Jim and the Oryx

We spooked these oryx coming around a bend and before I could un-sling my rifle they’d put a half mile of hills and desert between us.

I’d been invited to West Texas to hunt oryx with an online friend named Chacho Gonzales. I get a lot of invites and can’t do them all, but this one intrigued me because there are only three exotics in Texas I have a burning desire to take with an air rifle; the blackbuck, the aoudad, and the gemsbuck/oryx. In  addition, after having several conversations with Chacho by email and over the phone, he seemed like a guy I’d enjoy hunting with. I had a slim window to do this hunt between the new year and Shot Show, because I’m out of the country for a while right after that and then already booked for hunts on my return. We set a schedule, I booked flights out and we planned it all out. I arrived in Dallas and rented a car for the drive out to Odessa to meet up with Chacho, and after our first in person meeting we dropped about two hours south to a ranch outside of Fort Stockton.

We arrived at the ranch taking ranch access road several miles in from the state highway, and passed through a gate of Lone Star Trail Outfitter, which primarily caters to deer hunters, though the owner Trent, has Oryx and a big population of feral Spanish goats on his approximately 7000 acre ranch, though he also hunts adjacent land belonging to other family members. Trent has a very comfortable lodge that he put us up at, and little did I realize at the time his wife Tammi was coming in daily from their hopuse back in town to feed us ….. and this lady can cook. I had some of the toughest stalks I’ve done in years covering literally miles every day, and think I still put on a few pounds from the food I was being served!

Chacho and I sat in the back of the truck as we cruised slowly through the country side, sometimes on roads some times not.

Just like Africa, and this did remind me of my friends farms in South Africa, we spent a great deal of time behind our binoculars,

I’ll go straight to the point, I didn’t get my Oryx, but have nobody to blame but myself. Trent, Chacho and I hunted hard for three days, and I had a couple opportunities and a couple close calls, but was unable to seal the deal. I should have, but didn’t make it happen. Our approach to hunting differed a bit from what they normally do, which is shooting from a high rack in the back of a ranch truck. This would not work for the airgun ranges we needed, instead we would drive and glass to locate one of the three or four herds roaming the property, and then Chacho and I would jump out and work out an approach to stalk into shooting distance.

On the first stalk we worked our way into an area where we’d glassed a small herd of oryx, climbing up and down through the rocky and cactus covered hills.

We finally had an opportunity when Trent spotted a herd in the distance working its way along the sidfe of a hill quite a ways off. With the wind in our face and sun to our backs, Chacho and i jumped out and climbed a one hill and jogged around another to try to cut the herd off. This is when we discovered that the herd often had one animal well ahead of the herd and another trailing it acting as sentries. We came around the side of the hill to find this l;ead animal grazing head down about 150 yards from us. We both saw the animal at the same time and hit the ground as he looked up. We laid there peering through the grass from behind a frazzled thorn bush watching, and this young bull knew something wasn’t right. But with the sun in its eyes and the rapidity with which we’d dropped, it hadn’t seen us. With the wind in our favor he wasn’t going to wind us either, at the same time he continued to stare for about 15 minutes. Finally he dropped his head and we tried to crawl to a side where a rise in the ground would give us a chance to move. But after only 10 yards he lifted his head again, pinning us in place again, albeit in the cover of a slightly higher bush.

 

We spotted an oryx at about 125 yards that had its head down eating. It lifted its head as we dropped to the ground! Note: the arrow shows the oryx, head down and feeding.

 

I tired to line up a shot, but 125 yards was further than I wanted to shoot, I couldn’t get out from behind the thorn bush we were hiding behind, and between the tall grass and having my butt anchored to the ground, I could see the animals body.

Again I tried to line up a shot, but it was still to far and I didn’t have a clear shooting lane at any rate. As we sat there, pinned just under the ridge of a hill, we saw the rest of the herd trot out behind the sentry and run along a trail just under the ridge of the hill we were sitting on, but on the other side! We sat glued to the spot at we watched 9 sets of the big curved horns and the heads of the animals slowly trot by us withing 30 yards, but without any chance of a shot! This ended our first day, and not wanting to pressure the herd too much we called it a day and returned to the lodge for dinner and then to prepare for a calling session for predators as darkness fell.

Moving on to another stalk the next day, we spotted a small herd with a nice bull moving into a thicket, and a new stalk was on!

The next morning we drove down a road for about a half hour while stopping to glass the distant hills. After seeing no trace of the herds we started driving through a thicket with Trent and Chacho in the front laying out plans while I sat in the back. I was messing with my pack, and glanced up to see the back of a small group of oryx slipping in the patchy thicket less than a hundred yard from us. They weren’t terribly spooked, and were walking not running from us. We jumped off the truck and swung about 200 yards to the side to get the wind and sun in our favor and started to stalk in, going very slowly and very quietly. We’d stop frequently and look high and low across any opening in the scrub. After about a half hour, I caught sight of an animals back through the bush.

We were still a hundred yards away, and came up to a broad expanse with almost no cover between us and the animals. But we could see several oryx, with some starting to bed down. We spent almost the next hour crawling, back tracking, and working the wind, the sun, and the shadows to get inside of 70 yards. But then we came up against a wall, there was absolutely nowhere to move to, and the animals were all bedded behind a jumble of thickets and thorn bushes. I crawled into a sitting position under a mesquite behind a couple of yuccas, and looked for a shooting lane to thread the .452 bullet though. The big bull I wanted stepped behind a tree and started to move away, but a smaller bull stood, partially hidden behind the brush and it looked like they would all move on. I saw a small opening and quickly lined up my shot and let it fly. The report of my rifle was followed by a mesquite branch exploding between us though it looked like the deflected bullet might have impacted the bull high on the shoulder. The herd hightailed it out toward the hills, and I followed slowly looking for blood until they topped the ridge, then I stepped it up following and glassing the herd for a couple of miles. I could not find blood or pick out a wounded animal, and after another hour the herd took off at high gear not to be spotted again after topping the third hill between us.

 

I could never get a clear shot, but finally worked into 65 yards and decided to try to thread my shot through the heavy brush.

So of course I was disappointed, we hunted hard and got in a couple world class stalks on a really wary and smart game animal. I had a couple of missed opportunities but could fault nobody but myself. At the same time I had a fantastic time in the field, made a couple of good friends with Chaco and Trent, and did have much more success on the predator hunts ……. but that’s another story for another time!

American Airgun Hunter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Categories: airgun ammo, Airgun Expedition, AOA Bushbuck .451, Big Bore Airguns, Big Game, cold weather hunting, Destinations, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Leaving for my first hunt on 2017!

I hope you all had a great Christmas and New Years holiday! I did, and really enjoyed the family time. My day job kicks into overdrive in the next couple months and I’ll be out of the country on business a fair bit, however before it gets crazy I’m off to Texas for about a week to hunt big game, small game, and predators. A friends invited me down to pursue gemsbuck, maybe Spanish goats, and he said the predators are thick right now. I’ve got seven days and plan to make the most of it; I’ll fly into DFW late Wednesday night and drive probably as far as Abilene, then on Thursday morning I’ll get off to an early start and arrive at Odessa by mid morning, then head down to the ranch about 2 hours south. On arrival I’ll get my guns sighted in, check on my gear, relax, and probably go out calling in the night to see if I can put some fur in the truck. Then it will be hunting straight through until Tuesday when I head back to DFW.

My primary game is the gemsbok, which is also called an oryx, a large African antelope that was released in Texas many years ago and is a wary and challenging game animal that can range up to 500 lb. For this hunt I’m taking the AOA Bushbuck .452 carbine, matching a very powerful rifle to a very powerful quarry. The bullets opted for are the 445 grain solids that Kip Perow casted especially for the gun, and out of this rifle they are generating just under 600 fpe with 2 full power shots.

I’m taking my Badger .40 caliber rifle for goats and longer range predator work. I’ve used this rifle for hogs, deer, and javalina and feel pretty comfortable with it out to 125 yards. I’m shooting the Robert Vogel 186 grain hollowpoints and getting about 200 fpe out of the combo. I think this will be a great pairing for the longer ranges stuff asnd also bigger predators like coyote …. and maybe a chance at a cougar (three have been hit by cars in the last couple months). A few years ago I was hunting bobcat in this area with a Sam Yang .457 and had a cat come in to 140 yards and hang up refusing to come in closer. With that gun I didn’t pull the trigger, however a repeat while I have the Badger in hand would go differently!

For small game and smaller predators (fox and bobcats) I’ll be using my Rainstorm .30 caliber and JSB Match Diabolo pellets. I am also bringing my night vision gear from Sellmark; a Pulsar IR scope and a thermal monocular which I’ve been ripping the northern yotes up with. Cant wait to get this set up into the thick predator populations of West Texas! My plan is to get a lot of video footage for a series of videos on my YouTube channel that not only looks at the hunts, but also the strategy and tactics around how I use my gear.

One of the guest bedroom has become my equipment staging area. I had to wait for my kids to head back to their respective colleges before I could start packing, and I had a real mess going on .... it never ceases to amaze me how much gear fits in that big duffle bag! All three guns fit into a single case.

One of the guest bedroom has become my equipment staging area. I had to wait for my kids to head back to their respective colleges before I could start packing, and I had a real mess going on …. it never ceases to amaze me how much gear fits in that big duffle bag! All three guns fit into a single case.

I'm well stocked with projectiles! 100 of the Mr Hollowpoint 186 grain bullets, 50 of the 445 grain .452 bulletas, and two tins of the JSB .30 pellets ..... should get me sighted in and shooting through the week! There is a compressor and tanks at the ranck so we're set on air.

I’m well stocked with projectiles! 100 of the Mr Hollowpoint 186 grain bullets, 50 of the 445 grain .452 bullets, and two tins of the JSB .30 pellets ….. should get me sighted in and shooting through the week! There is a compressor and tanks at the ranch so we’re set on air.

I get a lot of questions about the video and camera gear I take on these trips, and it can change quite a bit from hunt to hunt. On this trip I am focusing on video, and though my Cannon Ti6 is great for both video and still photos, I find the Vixea HF offers great video, a range of shooting options,great magnification, and is very easy to deploy quickly when I am under stress (read filming my own hunts). I carry 3-4 GoPro and SJ cams, but have been relying more and more on the Fuji XP. This camera looks like a point and shoot, but is a very high quality HD video camera, that unlike the smaller GoPro cameras has a 5x optical zoom. I am carrying two of these cameras on this trip.

This set up has taken me a few years to optimize, but for me, it now does everything I need. I also have several tripods, selfie sticks, scope mounts and other mounting accessories in my pack.

This set up has taken me a few years to optimize, but for me, it now does everything I need. I also have several tripods, selfie sticks, scope mounts and other mounting accessories in my pack.

Don’t know if I’ll have internet access from the ranch, if so I’ll post an update next Sunday. If not the post will drop ASAP. After the hunt I’m back at my office for a few days before leaving for the SHOT Show; my schedule there is crazy and I’m booked at meetings and events from the moment I arrive until I leave…. but I look forward to seeing a lot of old friends and seeing some interesting new product releases. After SHOT it’s home for a couple days then back on a plane for Tokyo, so no more hunts for a couple of weeks. But if the Texas trip goes well I might have enough material to keep me busy editing and writing for a couple weeks!

Hope you all have a great start to the new years and be back with you soon!

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Categories: airgun ammo, Airgun Expedition, Airguns of Arizona, AOA Bushbuck .451, Big Bore Airguns, Big Game, Destinations, Hunting Guns, Long Range shooting, SHOT Show, Small Game Hunting, Small game in winter, Uncategorized, Winter hunts | Tags: | 1 Comment

Planning a Hunting Road Trip

I look for state DNR resources that list the areas where public access to hunting land is available. For instance in Minnesota I'll go onto the site that list the State Wildlife Management Area.

I look for state DNR resources that list the areas where public access to hunting land is available. For instance in Minnesota I’ll go onto the site that list the State Wildlife Management Area.

One of the questions I get a lot, is how do you find places to hunt. While it’s true that in recent years I’ve been invited on a lot of hunts, it is equally true that I am always on the lookout for new opportunities. And I try to find opportunities that anyone can replicate with some effort and a bit of know how. To keep grounded in the real world, I make a point of hunting open access public land on a frequent basis. In many public hunting areas, there can be a lot of pressure on certain species, deer and turkey for instance. However these same areas can hold very good populations of small game that get little pressure. I moved to Minnesota about three years ago, and knew nobody that hunted when I arrived, so I had to start building up my hunting permissions all over again. I went to local farmers, hunting preserves, etc to see if I could hunt predators and most frequently was given a green light. I’d also ask if I could go after squirrels on these properties and was often given permission. Deer and turkey were almost always off the board, though a few offered me permission for big game once I’d taken off some coyotes and they got to know me. Ironically I haven’t taken any of these offers up as Minnesota doesn’t allow airguns for deer or turkey (yet), and that’s all I want to hunt with these days.

What I want to talk about in this post is a two fold subject, first is finding public small game hunting areas, and second is how I use car camping road trips to try out a lot of new areas. A resource that I have found in just about every state is a website with a list of Wildlife Management Areas, Walk-ins, State Forest, and National Forest, all of which allow some type of hunting. You can use many filters when sorting through this data, areas, type of game, type of hunting permitted and so forth.

In this post I localized an area close to a friernds farm, and one with several other WMA in proximity, figuring if one place didn't pan out another might!

In this example I localized an area close to a friends farm, and one with several other WMAs in proximity, figuring if one place didn’t pan out another might!

When I called up the site for the specific WMA, I found a lot of useful information; what type of game was present,  the size, boundaries, and access points to the property. It told me the type of hunting I could do on the property, and what type of landscape and vegetation I could expect to find. I then went on line again and used Google Maps to get directions from my home, but then narrowed down to get a good look at the property.

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The first view told me how to get to the WMA, where to park, and where to access the property.

In the next step I zoom in to get an impression of the trees, elevations, streams and creeks, marshes, etc... this will give a general feel for the property before you ever set eyes on it.

In the next step I zoom in to get an impression of the trees, elevations, streams and creeks, marshes, etc… this will give a general feel for the property before you ever set eyes on it.

The level of detail can be quite surprising; when preparing for a squirrel hunt I have identified areas of mast producing trees and even den trees from google map, which panned out to be exactly what I was hoping for when I got feet on the ground. Using this method, I have found literally many dozens of small game hunting areas to try out within two hours of my home, and can say from the couple dozen I’ve tried out the success rate, at least for small game, is quite good!

OK, so now that I’ve located some potential spots where I know that I can legally hunt, what’s next? Here’s where I come to the second topic mentioned at the top of this post…. the hunting road trip. This is not a pleasure camping trip, my intention is to stay out for 2-3 days scouting, hunting, and familiarizing myself with the public lands. A method I often make use of is to car camp, and I do this rather than setting up a normal camp for two reasons; mobility and to save time.

For my road trips I carry extra pellets, tools, parts, cameras and anything else I might need, knowing that opportunities to buy supplies will be limited.

For my road trips I carry extra pellets, tools, parts, cameras and anything else I might need, knowing that opportunities to buy supplies will be limited.

I also carry extra air, my regular hunting gear, and ice chest with food for a cold camp, again everything is selected with an eye to being self sufficient and mobile!

I also carry extra air, my regular hunting gear, and ice chest with food for a cold camp, again everything is selected with an eye to being self sufficient and mobile!

I drive an outback, and with an inflatable mattress in the back I have room to sack out comfortably with no setup or breakdown time required.

I drive an outback, and with an inflatable mattress in the back I have room to sack out comfortably with no setup or breakdown time required.

On a recent outing, I located an area with four different hunting areas within a half hour of one another, and using the methods above hit all four in three days and two nights; I took squirrel at all four spots, rabbits on two of the four, and a coyote and a raccoon on another while hunting at night. One night I parked at a state campground to sleep and one afternoon (I’d been predator hunting all night) I slept in a pull out at one of the WMA. I also fished a small lake adjacent to one of the properties for a couple hours and caught a couple bass and a bunch of panfish….. and saw a good number of deer and turkey as a bonus!

I am going to try this approach across several states in the next few months. I figure I’ll fly in and rent an SUV, and then spend 3-4 days on the road hunting as many spots as possible; I’ll try to hit California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, South Dakota, Florida, Michigan, Indiana, and Kentucky. I choose these places for a number of reasons, and have already started my research!

My GEAR: mattress, sleeping bag, ice chest, propane stove and pot (for coffee), extra battery packs for phone and ipad, 2-3 rifles, air tank, tools, pellets, shooting sticks, range finder, day pack, binoculars (always in my car), extra cloths, and all my camera gear. Depending on where I go, a fishing pole and my tackle pack.

rt_5 rt_4If you give this approach a try, you may find that the two pictures above will often go hand in hand. I have found and tested a lot of public hunting grounds this way, and besides being productive it is fun, changing a hunting trip into a mini adventure! You can see a video of one of my airgun roadtrips by clicking here!

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Categories: Airgun Expedition, binoculars, Destinations, Hunting Guns, Predator hunting, Small Game Hunting, Uncategorized, where to hunt | 1 Comment

A Pair of Brocock Rifles on Squirrel Patrol

Trip to Virginia

I’ve made some good friends and airgun hunting buddies down in Virginia over the last 8 years, and try to get down every year to hunt with them. This year I was also meeting up with Rossi Moreale and our cameramen to film segments for the American Airgunner, but had arrived a couple days in advance to do a doe hunt, scout the farm, shoot my rifles, and get in some squirrel hunting. Nathan has a beautiful farm in the Shenandoah Valley, and besides having high populations of deer and turkey, is loaded with both fox and gray squirrels. We wanted to get in the stand by 2:00, but decided to go to another area and spend a couple hours squirrel hunting. He went in to get his gun and I broke into my case, only to find we were both using Brocock rifles, and for much the same reason: compact, accurate, powerful, good shot count, and quiet.

My hunting buddy Nathan Wenger and I decided to get out for a fast squirrel hunt before getting serious about deer and later bear. Without planning it, we'd both brought Brocock rifles along for small game.

My hunting buddy Nathan Wenger and I decided to get out for a fast squirrel hunt before getting serious about deer and later bear. Without planning it, we’d both brought Brocock rifles along for small game.

Down time during big game hunts is a great opportunity to get out with your small game gun for some rabbit or squirrel hunting. If you take your animal early it gives you something to do while the rest of your party hunts:  on this hunt, I arrived earlier than the rest of the group so had a bit of free time, and additionally we all had a down day between the end of deer season and the start of bear season. A nice attribute of both our rifles was that they were quiet, we didn’t run a high risk of scaring off every deer in the vicinity.

The rifles: Brocock Concept delivers those attributes these rifles are known for, accurate, powerful, efficient, reliable and most of all compact. The gun uses the bolt action and cylinder type magazines this product line has employed for several years, which has been proven out in the field. This gun speaks for the tradition of Brocock rifles. The Compatto on the other hand, is the future of the company, and represents the first product out of the merged Brocock/Daystate development teams. This rifle is very accurate, quite powerful, has a bolt action that as silky smooth and easy to cycle, uses a Daystate style magazine (also proven in the field) and it stayed true to the compactness of Brocock, but achieved this through an innovative semi-bullpup design.

Nat was using the Concept Elite, a well balanced and shootable little rifle that shows off the best attributes of the Brocock design from before the acquisition by Daystate.

Nat was using the Concept Elite, a well balanced and shootable little rifle that shows off the best attributes of the Brocock design from before the acquisition by Daystate.

Little doubt what I'm carrying these days!

Little doubt what I’m carrying these days!

Nathan and I took a walk in the woods, both of us using our rifles to nail multiple one shot kills at squirrels 40-60 yards. The JSB Exacts provided both excellent accuracy, but also did a great job with respect to terminal performance. My favorite shot was when Nathan head shot a gray that fell into the river, and I got to watch him go after it, the whole time balance on the edge of disaster a log roll from a cold swim.

Lining up the shot, one of those rifles I do really well with in field conditions.

Lining up the shot, one of those rifles I do really well with in field conditions.

The guns handled as well as we could have asked for; to me a great small game gun has to be accurate, it has to be appropriately powerful, it has to be fast and easy to cycle, it has to be ergonomic and comfortable to shoot under field conditions,, but more over it has to be compact and easy to carry. I have three Brocock rifles; the Specialist, the Concept Elite, and the Compatto, and this is my order of preference though all three are fine hunting rifles. I’ve been saying for a while now that if the Compatto is viewed as the benchmark of the combined Brocock/Daystate rifles we can expect in future, airgun hunters have something exciting to look forward to!

Wwe dressed the squirrels, both well pleased with our respective guns' performance and got ready for our deer hunt. Both of these guns are quiet and let us slip in and out of the woods without creating a disturbance!

We dressed the squirrels, both well pleased with our respective guns’ performance and got ready for our deer hunt. Both of these guns are quiet and let us slip in and out of the woods without creating a disturbance!

 

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Categories: Airguns of Arizona, Brocock, compact guns, Daystate, offhand shooting, Rabbits, Small Game Hunting, Small game in winter, Squirrels, Uncategorized | Tags: | 1 Comment

Not allowed to check my air rifles!

Hi All! I’ve been out hunting for about a week, so my posting is a bit late…. Sorry. Was visiting and hunting with friends in Virginia, we went after deer and bear. Had only moderate success, shot a couple doe for the freezer but only saw small no-shooter bucks before the season ended. Was rained out 2-3 days on bear hunt (last two days were a wash), though did see some bear a sow with cub and another sow on her own.

I was using a .40 caliber and am quite impressed with this caliber after having taken deer, hogs, and javalina with it. Flat shooting but delivers energy on target effectively and opens a good wound channel. Have the holidays at home, then off to Texas on an exotic/ram/hog/predator hunt! Afterwards will be at SHOT Show, then have to get caught up on my office work for the next couple months, so will be short predator hunts thereafter.

Have some very cool night vision gear that I’ve been using, and will be writing to tell you more about that soon. This is opening up some opportunities for urban predator control, I’ve shot a couple very large yotes right around our neighborhood this month, where sitting out with high power lights would creat problems.

ON A FINAL NOTE – RANT WARNING: Also wanted to tell you about a recent problem I encountered when flying to Texas for a hunt, and if you intend to travel with your air rifle I wanted to give you a heads up. I had managed to open up a couple days to test two new rifles, and having spent some range time wanted to use them to take down a few hogs. This is a busy time of year and I rearranged my schedule and called a friend in Texas that did the same, so we could meet up and hunt his ranch. I was pushing it, having just gotten home from another trip. Pulling my gear together I drove to the airport, checked in, and brought my rifle to TSA…. as I’ve done at this very airport many dozen times in the four years I’ve lived in the Minneapolis area. TSA asked for the keys to open my gun case, which is not uncommon, but then asked me to detach the air bottle so they could do a visual inspection. I explained that the bottles were not removable, to which they replied they could not/would not allow the bag to go on the plane. They said it was the airlines final call, and requested the manager from Delta Airlines to join us. The acting manager from Delta came over, listened, and told me I could not check my rifles. She acted like the airline was doing me a favor refunding my fare.

As a traveling hunter this creates a big problem for me. Finding out at check-in that an airline representative has decided to interpret the regulations differently than what has been previously stated and in opposition to all precedent, means it’s too late to make alternative plans.

Because of the uncertainty of flying with my air rifles, even though this has only happened to me twice in the last 10 years (both times on Delta), I’m taking two actions: whenever possible I will ship my rifles ahead. This is not always possible because of the short lead time I sometimes have when new rifles are sent to me. Secondly; I am following this up with both TSA and Delta and will post more in furture..

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Daylight Raccoon – FX Wildcat Scores

I had gotten up before daybreak and driven to a local farm where I have permission to hunt for predators and small game. My intention was to spend two hours, then go home shower before heading to my office for a busy day. I arrived at a friends farm after a 20 minute drive, parked the car, shouldered my pack, grabbed my rifle and started off to a 5 acre stand of woods in the back 40. Daylight was breaking as I got into the woods, but it was filtered into a shadowy haze as I got further into the trees. Most of the leaves were off the branches, but there were still enough branches and twigs to provide cover. I slowly walked a couple hundred yards in, but hadn’t seen any squirrels. As I stood sweeping my eyes tree to tree, inspecting each one in turn, I saw a telltale tuft of hair being gently blown on the breeze. The light was getting better, but I still couldn’t make out color in the shadows, was it a red or a gray squirrel the fur belonged to? I moved in closer, straining to see more than the one patch of fur, it looked gray but then I spotted a bit of the striped tail …. a coon! I sat and watched until picking out an approach to get into a shooting position, then got up and started moving around to obtain a better alignment. This actually moved me further away before turning to close the distance, using tree trunks to shield my approach.

When light came up a bit more, I could see my quarry partially hidden up in the trees.

When light came up a bit more, I could see my quarry partially hidden up in the trees.

The FX Wildcat is a compact and lightweight bullpup, that I found very easy to carry and to move with. I have been shooting and hunting with it a lot; having taken many prairie dogs, rabbits, and other small game with it over the last couple years. I was shooting JSB 25 grain Exacts, which is my default pellet in most guns. I moved in behind a tree at about 35 yards and could see the coon up the tree, but its body and head were shielded by some heavy branches.

I did a kissing squeak that I’ll often use on larger predators when they come in close…. a lot of people don’t realize that raccoons are an aggressive predator of smaller prey, and when this one heard the mouse in distress its head came straight up, providing me with a perfect shot opportunity. Pulling the trigger, and I am always surprised how good the trigger is on this bullpup design, I heard the pellet impact and after a couple seconds the dead coon slid of the branch hitting the ground and moving no more.

This was a big coon, with a very nice pelt.

This was a big coon, with a very nice pelt.

The thing I like about a solid hitting .25 caliber PCP is that while it’s perfect for small game such as squirrel, it is also a very solid performer for something as large as this raccoon with a well placed headshot. And the Wildcat is a great platform for the caliber; very accurate, generating an honest 45 fpe, a compact LOA of 35″ with a 23.6″ barrel and weighing about 6.5 lb it offers full sized rifle performance in a package you can carry all day long. It is one of the few bullpups I’ve ever shot that lets me forget that its a bullpup. With respect to shootability I compare it with the best handling rifles I’ve used, not limiting its praise as simply the best shooting bullpup.

I’ll be kicking into full swing on predator hunting this month, and I always do a lot of calling for raccoons. Think I’ll work a bit more with the Wildcat, especially in some of the more noise sensitive areas I shoot in. Hope you’re all getting in a lot of hunting and having a good season thus far. Catch up with you all again next week!

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Categories: airgun ammo, Airguns of Arizona, bullpup, cold weather hunting, compact guns, FX, mouth calls, Pellets, Predator hunting, raccoon, shot placement, Small Game Hunting, Squirrels, Uncategorized, Wildcat | 1 Comment

Another Favorite: The Daystate Huntsman!

I am getting a lot of squirrel hunting in this year, having lined up four different farms that are a 15-45 minute drive from my house. These spots don’t get much small game pressure, and the populations of gray and fox squirrels are good. At two of these properties I’ve only seen gray squirrels, at one only fox squirrels and two have a good mix. This morning I got up at 5:30 and drove to the furthest for a morning hunt, stopped by the gym, showered and had a fast lunch, and was in my office by 12:00. It was rainy and very overcast with not a lot of activity, but I did mange to bag a couple big fox squirrels.

The rifle I’ve been using the most for squirrel is the Compatto, but today I opted for one of my long standing favorites, the Daystate Huntsman Classic. This rifle is one of my all time favorites, and to my way of thinking the best looking air rifle ever built. Sleek and ergonomic, my rifle in .22 is very accurate, plenty of power,and a really great trigger set to break at about 14 oz on my gun. The 10 shot cassette magazine function flawlessly and cycles rapidly with a smooth bolt action.

When I got on site it was a gray and dingy morning with a light drizzle coming down. I saw a few potential den trees and a couple large drays and decided to settle in for a closer look. When the conditions make spot and stalk difficult, I look for areas of food sources or shelters and settle in. On this morning, besides the overcast skies, low ambient lighting, gusting winds and constant drizzle, it was hard to pick up and small movements in the branches overhead. I thought my best bet was to sit and methodically glass my way through the trees.

I saw a few drays scattered through the leafless tree tops, and decided to take a closer look.

I saw a few drays scattered through the leafless tree tops, and decided to take a closer look.

I sat down at the base of a big oak, and slipped my binoculars out of the day-pack. I was carrying my Leupold 8X binos, I have these in 10x as well and think the glass is very good in the low light. Almost any bino works on a bright sunny day, it’s when the light is low and you need to look into the shadows that the quality of glass becomes apparent. The reason I choose the smaller and lower mag glass was because you don’t need a lot of magnification when most spotting is inside 75 yards, and lower mag glass seems to work better in lower light. The two manufacturers of binoculars I use the most are my Leupolds and Hawke, unfortunately my Hawkes were stolen out of my bag on one of my overseas trips and I haven’t replaced them yet ….. but I will!

I picked out a number of likely looking trees and methodically worked through each.

I picked out a number of likely looking trees and methodically worked through each.

It never ceases to amaze me, as soon as I started looking though my binos I spotted a couple of squirrels watching me. One was laying on a branch about 50 feet up, and was watching me through the branches. His tail hanging down was the first give away, but as I glassed him noted that he was staring directly at me and feeling comfortable in his camouflage. The second one was off to my left at abvout 60 yards and 50 feet up. He was sitting in a fork in the trunk hidden in the deep shadows, and while he looks obvious in the close up photo with a telephoto lens, he was not at all easy to see with the naked eye.

Tghis one was laying low on a branch watching me, his tail was the give-away!

This one was laying low on a branch watching me, his tail was the give-away!

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He looks obvious here, but I’d been staring at the tree for five minutes before picking up my binoculars…. and I didn’t see him until then.

Sitting with my back against the a tree trunk, I was able to lock in a steady hold. I lined up on the squirrel back in the shadows, even though he was further away, he offered a better target. I squeezed the trigger and dropped the bushytail. Turning to get the second one, found that he’d taken off. I was using the 18 grain JSB Exact pellets, which are consistently accurate in a number of guns and provide very good terminal performance.

Lining up the shot, this is another of those guns that is comfortable to shoot from any position.

Lining up the shot, this is another of those guns that is comfortable to shoot from any position.

I worked my way through the woods and saw a couple more squirrels at a distance and on the move. About 9:30 I decided I needed to get to the office and wanted to go for a workout first, so started back to the car. On the way out I spotted another squirrel high in the tree tops, peaking around a tree trunk. Lining up the shot as I stood leaning against a tree, I let the pellet fly and another squirrel came down giving me a brace to add to the freezer. I have found it surprising that there haven’t been many squirrels on the ground yet, I’d have expected the fox squirrels at least to be shifting some of their activities out of the tree tops and onto the ground already.

I stopped right before leaving the woods to dress my squirrels so I could throw them on ice when I got back to my car.

I stopped right before leaving the woods to dress my squirrels so I could throw them on ice when I got back to my car.

The last few minutes of my outing was to quickly skin and gut the squirrels, which I slipped into a plastic zip-lock baggie and tossed into the ice chest. This was a short but fun hunt in challenging conditions, and it reminded me why I love the Huntsman Classic. I know I’ve been going on about the Compatto lately, and you might think me fickle for carrying on about the Huntsman…… but it is possible to love more than one rifle! The thing with the Huntsman is that besides the outstanding performance, as mentioned, I think its the sleekest and most beautifully executed production rifle to date. I’ll be taking a lot of other guns out into the squirrel woods, so stay tuned!

Hunts coming up: black squirrel in Michigan, squirrels and predators in Indiana, quail in California, deer in Utah under special permit, deer and bear in Virginia, oryx, predators, and rabbits in Texas, deer in Alabama, Hogs in Texas….. and I’ll be squeezing in several squirrel, rabbit, and hog hunts along the way…… then comes the SHOT Show!

Categories: Airguns of Arizona, binoculars, Brocock, Daystate, fall hunts, Hunting Accessories, Hunting Guns, offhand shooting, Squirrels | 2 Comments

Grays and Fox squirrel up next!

I took off last week on the next leg of my squirrel grand slam quest, to Southern Minnesota after grays squirrel and fox squirrel. A friend has a large tract of wooded land he uses for hunting, primarily deer and turkey. He hasn’t been out in a while, but has given me carte blanche access, and I decided to use it to go after squirrel, turkey, and coyote. There are also a couple of Wildlife Management Areas close by that I’ve been wanting to explore, so I decided to run and gun living out of my car. I didn’t want to waste time driving between the land and my house or hotels (both a couple hours away), and wanted mobility so didn’t want to set up a camp per se.

Working the a hardwood forest with the Compatto, had opportunities on both grays and fox squirrels.

Working the a hardwood forest with the Compatto, had opportunities on both grays and fox squirrels.

The Compatto was my gun of choice again, I have stacks of guns I need to test, but keep grabbing this one on my way out the door. I consider myself an average shot and a pretty good field shot, but this rifle takes me to a new level when I’m on the hunt. I was hammering squirrels out to 60 yards and 60 feet up, and had confidence every time I pulled the trigger a squirrel would be coming down.
I took a lot of shots sitting with my forearm rested on my knee, quite a few standing while leaning against a tree truck for added support, and a few kneeling. I’ve set he trigger up to break at 18 oz after a moderate take-up, and it breaks like a glass rod. Many of you know that I’ve said a sidelver is my preferred action in PCP rifles, but the bolt on the Compatto has such a good tactile response and is so smooth that I am completely happy with it.

Drays were all over the place, as well as a number of clearly used den trees. This was a squirrel hunters paradises!

Drays were all over the place, as well as a number of clearly used den trees. This was a squirrel hunters paradises!

I shot a lot of squirrels; 10 in two days with 5 grays and 5 fox squirrels. I could have shot that number in one day, the legal limit is 10 per day and I had the opportunity but I want a healthy population to hunt all season. The squirrels were big and healthy, and also pretty spooky which makes them that more challenging and fun to hunt. I noticed that the grays were more active in the morning and late afternoon, and the fox squirrels were out a lot more throughout the day.

First trio on the game carrier!

Not a bad mixed bag!

I’ve got several big game hunts scheduled throughout this year; deer, hogs, turkey, javalina, and exotics ….. and plenty of predator hunting as well. But I can honestly say that squirrel season is one of the highlights of my hunting year! If you haven’t gone out this year, grab your rifle and get yourself chasing bushytails! No matter where you live, odds are high there will be huntable populations in the vicinity.
Any gun putting out 12-25 fpe in .177-.25range can make a fine squirrel gun. The distance at which you can keep your groups inside of a quarter should set a maximum range for you. But here’s a hint, know what your gun is doing at close range as well. I’d say the majority of my misses have occurred at close range when I haven’t noted the 5 and 10-yard POI, so this is a basic part of my rifle preparation these days.

Love thiis hand pellet Tin, wish I'd gotten several more when they were available!

Love this hand pellet Tin, wish I’d gotten several more when they were available!

Here’s a link to the Video
In other News
I just wanted to give a shout out to the guys at AOA for another great job with this year’s Extreme Bench Rest. It was well attended, well organized, with some great guns and shooters. If you haven’t made it to one so far, you need to start planning for next year!

I have some cool hunts coming up; Deer and bear in Virginia, deer in Alabama, oryx in Texas, turkey in California, hogs in Texas and Florida, predators in Texas, Indiana, South Dakota, and Arizona and small game and randon coyote hunts all over the place. And I just got registered for SHOT Show, so there’s a lot happening!

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Categories: Airgun Expedition, Airguns of Arizona, binoculars, Brocock, fall hunts, Hunting Accessories, offhand shooting, Pellets, Small Game Hunting, Squirrels, Uncategorized | Tags: | 6 Comments

Aberts Down for Squirrel Hunting Grand Slam!

I was at the EBR in Phoenix over the weekend, and though I didn’t shoot (because of scheduling conflicts) enjoyed my time there. Even when you don’t shoot it’s great to see old friends and meet new ones! But since I wasn’t shooting, I had time to break away for a quick hunt.

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I’ve written about what I consider the grand slam of squirrels in North America, and yes I realize there are others, but these are my big four: fox squirrels, gray squirrels, black color phase (fox, gray, or hybrid) and Aberts,. The first two are easy and can be found almost everywhere, the black color phase are regional variations and you have to search for individuals where the color phase most frequently occurs, and the Aberts requires you to travel to regions with natural growths of piñon pines. Arizonans moutnain areas holds large populations of the tufted eared Aberts……. So I was going to take advantage of my open schedule!

I checked around and talked to my buddy Kip Perow to get an idea of where to start. I left towards the end of the day on Friday and worked my way up into the mountains, with beautiful vistas and piñon forest as far as the eye could see. Driving along I saw a road kill Abert, so parked the car and hiked in for a look-see. About 100 yards in there were some giant trees, at least a couple looked like possible den trees, and tons of pine cones littering the ground. I noted the miles so I could find my way back before daylight the following morning, then went back into a little mountain town to find a motel for the night.

Piñon pines all around, the ground covered in needles and cones, and the scent was like natural aromatherapy!

Piñon pines all around, the ground covered in needles and cones, and the scent was like natural aromatherapy!

I had the option to select any of a number of rifles for this excursion, but it probably won’t come as a surprise to many readers that I selected the Brocock Compatto. I am hunting this rifle every chance I get, and can honestly say it is my favorite small game gun right now. I won’t repeat myself too much here, other than to say I find the combination of accuracy, power, compactness, and overall shootability ticks all the boxes when it comes to what’s important to me. I’ve been shooting the heavier 18 grain JSB pellets in my gun, but when I opened the gun case for my hunt realized I’d packed the 15 grain pellets. But as it turned out, they worked perfectly. I pulled the trigger 12 times and accounted for 10 squirrels, including one squirrel I shot twice (to knock him out of the tree) and one miss.

When morning started to break with the scent of pine wafting through the predawn gloom, I was back in the woods sitting in a large natural basin covered in piñons waiting for action. It wasn’t long before I heard barking, and as it started getting lighter saw the branches in a pine about forty yards away and towering overhead shaking in a way that was inconsistent with the light winds. Then I picked out the silhouette of squirrel through the branches. Leaning back against my pack and aiming upwards, I had a clean heart shot and took it. There was a muffled report (this rifle is quiet) and the squirrel dropped with a thud and didn’t move.

Turning back around I saw a second squirrel high up in a tree behind me, and scooted around for the shot. I steadied myself by leaning against a tree, and dropped the crosshairs on his head. I squeezed off the shot and watched as the second squirrel of the morning literally dropped straight to the forest floor. I walked over and gathered up my bag, then moved off through the woods. Over the course of the next 3 hours, three more of these beautiful squirrels were dropped. This was one of those days where everything was textbook perfect and I felt like I could not miss.

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These squirrels are not as wary as the grays and fox squirrels I hunt in the Midwest, when they were on the ground and saw you coming, they would run up a tree and watch from a hidden position. Unfortunately for them, they almost never achieved complete coverage and invariably left a shot opportunity.

I am going to schedule another trip back when winter hits, I’d like to go out in the snow and hunt this area off snowshoes, and think it would make for a great little adventure!

Categories: adjustable buttstock, Airgun Expedition, Airguns of Arizona, Brocock, EBR, Extreme Benchrest, fall hunts, Hunting Guns, offhand shooting, Small Game Hunting, Squirrels, where to hunt | 2 Comments

This little Piggy Meets My Compatto

I heard squeals and grunts and stalked in for a look.

I heard squeals and grunts and stalked in for a look.

I was back out in Central Texas on a hog hunt last week, and had four days, so also planned to get in some small game and predator hunting. On the first morning I decided to go after rabbits with one of my all time favorite small game guns, the Brocock Compatto, since hog hunting is better at dusk during the hot summer months. I’d only seen the tail end of a couple cottontails when I heard a squeal, and slowly started working my way over towards the sound.

And found a bunch of smallish pigs rooting and wallowing in the mud.

And found a bunch of smallish pigs rooting and wallowing in the mud.

Peering through the thicket I could see four or five small pigs in a wallow, at 80 yards according to my range finder. Picking a spot about 40 yards from the pigs I slowly worked my way along the edge of the a break in the cedars, until things opened up. I dropped to the ground and scooted the last ten yards on my butt, hidden in the tall grass.

Wanting to get video footage, I pushed my camera on a tripod in front of me. Slanting the screen down so I could see the viewer I slowly moved to a break in the tall grass where I could see the pigs. When they stopped to look, I stopped…. When heads went down I continued my set up. On the way over I’d left another camera pointing at the spot I now sat in so that I had both me and the hogs being recorded.

I dropped to a sitting position and shot off my knee.

I dropped to a sitting position and shot off my knee.

Slowly and quietly cocking the little semis Bullpup, I brought the gun up and waited for one of the pigs, the biggest of this group of small 40-60 lb animals, to give me a broadside and hold up for a few seconds. Dropping the crosshairs of the Hawke scope one the ear, I squeezed the shot, and with a muffle thud the pig rolled over (into the mud) DRT….dead right there as my buddy Scott says. The combination of the Compatto, JSB 14.35 grain Diabolo pellet, and Hawke optics was extremely effective on this pig.

I walked over and pulled the little boar out of the mud, a very smelly and messy undertaking! As I was getting some pictures I heard some fighting back behind where I’d started, and made my way back into the dense thicket, but found nothing. I was on my way back to my gear, and was moving quietly because there seem to be hogs everywhere! Coming around a bend, I was surprise to see three more pigs moving to the water hole. I shuffled back to about 45 yards, a dozen or so feet from where I’d shoot the first pig an hour earlier. This time I was pinned down and my only shot option had to be from the knee. Dropping down and just barely able to see over the grass, I brace my forward arm on my lead knee and to the shot. As with the first, this pig rolled over dead.

I dropped the pellet down the hogs ear and he barely twitched.

I dropped the pellet down the hogs ear and he barely twitched. But he managed to land in the foulest mud-hole I’ve ever had to venture into.

Ok, I might as well address this right now. I am not a big fan of underpowered small caliber guns for hog hunting. The reason I felt secure in this situation was that everything came together; I could get inside of 45 yards, the pigs were small, and just the night before when checking my guns zero, It had turned into a three hour plinking session and from 20 to 60 yards I was not missing with this gun ……. I felt 99% that if I could get inside of 50 yards, I could put the pellet anywhere I wanted it to go. So I’m not going to be the guy to tell you not to do something then turn around and do it myself. But if you are going to do this, have the discipline to know what animal you’ll shoot and what you won’t. If this had been a 150 lb boar I’d have passed. If I couldn’t get inside of 50 yards and the perfect head (brain) shot I’d have passed.If I wasn’t completely comfortable and sure of my gun ….. You guessed it, I’d have passed!

But with this disclaimer aside, the Brocock Compatto brings a lot to the table; pinpoint accuracy, power (32 fpe), ergonomics, compactness, quiet …… A really superior hunting gun! I’ll have the video posting later in the week.

Stop by for a look at the video.         https://youtu.be/qaA7H6xrhSY

BTW: We’re getting really close to the EBR, if you’re there and see me, stop to say hello….. I’m always interested to meet fellow airgunners!

Categories: Airguns of Arizona, Big Game, Brocock, compact guns, effectiveness, ethics, Hog hunting, Hunting Guns, Power, shot placement, Small Game Hunting | Tags: | 3 Comments