The day had been a hot one, I remember thinking as I came over the crest of a hill and looked down to a shaded spot overlooking a nice gully. A small, almost flat patch of ground with a fallen over log and good cover under the lengthening shadows. I unslung my 5Kg passenger and propped it next to me on the bipod and began glassing the opposite face. I couldn't concentrate thanks to the bloody squadron of flies hell bent on making life miserable, so I wiped the sweat from my face and pulled out the roll on Aeroguard.

     With my heartbeat now back under redline, I started to look in earnest and it wasn't long before the tell tale shape of ears attracted my attention. A small kitten was out a bit early at the bottom of the gully on the creek flat. I estimated the range to be maybe 240m and made a mental note to allow for the fairly steep downhill shot as I eased myself behind my HB Savage. Placing the crosshairs on the Rabbit's shoulder, I steadied the breathing and the trigger seemed to just break at the right time. The Pope spoke and the 87 Grain V-Max completely dismantled the Rabbit to the point that I couldn't tell where it connected. Not stretching it really but a good warm-up shot I thought.
     Another 15 minutes later I spotted a Fox making his way across the other face to start his evening rounds. By the time I slid behind the rifle, he had spotted a young Rabbit and was chasing it in and out of cover. A minute later I heard the squeal of the Rabbit as the Fox sat down for tea (out of my sight unfortunately). The squealing must have startled a couple of Rabbits into action as I spotted a few bolting for cover. One that stopped was a long way off, maybe a touch over 400m. I put the binos on him and glassed for movement of grass & foliage that would betray the main enemy of such a shot...the wind.

Perfect country for letting that flat shooter stretch it's legs

     I noted there was just a hint of a breeze up to around 100m, but from there on out to the Rabbit looked nice & still. All the time there are numbers in my head being crunched to give me the correct holdover, a quick check of my drop chart...rifle zeroed at 200m, that's around 20 inches of drop.
     To make sense of what 20" of drop would look like at long range I simply equate that to almost two sitting Rabbits high. Right, down behind the rifle and note the Rabbit is almost dead level with my position but on the opposite face, still no change to the wind. Wind up the big Leupy to 18x and place the crosshairs two Rabbits high above the centre of his chest and squeeze. The .243 roared as the recoil knocked me off target.

       I remember thinking the shot felt good. The satisfying "thwack" that came back a split second after I actually saw the Rabbit land, never ceases to amaze me. I rolled a smoke and punched in my shooting position into the GPS before making my way across to the other face. I found the Rabbit, or more accurately half the Rabbit. The bullet hit low and only the front half was reasonably intact. I suspect my range estimation may have been off, this was confirmed when I hit the "Go To" button on the GPS and the reading was 445m! Cross gully estimations always seem to throw me out more than on the flats, where I'm usually within 10 or 15m of the money.

     I took a few swigs of water from my Camelbak as I looked warmly at the big black stainless Savage sitting in the evening sun. She had accounted for 3 similar shots earlier that morning, but this was the best for the day. I remember thinking that it is exactly this type of shooting where the often cursed weight of such an outfit is actually an asset. Being propped up by a swivelling type Harris bipod and sitting in a Choate Varmint is a rock steady combination, particularly over uneven ground.

Tools of the trade - Savage 12FVSS, Choate Varmint stock, 6.5-20x50 VXIII & Harris Type-S Bipod

     The carefully developed ammunition used in a year's worth of competition shooting the Fly has taught me more about reading the wind than anything is all a system really. About the only thing I'm missing is a laser rangefinder if I want to go beyond the sort of long shots that I now regularly make.
     I can't put my finger on exactly what it is about long range varminting that appeals to me so much. I guess part of the answer is that it so different from my other great passion, deer stalking. When it comes to rifles I'm basically greedy I guess, I want it all, ever since I could lift a rifle as a kid. Deer stalking offers lots of hunting but little shooting, this is where long range shooting fills the gap, more shooting but less hunting as well as keeping me sharp over the hotter months.
     I use a fast, flat shooting rifle when deer stalking as well, and the practice of shooting the small critters at long range has given me the confidence to regularly shoot larger game at extended ranges with excellent results. If you haven't tried varminting, give it a go. Of course you will need an accurate rifle, good optics and such, but the best place to start is some regular range time. You will need to know your long range rifle on a much more intimate level than others you may use as well as mastering the mechanics of trigger & breathing. Carefully hand loaded ammunition is another pre-requisite for good results and you must make the wind your friend.  Long range shooting is often frowned on as somehow unethical or cowboy behaviour, usually by those that have only briefly had a go at it. I hope this peek into the ramblings of my mind during an afternoon with the "heavy rifle" has been of some use to you and helped to convince a few doubters .

Australian Hunting Net 2006