackdown.

Every month at Airgun Shooter, we contact 20 retailers and ask them how trade is going. Apart from enabling us to compile our Airgun 100 sales chart, these calls also serve as a fairly reliable barometer for picking up on punters’ buying habits and emerging trends.

As part of a recent ring-round, we asked how the longer and supposedly warmer days of early summer had affected sales. It’s difficult not to venture into this exercise without preconceptions of what the answer is likely to be and, sure enough, the response revealed the expected rush on affordable break-barrel airguns as fair weather shooters gear up for fun evenings toppling plinking targets in the backyard.

However, what we didn’t expect was the surge on accessories for rabbit shooting – certainly not on the scale reported anyway. Although shooters in some regions have contacted us to lament lower than usual numbers of rabbits on their shooting permissions this year, those who do have access to some productive bunny bagging seem to be hell bent on equipping themselves to take full advantage of this year’s summer crop.

And it wasn’t just the newcomers who were treating themselves to new kit. Retailers were pleased to report that seasoned hunters were splashing out on a wide variety of accessories as they wage war against the swelling ranks of grass-gobblers. From high quality optics to handy accessories that could sell like the proverbial hotcakes if included in a display close to the counter, it certainly sounded like airgunners were prepared to shell out for a slice of this summer’s bunny bonanza. Here are 10 items retailers could do well to consider as the peak rabbit shooting season unfolds.

Bipod

Bipods like the Sniper Systems MKVIII offer support for long- range hunting

Gun support

Our calls followed an issue that included a roundup of accessories to help hunters hold a steady aim and retailers cited bipods as the top-selling accessory with airgunners targeting rabbits. As most airgun shooters ambush rabbits from the prone position, short legs are the order of the day, along with a swivel top to avoid problems with cant on uneven ground. It also seems that shooting sticks are no longer the exclusive preserve of deer stalkers, with an increasing number of airgun hunters turning to sticks to extract maximum accuracy from PCPs, especially for standing shots.

Pellets

The relative affordability of airgun ammo means shooters are easily able to experiment with new brands and designs. While those who intend to pick off bunnies at long range will probably be inclined to opt for the high quality roundhead ammo used by their target shooting counterparts, those hunting at closer quarters could well lean towards the extra shock power delivered by a flathead or hollow-point pellet – and plenty of airgun shooters will want to try them all.

Multi-aim-point scope

Airgunners could find themselves targeting rabbits at ranges from 10 to 50 metres. Bearing in mind the curved flight path of an airgun pellet, the point of impact will shift from below to above a zero dialled in at 30 metres, before falling low again at long range. But that pronounced trajectory isn’t a problem for an airgun shooter with a multi-aim-point scope. Whether equipped with simple Mil-Dot markers or a sophisticated array of lines and crosses, these optics enable hunters to make the correct allowance for range and hit the mark.

Rangefinder

Rangefinders like the Hawke LRF400 give accurate distance readings for airgun hunters

Rangefinder

Knowing which aim-point to use is easy for shooters when they’ re practising over set distances, but it can get tricky in the field – especially when there are contours to take into account. A quick ping with a pocket-sized rangefinder takes away the guesswork for airgun hunters. With an accurate reading of the distance to the target, it’s just a matter of selecting the relevant aim-point and taking the shot.

Camo clothing

Rabbit shooters will find it a lot easier to get close to their quarry if they opt for a jacket and trousers that help them to blend into their surroundings, and a peaked cap can improve concealment by throwing the face into shade without compromising vision. For hunters planning a close-range ambush with minimal natural cover, a facemask and gloves provide an extra degree of stealth by hiding any tell-tale pink patches of skin.

Nightvision

Affordable night vision units has opened up a whole new world – the Nite Site Viper could help afterdark hunting excursions

After dark

We were surprised to hear how many airgun shooters were still shelling out on night-time hunting gear at a time of year when dusk doesn’t fall much before 10pm – testament to how effective nocturnal forays can be. While most hunters seem to have a scope-mounted lamp in their arsenal, more and more are also adding night vision to the line-up as affordable digital units make this highly stealthy form of shooting more and more accessible.

Moderators 

When staking out a busy warren from a static position, hunters will be looking to bag several bunnies from the same spot before they break cover to pick up, and the added stealth provided by a moderator will certainly help to that end. The muted muzzle blast of a moderated airgun is barely audible downrange, so rabbits tend to venture out more quickly after shots are taken. Of course, a hushed-down airgun is also a useful asset for shooters tasked with controlling rabbits on golf courses, gardens and other land close to residential areas.

Boots

Hunters should swap their clumpy old boots for something stealthier, like these Hunter Balmoral boots, from £120

Footwear

Noisy footfall probably accounts for more failed rabbit stalks than any other field-craft faux pas – even if the bunnies don’t hear a clumsily placed foot, there’s every chance they’ll feel it through the ground and scarper. Shooters creeping around fields in search of rabbits on still summer evenings may want to swap their sloppy old wellies for a better fitting pair, or even change to a lace-up boot for a more secure fit and cooler feet.

Gun sling

From bipods to lasers, airgun shooters love fitting accessories to their guns, and a sling has to be one of the most useful as well as one of the most affordable. Not only does a sling help to ease the burden while stalking rabbits on foot, when several miles could be covered in an evening, it also helps to keep hands free for carrying the spoils of a successful rabbiting session.

Knife sharpening

Rabbit shooters need a sharp edge for field dressing shot quarry, and the £12.95 Blade Tech Blaze will hone a blade in seconds

Knife sharpener

Most shooters know how handy a knife is in the field, but do they have what it takes to keep it sharp when they’re away from their workshop? A key-ring knife sharpener enables hunters to quickly put an edge on their favourite blade, making the task so much easier when it’s time to prep the bag for the table as the hunt draws to an end.

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