At Last – Something Good on Television

Monday, February 9, 2009

My Dad called television “an optimist’s dream” – because “you keep hoping something good will come on.” That was back in the day when programs were in black-and-white; there were only three channels, and if you wanted to change the station, you had to get up, cross the room, and turn the channel selector.

Now, my local cable provider offers literally hundreds of channels, and people still complain that “there’s nothing on.”

Well, if you are an airgunner with even a passing interest in hunting and long range accuracy, I have good news: you really owe it to yourself to check out a copy of Cliff Tharp’s Airgun Hunting the California Ground Squirrel.

This DVD provides exactly what the title implies: over 70 minutes of footage of hunting California ground squirrels with air rifles. Tharp shot, narrated and edited the entire production and did an entirely creditable job that is both entertaining and informative.

I give full points to Tharp for starting the video with a section on “Know the Law,” which includes cautions to know the laws in your area that apply to hunting with airguns, know which species may be legally hunted with airguns in your area, have the appropriate license(s), and to remember that you are responsible for the lawful use of your airgun. The introduction also contains a warning that California ground squirrels are vermin that may carry diseases that can be harmful or fatal to humans, so handling them may be hazardous to your health. This is essential information that anyone who views the video and who might be inspired to go and do likewise needs to have.

What happens next, though is pure magic. Tharp stands in front of the camera and introduces us to the fun of hunting ground squirrels with air rifles. Most of the footage is devoted to shots of pellets taking down ground squirrels, followed by a slow motion repeat of the same shot. Tharp provides a voice-over commentary about the shot in question, often including the yardage and any difficulties (such as high wind) in making the shot. As Tharp puts it: “There are about 260 or so squirrels on the DVD that can attest to the effectiveness of air rifles all the way out to just about 100 yards.”

At irregular intervals, Tharp drops into the video for an on-camera discussion of guns, tanks, equipment and so forth. Tharp’s folksy, friendly style is both fun and educational. By the time he is done, it makes me want to try ground squirrel hunting too!

Tharp tells me that all of the shots on the video were taken with PCP air rifles with a video camera mounted on top of the scope. (Apparently, he couldn’t get good shots mounting the camera in a similar fashion on a spring-piston airgun, although it mentions springers as suitable for hunting ground squireels.) The result is that the footage has a kind of “you are there” immediacy that draws me, at least, right into the action.

I communicated with Tharp via email and telephone, and one of the interesting things he said was, “I don’t make a big deal of it in the video, but 99% of the shots you see in it were made with the DYNAMIC PCP 2 pellets. They work especially well in my FX built guns. The ranch that I do most of my hunting on has a complete ban on lead ammo, including airgun pellets.” That’s good to know.

The bottom line is that if you enjoy hunting videos, I can highly recommend Airgun Hunting the California Ground Squirrel. And if you have a shooting buddy who sneers at airguns, give him a copy of this video. It might just prove to be a real eye-opener for him.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

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