Managed to get a few hours' lamping in last night. It might be early in the season for hunting rabbits by lamp-light, but this was on a big acreage of land that my mate shoots over - and he was under clear instructions from the landowner to hit the young crop of rabbits hard before the spring barley begins to break through.
Unfortunately for me, this is land that I haven't shot over in the daylight, so being 'introduced' to it in the dark was never going to be easy... and it wasn't. We only had a single rabbit to show for our few hours and (what seemed like) 10 miles of trekking around freshly turned fields.
The night was destined to return a low score. My mate, Tony Ross-Booker, remembered his lamp... but not the battery that remained charging on the kitchen sideboard!
I chose to take my Theoben Elan over the Daystate Air Wolf for a couple of reasons: (1) it's so much lighter than the Air Wolf and, I felt, would be easier for traipsing around the big area; and (2) the Wolf's MTC scope interferes with the loading port and doesn't allow a magazine to fit in... and I don't like lamping with single-shot rifles. It's too fiddly.
Of course, I've recently converted the Elan back to its original .22 calibre barrel and I must confess that I'm not 100 per cent au fait with the trajectory. Given that range-estimation is pretty difficult by lamplight, the odds were pretty much against me.
My trick was to set the Hawke 3-12 x 44 AirMax to its maximum magnification and the front P/A ring to 25m (the zero distance). That way, if the target didn't look sharp, I'd know it would either be nearer or further... and hopefully I was good enough to tell which.
For the record, at 12x mag, the cross-hairs of the SR6 'Christmas Tree' reticle work out at 30, 35 and 40 metres when the central cross-hair is set for 25m with Daystate FT ammo. (15.9 grains; power 11.1 ft. lbs.)Also to make life easier, I'd brought along my age-old Cluson SL2/PKG Shootalite lamp... although I had to splash out £13 for a new lead-acid battery as the old one had inexplicably died over the winter. Oh well, I'd had good use out of it for the past 10 years and it's been out in all weathers without a single problem. It's still on its original bulb! Incidentally, the SL2 remains a current model - see it here.
Cluson claim the SL2 Shootalite has a 1,000-metre beam. While I can't vouch for it being 'effective' over this distance, it's certainly very powerful and can pick out rabbit eyes on the far edges of 10-acre fields no problem.
I've got a red filter fitted which you can quickly use or remove. It tends to reduce the intensity too much for me, but Tony's eyesight is better and he got on with it just fine. These rabbits, however, didn't seem to mind the white light (they haven't been lamped much).
The Clulite is a neat set-up because it comes with a separate battery pack - quite weighty - which you sling over your shoulder and connect to the lamp proper via a coiled lead. Over the years, I've always wished this was 20 or 30 cm. longer, but it's not really that much of a problem.
The kit comes with attachments to allow it to be easily mounted to your scope or to a hand-held grip (which also locates into the battery pack if needs be) - and the change-over can be easily made in the dark courtesy of the quick-turn finger nuts.
I'm not used to shooting with a 'lamp man' and didn't feel comfortable picking off the rabbits in 'someone else's' beam, but Tony took to shooting quite easily. (Maybe I'm a better lamp man than him!)
We took it in turns to walk the fields with the gun, but while Tony preferred shooting with me lamping the ground, I preferred my time with the lamp on-gun.
Though it was probably too bright a night for productive lamping, there was enough of a breeze to mask our approaches, and we managed to stalk to within range of three or four bunnies - but the final shot let us down. These rabbits didn't seem to stay put in the beam (like they do on my patch), so our shots tended to arrive where the rabbits had been a second before!
Unfortunately, as well as the deer, the Clulite also picked out an active vixen whose calls shadowed us all night long. This was her patch and she clearly didn't want us on it.
A very enjoyable night, all the same - 2 a.m. came upon us before we even knew it...