Sunday, 3 April 2011

What Rules For Lamping ?

Lamping is probably my favourite part of hunting with the rapid. There is nothing to compare with the eerie feeling you can get when being alone in a field in the dead of night . How often do you look behind you while you are walking , your mind racing with the thought someone or something is following you. Well if you didn't think like that you might start the next time you go out. Lamping has its usual die hard rules , you need to go when its a bit windy and make sure there is no moonlight to give your presence away. Now these two rules might be the perfect lamping conditions but how many perfect nights do you really get. A lot of my shoots are close to lit up areas so you never get a perfect dark night , I can remember on some of these shoots when it did get pitch black but those days are long gone with all the new estates that keep popping up and illuminating the surrounding areas.
I am a typical forget the rules type of hunter , if I get the chance to go out I jump at it no matter how silly it might seem to others. Take tonight , there is a 5mph breeze and a full moon blazing its bright light out towards the earth . Do I stay in and watch the usual EastEnders or Corrie with the beloved , not a chance I am out the door like a whippet , the Rapid nicely tucked away in its slip and the lamp with a new set of batteries in off I go. I decided to call on an old friend of mine Phil Walker who without doubt got me to where I am today. Without his guidance and knowledge that he passed on to me when I was young I wouldn't be the shooter I am today. I do understand now why he took me shooting so much when I was younger , I would chase squirrels around the wood all day for him to shoot . I now know it was to tire them out so it made them sit longer for him to get an easier shot. All the same he taught me so much while we were out. I arrived at phil`s house about 7pm , I asked him if he fancied coming lamping , he took all of two minutes to get his kit ready and flew out the door with a quick see you later to his Mrs. There was no puzzled look at me to suggest the conditions were well against us , it was a look of great I don't care I am out lets go.
We set off to have a look around some paddocks that I had been clearing throughout the summer . The ground was well lit up but not to be put off we decided to have a look around . I gave Phil all the info on what paddocks he would be shooting , where the boundaries were and what hazards he was likely to encounter on the way. Realisticly I would have preferred Phil to have seen the ground first but as it was a dark my safety chat had to do. We soon had the Rapids kitted up with our chosen lamping gear. Phil was using his Deben Tracer and me the Ledco P7 torch that I have been testing recently. I got to my first paddock in no time and scanned about to see what was feeding , to my surprise there wasn't a rabbit in sight. Feeling a little puzzled I went to the next field . I shone the whole field as before to see absolutely nothing out again. I repeated the same thing five times and nothing . This is strange as there was plenty of rabbits on this ground for a few good lamping sessions and tonight you would think there wasn't a rabbit within ten miles.
I decided to leave the other few fields and take a walk over to where Phil was shooting and see if he had any success . I had just got to the gate that lead into the field Phil was walking in when I heard the smack of a pellet hitting home . I watched as Phil walked over to where his lamp was shining and a rabbit was lifted from the ground. Thank god Phil had seen something and managed to shoot it. When he came back to the gate he had said it was the first rabbit he had seen out as well and luckily it had squatted as soon as the lamp hit it.. We decided to walk over all the ground and keep looking together as I wanted to see if anything else was about as this was surely not the same ground I had shot some months earlier. We walked for a good hour to find only five rabbits out and those were right against the hedgerow so we couldn't get near them . Back at the car we decided to go and visit another small shoot that I had left all summer to get a good rest and let the rabbits breed. Phil has shot this ground in the past so there was no need for the safety talk. He knew where all the warrens were so he could try and get in between the rabbit and its way home. It is important to know your ground as the first place a rabbit will head for is the safety of its warren . If you can manage to get in between them both you have more chance of a rabbit squatting and giving you the chance to get a shot off. Not every rabbit will squat down , some may even just look at you and keep feeding but a lot of the time the rabbit will run or hop somewhere , especially if they have been lamped before. This next ground is a mix of grazing and rough ground . We decided to split up again , it was very light here as we have houses on three sides of the ground so there is no point in two of you going together as you are just making more noise with both of you walking and you are a bigger target for rabbits to see. I headed off to a rough part of the shoot, in the past I have took quite a few rabbits here using the bi-pod in the summer months so it was a good bet for me to see something. I had walked most of the fence line and seen nothing but just as I was about to give up here I noticed a rabbit hopping through some fallen branches. I quickly lifted the scope to my eye and as soon as it stopped to take a look at me I sent a pellet arcing through the light and the loud smack of the pellet hitting it gave me hope of a clean kill. I climbed over the fence and there it was a nice clean hid behind the eye. At last I had got something for all my efforts , a nice plump rabbit for the pot was a bonus to a nice night out in the open air. The moon now had no cloud cover and it was like dusk now. I could see a few rabbits over in the adjacent field now without the lamp. The optics on my new MTC Mamba Lite were proving to be just as I was told , crisp and clear was an understatement and thanks to her indoors for the nice Christmas present I am hopefully going to enjoy using this scope a lot more in the future. With it being so light I decided to go and see how Phil was doing. He was walking around a small field and I could see a rabbit in his beam , It was not stopping to give him a shot but just kept on hopping . I could see he was trying to keep the light just in front of it but this still made no difference so he walked away and left it. There is no point in taking silly shots and wounding the animal as it will always be there for another night. We had had a chat about the conditions and how it was proving difficult , there was no way we were going to get any more sitting out in the fields as it was way to light now so we decided to go for a little walk and bring some stalking into the mix. We could see where the rabbits were with the light so it was a case of try and creep up the fence line and get within range before turning the lamp on to get a clear cross hair . Phil was the first to go , there was two rabbits feeding about twenty yards into the field , Phil had good cover from some brambles so he set of quietly along them . I watched from behind as he stealthily crept ever closer to where there was a gap in the fence. He stopped , raised his Rapid and the light shone into the field. The sound of the pellet being sent towards a rabbit was a good sign and watching him climb the fence and come back with a rabbit was even more satisfying. We had improvised with what conditions we had to work with and rabbit number three was in the bag. Now it was my turn to show the Master how it was done. I had spotted some rabbits feeding in a corner of a field some eighty yards away . There is a footpath running right along side the field but the path is white road stone and last time I tried this in the day light I made a right mess of it. I was like a herd of elephants walking up the path and never got near to them so to do it in the dark was going to be near impossible . Not to be deterred I set of . I was like a ninja , you could have heard a pin drop the way I was tip towing up the path . I had almost reached my spot to take a look when I stood on a branch . I might as well have shouted timber with the amount of noise I made and that was it , my chance gone . With a few choice words ringing in my head I walked back to Phil. He was smugly laughing at me , I could have told him what for but it was my fault so I had to take the banter full on and just get on with it. We had decided that it was time to go so off we went back to the car. As we were walking back we came to a style , I don't know why I did it but I thought I would just have one last shine into the field . There it was in all its glory , a nice plump rabbit sitting looking at me . For some reason I sat down on the style and as calm as you like took the shot without a care in the world. It had not even crossed my mind it was going to run off and get a move on , I just did what I did and bang, rabbit number four was in the bag. I picked up the rabbit and we again set off in the direction of the car and to pick up what rabbits we had shot. As we were reaching the spot where Phil had shot his rabbit we noticed a dark shadow moving across the hedge line. I quickly put my lamp on and to our surprise there he was . Laughing all the way home. A fox had found Phil`s rabbit and headed off down the field with it. “ Now who is laughing “ I said with a smug look on my face. We carried on to the car and called it a night with one less rabbit . At least the fox was happy.

So tonight had been hard work . When we set off we knew we wasn't going to get a great bag but it was about being out there in the fresh air , that means more to me than shooting 100 rabbits . We overcome the crazy conditions that would have kept any normal lamper indoors and managed to bag us a few rabbits.

Extras Tips.

When ever you go lamping , try and get a good feel for the ground in the daylight so you know where all the main hotspots will be and all the hazards . It is so easy to fall or trip and break an ankle so make sure you even take a mobile phone just in case.

Don't be scared to try different colour filters on your lamp , I have been having good success with a green filter lately where as a red filter was really struggling to hold a rabbit.

Make sure if you are leaving rabbits to be picked up later you hang them high up so foxes or badgers cant reach them.

Never think that you wont shoot anything because the weather is against all the rules. If you don't go out and try you will never know and it may surprise you with what you bring back. You must adapt your shooting to whatever mother nature throws at you.

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