Apocalypse now

Shooting Times & Country|May 13, 2020

Apocalypse now
Rabbits have no respect for the lockdown and are running riot, so Simon Whitehead heads out to put a dent in their numbers
Simon Whitehead

Our entire way of life has been completely transformed since the country locked down in a bid to halt the spread of COVID-19. But there is a silver lining: air pollution has fallen, rivers are running cleaner and our wildlife is reacting to the lack of human interaction and interference. The absence of transport on land, rail and air has had a remarkable effect on the natural world.

With shops in the area still closed, some of my harvested rabbits, once broken down and jointed, will be given to local residents, much to their delight. I am in a very fortunate position as I have the skills, animals and equipment — dog, trap, net, rifle and gun — to provide meat for the table. I used to joke about being the hunter-gatherer and surviving the apocalypse in my demonstrations; little did I know how close to home that statement would become.

I am in isolation at home within the hills of North Yorkshire but with such beautiful countryside, stacked with an abundance of organic and free-range meat on my doorstep, we are eating the finest protein that roams our land.

I jest, but the seriousness of the situation has not been lost. The farm is closed for those who don’t live here or check the beasts and, once the gate lock clicks, the silence is deafening. At times it feels like tumbleweed has replaced the JCB and New Holland tractor, and the resident rabbits are making the most of the peace. They are roaming like never before, which makes walking the dogs — including a heavily pregnant Tawny — eventful. Scurrying to and from underneath my parked car, dozing in the meadows and loitering on the drive, the rabbits are threatening to take over. However pleasing to the eye they may be, enough is enough.

Enjoyable

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May 13, 2020