Mini Expeditions With Your Airgun!

Besides airgun hunting, I like to fish, hike, bike, kayak and camp. To optimize my field time, I’ve been combining these various activities, so I’ll load up my kayak with ultralight camping gear, an air rifle, and take off on an overnighter. This lets me get further into the back country or access areas closed to foot traffic, and let’s me spend the midday when hunting slows down, fishing or lounging in my hammock.

A trip I did this winter, was to combine an ultralight camping trip with a late season squirrel hunt…… On snow shoes! Even though I’ve lived in the colder part of the country for a few years now, I am still a warm weather guy. But this year I bought some snowshoes and have been doing a lot of hiking to get in condition, this spring I am going to hike Mt Fuji as a weekend break during one of my regular trips to Japan. Anyway, I started thinking about doing a winter ultralight camping trip, so naturally the possibility of taking one of my Airguns was right on the heels of this idea.

Snowshoes on my feet, gun and pack on my back, I hit the frozen woods!

Snowshoes on my feet, gun and pack on my back, I hit the frozen woods!

On a day off I loaded up my gear: a solo bivy tent, down bag and liner, sleeping pad, solid fuel stove and cook kit, headlamp, food and water went into my pack, and I decided to carry the AA TFR rifle. My plan was to hike through part of a state park and over to a friends farm that borders it on snowshoes, hunt the farms 40 acres of wood, overnight, then hump it back on snowshoes the next morning.

I was smiling a little less after a very cold night, but it was an experience!

I was smiling a little less after a very cold night, but it was an experience!

I’m writing up the story for a magazine article so won’t go into details other than to say; I hiked further because I was spatially disoriented (lost), shot and ate a squirrel (over Raman noodles), froze my tail off (but survived), and hiked out in time for lunch with my girls. I honestly don’t know if I’ll do this in winter again, it was very cold, but it was a mini adventure that got me fired up and can’t wait for the spring and summer months to roll around!

A couple years back I took a fall trip, it had started to cool down but nothing like this recent frigidly cold outing. I loaded the gear into my Ocean SOT kayak, which is fully rigged for fishing, and took off for a couple days. My gear on this trip was my camping hammock with insect net and tarp, lightweight sleeping bag, alcohol stove and cook kit, my AirForce Talon-P, camo insect suit, and my regular kayak fishing rig (including a stocked ice box).

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My kayak is a great way of getting into areas without trails or public access. On navigable water stay below the high water mark and you have a lot of places to explore!

My wife dropped me at a spillway coming off a large reservoir, I followed the stream through farmlands where I camped along the way, to a lake where I had some great fishing all to myself. With no public access across the farms, I hunted squirrels in the trees bordering the stream, and threw my hammock up within the high water mark. On day two I paddled to a take out at a local city park, met my wife, loaded the gear and drove a few miles home. A great trip, and for the most part I didn’t see any other people, even though I was within a suburban/hobby farm environment a couple miles from town.

The trips I’ve planned for the warmer months this year, include more on my kayak, more ultralight hike/camping, taking off on my mountain bike, using my Jon boat to explore some of the rivers and small lakes all around us, and mixing up some fishing and hunting. And on each and every trip, I will take an air rifle for the mode of travel, sure that new opportunities will become available along the way.

Hammocks, airguns, and kayaks; this mix of gear opens a lot of possibilities

Hammocks, airguns, and kayaks; this mix of gear opens a lot of possibilities

When you get to a certain place and time in life, it can be hard to get away on those adventures you did when you were young. I spent the better part of a summer sailing and living on my small sailboat in the Sea of Cortez when I was 19, three weeks hiking the lower PCT and entire summer long collecting trips (with a herpetological bent) in the southwestern deserts in my teens, weeks wandering South America, Europe, and the Caribbean in my twenties. But college, carrer, wife, kids, and other things become more important as you (slowly in my case) grow up, and the adventures get thinner on the ground.

My ultralight kit has a base weight of 10 lbs, not counting gun.

My ultralight kit has a base weight of 10 lbs, not counting gun.

I am lucky, traveling to Europe and Asia on business a lot, going off hunting in Africa most years, doing a lot of hunting trips, and I get to do a lot of shooting. I enjoy all of this immensely, but these don’t feel like adventures per se. However, add a unique means of transport (kayak, bike, snowshoes, etc), and a night alone in a camp you set up while on the go, and it turns your fishing trip or squirrel hunt into a bonfide mini-adventure!

And the best part; this doesn’t take a lot of time or a lot of money, and you are only limited by a willingness to do a little research and preparation. There is hardly a place in the country where you can’t get away on your own little expedition, give it a try, and let’s hear about it!

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Categories: Airgun Expedition, Camping with Airgun, Destinations, fall hunts, Hunting Accessories, Hunting Guns, Jackrabbits, Small Game Hunting, Spring time hunting, stealth hunting, Urban hunt, where to hunt | Leave a comment

Back on track!

There’s been a lot going on with the new year; the SHOT Show has come and gone, I’ve had a lot of writing work to get caught up on as well as picking up some new publications, and getting ready for more hunts this year than I’ve ever had in a 12 month period. Also had some great new guns that I’ve been working up, and also have spent a lot of time improving my indoor testing range and studio for photo and video production. So while I know my blogging has been a bit erratic, I think I’m now in a good place to get caught up. I will work on answering all the posts and emails, and thank you for sticking with me. But with all this activity and new stuff, this week I want to talk about an old favorite …… again. I know it seems that every year I write something about my Beeman C1 springer, but then it seems that at some point every year I fall in love with this gun again….. so here we go!

Fig 1. The author lining up a shot with his Beeman C1 .177. This gun has taken literally hundreds of desert jackrabbits since it was purchased in the late 1990’s.

Fig 1. The author lining up a shot with his Beeman C1 .177. This gun has taken literally hundreds of desert jackrabbits since it was purchased in the late 1990’s.

My Favorite Springer

I was recently speaking with a firend in the airgunning trade, and he remarked that there has been a sustained growth in the North American airgun market over the last few years. He attributed this to the growing popularity of airguns for small game hunting and pest control. Many North American hunters are beginning to appreciate that airguns are quiet, inexpensive to shoot, ammunition is available and that they are capable of delivering tack driving accuracy with enough power to be very effective in the field.

Everybody that reads this column knows that the airgun hunter has a couple options when considering an airgun; either a spring piston or a pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) power plant being the most widely used. Pre-charged pneumatics are gaining a lot of traction with the enthusiast and hunting intelligentsia, and the fact is that I use PCPs a lot more than any other type of airgun. The other power plant is of course the spring piston airgun; the advantages being that they are fully self-contained, can be quite powerful and accurate, and as a rule cost a lot less than PCPs. The disadvantages are that they tend to be larger and heavier (not always the case though), have more recoil so take a bit more practice to shoot well, and require more effort to cock as a strong spring must be compressed to ready the gun for shooting.

A compelling argument can be made for either of these power plants, and there are strong proponents for both. I think that it depends on your intended use, your specific hunting requirements, personal preferences, and how deep you want to go into your wallet. Admittedly the cost of entry level PCPs is coming down, but even a high quality springer will get you into the game for quite a bit less. But outside of financial factors, my personal view is both are worthwhile and valid hunting tools. I have both and use both for hunting a variety of quarry, but in this post I want to take a look at the spring piston power plant, and more specifically I’ll talk about one of my all-time favorites.. I find the idea of a fully self-contained gun very appealing, and will often take a springer with me when heading out fishing or camping, anywhere that I don’t want to carry along a lot of extra gear or can’t be reliant on the availability of an external air source to keep the gun shooting.

Fig 2. The C1 is compact and carries well, even when hiking miles over rough desert terrain

Fig 2. The C1 is compact and carries well, even when hiking miles over rough desert terrain

Spring Piston Performance

The spring piston airgun generates power using a powerful spring-loaded piston that is housed within a compression chamber. Cocking the gun causes the piston assembly to compress the spring. When the spring is released it pushes the piston forward compressing a column of air in the chamber behind the pellet. The spring piston power plant is capable of developing sufficient energy to get a projectile moving at supersonic velocities, though effectiveness as a hunting tool is not solely a function of muzzle velocity. All discussions of terminal performance aside, very powerful airrifles tend to be large and heavy guns. If I need this power I will put up with the bulk, however, for a lot of small game, and especially when I want to keep inside of 35 yards, I’d rather have a compact gun. To get a compact springer generally means giving up some power and I’m OK with that. I have owned many spring piston Airguns over the years, most have stayed with me a short while, a few for quite long periods, and some have been superseded with more recent versions of the same model. But one that has been in my collection for well over 20 years is my Beeman C1. And even though it is a .177,and I have few .177’s having gravitated towards larger calibers, I love this gun. It meets virtually every requirement I have; it is accurate, it has the right power for squirrels, rabbits, etc, it’s very compact and light, easy cocking effort, great ergonomics (for me, shooters tend to love or hate the stock), and it digests a large variety of pellets.

There are a lot of very powerful springers, some in the 30-40 fpe range, being produced today, but these guns are all huge and none (that I’ve shot) are particularly comfortable to shoot, especially for extended target or plinking sessions. But my little C1 is a blast to shoot all day long; I’ve been testing a cool new .30 caliber springer that I actually like, but after a couple dozen shots you have been rattled and shaken! But I’ve gone through a tin of pellets with my C1 in a session and feel none the worse for the experience..

Fig 3. The Beeman C1 with a ground squirrel dispatched at 35 yards with a headshot.

Fig 3. The Beeman C1 with a ground squirrel dispatched at 35 yards with a headshot.

In the United Kingdom, where airgun hunting has a huge following, hunters are limited to 12 fpe guns without afirearms certificate (FAC). They have taken untold numbers of rabbits, squirrels, pigeons, and crows with these guns over the years. The whole objective of airgun hunting is achieving optimal accuracy from both the gun and the hunter. This is the overriding criteria; once a gun is doing 12 fpe any small game animal it connects with is going down cleanly so long as the shot placement is correct. However, once pinpoint accuracy is achieved, more power never hurts, and it will permit the hunter to reach out a bit further! As mentioned I’ve been using this Beeman C1 (built by Webley & Scott) for well over two decades, and this mid 800 fps carbine in .177 has put more game in the bag than just about any springer I’ve ever owned. If you’ll be going after larger quarry such as raccoon, a gun producing over 20 fpe or more is a good idea.

If you will be doing a lot of plinking or are a smaller shooter, another consideration when choosing a hunting springer is the cocking effort. It only takes a single cocking motion to prepare the gun for shooting, but the effort can be substantial. As a rule of thumb, the more powerful the gun the more effort will go into cocking it. That’s why my 30 fpe .25 caliber Webley Patriot is not the first choice when plinking. The 40 lb cocking effort is very manageable for a days hunting, but is less ideal if the intention is to shoot a couple tins of pellets during a range session! I think finding the right balance of accuracy, power, cocking effort, and field attributes (size, weight, fit) is key to selecting the right gun.

There are many options available when it comes to the selection of a spring piston air rifle for hunting. The one that is best suited for you depends on what you want to hunt, where you will hunt, what ranges you’ll shoot at, and of course, which rifle appeals to your sense of aesthetics. Many of the newer spring piston airgun designs are capable of supersonic velocities. But as discussed, there is more to it than simply getting the highest muzzle velocity; it’s picking a gun that yields adequate power and exceptional accuracy. When you hit a small game animal with a head shot at 35 yards, it doesn’t really matter if the muzzle velocity was 900 fps or 1130 fps. It’s all about shot placement! When making your rifle and pellet selection, keep in mind that once the pellet goes supersonic there may be some degradation in accuracy depending on pellet design, and it will be louder. With the right gun and pellet combination, a spring piston airgun provides more than enough power to cleanly and efficiently kill just about any small game or pest species found in North America. And because they are quiet and have limited range, they are practical for use in more built up areas. This can result in more hunting opportunities closer to home, and opens up otherwise inaccessible areas where even a rimfire is too loud and carries too far be practical.

People will have their favorite guns, and as mentioned there are a lot of good ones and quite a few great ones out there. I’ve told you about my favorite springer, and why it has made the grade in my eyes. Do your homework, understand what you are going to use it for, how much you can spend, etc. These days when I am going to buy a gun for my hunting use, I ask myself “do I think I’ll still want to use this gun a few years down the line”? I won’t tell you which gun you should buy, but I would suggest you get the best quality gun you can afford. If you walk into a big box store and buy a gun off the shelf, odds are it will do the job for you, but odds are a year two down the line you will have probably moved to something else. But get a quality European gun, you may find that like my C1, it stays with you for many years.

Categories: airgun ammo, Ground squirrels, Jackrabbits, pest birds, Small Game Hunting, Small game in winter, Spring Piston Airguns, springers, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Bushbuck in Texas

I confess, the title is a little misleading, I was not hunting African exotics in Texas, but rather I brought the Airguns of Arizona big bore Bushbuck to bag some Lone Star hogs. And this high power tackdriver did the job for me ….. again! The rifle is a .452 caliber generating about 600 fpe on full power for three usable shots. But power is only one side of the coin, without accuracy it can’t get the job done, and the Bushbuck is accurate! I can frequently print clover leafs at 100 yards, which is about perfect for any big game I’ll be hunting with air.

My buddy Clay and I arrived at the ranch late on a Tuesday evening, and dumped our gear in the bunk house, then went out to catch up with a couple guys that had been hunting earlier that day. Most hunting here is done over feeders, in an attempt to draw the pigs out of the very dense cover. The ranch owner would drop hunters off at a number of blinds over feeders, or blinds along transit hotspots then broadcast corn in the road, in the early morning and late afternoon. In between guys would come in and eat or nap, but we’d hunted here before and had found that more and bigger pigs could be found mid day and hitting the thickets. It was hot and hard to force your way through the brush, but by going slowly and stopping to listen a hunter could locate pigs that had bedded down or were feeding under cover.

The thick West Texas brush was very thick and took some work to get through. But going out on foot was the most productive approach.

The thick West Texas brush was very thick and took some work to get through. But going out on foot was the most productive approach.

Next morning the others hitched a ride out to the blinds before daybreak, but we slept in, had a good breakfast, sighted in and in every respect were the pictures of lazy slackers. But when the ranchers stopped by to catch up before collecting the others, we climbed on the flatbed and rode out to the furthest point, jumped off and started out on foot. Not long after we heard some grunts and slowed into stalking mode, but spooked a small herd with one giant boar before I could get opened for a shot. They crashed away, and we kept hiking. About an hour later we herd more pigs rooting with an occasional squeal piercing the quiet. The wind was not in our favor so we started to circle around. At one point we had to cross a washboard road, and as we stood back in the treeline talking, two smallish pigs stepped out. I pulled up the gun to shoot, but before I could squeeze the trigger they slowly walked back into the trees. We waited a few minutes, not easy to do when you’re imaging your quarry slipping away, but they had not seemed alarmed, and I thought I could work in for a better shot.

The bigger pigs, if they were going to come out in daylight, were either in or very close to the heavy brush.

If pigs were going to come out in daylight, they stayed either in or very close to the heavy brush.

As we moved back into the trees, following the pigs with the wind now in our favor, I peaked around a clump of vegetation and through the branches saw a bigger pig we hadn’t seen earlier.  I caught glimpses of a smaller pig moving off, but had a shot through the branches at the big one, for a decent broadside. I lined up the crosshairs, and with the scope at 6X had a pretty good field of view. When I stroked the trigger, the gun barked, the pig squealed and ran into the brush where we heard it crash and thrash then go dead quiet. And when I walked up it was, as my bird hunting buddy Scott says, DRT (dead right there).

We called the truck to come find us when we had a pig to haul back to the meat lockers.

We called the truck to come find us when we had a pig to haul back to the meat lockers.

Clay and I dragged the pig to the road, then continued hunting. We pushed a couple more animals, I had an easy head shot (so I thought) on one big porker, but when I pulled the trigger a small tree limb I hadn’t seen exploded between me and the pig, it was his lucky day. By then it was late in the afternoon, and we knew that the other hunters would be heading for the blinds scattered around the property, so called for a ride and some help moving the unprocessed bacon back to the shed.

The Bushbuck is the first gun that Airguns of Arizona has built, and it’s a very promising start to this side of their business. I’ve got several new big bores and this is a happening area in airgun development these days. The thing that would make it perfect for me, would be a carbine version. I’d give up some power to make the gum more compact….. but that’s just me, and I find that almost every time I get a new big bore I make this comment. But, I can say without reservation that if you are looking for a big game gun this is one of my favorites and should be on your short list!

I’ve got a couple hunts in January and then off to SHOT Show. I bought a new set of snow shoes and have been doing a lot of hiking the last several weeks, and hope to use them on some predator hunts as winter wears on, so I’ll let you know how that works out. I hope you all enjoy your New Years, and will catch up with you next week!

Jim

Categories: Airguns of Arizona, AOA Bushbuck .451, Big Bore Airguns, Big Game, Hog hunting, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Early Hunts With the Discovery

Here’s a PCP rifle that has gotten a lot of shooters interested in hunting with a air, the Discovery from Crosman. The reason this gun has appealed to a lot of new airgunners entering the precharged arena is multifold: it is inexpensive, it is rugged and reliable. offers pretty good performance on small game, is light and compact, it fills and operates at a relatively low pressure and is ideal for hand pump ….. and did I mention inexpensive. On the less great side, it is loud, the trigger is functional but that’s all, and it’s a single shot. But weighing the pro’s and cons will prove the gun out as a great entry level and project gun. I received the second prototype of this rifle (the first went to my friend Tom Gaylord) and I used it for a lot of small game hunting providing feedback to Crosman pre-production. The Discovery below is my personal gun, dressed in a nicely figured custom walnut stock. Those that have read my work over the last several years know I have a true love for the Beeman C1, which is a gun built to Doc Beeman’s specs by Webley and Scott in the UK before Beeman was sold and changed direction several years ago. What differentiated this gun from the other compact springers, including the Webley Vulcan it is based on, was the stock. With a straight wrist similar to a Winchester lever action, this gun was very fast to mount and put on target. I commissioned the same stock to be built for my Discovery, making this a beautiful little small game rifle.

My Discovery started life as a budget hunting rifle. But then I had a custom stock built using my Beeman C1 as the pattern, and ended up with a hot little hunting carbine ... though over-capitalized, the stock cost about twice as much as the rifle!

My Discovery started life as a budget hunting rifle. But then I had a custom stock built using my Beeman C1 as the pattern, and ended up with a hot little hunting carbine … though over-capitalized, the stock cost about twice as much as the rifle!

I’ve carried this gun for summer ground squirrel and jackrabbit hunts, winter squirrel, through rain, snow, and scorching sun and it’s always done the job for me. I want to use a Discovery as a platform to build a compact .30 caliber, and might do so deep into winter later in the year, when Minnesota gets too cold for this California native to go outside! A lightweight compact gun along these lines is a good choice for hunting in heavy brush, where there isn’t much room to move around.

I like the shorter buttstock when bundled up in winter gear, and took a lot of game with the pre-release test rifle!

I like the shorter buttstock when bundled up in winter gear, and took a lot of game with the pre-release test rifle!

I’ve written before that I try to look at all guns through the eyes of potential users; if one gun suited all shooters there would not be so many popular guns out there. While not a gun snob, I do have an affection (affliction) for high end guns; I live Daystates, FX, AirArms, Falcons, etc…. but you don’t have to spend a fortune to get started. I think this is a great first gun for anybody moving into PCP’s on a limited budget, and is very suitable for young shooters while they save up for that Huntsman Classic! We need more hunters to join the ranks, which in turn will motivate more states to open up their regs to include airguns, and a less expensive gun with solid performance helps the cause immensely.

I have lost count over the number of squirrel and rabbit this gun has bagged! Here it wears the standard stock... with the C1 style it is a gun I will never sell.

I have lost count over the number of squirrel and rabbit this gun has bagged! Here it wears the standard stock… with the C1 style it is a gun I will never sell.

If you are an experienced airgunner and already have a high end gun, but want to start playing around with customizing, tuning, or modifying, this is a good option for a build platform. There are a lot of after market parts, custom stocks, and know how out there to support your efforts to build a gun of your own on the Discovery, and while odds are you won’t damage it won’t break the bank if you do.

Other Stuff

Have been getting a lot of shooting in with some great guns, and working on some articles and videos to come out soon. I have been shooting the Daystate Pulsar Bullpup, the FX Wildcat Bullpup, and the Bushbuck big bore….. I am having a blast. Also had some great hunts for deer in Virginia with Chip and Nathan, boar and predators in Texas, and squirrels all over…. and plan to hit the predator competitions when deer season is over with my buddy Brian Beck in Indiana. I hope all of you are getting out in the field and having some quality hunting time! Catch up with you next week.

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

A Pick Up Rabbit Hunt

I was looking back over some older files, and came across a pickup rabbit hunt I did in Michigan a few years back. I’d just received a new rifle to test out, the Roehm Huntmaster, I’d been sent botht he rifle and carbine version. I’d really lioked the prototype of this gun when I’d seen it at the SHOT Show, and their marketing group had told me that if I paid the import duties (of a couple hundred bucks) I could keep the guns….. sounded like a no-brainer to me. When I went to the airport in Indianapolis the amount due was closer to $500, but I still felt like I was getting a great deal. The guns have a nicely shaped and checkered hardwood stock, an outstanding trigger, and could be used as either a single shot (tray included) or a multishot. In multishot mode the carbine (and rifle) used a 5 shot linear shuttle magazine

I was out plinking with the Twinmaster earlier in the days, and by the time I headed out hunting at duk was feeling pretty confident with the little carbine

I was out plinking with the Twinmaster earlier in the days, and by the time I headed out hunting at duk was feeling pretty confident with the little carbine

I took the gun out to sight in and run through its paces; the carbine was putting out around 20 fpe and was dead accurate. I’d spent a couple hours shooting spinners and other reactive targets, finding that between the inherent accuracy, great stock design, light crisp trigger it was consistantly hitting everything I was shooting at out to 60 yards. This is one of those guns I shot really well offhand, again a tribute to the stock design. As I was getting ready toi pack up, I noticed that cottontail rabbits were starting to come out of the brush surrounding the field I was using as my outdoor plinking range.

The rabbits had come out while I was shooting and making all types of noise, plus walking back and forth between targets, and didn’t seem too worried about me. But as soon as I decided to try to close the 200 yard distance and took a step towards them, they all fled. I think game can often read your intentions by the manner of your approach, deciding my mistake was looking and walking directly towards their location, even at a slow speed.

I like this rifle, nicely styled, ergonomic, large bolt handle, very nice trigger, removable air cylinder, interesting 5 shot shuttle magazine, the only big problem.... aa very limited poduction run before the company closed for business.

I like this rifle, nicely styled, ergonomic, large bolt handle, very nice trigger, removable air cylinder, interesting 5 shot shuttle magazine, the only big problem…. a very limited production run before the company closed for business.

I continued to a spot about 50 yards from where I’d seen them first come out, and then beat a hastey retreat on my approach, before sitting myself down to wait. I was not in camo, as a matter of fact was wearing a bright bluse shirt, so tucked myself as far back into the brush as possible. After about a half hour, a big rabbit came out and started feeding about 55 yards away. After a few minutes he started to move away and I muttered a curse to myself, but then he turned and started slowly hopping back towards me. I had the gun rested on my knee, and lined up the shot right on his head in profile. Squeezing the trigger, the pellet flew down range impacting right where I was aiming dropping him like a brick.

Walking the border of the fields meeting the woods, I only got one shot of a big eastern cottontail at 35 yards. A clean kill!

Walking the border of the fields meeting the woods, I only got one shot of a big eastern cottontail at 35 yards. A clean kill!

So I took away a few thoughts from this impromptu rabbit hunt; 1) even when the quarry is used to people and seems desensitized to your presence, be careful on approach…. they can sense your intention, 2) you can do without camo, but when uyou do use the shadows and surrounding vegetation for effective cover, and 3) Always be prepared, you never know when opportunity may present itself, which is especially true with airguns!

So for the last two weeks I have traveled hundreds, actually thousands of miles, hunting in Virginia, Texas, and Minnesota. I’m back at work now but will be heading out on more hunts in the next few weeks. Last week I was on a ranch 15 miles from the Mexican border, and tonight I look out my hotel window and see downtown Chicago spread before me. I love this city, but can’t wait to get back in the field. Knowing it will be a couple of weeks before I’m back on a major hunt, is OK knowing that I can get out for several short small game and predator hunts close to home before then…. another big advantage of airguns!

Back with more soon!

Jim

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

South Dakota Coyote!

A couple months ago I drove the 6 hours to my buddy Brents place in South Dakota, to shoot prairie dogs with a number of new rifles, and thought I’d bring along a couple of big bores to go after coyotes if time permitted. I love this place, you never know what you’ll see, mule deer, whitetail, and in this case a small family group of pronghorn….. pretty nice buck up front!

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The land is wide open, I know Montana is called Big Sky country, but it doesn’t get bigger than this! The weather was cooperating, but just barely, hot in the day cool at night and raining itermittently with some major storm fronts predicted. I got my hunting in where I could…. lots of prairie dogs and some rabbits in a series of hunts. I was there for four days and in the first two I had all the stuff I needed for my various projects, so decided to shift from small varmint to calling to see if I could pull in a song dog.

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Brett took me to a place where there was a small hill with tall grass and a couple trees with a small stock pond behind me that gave a pretty good view of the surrounding area. I tucked into a clump of grass, after setting the call beside a clump of brush about thirty yards from me. The call I was using was an older version of the fox pro prairie blaster and I planned to blast out a jackrabbit distress call. After dropping me off Brett drove to a high spot about a half mile away, and watched through his spotting scope. I gave it about ten minutes to settle down and hit the call……. and in less than three minutes saw a dog top the low rise directly across from me, and stop dead staring right at me. I was already on the sticks, and was watching all this through the scope. I stroked the trigger, and watched the hit followed by the dog rolling over four feet in the air, then sink out of sight.

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I watched for a few minutes, and saw nothing happen, so called Brett to come pick me up. He asked what was going on, he’d watched a coyote come over but then run off! I said heck (or S%#%) and jumped up to investigate.There was a creek and some wet ground I had to work around, and when Brett arrived I was looking with no success. I’d convinced myself that dog had rolled over an belly crawled out, just as I saw him piled up right where I’d hit him. Seems like there were two coyotes responding, though I only saw the one, wonder how often that happens? I have shot quite a few coyote with airguns of various calibers, and have come to think of the .357 as the perfect caliber. It has the knock down power, flat trajectory, neither too much or too little power, relatively high shot count in most guns.

I get to travel a lot for my hunts, after deer in Virginia next week, I am off to Texas on a predator hunt. But you dont have to travel far. I was on my way home from the office a few days ago, I live in the suburbs transitioning from farms to housing developments, and spotted a coyote hunting mice a couple hundred yards off the road. I pulled off and glassed him for several minutes. This farm has houses on two sides, but the farmer has given me permission to hunt it (only with an airgun). Guess where I’ll be next free evening I get, and it’s all because I use an airgun!! Last year I took two yotes off his little 160 acre farm, getting permission after they’d lost a couple of there little miniture goats to these predators. Based on this he’s talked to his neighbors and I’m getting permissions in adjacent properties as well.

Signing off now, and will be back next week. Hope you all get in some great hunts and enjoy those airguns! Will give an update next week!

Jim

Categories: Big Bore Airguns, binoculars, bullpup, coyote, electronic calls, Prairie dogs, Predator hunting, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Squirrels in the Winter

Even though I’ve lived in the midwest for several years now, I am at heart a warm weather sort at the core. As a matter of fact I’d go so far as to say I’m something of a desert rat, give me 110 in the shade and as long as its a dry heat, I’ll stay out all day long. But let it drop below freezing and my demeanor changes from desert rat to couch potato, except when it comes to hunting! That is one habit I’ve picked up on my middle country sojourn, having come to really enjoy being out in the woods when things turn white and you can see the act of breathing as the exhaled breath turns white as it departs your inner warmth. Sure it takes multiple clothing layers with down fleece and wool becoming the order of the day, while keeping my face and hands covered as much as possible…..  and maybe some battery operated socks and a few strategically placed chemical warmers…… my fellow Minnesotans are probably calling wimp, but it is what it is! One of the hunts that has become a winter mainstay for me is squirrel hunting, probably my single favorite game hunting activity these days, even taking the big stuff into consideration. Squirrels are plentiful, challenging, and keep me in the field many dozens of days every year.

Hunting squirrels in winter time is one of my favorite outings of any season. Camo is effective and being out in the cold crisp air is energizing!

Hunting squirrels in winter time is one of my favorite outings of any season. Camo is effective and being out in the cold crisp air is energizing!

I find the camo is far more effective in the snow, which is good because with few leaves on the trees these bushytailed rodents can see you from a long ways off otherwise. As with spring hunts, keep the hands and face covered, these are the body parts that will get you busted. To further break my outline I like to mix whites with darker camo patterns to further break my outline, especially when there are hay bales or dead plants coming through the snow. Sometimes white on top and brown below and sometimes the other way around, but after a heavy snow when everything’s covered in white, a white based camo pattern works best. I have several lightweight coverups in my pack, and can adjust on the fly. I started doing this for predator hunting but found it upped my success in the squirrel woods as well.

Slide2

You won’t always find squirrels in the most wild regions, the densest concentrations are often around farms, orchards, and small stands of woods. I am always scouting and usually have a dozen or more areas on reserve that are less than an hours drive and often only a few  minutes away from my doorstep. I practice a method I call the 2/2 strategy; these are short hunts close to home, very often in smaller blocks of land such as a 5-10 acre stand of hardwoods scattered around local farms, state and national forest, wildlife areas and other public lands that I’ve found which don’t get much pressure from squirrel hunters. It is not infrequent that I find an area over pressured for turkey or deer, but never see another soul out after the tree climbing rodents. At these places I limit myself to two hours or two squirrels, whichever comes first. Why? First I want to make sure I keep enough squirrels around that I always have something to hunt. This is not pest control, but small game hunting at it’s finest, and I don’t need a big bag every trip. I’d rather hit a wooded area 5-6 times per season and get some field time an bag a couple for the freezer rather than a couple trips where I decimate the population. The other thing is that my family will only eat so much game, so I don’t need to harvest a lot. This frees me up to observe, learn, and enjoy other elements of the hunt, not just trying to take game. I guess its a more balanced experience in some respects, when I remove the need to stack them up …… plus their are pest control shoots throughout the year for prairie dogs, ground squirrels and Eurasian doves where my objective is to rack up big numbers.

Slide3

This big old fox squirrel came running right by (almost over my legs) without seeing me! I waited until he was about 30 yards away and sitting in a tree, before dropping him!


There definitely are some winter specific challenges, keep the face, fingers and toes warm with the right clothing. I layer and use cloths with vents so I can keep from over heating if it warms up or more frequently, I am sweating from the exertion of climbing up and down hills. I typically don’t mind hunting with single shot guns, but in the winter while wearing gloves or when fingers are cold, not having to load after each shot has some attraction. But when I do use a single shot in the conditions a pair of lighter gloves with the fore finger and thumb cut off at knuckle level, and worn under mittens does a fine job of keeping your hands warm but allowing you to load.

Slide4

Keep the face and hands covered, not only more comfortable but you will see your success climb.

Layering with breathable and water resistant (not waterproof) clothing will let you sit, kneel, or even lay in the snow for a shot without becoming a Popsicle. Carrying a backpack with a sitting pad attached provides extra comfort when sitting out in frigid temperatures for long periods. With many of these rigs you don’t even realize you have the pad until you need it….. and you really appreciate your foresight in humping it along at that time!

Slide6

Brian Beck is wearing layers and was able to kneel and sit in the snow on this frigid Indiana morning without discomfort. Choose the appropriate clothing, it can make or break a hunt.

Another nice thing about winter hunting is that your essentially shooting in natures refrigerator, so when you drop a squirrel it will stay fresh until you skin it at the end of the day. I pack a game carrier that was made for carrying up to a dozen ducks when waterfowling. Make a noose and slip it over the animals head…. and you have a handle that makes packing the squirrel much easier. I’ve also taken two 3ft lengths of parachute cord, folded it in half and knotted off a loop in the middle, then tied slip nooses onto the four strands. This set up can hold up to four squirrels and/or rabbits, and I’ve made a few of these, which allows me to hang my kills in a tree and pick them up on my return trip.

Slide7

This type of squirrel hunting is much different than pest control, and I think much more fun and rewarding!

Grab an airgun and get out there, if you like to hunt you will probably find you get a great deal of enjoyment. Even if you are a big game hunter and think that this little stuff is beneath you, grab an air rifle and get out there, you might just find you’ve been missing some of the best and most accessible sport to be had! I’ve got hunts coming up for whitetail, blackbuck, hogs and javalina, but what I’ve got on my mind is tomorrow morning with a new rifle and a 2/2 hunt!

Categories: cold weather hunting, Small Game Hunting, Small game in winter, Squirrels, Winter hunts | 1 Comment

From My Hunting Journal: Kentucky Squirrel Hunt

Hunting squirrels in spring is a great way to end the winter hiatus, and this trip is another out of my journal from a few years back. I was living in Indiana, and hunting many of the midwestern states. The first squirrel season in my region, and a place I always liked going to was visit our neighbors to the south, Kentucky there were a couple public land hunting opportunities along the border, and I generally tried to get down a couple times a year. That’s the great thing about squirrel hunting, there is a lot of opportunity… also plentiful game and good on the table. So following is an account lifted from my hand scrawled mess of a notebook (journal always sounds better, but hand scrawled mess of a notebook is more accurate).

I hadn’t done any hunting since the winter had started winding down, and though I’d been testing some new guns was itching to get out in the field after game. The first hunting opportunity of the new year for me was to drive a couple hours south into Kentucky, where May brought in the states early spring squirrel season. I had thought about bringing my kayak down because the Kentucky regulations allow you hunt from a boat under paddle power, but decided at the last minute to go to another location (Note: my notebook doesn’t say why and I don’t remember). So I loaded up my gear and hit the road.

I get to do a lot of hunting for all kinds of game, but truly love squirrel hunting; lots of places to hunt, strong populations in most states, I like the terrain the occur in and stalking the woods for a native of the dry western states is a great change. I also like the fact that there are different species to pursue (gray, fox, aberts) and interesting hybrids, and they can offer lots of action and lots of shooting. Some shots are the ground and some in the trees, you to get on target fast and make the shot because they don’t sit still for long…. in my view it is just about the perfect small game!

In the spring I'll often set up an ambush. Listen for cutting, look a food source or den tree and eventually a squirrel will show up. The trick this time of year is to see them before they see you and keep still... You'll get a shot!

In the early spring I’ll often set up an ambush. Listen for cutting, look a food source or den tree and eventually a squirrel will show up. The trick this time of year is to see them before they see you and keep still… You’ll get a shot!

Finding a place to hunt can be one of the major challenges for a lot of hunters, but there are a lot of state and national forest, and even in places where deer populations density requires a lot of land you can find high populations of the fast reproducing rodents. In a 20 acre stand of woods chances of finding deer or turkey while not impossible is not great, but in that same tract of woods you may well find a days limit of bushytails. The place I was hunting had been found doing a bit of internet detective work, and focusing in on google maps.On my way out to the hunting grounds I found a couple potential “squirrely looking” spots, and on my way home stopped to do some scouting for a return at a later time. Spotted a couple of squirrels on the ground as I drove up, and located what I am sure is a den tree….. I’ll come back here later in the year (I did, and it panned out, another story for another post).

Gear I carried on this hunt included my .25 Rainstorm, JSP Exact pellets, shooting sticks, my daypack loaded up with range finder, binoculars,shooting sticks, water bottle, granola bar, and emergency kit. I had my little GPS tracker that I set when I leave my car, because when I am in an unfamiliar area I sometimes get caught up in the hunt rather than paying attention to where I am going, and lore than once come out on the wrong road on the wrong side of the woods….. Not lost put “powerful confused” as Daniel Boone used to say. Nice to hit a key and be returned to my point of origin.

The season starts early in a lot of states, which means the foliage is fairly light. Camo is a must, and you have to stay till

The season starts early in a lot of states, which means the foliage is fairly light. Camo is a must, and you have to stay till

It was early morning when I got to my destination I parked, set my GPS, looked at the satellite map I’d printed out, shouldered my pack and rifle, and headed off in the direction of a big tree I’d picked for my first set. Yes, the maps will let you zoom in enough to see where the big trees are, then I fine tuned it on the ground. Locating what looked like a den tree I set with my back to the tree and waited in ambush. This early in season there are few leaves out on the trees which is both good and bad. The good prt is that you can see the squirrels coming from a ways off, the bad is that they can see you if you’re moving or fidgeting. After 30 minutes I was ready to move, when I say a squirrel up in the branches heading directly at me. I was wearing a long sleeve camo shirt, camo pants, gloves, face mask, and hat. You don’t need to go full camo, but I think it makes a difference, and thing you should at least glove up and wear a face mask.

This area looked like it would hold both fox and gray squirrels, and they can overlap in territory, however its been my experience that grays start moving earlier than fox squirrels and while either can be found at any elevation, the grays tend to spend more time in the trees and the fox squirrels spend more time on the ground. This first squirrel was a gray, and was staying pretty high up. But he slowed down when he got to a beech tree I’d ranged at 40 yards, and started nibbling on a bud out on a thin branch. The squirrel was facing me and offered a frontal quartering target, I lined up on his upper left shoulder and my pellet hit him on point and went all the way through diagonally coming out just in front of his left hip, and that squirrel dropped like the proverbial brick.

My 2 hour / 2 squirrel limit keeps in hunting spots year round!

My 2 hour / 2 squirrel limit keeps in hunting spots year round!

The second one I picked up coming out of a suspected den tree an hour latter. I saw a nose poking out of a hole, but the owner wouldn’t commit to coming out. I slowly sunk down and sat back against a tree waiting….. can’t believe I feel asleep for a couple minutes and when I opened my eyes he was sitting on a branch partially covered by by leaves, though I could see his body quite clearly. Another body shot, this one in the back, and heavy .25 pellet propelled him of his perch like he’d been fired out of a slingshot. Number two was down.

A little later I was playing cat and mouse with a squirrel I saw run around the side of a tree but lost him in the foliage. I got frustrated and decided to try a call, first using some barks and chatter, and getting no action started on a pup squeaking in distress. This went on for about ten minutes while I looked above for some movement, but there was nothing. However when I looked in front of me, there was a big black and white stripped house cat sitting on it’s haunches watching me…… I’d called in a barn cat from the farm bordering woods.

I hunted another hour and missed one squirrel and bagged a third, an up close opportunity shot when the squirrel came running down a tree trunk right in front of me and maybe 10 yards away. Sounds easy, but the really close shots are the ones I miss most frequently. This is in part due to the fact I shoot a lot of different guns and it can be hard to remember what the POI is in a range that is seldom shot. But this particular rifle I’d used a lot and got my hold just right.

I got back to my vehicle and dressed my three squirrels and threw them into the ice chest. I’d been out for a couple hours and had intended to follow my 2 squirrel/2 hour limited hunts; I give myself a two hour window to hunt, but if end when I get two squirrels if that is sooner. Then if I’ve scheduled a morning outing, I’ll spend the rest of my free time hiking and scouting new territory, or as I’d planned for this trip to meet a friend at Bass Pro for lunch. But when the third squirrel stepped in front of me, the plan did not survive ground truth…. I’ve talked about this before, by setting this limit I make sure I always have places to hunt. During the season I build up a directory contained in my field journals, which list out opportunities so I always have a place to go that I been to before. I mix these up with brand new spots and it keeps me hunting several days in the week…. You may say my little wildlife management scheme is over the top, but it works for me.

Anyway, this was the trip as I entered it, which prompted my memory and also led me to make a few observations. If you don’t carry a journal in the field it might be something to consider. I always find it interesting to thumb back through, and I’d never remember the details of what gun, pellet, what I shot or the conditions….. and if I did I wouldn’t be sure I could trust them…. every shot would have been perfect, every stalk successful…. my little notebook keeps me honest!

Other Stuff

Getting a fair bit of shooting in, and did something out of the norm for me; Sig Sauer sent me there new P226 replica pistol and I’ve been down in the basement running pistol drills, what a blast! Metal construction and blow back slide, magazine fed .177 doing in the low 500’s it’s not a hunting gun by an means but I’ve been shooting cans, silhouettes, reactive targets…… had so much fun pulled out several other CO2 replicas I’d had stashed away and not shot for years.

Tomorrow morning I’m going out early on a squirrel hunt if the rain lets up, otherwise it’s another day shooting inside and catching up on my writing…. maybe edit a couple video clips as well. Been seeing lots of grays out moving about, have not seen a fox squirrel all year, wonder whats up with that? Populations are cyclic, but last winter was pretty mild so expected to see a lot more. On the other hand the coyotes are starting to move in the area, that might have something to do with it. Going to do a couple of sets calling yotes before I leave for Texas on Monday.

Catch up with you next week!

Categories: binoculars, distress call, shooting sticks, shot placement, Small Game Hunting, Spring time hunting, Squirrels | 1 Comment

From My Hunting Journal: A Mojave Rabbit Hunt

Here’s an entry I pulled out of my log book from a hunt I did awhile back. I’d time before the SHOT Show and decided to use it on a jackrabbit hunt out in a corner of the Mojave desert I’d been tromping through most of my life. Initially I roamed this area primarily to collect reptiles, which was legal back then, to sell to pet stores and herp collectors. It may sound like a strange thing to do, but I made enough money through high school and my undergrad studies that I didn’t need a “real job” most of those years. Only got bitten by rattlers twice, but that’s a whole other story. When I wasn’t chasing lizards and snakes, I was out hunting birds with my shotgun and small game and predators with my centerfires. On moving back to the US almost 18 years ago (time flies) I started chasing small game with my airguns instead of firearms, having picked up a serious airgun habit while living in Europe. So the chance to revisit my old haunt, for even a short time, was something I did whenever I got the chance, and this was too good of an opportunity to miss.

I love this part of the desert with Joshua trees and yuccas, rugged but beautiful. First time I walked this particular section of land I was 12 years old.

I love this part of the desert with Joshua trees and yuccas, rugged but beautiful. First time I walked this particular section of land I was 12 years old.

It’s true what they say out west, everything in the desert wants to stick, sting, or bite you, and to some people it may look barren. But if you know the natural history of the plants and animals, the place is full of life. As far as hunting goes, this area contains cottontail and jackrabbit, crows, quail, predators. There is a water tank way up above one of the played out mines that I’ve long chased desert quail drawn in to drink, at first with a shotgun and later with air. This area also contains herds of wild burros, and though I have an aversion to invasive species have a grudging respect for these animals ability to survive in this harsh climate. Besides the Joshua trees, the other keystone plant species are the cacti; the cholla or jumping cactus that if even barely brushed against would seem to propel themselves directly into your flesh, and the large red barrel cactus that look like…. well, barrels with spines.

The barrel cactus are a source of moisture for some of the desert animals. They saay it can keep you alive if you run out of water, though I've never attempted this and have been told that's more of a myth. It will probably take the edge off, but I'd rather make sure I don't run out of water.

The barrel cactus are a source of moisture for some of the desert animals. They say it can keep you alive if you run out of water, though I’ve never attempted this and have been told that’s more of a myth. It will probably take the edge off, but I’d rather make sure I don’t run out of water.

On this trip I decided to take a spring piston rifle, my reason was quite simple; I didn’t have a lot of time and didn’t want to waste any that I did have trying to organize air tanks. Flying with tanks is a real hassle, they need to be completely empty with all fittings removed to allow a visual inspection, then when you land you need to find a place to fill them. You can call ahead to a dive shop and rent tanks, but this takes a lot of time once you arrive on destination. By the way if you do this, bring your own yoke and fittings or you may find yourself with a gun, a tank full of air, and no way to connect the two. I’ve learned this the hard way, and it is frustrating. You can also bring a handpump, but that a lot of extra stuff to pack. I had one day to hunt and didn’t even want to loose an hour, so a springer was the perfect solution. Fully self contained, no extra gear, just grab it in baggage and go! The gun I opted for on this trip was my Webley Patriot in .25, which is a huge handful of powerful airgun, that hits like a sledgehammer. I was going after jackrabbits and didn’t need all that power, but hey, why not?

My Patriot .25 hits hard, and while not a fun gun for plinking because of the cocking effort and recoil, it's a great hunting gun!

My Patriot .25 hits hard, and while not a fun gun for plinking because of the cocking effort and recoil, it’s a great hunting gun!

I arrived in the desert at daybreak and parked my rental SUV on a dirt road about a mile off the freeway, at the base of a long desert valley that started a gradual climb up into the rugged mountains that spread into the interior. I had my gun, pellets and a daypack with a couple liters of water, some jerky, my sheath knife, binoculars and a little emergency kit I always carry, otherwise I was packing light. At one point about an hour into my hike I sat on a rock and took a drink. As I pulled the water bottle away from my lips, I noticed four wild donkeys eyeing me from 60 yards away, which I’d somehow not seen until that moment. I’ve never figured out how these things seem to pop out of nowhere in this wide open landscape. Sitting on the rock re-hydrating, I pulled by binos and started glassing the gently climbing desert. About 150 yards away I caught a soft amber glow from under a clump of scrub brush, which is a telltale sign of a jackrabbit. They lift there ears to listen for danger, and the sun passes through them, at times almost seeming to light up.

The first of a couple jackrabbits I took on this outing.

The first of a couple jackrabbits I took on this outing.

I picked a stand of yucca to use as a land mark and side stepped into a wash that I used to hide my approach. When I reckoned I was about 50 yards from where I’d spotted the desert hare, I worked my way out of the shallow depression….. and couldn’t find the rabbit. I pulled my glasses out again and started to search, and thought I’d located the rabbits scrape under the  scrub, but there was nothing!, As I dropped the binoculars, I caught a motion not more than 30 yards away…. it was the rabbit slowly sneaking through the brush to pass me and take off behind me. He must have heard me coming, but instead of running  away from me, decided to work around my position and depart to the rearward. It almost worked, I stood tucked into the sparse vegetation already bringing the rifle to shoulder, and when the jack stepped out from behind a tree and stopped briefly. I sent a .25 pellet flying at his head. The rabbit dropped like a brick, and I had number one in the bag. I stayed out the rest of the morning, pushed a couple more and finally got my second of the morning before calling it a day.

I got back to my hotel after about a 90 minute drive, showered, went down to the pool before dinner, and then got on with the rest of the SHOT Show. Great thing about this type of hunting, simple, cheap, challenging, great exercise and a lot of fun …. and I could piggy back it on to an existing trip. People often ask me how I get so much hunting in around a pretty intense professional life, and this is my secrete…. the little trips. I’ll do a little two hour squirrel hunt before going to work in the morning, or stop and do a coyote set on my way home from the office. If I have a business trip that ends on a Friday, I’ll bring my rifle and hunt Saturday before flying home. If you have the urge to hunt, I really don’t think there is an easier way to get in the frequent short hunt than with an airgun!

But these days airgun hunting has also become something of a job for me, my children are mostly grown, and luckily I get a lot of vacation time, so now I also get to do several major hunting trips in the year as well. But in the decades leading up to finding myself in this enviable position, it was these little hunts that kept me sane and in the game!

 

Categories: binoculars, Destinations, Hunting Accessories, Hunting Guns, Jackrabbits, offhand shooting, Rabbits, SHOT Show, Small Game Hunting, Spring Piston Airguns, springers, Uncategorized, where to hunt | 4 Comments

Catching up

The Rio Salado Sportsman Club in Mesa was a great venue for the EBR this year.

The Rio Salado Sportsman Club in Mesa was a great venue for the EBR this year.

Hello All! I’ve been on the road and a little sporadic with posting again, been traveling overseas for work, attending some shooting events, getting in a couple hunts, and my computer time has gone way down. I’m going to try to rectify this, but stay with me as this is the start of my serious hunting season…. it’s when I get material for many of the magazines, the American Airgunner TV show, and the online social media. Sure I get squirrel, rabbit, dove, prairie dogs, woodchucks etc in summer, and occasionally Africa (remember their winter is our summer), but the fall and winter is when I get most of my big game and predator hunting in. I’ve got about 6 weeks of vacation, and by using it to string together 4 and 5 day weekends, I can stretch it into many trips. So long as I keep a week or so to take my girls to a warm weather spot for a winter break, I get a nod to use up the rest for my hunts. So let me run you through a couple airgun related things I’ve been doing.

EBR

I had this great plan for AOA’s EBR this year, been practicing with the Wildcat on a purpose built rest and was set to go. Two weeks before my boss called me over for a meeting in Tokyo, and the only way I could make it was cutting my trip to AZ very short. So my plans changed; I could not bring my own gun or rest and I couldn’t stay for the entire event. I’ll tell you how bad it was, my wife had been in South Africa for a month on some family business and she got home Wednesday night at 6:00 so jet lagged she could barely stay awake for the ride home, and I left the next morning for AZ then onward to Japan Saturday night (for 2 weeks) directly from Phoenix via LAX. But, and this is why I’m sharing these details, I’ve come to enjoy EBR so much that I did not want to miss it entirely. And I am glad I didn’t, because it was a blast! Seeing a lot of old and new friends, seeing some very cool guns, lots of fun shooting… this along with SHOT Show are the two non hunting events that I will not miss.

This year my co-host from American Airgunner Rossi Moreale drove in to hang and to shoot, Robert, Greg, Kip, Shane, Jerrod and the rest of the AOA team, all the European industry guys, my dove hunting buddies Scott and Chuck, Alvaro in from Mexico, last years champion Tim MacMurray, the young shooting phenom Noah and his dad Joel (who I’ll be hunting with this year), and it was great hanging with some of these guys I hadn’t seen since last year. I meet a lot of new people too, Travis down from Canada, eh, a couple guys named Mike and Chris I ran into at Cabelas the morning before the shoot, who had brought their brilliant new helium driven big bore (hope to do a Turkey hunt with these guys later in the year too, also finally met Tom from American Arms Airguns who brought his Slayer big bore.

IMG_0355 (640x427)

American Airgunners Rossi Moreale had a great time hanging and shooting.

I had to leave early' but had fun shooting as much as I could. But I really enjoyed hanging out with many friends old and new even more!

I had to leave early’ but had fun shooting as much as I could. But I really enjoyed hanging out with many friends old and new even more!

The facilities were top shelf, the shooting benches, the range, the organization all fantastic! Roberts team was out here from early in the week getting set up, and the thought and effort that went into the organization showed in the final product. I won’t go into the results, because I was somewhere at 35k feet over the Pacific when the finals occurred, and because several others will cover these in detail. I did shoot a springer in the 25 M benchrest and had fun, though didn’t cover myself in glory! I spent the first few minutes of competitive shooting time sighting in a rifle I’d never shot before, but to be honest even if all my plans had worked out and I had my own gear I don’t have the discipline of these serious competitive shooters to be a serious contender. Let me tell you though that if you come to win, these guys are serious… I was sharing a house with some of the guys from Sweden, and walked in one evening to find them sitting at the dinning table sorting, weighing, and rolling pellets.

The wind was wild, in a hunting situation I would have shut down any long range shooting; five flags down the 75 yard range would be pointing in different directions. A couple of the serious competitors told me that they’d worked out the wind dynamics, and that the real impact on POI was the wind at the muzzle and first 1/3 of the path of flight. They said that it would take a 6 mph crosswind from the opposite direction for the final 2/3 to compensate for a 1 mph wind in the first 1/3….. I’m trying to figure a way to test the hypothesis… think I need a 25M range with a lot of powerful fans!

If you missed it this year …… don’t do that again! Like a lot of the airgunners that had come from all over the country, this event is worth the trip. If you live in Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah you really need to make the drive, and even if you live further away it’s well worth the trip!

If you made it this year, I bet you'll be back next. If you didn't make it, you should make a point of getting to Phoenix next year!

If you made it this year, I bet you’ll be back next. If you didn’t make it, you should make a point of getting to Phoenix next year!

Carrying My Hunting Springers

So I mentioned I shot a springer at the EBR, for the fun of it and for the fact that I will be doing a couple springer only trips this year. I like to mount slings on my hunting rifles, as long hours spent hiking in rough terrain is made much easier with the rifle slung over the shoulder as opposed to carrying by hand, not to mention being vastly preferable when the hunter needs to climb over fallen trees or scamper across steep rock faces and hills. However, finding a convenient way to mount the swivels can be a bit difficult with some spring piston airguns, but with a little ingenuity can usually be accomplished.

With break barrel springers I’ll generally use a swivel set, such as the Uncle Mikes Quick Detachable Super Swivel set up. This product is designed to be used on tube fed lever action rifles, as the band made to fit the lever actions feeding tube will fit the springers barrel quite well.  Mount it low enough that the pressure of carrying the gun does not cause the barrel action to break open, at the same making sure it is not so low as to prevent the gun from being cocked. The rear swivel stud is screwed into the stock, and my preference is to position it between the butt and the pistol grip. On PCP and CO2 rifles with a full length forestock, I’ll position a second screw in stud a couple inches in front of where I grip the stock, so it changes a little bit from rifle to rifle depending on the guns balance.

Springers can be big and heavy, make sure you have a method of slinging or packing your gun in the field... better for you and for the gun.

Springers can be big and heavy, make sure you have a method of slinging or packing your gun in the field… better for you and for the gun.

Two other approaches I’ve been using is to use the Safari sling that can be purchased at Cabelas that has loops at either end they can be cinched down on the barrel and the wrist of any gun, without requiring swivels. Another convenient carry is the Eberlestock daypack with an integrated rifle scabbard. It’s a bit more difficult to access your rifle than either of the sling options, but is by far and away the most comfortable carry over long distance.

Last remarks

My display case holds 6 rifles, and I want at leat a 10 gun display. Trying to design something I can build with only moderate woodworking skill.

My display case holds 6 rifles, and I want at leat a 10 gun display. Trying to design something I can build with only moderate woodworking skill.

Last thing on my plate is refining my airgunners man-cave. I’m looking for a way to extend my gun display cases without cluttering up the room. This is where I work from home a couple days per week, and do all my writing. I’ve got a couple ideas, and hopefully will be showing you something cool in the not too distant future. I think having a place to display favored guns is a way to extend the enjoyment of the hobby/obsession.

Hope to be back on track once again. Going on a little squirrel hunt later in the week, and let you know how it went!

Categories: Airguns of Arizona, Competition, Daystate, EBR, Extreme Benchrest, FX, Long Range shooting, Shooting technique, shot placement, Spring Piston Airguns, springers, Uncategorized | Leave a comment