Nothing wasted: cooking rabbit in the field
PUBLISHED: 14:01 14 February 2021
Mick Garvey shares his favourite methods of cooking rabbits in the field, and explains how nothing he shoots goes to waste... even the rats!
I am constantly asked the question: “What do you do with all your kills?” The answer is pretty simple. I waste nothing that cannot be eaten or recycled as bait and this includes everything but foxes, which generally get burned, and rabbits with myxomatosis, VHD, etc.
My freezer is always well stocked with various delicious meats, such as deer, rabbits, pigeons and squirrels. I have supplied the one and only Rosie Barham with many a coolbox full of the above, and I’m guessing I’ll be having to make that journey again soon, as it’s been a while.
Corvids, feral pigeons, rats and so on are used as fox bait, and no, I have no intention of eating the feral ones, as our American friends do (I am led to believe theirs are different to our scavenging flying rats, but, still, I think I’ll leave them to it!).
Most of my rabbits go towards my dog’s dinner, and I cannot think of a healthier, 100% natural meal for him. I keep the pigeons for myself, which are flash fried with some stir fry or salad. When cooked right, there is little that comes close taste-wise. I will often cook something up in the field, and always have a small gas stove with me, along with spices and rubs.
There is nothing like cooking up something you have harvested yourself; it tastes and smells so much better. I’ll even push the boat out and throw in a few blackberries when they’re in season.
Without doubt, my favourite mixes are from Nando’s. The Lemon & Herb Peri-Peri Rub (Mild) is top of my list and works well with just about anything. There are many other rubs in the range, and Schwartz also have a great choice of spices and seasonings.
A recent last-minute dusk outing on the rabbits saw me out in the field with no food and just a couple of bottles of water. It had been planned this way, so if I wanted to eat, I’d have to be successful in my hunting. My preppers box was, as always, in the truck, along with my stove, gas bottles, RidgeMonkey pan and a tub of onions, peppers, tomatoes, butter and an olive oil spray.
I had to concentrate on rabbits as my Rimfire Magic 10/22 .22 LR would not be suitable for taking pigeons from the treetops. I certainly didn’t want a round buzzing through the upper canopy and ending up heaven knows where, so ground-based quarry would be the target.
Rabbits are well established in this area and had been causing a certain amount of damage to the fringes of the newly sprouting crop, so pest control and meal provision were all taken care of – sounds simple, yes? Well actually, no. The first field yielded no sightings, which was strange as usually I could almost guarantee seeing a few along the hedge line. The next field was the same, and I was beginning to wonder what was wrong. It wasn’t until I reached the third field that I sussed what was wrong... poachers!
I’m the only one with permission on this land, but I was confronted with tyre tracks and I even found a couple of unfired .410 shotgun cartridges. A quick call to the farmer to confirm no one else had been given permission (they hadn’t), and then on with the detective work. A gate had been broken through, but placed back in position, so a temporary repair was carried out, and a text was sent to the farmer. The other side of the gate, I found further evidence. Whoever had been here had gutted a couple of rabbits and left the waste by the gate, right by the public footpath – not a good thing to leave for the public to come across on their morning walk, and definitely not a good advert for us responsible shooters.
After clearing up the mess and putting it into a carrier bag, I was on my way to the fourth field. By the look of it, they hadn’t come this far, as no tyre tracks were visible and the bunnies were out, albeit just a few. The field was roughly 300 square yards and lined on one side by a hawthorn hedge and by a small wood on the other, which provided the perfect cover for my approach, being mindful that the rabbits could well be on full alert after last night’s activities.
Edging ever so stealthily to within 70 yards, I raised the semi-auto rimfire and placed the crosshairs of the Hawke Sidewinder between the eye and ear of this mid-sized bunny and sent the Eley hollow sub out on its one and only mission. I didn’t even have to see it keel over, as the resulting crack of the round striking skull told me that the shot was true. A second bunny was still feeding not 10 yards away, which was dispatched in the exactly same scenario. This is testament to the efficiency of the Turnright Galloway silencer I’m trying out. I know I do rave on about these Eley hunting rounds, but they give me so much confidence with their consistency and accuracy – and that is all I ask of my ammunition.
I got back to the truck just as the rain started, but I hoped it would pass. The stove was set up and the veggies were given a sprinkle of the lemon and herb rub, then left to marinade while I took care of the rabbits with my field tools. I took the back legs for the cook up, with the remainder getting wrapped up in another plastic bag, and the waste being added to the other waste from earlier to be set out for the next foxing session.
Before long, the pan was sizzling and releasing the most mouth-watering aroma. I just sat back against the truck, took in my surroundings and tucked into this fresh-from-the-field ready meal. I asked myself, does it get any better than this? No, it doesn’t, and not even the rain could spoil it.