Back from a great week in Arizona for EBR……. and some hunting!!

Today was my first day back at work, and it was hectic trying to catch up after a week away. But that week was worth it! I had the chance to do a squirrel hunt up in the mountains, then I came down to a dairy farm to shoot pest birds, then I spent the rest of the week at the 2019 EBR at the Rio Salado shooting range right outside of Mesa.

The Brocock Bantam Sniper .25…. love the stock!

The gun I used for both was the Brocock Bantam Sniper in .25 caliber. The rifle had been give a custom tune and sported a very cool red diamondback dip. I used this gun to shoot birds at the dairy farm, and therefor had time to get a bit of shooting in with it before the EBR. I was hunting with my buddies Scott and Chuck, who I hadn’t seen in a year, and was looking forward to meeting up for breakfast before the birds started to fall.

I put my drone up, you can see the general layout.

I spent a decent amount of time on my birding day at the farm, arriving a 9:30 and shooting until 1:00, shooting about 150 doves, pigeons, starlings, and black birds. The gun hit hard and dropped these birds at a distance. I am always careful; on these shoots, but especially on this one. Many of the dairies are closing to airgunners because they have been inundated with, I am sorry to say, shooters they claim have been rude, damage their property, and basically wearing out the welcome for all airgunners. This place still lets a few of us on, and I want to be very protective of that. It may all end soon anyways, as the land these dairies sits on is becoming valuable for development so many are selling out and moving.

I walked the building, staying under shade and shooting out into feed areas.
Hauling one of the doves back in, we collect them up and give them to the hands. When possible it’s nice to keep a few to wrap in bacon and stuff with jalapeno and creme cheese….. but didn’t know how that would go over at my Tempe Airbnb.

We walked the roads and took birds off the roofs, the ground, fences, and trees scattered around the property. I started off with a few blackbirds grackles, then started in on the doves and pigeons. I have to say the Brocock was a pleasure to shoot, ergonomic, compact and light, cycled smoothly, was accurate and hit like a sledge hammer.

Afterwards I went over to AOA and registered for the competition. It was a packed house with guys coming in from as far as Patagonia and Europe, not to mention a contingent from several clubs and individual shooters from around the states. I’m not a competition shooter, and the level of precision these guys chase is mind blowing!

Lining up a shot on the range while practicing before the competition….. No, it didn’t help.

I won’t write a lot about the event, because there are several reports already coming out. I will say that this event is a blast, is very well organized and runs smoothly! If you ever get a chance, I would encourage you to attend whether you want to shoot or move the the group watching and talking to some great shooters.

As I expected, I did better with the birds than I did with the targets. But watching these competitors using wind flags, weighing and sorting pellets, timing shots, using rests and rifles that have evolved into paper punching machines (in the pro class) is something to see.

I’ll spend this week around my business hours catching up: might get a squirrel hunt in Friday morning before work, get some target shooting in and catch up on some airgun maintenance and setup chores. The it’s off for several days in Texas to hunt deer, hogs, predators, and small game.

BTW: for those of you following my YouTube channel, I got my Abert’s squirrel at the beginning of the week, with the fastest completion of the grand slam I’ve done…. less than four weeks to get the gray, fox, black, and Abert’s!

Categories: .25 caliber, Airguns of Arizona, Brocock, compatto, Extreme Benchrest, pest birds, Small Game Hunting, where to hunt | Tags: , | Leave a comment

After my Squirrel Grand Slam…..Again!!!

Several years ago I proposed a small game hunting challenge I called the North American Squirrel Hunters Grand Slam. This was intended to be an activity that took effort, but was within reach of most people willing to work at it. It is tough to do every year, but as a one time mission the travel not that bad or cost too high, though both are factors to consider.

Lining up the shot, note the SideMount camera I’ll be usibng this season.
I’ve got a car camping rig that can be taken along when I fly to distant locals for hunts. In my car I make a bed in the back, but have a small bivvy bag to use when renting.

The idea was to take the 3 primary tree squirrel game species (gray, fox, Abert’s), plus a black color phase (could be of any species) in one season. That first year I took the fox in Indiana, the gray in Kentucky, the black in Michigan, and the Abert’s in Arizona. I tried to replicate this a couple more times, but fell short; one year I got everything but a black, and one everything but an Abert’s.

Fox squirrels
Gray squirrels
black squirrel….. only the Abert’s left

I am after this goal again this year; and in the first week took a gray and fox in Minnesota, a black in Wisconsin, and I leave for Arizona in a couple days where I will be heading up into the ponderosa pines to try to complete my mission, and even though I’ll be using a rental car have packed my car camping gear and plan to stay in the mountains as long as it takes. I am feeling good about the trip, the weather looks good and I’m going to a place I know. If I get this done in the first day or two, I’ve got other hunting adventures to do on this trip.

BTW: If you don’t subscribe to an airgunning magazine, one that I can recommend (not least of which because I have a monthly column) is the British publication AIR GUNNER, and this month I’m sharing this challenge with our fellow shooters across the pond.

Along with my hunting trip, I’ll be stopping by the Extreme Bench Rest, and if you see me there stop by and say hello. I like to meet my fellow airgunners when the chance arises, and am looking forward to this important airgunning event!

Categories: Airgun Expedition, Airguns of Arizona, fall hunts, Hunting Guns, Small Game Hunting, Squirrels | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

High Powered PCP Hunting Rifle: .22 vs .25 Part II

The effect of wind on any pellet can be significant, and the presence of a strong breeze is a good indication that you should dial the range in and save the long shots for another day. My experience has been that at longer distances the .177 will get blown off target, and is much more difficult to manage than a .22. I have postulated that because the smaller caliber sheds velocity more quickly, the longer time of flight amplifies the effect of wind on a very light projectile. Whether I’ve got this right or not, what I have further observed is that there is a major difference between the horizontal point of impact obtained with a .177 and .22 at 60 yards in even a light wind. The difference between the .22 and .25, while present, is not as pronounced. I think the .25 will let you stay out a little bit longer as winds pick up, and maybe the windage drift is slightly less, but I am not as sure as I once was that there is a practical impact. If the wind starts to shift the POI, especially in variable winds, it’s time to move it in closer regardless of caliber.

Fig_6: The FX Royale .25 caliber is one of the best all-around long range small-to-medium games guns in my line up. Accurate and hard hitting, it is a gun I use often for the bigger stuff. This jackrabbit was bowled over at 75 yards.
Fig_7: With careful shot selection and placement, the .22 caliber is a capable round on moderate sized quarry such as these Guinea fowl taken with the MRod .22.

The terminal performance is what sways me in this discussion, the .22 is good but the .25 is better when you’re shooting in the uber 40 fpe realm. For instance, I have my Benjamin Marauder .22 and .25 both set up to generate about 42 fpe, and both like the JSB Exact pellets in their respective calibers. I have taken literally hundreds of ground squirrels, tree squirrels, jackrabbits, and prairie dogs with both of these rifles. Both will do the job with a perfectly placed shot, most of the time. I will use chest shots as well as head-shots, and think a well placed chest shot is a very effective and efficient. But even with the perfect shot the animal may run a few feet before dropping. When hunting the wide open spaces this is fine, however when hunting in heavy brush, swamps, or taking shots high in the forest canopy it could result in a lost animal. I do not believe that a chest shot leads to undue suffering, and in fact the conventional wisdom for big game hunting is that these are the only ethical shots. In my opinion it comes down to the ability to cleanly kill and retrieve the quarry.

The .25 hits much harder than the .22 even at the same power outputs, which is why I especially like the larger caliber for body shots. The larger caliber drops every kind of game I hunt (birds and mammals) more immediately, with more authority, and it also gives the latitude to still be effective if the shot is not perfect. Understand that I am not advocating sloppy shooting, but every one of us that hunts long enough, will have those less-than-perfect shots happen. Consider that I often go out after prairie dogs or Eurasian doves, where I might have hundreds of shots in a day. I am a decent shot, serious about hunting, and believe it is important to kill cleanly. I try to make the right shot selection, pass on low percentage shots, but still appreciate that the .25 caliber gives me a greater margin of error if I fluff a shot.

Fig_8 : The .25 bucks the wind a slightly better than the .22, allowing you to stay in the field a little longer than with the .22. But as a rule of thumb, when you start seeing your pellets being blown off course, it’s time to dial in the range!

Why does extra power and improved terminal performance matter? Well besides the reasons already stated, the larger caliber lets me reach out a bit further which is relevant for some of my hunting/varminting applications. Also the .25 allows me to shoot larger game, which is probably more of an issue for North American hunters; raccoons, woodchucks, turkey, 11 lb jackrabbits are all on the airgun hunters license (depending on the state).

My personal caliber choice? Looking over this article it seems like a love letter to the .25, so my answer may surprise you; either one can be the right choice. First, if we are talking legal limit guns I probably would not consider a .25 caliber, unless perhaps looking for a close range ratting gun. If I was going to keep my range inside of 45 yards and take rabbit sized game, I’d be happy with either but would probably tend towards the .22. A little less expensive, a little more available (guns and ammo) and a bit flatter shooting at medium range. However in situations where I might start for squirrel and have an opportunistic shot at a woodchuck along the way, or use the same gun to hunt rabbit one day and call raccoon the next, the .25 caliber fits the bill. Of course as I often explain to my wife, this is my justification for “needing” multiple guns.

Fig_9 : The AirForce Talon-P carbine is a hard hitting (40 fpe) .25 that I use for small and medium sized game hunting. On occasion when a squirrel distress is used to pull in inquisitive squirrels, a hungry raccoon will charge in instead, and this gun is great for either!

So there you have my “opinion” on the question of what serves better in the hunting fields, the venerable .22 or the up and coming .25. It really comes down to the application; type of game, distances shot, the power output of the gun, and at the end of the day, what the individual shooter wants in his kit. Any time I think that there is a clear answer to the .22/.25 debate, I have an experience with one or the other that has me rethinking my position. I have come to understand that for me anyways, the solution is to have both!

Since writing this I’ve had a slight shift in my position, and while I still believe the essence of this article is correct, have found myself gravitating more to the .30 caliber. For many airgun hunters, I think the .25 is undoubtedly the superior caliber between the two discussed in the article, so long as the rifle is adequately powered (at least 40 fpe). In most cases you really can’t have too much gun in my opinion, which is not to say you need to have more power or a larger gun to be effective. But I do think the larger caliber is more effective and efficient at anchoring game. This is one of the reasons I’ve started to gravitate to the .30 as more guns in this caliber have become available. The reason this caliber works better for me is the variety of game I hunt. I might use the same gun on a rabbit hunt in Texas, but use it to take a predator or small hog if the opportunity presents….. and for these applications I like the bigger pellet and increased power. Again, I must state that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the .22 as a small game caliber in general, and in my many years of experience have probably taken more small game with the .22 than any other caliber. But for my current situation the .25 or .30 works best for me.

Categories: .22 caliber, .25 caliber, .25 vs .30 caliber, .30 caliber | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

High Powered PCP Hunting Rifle: .22 vs .25 Part I

This is excerpted from an article I wrote for the British magazine “Airgunner” a few years ago, discussing the .22 and .25 as hunting calibers. In more recent years I’ve written several articles for this and other magazines examining the .25 and .30 calibers in the same context, and at the end of part II, I’ll discuss my current views on all calibers. I got the release of the articles a bit out of order, the later discussion on calibers was posted on June 23rd, but I think this is still of interest in outline the foundation of my thoughts on the subject.

Fig_1: A look at five of the calibers I frequently hunt with, the .35, .30, .25, 22, .177. I’ll use the .177 in my springers, the .22 in just about any gun, but the others only in the higher FAC power range.

Having been a fan of the British hunting magazines for several years, I have seen the topic of .177 vs .22 covered many times. Most frequently the subject is discussed in the context of legal limit guns, which places boundaries around the efficacy and performance of the larger calibers. But in the absence of power restrictions, the balance shifts towards the larger calibers for the type of hunting I do. In this article I’d like to discuss my field experience using .22 and .25 caliber in higher powered guns.

Fig_2: A series of targets shot with my Benjamin Marauders in .22 and .25. On any given day one may outperform the other, but only slightly.

From an historical perspective, the .177 was, and probably still is, the most widely used airgun caliber. However, it is probably fair to say that over the years there has been a shift amongst hunters towards the .22. This is definitely the case in the US market, though the feedback I get would indicate this is a global trend (where legal). The .22 out of a high-powered gun is relatively flat shooting, hits hard, can be very accurate, retains energy better than the .177, and there is a huge selection of guns available with an equally extensive line of pellets on offer. Not a surprise then that hunters wanting the most effective high-power field rig have gravitated towards the .22.

The .25 caliber has also been around for many years, but as it is even less effective in legal limit guns than the double deuce, never really caught on in a major way. With the availability of PCP’s the caliber became more practical, but initially there was a limited selection of guns and pellets. As most of the PCP’s were being spec’d for legal limit rifles in the early days, they were still underpowered for the caliber. A .25 caliber pellet out of a sub 12 fpe power rifle has the 30 yard trajectory of a brick tossed underhand. But as more powerful rifles hit the market, the .25 started gaining traction. This in turn led to more guns being built and brought to market along with a much wider selection of pellets. Currently in the US, the .25 has a grown a strong following, because paired with the right shooting platform it can be very accurate, powerful, and it hits with authority creating a large wound channel.

Fig_3: This photo shows my Marauders in both calibers, on traveling hunts I’ll sometimes takes both actions and one stock for more efficient packing.

There are many excellent guns chambered in both .22 and .25, some are high dollar outfits while others are more modestly priced. On the less expensive end two models I’ve used extensively for hunting are the Hatsan AT-44 and Benjamin Marauder. Another rifle that I’ve hunted a great deal with is the Evanix Rainstorm. These three gun models helped shape my views on the .22/.25 issue, in that I have all three in both .22 and .25. This has enabled me to make some direct observations, not only on the bench, but also to assess effectiveness on game under field conditions.

Fig_4: I took the Marauder .22 as my small game gun on one of my South African hunts; and took hundreds of pigeons, but used the same gun for larger Guinea fowl and Egyptian geese as well.
Fig_5: My .25 Marauder (wearing a Chaska custom stock) has been responsible for many raccoon, woodchuck, and larger game, while at the same time being a great long range prairie dog gun. This big dawg dropped within 5 feet to a chest shot at 110 yards.

There are many other guns I use in either .22 or .25; the FX Verminator .25, the Daystate Huntsman Regal .22, the Daystate Wolverine .25, the FX Royale .25, the AirArms S510 FAC .22, The BSA R10 .22 and the Walther Rotek .22 to name a few. All are great hunting guns; I don’t believe the accuracy of one of these calibers is intrinsically better than the other, rather it’s all about getting the right gun/pellet pairing.

In lower powered guns the trajectory is a more pronounced arc in the larger caliber, which requires a bit more compensation. I shot several 50-yard groups with my three .22/.25 rifle sets and could not find a clear winner, though noting that the flatter shooting rigs are easier to coax the accuracy out of.  Sometimes the .22 group was a little tighter and sometimes the .25 carried the day, but they were never significantly different. On a practical note, when shooting in denser brush or heavier foliage, the flatter trajectory is much easier to thread through the twigs and branches.

Categories: .25 caliber, airgun ammo, best hunting caliber for an airgun, Pellets | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Airgun Hunting by Night

One of my favorite predator hunting venues is Texas, where the variety and the sheer numbers of predators is incredible:  coyote, bobcat, fox, and raccoons, and the possibility of a mountain lion always present. I’ve been traveling to the Lone Star State to hunt for about 15 years, and for the first five I only hunted in daylight. While I had fair results, it wasn’t until I started hunting at night that the big numbers started rolling in.

Light options (from left to right) scope mounted lights from Optronics with external battery packs, handheld laser Genetics, and under barrel mounted Laser Genetics lights.

My night time hunts began out in Midland with a gentleman that was a guide and competitive predator hunter, by the name of Cody Brunett. We spent a good deal of time cruising back country access roads, shooting off a high rack equipped with lights that let us spin in circles while calling, and we got on a lot of coyotes with the occasional fox and bobcat.

Then a few years back I started hunting with a trapper and predator hunting pro by the name of Don Steele, it is fair to say that he is one of the best callers and predator hunters I’ve ever met. Don has a Humvee equipped with a rooftop shooting platform, lots of land to call, and he gets on predators virtually every time we hunt. His method is to do a set every half mile, and he works the call and the lights, while the lucky ones get to shoot.

Both Cody and Don hunt the wide-open spaces, cover a lot of ground, and shoot from high racks that are equipped with lights and enough hands to operate them. While there is no doubt predator hunting at night is the way to bump up your numbers, for the guy that hunts small parcels of land by themselves, the logistics can be daunting.

One of my hunting partners down in Indiana, Brian Beck, is the king of Airgun coyote hunters and he spends a lot of time out on his own with an Airgun and lights. When we hunt together, one guy operates the call and lights while the other is on the trigger which works fine, and Brian has his system dialed in for managing all the equipment when he hunts alone. Me on the other hand, not so much. I find myself cluttered in gear, wrapped in cables, holding the wrong gear in my hand at the wrong time. So, over the last few years I’ve been trying to narrow down equipment and refine techniques, to find what works for me when I’m out on my own.

Lamping requirements are somewhat different for an airgunner than for a firearms hunter: the animals need to be called in closer, and shot selection a bit more precise. Additionally, airguns let you hunt in more built up areas because of their low sound signature and reduced carrying range, where stealth is advantageous. A lighting system that lets you discreetly hunt on a golf course, the edges of town, or suburbia, will be very useful. In the quest to find a rig that suited my hunting needs, I tried various approaches and found a few that worked quite well for me.

There are many handheld and scope mounted lights that serve the purpose: some use an external battery pack with cables to the light, and some are self-contained. In the past, the self-contained units could not produce the level of intensity those lights with an external battery pack achieved. However, that is no longer the case, especially when it comes to the shorter ranges at which Airguns are used. My preference is a hands-free scope or barrel mounted light powered by internal batteries. A red filter is most commonly used, though I’ve had acceptable results with amber filters or even white light, and the green light put out by the Laser Genetic laser lights doesn’t seem to spook predators either. The down side of scope and barrel mounted lights is that they are not easily swept while calling, and for this reason I generally pack two lights; one mounted on the rifle for shooting and one that is handheld for locating incoming targets. This is the least expensive way to outfit yourself for night hunting, and it works well.

The Nite Site is an IR device that is comprised of several components: an IR illuminator module, a viewing screen, a tubular scope sleeve to connect the illuminator to your scope, an attachment for mounting the view screen so that it sits atop the scope, and a battery pack to power it all. This system mounts to almost any standard scope, and does a good job of letting you see your quarry even in exceedingly low light. On the downside: earlier versions throw considerable backlight onto the shooters face from the viewer, but newer models allow you to reduce the intensity. Secondly it forces the shooter into a “heads up” position which takes a little getting used to. On the upside: it works very well in situations with no ambient lighting, it mounts on any scope so you don’t need to switch optics and re-zero between day and night, and it is the most cost effective night vision solution to be found. I like this product, and use it frequently.

IR Scopes are probably the single best technology solution for night hunting; you get a normal line of sight from a typical shooting position. I mounted the Sellmark Digisight digital night vision scope on my Evanix Snipper .357 PCP rifle, which is my go to suburban coyote gun, and have been getting outstanding results with it. On the upside, it works very well, is easy to zero, and while larger than a standard scope still feels like I’m shooting a “normal” rifle. I did run down the batteries on a couple of all-nighters, but generally get around this by carrying backups and swapping them when needed. The only real negative for me (outside of a hefty price tag) is when I need to use the same rifle for daytime and nighttime shooting; even though there is a setting which allows the scope to be used in daylight, for clarity and magnification I preferred my regular optics, requiring a swap and usually some readjustment. However, if you are building up a purpose designed night time airgunning rig this approach is hard to beat.

A Thermal Monocular, while not technically used during shooting, has become my favorite article of night time hunting gear. Before I tell you why, let’s look at what this device is. I have been using the Sellmark Quantum Thermal Imaging Monocular, which delivers “white hot” and “black hot” target viewing at distances of almost a thousand yards. This device can detect heat signatures and provide images with far greater sensitivity than IR night vision. On the upside, it offers truly spectacular results at picking up incoming predators from a long way off. The only downside (besides price again), is that even when the intensity is turned down, I find my night vison is off for a brief instant when I pull my eye away. But the ability to see and track incoming coyotes is nothing short of mind blowing!

A close-up of the Sellmark Pulsar Thermal Monocular, in my opinion the most useful adjunct to night hunting in years.

The reason the thermal monocular is my favorite night time hunting tool is based on how I use it on solo hunts: which quite simply is to combine it with a traditional scope mounted light. When calling predators into airgun range, I’ll call as usual while scanning the area with the monocular. My rifle is equipped with either a red filter or green Laser Genetic barrel mounted light, which I leave switched on and pointing towards my call. This allows the incoming predator to be tracked until it gets into range, at which time I drop the monocular and get on target using the scope (set at low power). The reason I like this setup is that it permits me to use the same gun and scope at night that is used during the day, I believe that it is less disruptive than scanning a light all over the field, and it has worked brilliantly for me when hunting alone.

So, I’ve presented a few of my approaches to night time hunting with my airguns, the one I use depends on the type of quarry I’m after (coyote, hogs, rabbits), the gun I have along and whether it is doing shared service (night and day hunts), and how I’m moving from set to set. One thing I know for sure: you have more success when you’re out while your prey is out, so night hunting is something you’re going to want to check out if it’s legal in your neck of the woods!

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Does Camo Clothing Improve Success for the Airgun Hunter?

Part II

I’ve used many different camo patterns over the years, as I’ve hunted deserts, plains, mountains, tropical swamps and jungle, and waist deep snow fields. I’m not sure an exact match between the camo pattern and the natural surroundings is mandatory, but blending in helps. This is the most obvious when hunting in snow; if there are no branches or grass showing through the snow drifts a pure white covering will make you almost invisible. If grass and/or branches are showing through, having the white camo pattern broken up with a branch pattern is even better.

I don’t knd breaking up and mixing patterns as long as they fit the colors found in the terrain I’m hunting.
Match the pattern to the conditions, in this case there is a lot brown and twig patterns in the background, and the match of my camo really lets me blend in.

And this is the crux of it, once the color of the camo is roughly matched, what is much more important in my experience is that the pattern serves to break up your outline. One of the best examples of this is when a hunter wears a ghillie suit with branches, vines, and leaves stuck into it to further break up their contour, which allows the camo pattern to optimally do its job.

The options for camo are quite varied, especially here in the states where you can walk into a big box discount department store and find a range of camo that matches local conditions fairly well. You can walk in and get a pair of matched camo jeans, shirt, gloves, face mask and a hat for a few bucks. Its not technical quality clothing, it won’t last forever, but it works. On the other end you can walk into any sporting goods store and be faced with a huge array of expensive technical camo gear that is more comfortable and handles the elements better, though I don’t think it has vastly improved efficacy with respect to making the hunter blend in better.

There are other approaches to covering up, I have many sets of light mesh camo made for summer and spring hunting. These were purchased in a size larger, so they can be worn over my street cloths. We were hunting in Texas last week and walked into a restaurant for lunch, and every person in the establishment was clad in camo. However, in some areas where we are jumping from property to property in less camo friendly environs, being able to slip full camo on or off over a pair of jeans and a t-shirt is advantageous.

The 3D leafy poncho lets me wear regular jeans and a t-shirt as I travel from site to site when predator hunting, but easily cover up when going back into the field.

Another similar approach is a large 3D leafy camo poncho that is a cross between a wearable blind and a ghillie suit. This is a large square camo netting with artificial leaves and grass affixed, with a center opening and hood that allows it to be draped over the hunter’s shoulders. The advantage of this system over a conventional fixed blind is that it allows mobility, and the advantage over camo clothing is that it allows a certain amount of movement without giving away your position. The downside is that if you are moving through thickets or thorn bush, you can get pinned in place!

If my intention is to go deep in camo, besides my clothing, gloves, face cover, hat, boots and socks, I camouflage my rifle. A few of my rifles have been painted or dipped in various patterns, while others are simply wrapped in camouflage tape. The cloth tape I use comes in a variety of colors and patterns, and can be removed without leaving a residue. The advantage of this approach is that it can be changes as I travel to different hunting grounds: I’ve used the same rifle in grasslands, forest, and snow by simply switching out the tape. Often, I’ll only tape the barrel and forestock, which gives enough coverage and is easier to remove.

I typically wear camo when airgun hunting, as I can’t think of a time when breaking up your pattern is going to be a bad thing. I think that there are hunting applications such as squirrels, crows, turkey where it has a huge impact on success. There are other applications; night hunting, pest control in certain industrial or agricultural settings where it is less relevant. However, in any situation where camo is called for, covering your face and hands with camo face mask and gloves will pay off in the results you achieve. And it is important to remember that regardless of what you are wearing, the successful hunter will move slowly, refrain from extraneous movement, and use natural cover, the shadows, and the wind to their advantage. Nothing you wear will be as important as honing your field craft, but together they will allow you to up your game!

Categories: camo, camo clothing, cold weather hunting, effectiveness, Pest Control, Small Game Hunting, Small game in winter, Spring time hunting, stealth hunting | Leave a comment

Does Camo Clothing Improve Success for the Airgun Hunter?

Part I

Several years ago, when I started hunting in South Africa, I found that I’d usually be the only hunter in the group wearing camo. There was some good-natured ribbing about the camo clad American redneck, but my local friends would tell me that if you worked the wind and shadows properly it wasn’t necessary. As time went on I started dressing in more traditional khaki hunting cloths and using the natural cover to my favor, and had good results in the field. Ironically, on a recent trip most everyone else was wearing camo and I was the odd man out! It gave me a chuckle, but also got me thinking about “if and when” camo made a difference.

I think that while hunting with a centerfire on the Eastern Cape of South Africa for plains game, where shots are generally over 100 yards and there is plenty natural cover, working the wind and staying in the shadows is more important than clothing. That is so long as common sense prevails and you’re not marching about in colors or shades that make you stand out as a moving mass with a rifle. But for this particular type of quarry and hunting application, using the wind to your advantage has a far greater impact in my experience.

In South Africa I moved away from camo when hunting big game, but still found it improved success when small game and varmint hunting.

But the statement above does not hold true when the rules of engagement change: when the hunter is intent on getting in very close to their quarry for instance. This is the name of the game when it comes to airgun hunting, which like bow hunting is all about getting into 40-50 yard range. For me, the notion of hunting with an airgun is predicated on field craft, getting into the right position at the right distance and selecting the right shot. Many of the quarry we hunt as airgunners do not have a well-developed sense of smell, but rely on excellent vision and the ability to detect even slight motion. And with everything in the forest out to eat these smaller animals, survivors stay on high alert, relying on that outstanding visual acuity to avoid becoming a menu item.

I think the terrain and type of game dictates whether camo is mandatory. Often when hunting jackrabbits in the deserts, I’ll wear earth colored clothing so I’m not waving a bright flag…. but I don’t think it is nearly as importasnt as setting up a steal;thy stalk using cover.

The short answer to the question I opened with, does wearing camo improve an airgun hunter’s results, is that I believe it does. At least it does for certain game and in certain conditions. When squirrel hunting for instance, the quarry is often sitting in the trees with a clear line of sight from above. A hunter that is sitting at the base of a tree waiting for a squirrel to come out, will be busted if not able to meld into his surroundings. Even minor movement will be enhanced and easier to detect if the hunters outline is not broken up. Not only should camo clothing be worn in this setting, but gloves and face mask as well. From a tree dwelling squirrel’s perspective, a hunter’s face staring up from below is like a warning flag no matter how much body camouflage is being worn. And consider that the parts of the body that typically move the most are the head and hands. It stands to reason then, that covering these body parts will result in better concealment.

When setting up an ambush, such as squirrel hunting in the spring or fall forest, I almost always wear camo and believe it makes a big difference for this application.

Next week I’ll pick up on the topic of camo clothing

Categories: camo, camo clothing, effectiveness, Jackrabbits, Pest Control, Shooting technique, Small Game Hunting, Small game in winter, Spring time hunting, Squirrels, turkey | Tags: | Leave a comment

Is the .30 the new .25?

This is excerpted from an article I wrote for Airgunner Magazine in the UK a couple years back. I’ve found myself gravitating to the .30, and for many of the same reasons I drifted away from the .22 to the .25 a few years earlier. BTW: Airgunner is a great magazine available either as a hard copy or a digital download, and is a great shooting resource.

Because of the wide-open spaces found in much of the USA (from the Western deserts to the Midwestern plains), longer shots are often required. It is also fair to say that there is a broader selection of game available to hunt, some of which (even limiting the discussion to small game) can be quite a bit larger than that encountered in the UK. An American cottontail rabbit is about the same size as the rabbits on your side of the pond, and a crow is a crow, but a jackrabbit may weigh in at twelve pounds and the average adult turkey is around sixteen pounds. And with no limitation on caliber or power in most of the country, the .25 has become quite popular over the last few years, with a growing number of airgun hunters migrating to the quarter bore.

If you try to keep a .25 pellet under 12 fpe, the resultant trajectory is akin to tossing a brick down range with an underhand toss. This limits the utility of the caliber in legal limit guns, but get it blazing downrange at 900 fps and it’s quite a different story! If both a .22 and a .25 are propelled at the same velocity, the .25 caliber has a trajectory roughly equivalent to the .22, perhaps a bit flatter because it retains energy more efficiently as it travels further from the muzzle. Some will argue that the .25 is less influenced by wind, though I personally feel it’s a matter of degrees. This might be the case in light winds, but if the wind is howling I either move the shots in closer or put my rifle away until the weather moderates. There is undoubtedly a difference in terminal performance; the larger surface area of the .25 in conjunction with the higher energy delivered on impact can make a substantial difference in knockdown power, especially on body shots when compared to the .22.

If hunting prairie dogs, where the range may exceed 100 yards, the knowledge that a body shot will anchor the quarry makes it a viable shot placement and increases the effective kill zone substantially. To those that would argue that the joy of airgun hunting is getting up close and personal to one’s quarry, I agree. But I would also remind them that firearm hunters often shoot prairie dogs at 700 yards or more because they are so difficult to get close to, and in this context 75-100 yards is a fairly short range.

So, the .25 has gained popularity in the American market because it is efficient out of high powered PCP rifles, offering both a relatively flat trajectory and improved velocity retention. Furthermore, it offers excellent results on game because of the increased energy delivered on target, and the increased size of the wound channel created. This results in an effective longer range hunting tool for small game, but also allows larger game to be taken at closer ranges.

Now if you take the same set of factors into consideration, and apply them to a comparison of the .25 and .30 calibers, I believe the same results will be noted. If the .30 caliber pellet, which in the context of this discussion is limited to the conventional Diabolo pellet design, is propelled at 900 fpe the same results are noted; the trajectory is flat, velocity retention is improved, the larger surface area delivers greater energy on target and creates a larger wound channel than noted with the .25.

I don’t really need a .30 to hunt squirrels or most small game because I can invariably close the distance to my prey. But some smaller pest species such as prairie dogs, crows, and ground squirrels may require longer shots in some terrains. If a varmint with greater mass, such as a ground hog, raccoon, or nutria provides an opportunity for a shot, the same gun can be used with confidence. And for quarry of any size, the body shot becomes a much more attractive option as a result. The gist of this is that a hunter can buy a single rifle, and use it for a wider variety of game. In the areas where I hunt, there are more than twenty species that can be harvested with an Airgun, that range in weight from a half pound to twenty pounds. There is an advantage to one gun that can do it all well!

The biggest disadvantage of the .30 is that it will carry further than either a .22 or .25 propelled with the same muzzle velocity. Note that I am limiting this discussion to Diabolo style pellets, which have an intrinsically poor ballistic coefficient. The .30 pellet still sheds energy relatively quickly, when compared to even a standard .22 LR rimfire bullet. You might ask why not just use a .35 justifying it with the same arguments? The short answer is that it doesn’t fit the application. There is a point of diminishing returns; shooting a squirrel or rabbit with a .30 is not over the top, but a .35 is! It tends to carry too far, over penetrates, and will tear up small bodied game at close range. To my way of thinking the .35 is a better shared-service caliber bridging medium and bigger quarry, as opposed to the .30 for small to medium sized game.

Another disadvantage that has been cited in the past, is the limited availability of guns chambered in .30 caliber and difficulty in finding ammunition. However, in my gun room I currently have an Evanix Rainstorm, an Evanix Snipper, an FX Boss, a Daystate Wolverine, the Hatsan BT Carnivore, the Evanix Max Bullpup, the Hatsan Hercules, the MROD Velociraptor and the Ataman M2R Carbine all in .30 caliber. And there are more rifles coming to market! Obviously, when it comes to shooting platforms we are not starved for .30 caliber options! The rifles I’ve mentioned are designed to shoot standard pellets, and tend to generate around 70 – 95 fpe though some will do a bit more. A couple of these rifles can handle shorter lightweight cast bullets, and I have rifles in my collection that will exceed 200 fpe (such as my Quackenbush and Pro Big Bore .308’s). But this is accomplished with cast bullets using higher fill pressures, more air per shot, and a resulting reduction in shot count. I believe these comprise a different category of air rifle which address a completely different use case, and for this reason have excluded them from this discussion.

As far as pellets, there has been a limited selection, primarily the JSB Exacts and private label variations thereof. This does not trouble me greatly, because these pellets tend to work well in every .30 caliber rifle I have, and provide excellent terminal performance on game to boot! There are however, also new pellets coming to market; at the SHOT Show in Las Vegas last month both H&N and Hatsan had released new .30 caliber pellets, and the Predator Polymag pellets are now available in this caliber as well. Having made my case for the .30 caliber, I will now qualify my position. If I was living in a region where there were power restrictions in place, where there was not a need to reach out over longer distances, or if there was not legal game available that required more energy or a larger wound channel to ethically harvest, there is less reason to opt for this caliber. However, in those places where higher powered rifles are permitted, where there is no limitation on caliber, and there is either larger quarry or a need to reach out further, I would expect to see interest in the caliber grow. There may also be a small subset of target shooters that are interested in long range bench rest competition that might gravitate towards the caliber, but I would expect it to gain the most popularity with hunters. So, if you see companies promoting yet another caliber and ask yourself why?? I hope this provides some insight from a “foreign” shooters point of view!

Categories: .25 caliber, .25 vs .30 caliber, .30 caliber, airgun ammo, best hunting caliber for an airgun, effectiveness, Pellets | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Hunting Hogs with an Airgun

I’ve been going down to Texas quite a bit this year, and even though you can now hunt all game species with an airgun there, I still make trips specifically to hunt feral hogs. It is possible to hunt hogs in several states, but Texas is my favorite because of the varied hunting terrains, and the sheer numbers of hogs. There is no place quite like it. I get a lot of mail from airgunners that would like to hunt pigs, and the frequently asked questions are: a) where do you go, b) how do you book a hunt and what does it cost, c) what guns do you use, d) what techniques do you use to hunt hogs, and e)what do you do with the meat? I’ll give you a quick answer to each of those to get you started on planning an airgun hog hunt of your own!

I shot this big boar on a property I pay a trespass fee on. I was given a tour of the land on my first trip, and now I call and reserve days and pay a daily fee. There are a couple blinds and feeders, I can set up my own blind, or spot and stalk. This arrangement is somewhere between a guided and a DIY hunt.

I’ll start with the questions on the where: where do you go, how do you book a hunt and what does it cost? Unless you live in a state that has populations of feral hogs, you will probably have to travel to areas that you aren’t familiar with. Even if you have hogs in your region of the country, you may not have any contacts that can aim you in the right direction. The first thing to work out is if you intend to hunt private land or public land. Some states have feral pig populations on public land, though the animals tend to be more heavily pressured and have lower population densities. To find potential locations to hunt, I start by looking at state fish and game / wildlife management resources, as they will often tell you if hogs are found within the boundaries of a national or state forest, wildlife management areas or on BLM land. You can then call a local wildlife district and do a little detective work, sometimes they are helpful some times not, it’s luck of the draw and depends who you reach to speak with. You can also ask on forums or do on line searches, but we’re all protective of the places we find, and unless you know somebody well it’s atypical that they’ll share their secret sites with you.

Even if you find a place with a huntable population, another challenge is that it is not productive to walk into a tract of forest or swamp you’ve never been in, and start hunting. You may spend the first few trips scouting and getting the lay of the land, but you’ll still want to carry a rifle as an opportunistic shot is always a possibility. Some states have quite a bit of public land, while others such as Texas, have virtually none. The pros of public land are that it cost less than most private land hunts, you can do it yourself, there are often times camping opportunities available, and it’s an accompaniment hunting public land. The disadvantages are generally lower game populations, the populations are more pressured (which often drives them nocturnal, it can take a lot of time to familiarize yourself with the terrain and localizing potential hunting spots. I don’t typically hunt public land anymore, unless I hire a guide that has local knowledge. Such a guide can offset most of the cons of private land hunting, though the costs do rise. But you have to ask yourself, what will cost more, several “dry” scouting trips or paying for a guide. If you have a long way to travel or have limited time, avoiding guide services may be false economy.

Private lands often have larger and less pressure populations of big hogs.

Another strategy is to hire a guide to take you on a public land hunt, and use it as an opportunity to learn an are that you can come back to do a DIY on future trips. Not only will you get insight as to the terrain and local natural history, but also see what equipment is required. This could prevent you from showing up for a swamp hunt in Florida and finding out you need an airboat or a canoe to get to the right place.

The other approach is to hunt private land, and again there are two basic options: find a place that charges you a trespass fee, then lets you hunt on your own, or find an outfitter that provides you with a guide, the land, and transportation in the field. This will cost you a bit more, but your chance of success are greatly improved. The cost are not too high when compared against paying for an outfitted deer or turkey hunt, and if you shop around finding something in the $400 – $700 range, that includes a pig or two and a place to stay, food or a place to at least cook your own supplies, and often lets you go after predators or small game in your down time is not too bad.

A good thing about a guided hunt, besides access to local knowledge and land, is that you’ll have the right equipment to haul game and a place and equipment to do your field processing.

So how do you find a guide or outfitter? Word of mouth is the best way, if somebody you know and who’s opinion you respect has had a good experience and gives a recommendation, it’s probably a safe bet. Or you can go online and start searching outfitter websites, looking for someone that hunts for the animal species you’re interested in, and is priced in your price range. I then call them and ask several questions about the hunt: what type of hunting do they do (spot and stalk, blinds, etc), how much land do they hunt over and what are the game populations like? How many hunters do they have at any given time, what is their success rate, is there an opportunity to hunt predators or small game? I ask about bow hunting success specifically, as airgun hunting is some where between archery and firearms in terms of range and methodology. You can ask for references, though going online and finding reviews is probably more helpful. I go by my gut feeling, if I get a sense that this guy is trying to con me, seems disinterested, or comes across as a jerk, I move on.

You can check out my website as well, I have a section on guides and outfitters that I recommend, and I’ll be adding to it as I hunt with new outfitters in different regions. When I find a place I like, I tend to keep going back. I will say, to be completely transparent, that in recent years I’ve met several land owners around the country that provide me with places to hunt. However, for many years I used the methods above to find my hunting grounds.

In the next installment I’ll talk to you about the guns I prefer and the methods I use to hunt feral hogs, catch up with you next post!

Categories: Airgun Expedition, Big Bore Airguns, Big Game, Destinations, Hog hunting, Uncategorized, where to hunt | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Trophy is What’s Important to You!

I was at a friends house looking at some mounts he had of truly impressive bucks, and in my mind I compared it to my own trophies of past hunts. I’ve got a few nice representative animals on the larger side of the scale, but nothing that would impress a hard core trophy hunter. But having said that, they are trophies to me because of the memory and accomplishment I attach to them.

For instance, the first buck I shot was in Kentucky while hunting with my friend Randy Mitchell. This was back in 2006, and at that time there was no where legal to deer hunt, we’d been focusing on hogs and exotics in Texas for the last few years before. But that year, Kentucky did allowed airguns to be used, with the proviso they be muzzle loaded and used within the primitive weapons regulations.

Dennis Quackenbush had made a replacement bolt to convert our DAQ’s into muzzleloaders, and so armed Randy and I went to his lease and climbed into his side by side tree stand. This was another new experience, I’d done most of my hunting out west and had never even seen a tree stand. It was a cold drizzly morning, and before long the first couple deer walked by…. a doe and a little spike. The a little four point came by, but the club that held the lease had a 6 point rule, so as I tried to will a couple more points to sprout, I had to let him walk.

I’ve shot maybe 40-45 deer with a air rifle since this buck dropped to my Quackenbush in 2006, with some much nicer bucks in the mix. But this will always be my airgunning wall-hanger!

After a couple hours with not much else happening we talked about heading back in for a cup of coffee, when I saw another buck coming down on my left, and he had plenty of points! I told Randy to take the shot, and he said no it was on my side and my buck. That’s the kind of guy Randy is, he wanted his first airgunning buck too, it was his lease, but he made the call for me to shoot.

I did, and the deer ran about 20 yards up a hill, and half way up did a partial back flip and was dead on the spot. That was not a huge buck, but to me it was a real trophy and the antlers are still hanging in my man cave. It was the first legal buck that I know of taken with an air rifle, the first in Kentucky, my first, and I’ll always think fondly of Randy letting me have the shot because he thought it the right thing to do. In my mind trophies dont get much better than that.

In future post I’ll pull out some of the other airgunning first that stand out in my memory. It’s not only that they were first, but more that we were helping to lay the foundations for a new hunting sport, and how often do you get a chance to do that?

Categories: Big Bore Airguns, Deer hunting | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment