Shooting sticks

I was in Puerto Rico hunting iguanas a few days ago, and brought a fair bit of gear with me. But I forgot a key piece of equipment, my shooting sticks. I made some and got by, but made me think about this critical yet often times neglected article of gear.

I think that shooting offhand is one of the fundamental skills any hunter needs to develop, and work to maintain. I have a small indoor range in the basement of my house, and almost every day that I am at home I spend a few minutes shooting from standing, kneeling, and sitting positions without any external support. There are times in the field when these are the only shots available, especially for spot and stalk style hunts. I was a better offhand shooter in my youth, I was stronger, steadier, and spent a lot more time every day with my rifle in hand. I still shoot well enough offhand and don’t hesitate if this is the shot I need to take.

However, when given time and choice I prefer to shoot off sticks. I had never used them much until several years ago while getting ready for a hunt in South Africa, the PH I was hunting with told me to practice off sticks before our hunt started. I was really impressed how tight my groups became and how dramatically long range shooting improved. This is especially useful when hunting small game with an air rifle because the kill zone is small and shot placement critical. I’ll still shoot a squirrel sitting in a tree 30 yards away offhand, but if the shot stretches out to 55-60 yards I want sticks. Of course you can always rest or brace against a natural object, a tree trunk or rock, but sticks are always there when you need them. This is even more the case when shooting in the wide open spaces such as on a prairie dog shoot where naturally occurring rests are far and few between.
I prefer shooting sticks over bipods because they are easier to use under a variety of conditions, are out of the way when you don’t need/want them, and adapt to multiple shooting positions. I have used monopod, bipod, and tripod sticks and all have pros and cons: the mono is the fastest to deploy and most flexible, but least steady. Bipods are much steadier, are not as fast to deploy or move around but still fairly maneuverable, and their are some compact versions. Tripods are the most steady, but the slowest to set up, the most unwieldy when a shift or change in position is required, and generally the bulkiest. I have settled on the bipod for several reasons; I like how fast I can deploy the sticks I carry, I can turn and move around with little commotion, and With technique you can get a rock solid hold. Sometimes I’ll go with a tripod if we’ll be fairly stationary and my shots will be especially long.
The other thing that I want is a rest for the rifle that is easy to mount the gun in, that grips and protects the stock, and let’s me rotate and make adjustments with minimal fuss. The height also needs to be adjustable for the three main shooting positions, standing, kneeling, and sitting. If shooting prone I prefer to simply use my backpack, though if this will be my primary shooting position is one of the few times I prefer a bipod for field work. The most common method of adjusting the height are mutlipiece legs locked into place with integrated clamps, though some use a grip release. These are very fast to deploy, the only problem is most that I have tried don’t pack down very compactly. In the end the stick that has become my favorite is the Gorilla  bipod, which is a heavy duty, solid bipod that I can put my weight on and lock down steadily.
What I really like with these Gorilla sticks is that I can use them as they were intended and move them about, but if I’m set up to shoot squirrels high up in the trees but one pops up on the ground, I just slide my hand down a leg and brace the gun. This allows me to cover a wide arc with any vertical adjustments that might be required. With some of my light weight sticks this is not as easy nor effective.
Again, I am not in any way implying you shouldn’t practice and take offhand shots, but if you have the time and situation that allows the use of sticks, unless you are one a truly excellent offhand shots, you will achieve better shot placement and more game in the bag with them than without.
Categories: adjustable buttstock, Hunting Accessories, Long Range shooting, offhand shooting, Optics, Pest Control, shooting sticks | Leave a comment

Random notes: shooting my guns and visit to new gunshop

I’ve been traveling a lot lately, and haven’t had time for as much shooting as I like. I was home for a few days last week, and was out with two of my favorite guns for some target shooting and plinking. I had my Daystate Huntsman Classic .22 and my FX Boss .303 aired up and nailing spinners set between 30-125 yards. These guns are as different as chalk and cheese, with the Huntsman a classically styled sporter (and probably the most beautiful example of the breed), while the Boss is a synthetic stocked, bottle forward design that is all about performance. The former is chambered in one of the traditional standards calibers, while the later was built around the new .303. The Huntsman is just about the perfect small game gun, while the boss lets you step it up to larger game such as bobcat or even coyote. What both of these guns have in common, is great performance. Both rifles are very accurate, with purpose built and finely crafted barrels, and equipped with great triggers. What makes these triggers great? They are two stage, match grade, fully adjustable and can be set up the way I like with a slight take up, light weight and a crisp break. Both stocks are ergonomic, the Huntsman compact and light, the Boss is more of a handful yet still fairly light.

This is why I have such a hard time when asked about my favorite rifle: it could be either of these rifles, depending on what I wanted to do with it and what I happened to be shooting when you asked me. There are other guns such as the AirArm 510, the BSA R-10, Falcon Prairie, RAW H1000, and don’t even get me started on the custom big bores……. Back to the Boss and the Huntsman: if I had to sell one it would take me long and anguished hours to decide what would go and what would stay. I’d be second guessing my choice and once the choice was made and the deed done, I’d be plotting how to get the gun I let go back into my collection.
So rather when asked about my favorite rifles; I’ll say something like “this is one that does a fine job”, “this rifle is compact, fast to the shoulder, cycles quickly, a great small game gun” and give the reasons when and why I would choose a specific model. I’ll say “this is a solid performer in the field that I’d be happy to use” or “this is a beautifully designed and finely crafted rifle that I want to use in the field and keep in my display case”. If I don’t like a gun, I don’t write about it, because I just don’t have the time to waste on a gun I wouldn’t use or own. But the most important component in determining what’s the best rifle, is that it’s the best rifle for you! It does what you want, it feels good on your shoulder, you love the looks and it is your ideal, it’s at the right price for your wallet. This is why it drives me crazy when I see guys arguing or making disparaging remarks about another’s ideal gun.
That’s why if you ask me about a specific gun I can tell you what I think about it, and if you tell me more about you as a hunter and what you’re looking for, my answer will be that much more useful. And my answer will be consistent, it won’t change if asked the same question by the same person months later. But if you ask me what’s my favorite rifle, that will change frequently. Ask me my top ten and why …. I can manage that one!
Other Stuff
I’m sitting at a restaurant in Edinburgh eating peri-peri chicken wings as I write this. Had a free afternoon after my flight in and went to an airgun shop to see the selection. I know Scotland is under pressure regarding airguns, but I was a bit disappointed by what I saw. The shop was a combined hobby and airgun shop, there were only a few low end springers on the wall, a few more CO2 models, a few tins of pellets. No suppressors, no PCP’s…… Quite honestly with 70 or so PCP’s and a couple dozen springers in my collection, not to mention cases of pellet tins in every caliber, I have a better stocked store in my basement and gun room. The guys I spoke to were very nice, not experts on airguns, but were able to order anything I wanted. But besides the lack of restriction we have on airguns in the USA, it makes me aware of how lucky we are to have shops like Airguns of Arizona where we can get just about anything we want, either at a physical store or delivered right to our door.
Along these lines, Robert Buchanan told me that they have launched the AOA demo truck that will travel the country attending shooting events and visiting dealers to give airgunners a chance to see and handle quality airguns they might not experience otherwise….. A great Idea! And a great service to the Airgunning community!
When I get home from this trip, I have a couple new guns on the way to shoot, then heading out on a very interesting hunt that I can’t talk about yet…..and a lot of other airgunning activities planned……..catch up with you all soon!
Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Head or Body?

I have answered this question several times in several venues, but it is still one of the most common questions I get.  Headshot or body shot?? This seems to be a never ending debate related to airgun hunting: whether you should use a headshot or a body shot. My position is that it depends, but overall I use both placements and believe both meet the three E criteria: they are effective, efficient, and ethical. But the results are dependent on several variables; what type of game are you hunting, what are the specifications of the gun being used, and are there situational influencers.

The effectiveness of headshots and bodyshots are in my experience. A common statement you’ll hear when this topic is debated is that if you take a headshot it’s either a clean kill or a miss. In my experience both personal and watching a lot of hunters shooting a lot of game, is that I’ve seen my fair share of flubbed head shots. Remember what you are trying to hit is the brain, which is a relatively small portion of the head in most animals. But I’ve probably seen more game lost to bodyshots, not because they didn’t kill the animal, rather they were used in the wrong situation
It does not take a lot of power to kill a rabbit or a squirrel, when the vitals are hit properly 6-7 fpe will do the trick on rabbits, squirrels etc. But its delivering the pellet to the right location. A brain shot if done right will drop an animal in its tracks, while even a perfect heart lung shot may let the animal run a ways before dropping. I think the idea of a humane and ethical kill, while being the correct objective, is not being correctly interpreted or applied. I think the idea that an animal hit with a double lung shot that runs a few yards then lies down and expires is less traumatic than a headshot is much more an emotional issue than a practical one.
The situation is more impactful on deciding shot placement, because in some environments an animal running twenty yards before giving up the ghost can mean the quarry is lost. If I’m shooting a rabbit in the desert he can run twenty or even fifty yards and it doesn’t matter, I can follow him and retrieve my game. But a squirrel running 20 yards means I he may die up in the fork of a tree, in the drey, or in a den. So does this mean for squirrels I’ll only use headshots? No it does not.
Another variable to consider is the terminal performance of gun/pellet with respect to power and caliber. All things being equal, a harder hitting projectile will generally have more stopping power. And a larger caliber will not only impart more power, but will open a larger wound channel. So if I’m using a .177 springer in the fall woods, I’ll stick with head shots. But with a .25 caliber 40 fpe PCP I won’t take a second thought about a body shot, this is actually why I prefer the .25 and .30 calibers for small game.
Another situation in which I like a body shot is for this precise reason… so that the animal will move after being hit. An example is when shooting pigeons from the roofs of sheds and barns. I want them to flop off the roof, and a body shot is effective in killing them but they will generally flop of the roof before expiring.
An interesting discussion around shot placement is what I call the big game / small game dichotomy. Many small game hunters say that the only ethical shot is a body shoot, that you are likely to loose animals to a body shot and they are less humane. On the other hand many big game hunters say only body shots are ethical, head shots are likely to inflict wounds and are inhumane. To me it makes sense that whats right for one is right for the other, and both are right for both in the proper situation. So my view is use common sense, look at your surroundings, and make sure that you place the shot where you want it to go. Remember, a body shot means the heart/lungs and a head shot means the brain.
Categories: Big Game, effectiveness, ethics, shot placement, Small Game Hunting | 2 Comments

Getting time to hunt??

I was thinking about my airgun hunts this year, those after the Christmas holidays when things start to slow down. There were a few stand outs that I really enjoyed, with a few more to come during the summer before the real season starts back up and my winter hunts kick in.

A lot of people ask me how I get in so much hunting every year, especially the people who know me and know my work schedule ……. it’s not all airguns, hunting, and writing, I have a professional life completely dissociated from my outdoor activities! For instance, I’m flying back from a meeting in Houston as I write this, and leave the following Saturday for a conference in Japan, I’m back for a couple weeks, then flying out to Scotland for more meetings with colleagues. Then will be back in Japan a month  later, and so it goes. In the meantime, my older kids are away at University, but I have a daughter and of course my wife at home and want to spend as much time as possible with them. In the time window mentioned above, I am fitting in a prairie dog shoot in ND, jackrabbits in AZ, a sponsored hunt outside of the continental US I can’t talk about yet, and a studio taping session for American Airgunner. I also have deadlines for several columns and articles, and commitments to review and provide a feedback report on two new guns.
My bags all packed and sitting in the hotel on my way back from a Texas hog hunt. Sometimes with the cost of checked baggage it less expensive and less hassle to ship your guns on ahead. If you don't have a ranch, guide or friend in the area to ship to, they will hold it at UPS for you.

My bags all packed and sitting in the hotel on my way back from a Texas hog hunt. Sometimes with the cost of checked baggage it less expensive and less hassle to ship your guns on ahead. If you don’t have a ranch, guide or friend in the area to ship to, they will hold it at UPS for you.

So how is it accomplished? Well first, I do get a generous amount of vacation, and with my travel schedule some flexibility in setting up my work week. The other thing, if I have to fly to Texas for work towards  the end of the week, I will sometimes ship my gear ahead of time, and when I finish working ship my business attire back and pick up my hunting gear on Friday afternoon. I’ll then hunt Saturday and Sunday, before flying home on Sunday evening. Other times I’ll keep an eye out for cheap flights (have several apps for this), and when I find a $120 flight to Phoenix, DFW. LV or some such location, I’ll buy it then start calling people I know looking for a hunting opportunity. If it’s in a good place for laying by the pool, shopping or shows, and I’ll have my nights free, I’ll bring my girls along (they are not hunters so need other enticements).
To get the time free, and enough of it, I use my vacation/PTO time wisely. I’ll take a Friday off with a half day (Monday morning) off, fly out after work on Thursday, hunt Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and fly home early Monday morning to be back in my office by lunch. In this way I can turn a week of vacation with a couple comp days into three separate trips. On top of that I might break down one four day trip into two separate hunts: hogs at one ranch, then shift gear and go after predators at another when I have a few days in Texas for instance. Then  I do a lot of short hunts near home, squirrel, rabbit etc for a couple hours early on Saturday or Sunday before my family wakes and our weekend activities get started ….. or a couple predator stands after everyone else goes to bed. For shooting and initial testing, I have a pretty well equipped indoor range and video/photo set up in the basement of my house…. 20 yards as is, 25 if I set up at a wonky angle. When I need to test a lot of guns at longer range I’ll get all the chrony and initial pellet evaluations at closer range, then bring several guns out to my outdoor bench to shoot longer range and get a lot done at the same time. Organization is key.
If not to far, I'll drive and can carry a lot of gear. On this week long trip in Kansas I had eleven guns, 5 airtanks, 25 lb of ammo. When I met up with my buddy Eric who had driven up from Texas, he also had a pile of guns and a compressor. Without the cost of air tickets and shipping, I'm always willing to take a chance on private land for these hunts!

If not to far, I’ll drive and can carry a lot of gear. On this week long trip in Kansas I had eleven guns, 5 air tanks, 25 lb of ammo. When I met up with my buddy Eric who had driven up from Texas, he also had a pile of guns and a compressor. Without the cost of air tickets and shipping, I’m always willing to take a chance on private land for these hunts!

So I talked a bit about  how I travel and how I get the time, but a big question is how do I find a place to hunt? There Are a couple ways, I’ll search the classifieds in a magazine like Predator Xtreme or look online for Outfitters/Guides that are advertising hunts. I’ll call them and ask about hunting with an airgun, prices etc, then if it’s a hog hunt for instance I’ll ask if I can hunt rabbits, coyote etc in my down time. The answer is often yes and I can get a lot of hunting accomplished for a reasonable price in a short time. I’ll also look around for land owners that will let me pay a trespass fee, especially to hunt varmint and small game. You can call local sporting goods shops, pubs, and B&B’s to seek out leads, and this is especially productive for less frequented destinations. If I’m driving rather than flying I’ll take more chances, and look for public land: WMA, BLM, Nat’l forest etc and use google maps to select an area to hunt. This can pay off sometimes, and even when it doesn’t its still fun and the cost is a tank or two of gas.
As I started getting more visibility in the media, a lot of invites to hunt with people all over the country started coming in, actually more than I have time to do. Sometimes other hobbyist, sometimes outfitters and guides that hope we can get an article out of a hunt, or sometimes an airgun company will set it up for me to try out a gun. Believe me, I know how lucky I am. I’ve been airgun hunting for the last 25 years, and it’s only that last few years that I’ve been getting these perks. I’ve carried the cost and paid the dues over the years, and even with the perks almost everything I make from writing gets plowed right back into the sport. But I’ve also made some strong friendships along the ways, guys like Brian Beck, Chip Sayers, Scott Dellinger, Randy Mitchel, Eric Henderson, Kip Perow, that I’ve been hunting with for years now…. can’t put a price on that!
IN any given year I'll move from  East to west and north to south border states to hunt my airguns. There is a world if airgun hunting opportunity in the US!!

IN any given year I’ll move from East to west and north to south border states to hunt my airguns. There is a world if airgun hunting opportunity in the US!!

The hunts I have coming up this year? I’ll be going to Texas for several hog and predator hunts, and will get some small game in there. Also going to Georgia and Florida on hog hunts. Have deer trips planned in Virginia, and Alabama… will try for a tag in Arizona for the little desert Coues deer, javalina and bear. Maybe back to California for the fall turkey season, spring was a blast! Have a couple dairy farm shoots for pest birds in Arizona, prairie dogs in Kansas and South Dakota, squirrel and jackrabbits in several states. i’m heading back to South Africa on airgun safari with my buddies at Hounslow, and I’m trying to organize a javalina hunt in Mexico. I have a lot of new guns and ammo to use…….this is going to be a great season!  Hope to keep in touch with everyone through the blog, and also say thanks to you for reading and continuing to support this blog! If there are any hunts, equipment, discussion of methods or techniques you’d like to see me cover, please let me know.
http://americanairgunhunter.com
https://m.youtube.com/user/echochapman
Categories: airgun ammo, Airguns of Arizona, Big Game, Destinations, Jackrabbits, Prairie dogs, Rabbits, Safari, Small Game Hunting, summer time hunts, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Finding the right hunting rifle for you

I get a lot of mail that goes something like this: “Hi Jim, I am looking for a new hunting rifle, and am considering X, Y, Z guns. Which of these would you recommend”? First it depends on how you will use the gun, what you will hunt, in what situations, and under what conditions. Outside of that, I explain that I can give a personal preference, but once you get past a few mandatory requirements it becomes a personal choice.

No matter what you hunt or where you hunt it, you need to have the appropriate accuracy first and foremost, and then you need adequate power. Of the two the accuracy is the most important for an airgun. For instance the difference between a 12 fpe and a 25 fpe gun shooting a rabbit with precise shot placement is minimal …. the rabbit can only be so dead and both guns will do it if the shot is right. The reason I’d go with the 25 fpe gun, all things considered, is that the trajectory is less, and the flatter shooting characteristics allow you to reach out further with confidence.
Matching the right gun to game; Kip and I are out with a couple .25s for some longer range pigeon shooting

Matching the right gun to game; Kip and I are out with a couple .25s for some longer range pigeon shooting

What is the required accuracy? For small game I’d say 1/2″ at your maximum hunting range and for predators and big game I want 1″ at the maximum range. Remember that with an airgun you are cleaning taking game by precise placement to the vital organs. With respect to power, in most cases I like as much as I can get without sacrificing accuracy. Besides range, increased energy delivery to target allows more latitude in shot placement, making broadside and quartering shots more effective.
While there is never a time I want less accuracy, there are times I want less power. If shooting pigeons in a barn, I don’t want to worry about pass through or collateral damage if I happen to miss. This is one of the reasons I do like a gun that has an adjustable power setting.
It also depends on the powerplant you want to use, for hunting this is either a spring piston or a PCP. The springer is self contained, the gun and some pellets and your ready to go. With a PCP you need an airsource, connectors and a place to fill that air tank. The PCP is recoilless, easy to shoot accurately, and generally more compact. The springers take qmore practice to shoot accurately and tend to be larger and heavier, especially when you get into the magnum springers. PCP’s are very efficient in the larger calibers while the springers are restricted to .25 and under.
There are other features that might be important to you. Almost all springers are single shot while many (if not most) of todays PCP’s are multishot. I don’t mind a single shot, except for the fact I hunt a lot in very cold weather and fumbling for an individual pellet with cold/numb fingers or while wearing gloves is difficult. However, when hunting far from support I either want extra magazines (which can be expensive) or a single load tray conversion, as I’ve been in the middle of nowhere and had a magazine fail or be damaged.
I like a compact rifle, this Quackenbush .452 gave up some power to go to a 20" barrel, but its great in heavy brush.

I like a compact rifle, this Quackenbush .452 gave up some power to go to a 20″ barrel, but its great in heavy brush.

For me, compact guns rule! I like to go out hiking and stalking, and often hunt in heavy brush, or sometimes from a blind our out of a vehicle (for pest control), and find a short barrel gun suits me best. In my big game guns, I’ll often give up some velocity/power to get a more compact package. At the same time I know a lot of guys that go for extremely long barrels to get every last ounce of energy out of the gun. But for me airgun hunting is about getting in as close as possible, for you it might be reaching out as far as you can.
Air capacity is another aspect that depends on what, how and where you hunt. On my big game gun I’m fine with 2-3 shots per fill, and will carry a buddy bottle if I think more air might be required, because I don’t expect to take more than one shot when hunting deer. For predator hunting I like 6-10 shots because I may get more opportunity, and for prairie dog I want at least 30, more is better.
A good trigger is always a plus, it doesn’t have to be match grade and it doesn’t have to be ultra light weight, but a crisp, clean and predictable break is required. I like a very light trigger on a target rifle, but again, when in the field on a frigidly cold day with cold or gloved trigger finger a 3.5 lb -4.5 lb pull is fine with me. But another shooter might disagree and shoot in warmer climates or simply want a much lighter trigger.
I like a shrouded or suppressed rifle, especially on a compact urban hunting gun, as it helps in being discreet while shooting. But if your shooting is for jackrabbits in the desert, any airgun is quiet enough.
Likewise, caliber selection depends on your application. For small game such as squirrel and rabbits, I like a .22 or .25. The caliber is efficient, and provides the reach and impact required for small game. I am liking the ,25 better these days because the larger wound channel is more effective at anchoring game with body shots. The .25 is also effective for stepping up to medium sized game when needed, but lately I’ve been gravitating towards the .30 for medium game, which can step down to small game as required. For predator hunting, coyote, bobcat, fox I like the .357 caliber, sometimes in a gun set up to shoot pellets at medium power other times cast bullets at higher power.
A lot of guys swear by bullpups, and while I use them and like a few, really view them as form following function.

A lot of guys swear by bullpups, and while I use them and like a few, really view them as form following function.

But when I want a compact gun I gravitate towards a carbine rather than a bullpup, as I find they tend to be more maneuverable and lighter weight.

But when I want a compact gun I gravitate towards a carbine rather than a bullpup, as I find they tend to be more maneuverable and lighter weight.

In terms of style of gun, my taste run more towards the look and feel of a traditional sporter in a carbine length and I prefer a wood stock. But a synthetic can be a better option if you hunt in wet or extremely cold conditions. Some hunters prefer a bullpup, because of the compact dimensions and/or shooting characteristics. I can appreciate this view, but from a sense of aesthetics, not my choice. This is part of my connudrum when answering the question “what gun should I get”? I would not want to suggest to a hunter that a bullpup is not the right solution if that is the gun they like best.
So my advice on the right hunting gun; accuracy is king and the gun must be capable of precise shooting. More power is generally better, but only so long as accuracy is preserved. Pick the features important to you and give each weight in prioritizing your needs. Pick a gun that appeals to your sense of aesthetics, as you will spend a lot of time looking at that gun, and having one that appeals to you makes the whole experience that much better.
And finally, do your homework and make your own choice. Take any advice, no matter how much you trust the source, with an understanding that there is a bias there which may not align with yours. I give everyones opinions due consideration, but find those that say “this gun is best” or intimate there is only one option that makes sense for you, to be suspect. For my part, I am always happy to give my thoughts, but in the end encourage you to think through what you want the gun to do, how you are going to use it, and what your idea of the perfect airgun is, then make your own choice!

http://americanairgunhunter.com

https://m.youtube.com/user/echochapman

Categories: adjustable buttstock, Brocock, Daystate, Hunting Accessories, Predator hunting, Rifle stocks, Small Game Hunting, Spring Piston Airguns, springers, Uncategorized | Tags: | Leave a comment

California Turkey Hunt

Opening day and a bird in the bag. The reason I'm wearing black is thgat we're hunting from in a blind, and the dark cloths blend better. I wore full camo when stalking.

Opening day and a bird in the bag. The reason I’m wearing black is thgat we’re hunting from in a blind, and the dark cloths blend better. I wore full camo when stalking.

I’m writing this while tucked away in a small travel trailer sitting on a friends ranch in Northern California. It is the end of the second day of a four day turkey hunt in California, and so far I have two birds in the freezer. Now if you are unfamiliar with Cali’s hunting opportunities you may ask “why go there to hunt”? There are several reasons, the sunshine state has thousands upon thousands of acres of huntable land, a great deal of it open to the public. They also have a pretty broad range of game that can be hunted. But for me it’s because California was one of the first states to embrace airgun hunting. You can hunt any of the small game species, but the real draw is that it one of two states in the country that I know of that permits airguns to be used for turkey! They also have a generous limit of 3 turkey in the gun spring season with a one bird per day limit, and long seasons.

On day two I already have two long beards in the freezer; the first I took with a .22 from a blind and the second with a .30 on a stalk, and I’ll write about these in more detail later. I’ve got two days left to see if I can limit out before returning home. I have been seeing large numbers of birds, easily 50 per day, including some very big toms. The birds I shot are Rio Grande, though I am told there are also  Merriam and hybrids to be found in the area. And the area is beautiful, coastal hills one one side and the Sierra foothils on the other, weather sunny and in the 80′s. It’s a bit on the warm side, but after two years in Minneapolis you wont catch me complaining about warm weather!

If you have ever wanted to hunt turkey with and airgun, head west. My season license and three turkey stamp came to $170.00 and you can find some reasonable priced guide services or do it yourself. If you want to try this and need more information let me know, I’ll be happy to point you in the right direction. I think this is one of the coolest airgun hunts you can do, and believe it or not, California is the place to go.

Categories: bird hunting, Brocock, Destinations, turkey | 4 Comments

Texas Night Hunt

I booked a hunt through Pete Reyes on his property about 80 miles south of San Antonio, with the plan to hunt Javalina with my .308 centerfire and bring a selection of airguns for coyote, bobcat, raccoons, hogs and whatever small stuff came my way.

This was my base of operations for 4 days, no luxury but everything I needed!

This was my base of operations for 4 days, no luxury but everything I needed!

I would have liked to hunt the javalina with an airgun, but as it is a game animal airguns are expressly forbotten. It is somewhat ironic that I can legally take a 300 lb hog with my .45 airgun, but not a 50 lb peccary. However, Texas is one of the truly hunter friendly states so I won’t complain! I will leave this part of the story by saying, I am still after my javalina and believe that when I finally bag my trophy it will be one of the most expensive trophies on my wall! But the side of my hunt I want to relate here is the airgunning side of it.

The plan was to fly in on Friday and get in for an afternoon stand, and on following days hunt morning and afternoon for javalina, then mid day and night for varmint, pest, small game, and a mixed bag of the diverse fauna of this part of Texas, until I had to depart on Monday afternoon. In the end an emergency at work came up and I received an email (curse the Black Berry) on Saturday night telling me I needed to be back for a meeting on Monday morning. So on the spur of the moment I had to book a flight home on Sunday, leaving me only a night hunt on Saturday. So getting back to the lodge after the afternoon hunt, I ate a quick dinner, grabbed my gear, loaded up my guide’s truck, and was off for what had become my last chance to shoot. I was taking along a couple PCP air rifles that I’d done bench testing on; and decided that I wanted to get a raccoon, possum, bob cat, coyote, fox, ringtail cat, and may be a couple rabbits. The two animals that I really wanted for mounts in my trophy room were the bobcat and the ringtail, two of the prototypical small game species of the South Texas Senderas.

Lot of high grass, brush, cactus, and a scattering trees. And lots of land!

Lot of high grass, brush, cactus, and a scattering trees. And lots of land! There were feeders spread thought out the ranch property to pull the pigs out of the dense thickets.

We drove out to a ranch on the river bottoms about 40 minutes west of the lodge, watching the deer gliding across the road and disappear into the heavy brush lining the highway. Pulling up to the ranch road, I jumped out to open the gate, pondering two inescapable aspects of ranching; first is that the driver is legally and morally freed from opening the gates themselves, and secondly no two gate latches work in exactly the same way! But after working out the Rubik cube of a locking system and passing the truck through, we were on our way.

We drove the dirt trails spotlighting the trees and densely cactus covered landscape for about an hour seeing nothing but a bobcat speeding across the rutted dirt road, when Joe (the guide) said “over there, I see eyes”. The spotlight was plugged into the trucks lighter jack, which tied Joe and the light source to the vehicle. I on the other hand, had a scope mounted varmint light sitting atop my scope with a battery pack hooked on my belt. So jumping out of the truck I hiked through the vegetation till I arrived at a break from which I could see a big coon hightailing it higher towards a bridge in the canopy that would allow him to cross the riverbed (now dry) forty feet over my head and 35 yards away. The gun I was using was the Evanix AR6 in .22 caliber matched with Beeman Kodiak heavy pellets. Quickly thumbing back the hammer while following the coon through the scope, I fired a shot hitting the running coon right in the head and dumping her into the dry river bed. Joe and I started down after her, when a branch snagged the wire of my light unplugging me, followed by an expletive from me, and the sound of my unfortunate companion rolling down the side of the hill in pitch blackness. But after a brief moment of fumbling around I got plugged in and found that Joe had somehow come to rest next to my quarry. We carried the animal up to the truck so it could be brought back to camp for skinning.

Not more than fifteen minutes later we spotted another set of eyes very high up in a big oak tree. The raccoon was hidden in a clump of vegetation and all I could see was the eyes and his forehead. Joe asked “ can you take him?” to which I replied my view was obstructed but I could see his forehead. Just as I was a bout to shoot, he shifted and we could see he was in fact a very big, very irritated porcupine. These guys are all landowners and/or dog handlers, and none seemed to like porcupines much though I personally bear them no ill will. Joe said “we shoot them when we see them, take it”. As I squeezed the trigger and watched this big pin cushion of a critter tumble down from perhaps 60 feet up. We circled around the carcass each trying to talk the other into grabbing his foot and hauling him to the truck. Finally I pointed out that I was his guest, and as a good host it was his duty, no privilege to retrieve our trophy. We tossed the porcupine into the back of the truck and continued on our way.

At night I pulled a mixed bag; raccoons, ringtail cats ... came into the call

At night I pulled a mixed bag; raccoons, ringtail cats … came into the call

Also got a couple porcupine, lots and lots of raccoons, and a couple possum (not shown).

Also got a couple porcupine, lots and lots of raccoons, and a couple possum (not shown).

A little bit later a bobcat came walking across the road at 35 yards, a slow stroll seemingly only mildly concerned. I have wanted a chance for a bobcat with an airgun, and have been actively pursuing this goal for a couple years. I had my Big Bore 909 with varmint light sitting in my lap, loaded and ready to go. This was going to be my night, I just had to jump out of the truck and take my shot. Unfortunately, I’d been leaning out of the window and had unknowingly locked the door. And I frantically tried to figure out how to unlock it, squeaking like a mouse to hold him up, as I watched my bob cat continue walking by. Just as I got it worked out and tumbled out the door, I saw the cat look my way as he stepped behind a cactus not to appear again. Oh well, what can you say, it will have to wait until next time.

On we drove, through a stand of trees with a canopy that grew over the road creating a living tunnel. Coming around a bend, a pod of three coons went running by and up a tree. I was going for variety more than numbers and let these guys go on their way. The rancher would have preferred that I took them, but it was my hunt and I wanted something else ….. primarily the bobcat I’d just missed. I decided I was going to hold off until I had a shot at something different.

And I got that chance in about a half hour, lighting up a tree I saw eyes looking down at me. It turned out to be a ringtailed cat, one of the animals I’d wanted to bag since seeing a mount in a hunting lodge a few years ago. Jumping out of the truck, I sat in the road and braced the gun on my knee to line up the 5o yard shot. The ringtail was sitting in the fork of the tree giving me a frontal shot, and squeezing the trigger on the 909 sent the 120 grain right on target. The cat flipped out of the tree and was DOA when I reached his landing spot.

We called it quits and headed on back to the lodge, it was about three in the morning and I was dead tired. The next morning I loaded my gear and made my way to the airport for the rescheduled flight home. In the end I didn’t get my javalina, I’d seen them when I had an airgun, which was not a legal hunting arm for a game animal. I had planned to go back the next morning with my .308 centerfire…. but then business called. What can you say, I’d passed on some hogs as well, figuring I could always take one later if I wanted to. At one point I’d been sitting in a blind surrounded by 19 deer; two does the rest bucks including one massive 10 pointer. I didn’t get my javalina, but I did get some cool small stuff with my airguns and saw a lot of wildlife. If I’d been able to spend the Sunday and Monday hunting as planned I have no doubt that I’d have bagged my javalina …. And maybe my bobcat!

Categories: Hog hunting, Jackrabbits, mouth calls, Pest Control, Predator hunting, Rabbits, Small Game Hunting, Uncategorized, where to hunt | Leave a comment

Airgun Optics

The Hawke Optics have been my preferred choice for a few years, but there are other scopes I like a lot. These sopes provide excellent optical quality, light transmission, and I like the reticle options.

The Hawke Optics have been my preferred choice for a few years, but there are other scopes I like a lot. These sopes provide excellent optical quality, light transmission, and I like the reticle options.

When heading off on an airgun hunt, regardless of the type of game, the type of gun being used, or even the conditions I expect to encounter, my gun will almost always be equipped with a scope. There are several reasons for this; as the acuity of my eyesight diminishes with age a scope helps me pick up my target more quickly and more clearly, it permits shooting in conditions of low ambient lighting (which us common when hunting). And the selection of the appropriate magnification allows the very small kill zones to be honed in on, even at a distance.

There are several considerations when selecting a scope for your hunting air rifle; is the gun a springer or a precharged pneumatic, what is the size of the kill zone on your intended game, how far will you be shooting, what light conditions do you anticipate? The attributes I look for are dependent on the application, but as a rule I prefer a compact scope with medium magnification and a thin wire reticle with mildots or other ranging reference points. I also prefer an adjustable aperture to correct for parallax distortion, with a side turret on the tube rather than a front aperture ring. But if an adjustable objective is not present, the gun needs to be parallax corrected for typical airgun distances in the 50 yard range.  But these characteristics are not a hard fast rule, and for certain guns and situations I may look for a large aperture high magnification scope, or lower or higher magnification. I’m going to take a look at the features found on many of today’s airgun scopes, but will start with a quick look at some of the key manufacturers.

I'm using the MTC on my Bushbuck and am having nothing but positive experience soo far ....  I'll see how it stands up to a summer of chasing Pdawgs ..... as a rule this is the time I do the most damage to my gear.

I’m using the MTC on my Bushbuck and am having nothing but positive experience soo far …. I’ll see how it stands up to a summer of chasing Pdawgs ….. as a rule this is the time I do the most damage to my gear.

Hawke Optics have been around for several years and have a big following with airgunners in the UK, and in recent years have made significant inroads to the US market. The quality of the glass they use provides crisp, clear images across the range of scopes. With heavy field use, I have found the construction very rugged and able to stand up to the abuses of hunting in rough conditions. What I also like about the Hawke scopes is the number of reticle designs available, which can be used in conjunction with Hawkes Chairgun Ballistic Calculator. Chairgun is available free of charge and can be downloaded from their website. The companies Airmax 3-9×40 is one of my favorite all around scopes, it is compact, good optical quality, robust, and it utilizes the companies MAP6 parabolic aiming points that can be calibrated to a specific gun/pellet combination using the ballistic calculator. On a couple of my longer range guns I am using the Sidewinder 4-16×50 10x mildot, the fully multi-coated glass is very good and I Like the side-wheel for AO.

MTC is a British manufacturer that has just emerged on the domestic market, and the couple models I’ve used in the field have provided very good optical quality. MTC OPTICS is a UK-based distributor of high-quality riflescopes     and optical products. With a reputation with UK shooters I’ve spoke with of producing quality products at a reasonable price point, and providing good customer service.  One of the scopes I’ve been hunting with the last few months, and more recently on my Bushbuck .45 is the MTC Genisis 5-20×50 scope. The optical quality provided by the fully coated lenses is very good in low light, the quality at high magnification is also very good….. how ever on my big game guns I’ll probably move to a lower magnification scope and use this one on one of my long range prairie dog guns. The scope is built on a 30 mm tube, and uses an illuminated AMD reticle with a second focal plane. On a recent hunt the scope stood up to some exceedingly rough use and bad weather, and performed flawlessly when it came tome to take the shot. I will be looking at these scopes a lot more, and as mentioned, I will use on at least one of my long range rigs.

No nonsense ruggedly built, and optical quality out of proportion to the value price positioning. Leapers also has a n extensive product line to choose from.

No nonsense ruggedly built, and optical quality out of proportion to the value price positioning. Leapers also has a n extensive product line to choose from.

Another company I like is Leapers, which is based in Michigan. They have one of the most extensive lineups of scopes, many of which are springer rated, on the market. This company fills an important niche for airgunners, not only because they have a product for virtually every conceivable application, but also offer one of the best values around. The glass is good, maybe a little less crisp than achieved by the very expensive scopes under low light conditions, but they are built like tanks, they are feature rich, and they are a fraction of the price of many scopes at a similar quality/performance point. Another positive point for American hunters is that Leapers is moving the manufacturing of their scopes back to the USA, which is a reversal of the normal flight of manufacturing operations abroad, and will build scopes in their Michigan facilities. An example of a Leapers scope that I use on my springers is the UTG 3-9×40, which combines optical quality with an illuminated mildot reticle that has been able to stand up to my scope eating magnum springers. I also use the UTX 1-4.5×22 CCB built on a 30mm tube on my big bore airguns, where I want lower magnifications and rapid sight acquisition.

There are several other manufacturers with product I use and like; Niko Stirling offers high quality glass, and maintains clear, crisp images even at higher magnification. I use these scopes on some of my long range rifles and love them, though they are fairly expensive. Gamo owned BSA offers a range of scopes, some of which, such as the AR 3-9×40 AO are quite good and can stand the pounding of a magnum air rifle. I haven’t been as impressed with the ones bundled with their gun kits; however this can be said with virtually all of the vendors. If possible, I’d buy my gun and scope separately and opt for one of the premium level products. When bundling an off the shelf kit, a manufacturer needs to contain costs and a lot of shooters, especially those new to the sport, tend to recoil from the higher price a premium scope would add to the package price.

Scope tubes come in 1″ or 30 mm dimensions, and until recently the vast majority was of the 1″ persuasion. A lot of people think that the 30mm is more effective in collecting ambient lighting, and while this does play a minor role, it is a small term in the equation. The elevation and windage are adjusted using the turrets, and I prefer those that are easily adjusted with fingers as opposed to those requiring a screwdriver or a coin. I also like a tactile response, a solid “click” as adjustments are made.  A trend in recent years is towards adjustors that can be locked down once the optimal setting is determined. Some shooters like this feature, though I’m personally ambivalent and don’t mind if they lock down or not.

The manufacturing quality and dimension of the objective lens, along with the polishing and coating (types and number of coats) has a pronounced impact on the clarity and consistency of the image and ability to transmit light under low light conditions. A fully multi-coated lens achieves reduced flair and maximum light transmission, but increases the manufacturing cost (and end user price) of the scope. You might think that the largest objective lens would be preferred, but it does come at a cost above and beyond the price tag: scopes with a large objective are bigger, heavier, and require a higher profile mount which may hinder slight alignment, depending on your rifles scope.

When it comes to reticles, I like a system that provides a reference that relates to the trajectory of my gun/pellet combination to the scopes aim-points. Knowing where the pellet will hit is critically important when you start to extend the range out past 40 yards. Remember, airguns are generating lower velocities than a firearm, so the drop of the projectile is much more pronounced.

When discussing scopes, magnification is usually one of the first items to come up. Scopes come in either fixed power or variable power with typical ranges for the former being 4x or 6x, and for the latter 3-9X, 4-16x, and 6-24x. A question that often surfaces is what magnification is best? The underlying assumption is that more is better. My opinion is “only as much as you need”, because you pay that size /weight penalty as you go to high magnification glass, and you increase the complexity of usage. I had a professional hunter in Africa tell me that outside of clients using magnum guns they couldn’t handle, the wrong magnification settings (too much or too little) was the biggest source of flubbed shots. A 3-9x magnification is the all-around best choice for hunting, with the right balance of size and performance in the vast majority of situations. I personally like fixed or low magnification variable scopes on my big bore guns; the shots are closer, come up faster, and the targets are larger. The other reason I keep the magnification dialed down is that at 12X the scope jitter is more apparent than at 4x. While the scope isn’t moving any more than when at lower magnification, it seems to be jumping all over the place, and can blow your confidence right when you need it most!

Rings and mounts are an integral component of the sighting system. They need to hold the scope in place and present the scope so that the shooter can achieve a good sight alignment. Most mounts for airguns will need to fit a 11mm dovetail, though I’ve noted a trend (a good one I think) towards the use of Weaver style rails. Some guns actually have both incorporated into their design. On springers I’ll often use a one piece mount as they tend to stay in place and not “walk back” on the dovetail under the force of bidirectional recoil. If you use a two piece mount on a springer you may need to use a scope stop to prevent this rearward travel. The design of the rifles stock and cheekpiece, the height of the receiver, the scopes objective, and the shooters style will determine the height profile of the mount, which generally come in low, medium and high profile configurations. I like to us the lowest possible mount height on my guns, as I feel that I shoot more accurately when able to snug my cheek down and “tuck” into the stock.

So what’s sitting on my guns? I’ve got a gunroom full of springers and PCP’s and most if not all are always wearing a scope. I use a lot of the Hawke and the Leapers products and trust them both. I al also starting to use the MTC products more. I have a few Niko Stirlings, Buris, BSA and Leupolds that I like. When I get a kit gun to review, I do so with the scope that comes with the kit. But for the guns I end up buying will invariably swap the scope out. For the mounts I mostly use those from Leapers, Hawke, or BKL industries (owned by Airforce Airguns). My advice is that you don’t underestimate the impact of a scope on your ability to wring the best accuracy out of your gun, and budget for some good quality glass when buying a new shooting rig. You don’t need to spend a fortune, but an investment is required. All scopes tend to look good on bright sunny days, but it’s in the low light of dawn or dusk where the difference in quality really becomes obvious. And that’s often when you’ll be in the field with your airgun hunting!

Other Topics

Winter hunting seasons are winding down; in a few weeks the predator hunting will get more difficult and all the big game is pretty much done. I’ll probably get a couple more hog hunts in, but I’m getting ready for the transition to spring and summer shooting; prairie dogs, rabbits, ground squirrels, ground hogs, turkey, and pest birds will be the order of the day. I’ll be heading to South Africa, Puerto Rico, and maybe Mexico to hunt before next winter rolls around, though SA will throw me right back into winter time hunting :). I’m kicking up my gym time and getting in shape for these trips, and it won’t hurt to knock of the excess weight before I hit the water on my kayak to fish and camp either!

There is a lot of great new gear coming to market from manufacturers around the globe, and we’ll get some of the earliest news on these products, plus I’ll be getting in a lot of hunts to share. So stay tuned!

Categories: Airguns of Arizona, AOA Bushbuck .451, Hunting Accessories, Optics, pest birds, Prairie dogs, Predator hunting, Rabbits, scope Hawke, Small Game Hunting, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Can We Hide?

It’s been a busy few weeks, I’m sitting on a plane as I write this, traveling back from Scotland. I was in Edinburgh and tried to find an airgun shop to visit, but no luck. I think the restrictions, or risk there of, must be having a negative impact. We’re in much better shape in the States than our cousins across the pond, from what I was told they can no longer buy airguns online. That means if physical stores are closing and online shops are restricted, access will become an issue.

The question of restrictions on airguns (in the USA) comes up on the forums on a fairly frequent basis…… every time a new big bore is released, a semi or full auto action, a more powerful gun is released, you get a small group fretting and moaning that it’s the swan song for airguns. I stop to consider a few specific details when I think about this; a) what would be the basis for airguns being restricted, b) what would these restrictions look like, c) can analogies be drawn with other devices, d) how can we best protect our use of and access to airguns, and e) if we restrict ourselves (on caliber, power, action type) to fly under the radar (which I don’t think is possible) haven’t we in fact done the same thing we want to fly under the radar to avoid? Namely, removing these guns from the market.

I think that airguns could in fact, come under pressure to regulate at some point in time. But I think this would be done by anti-gun proponents and safety police regardless of power output or caliber. They have tried it with airsoft and in some jurisdictions anything more than a a Daisy Red Rider is considered a firearm or prohibited in some fashion. They have tried to regulate the color of toy guns…. so I wouldn’t doubt there will be more attempts. The fact is that the people that want to take your guns away, don’t really understand the differences between 10 or 100 fpe, a .177 and a .50 caliber, airsoft or PCP….. they just know guns are bad and they have to be controlled.

On the other-hand, It can be argued that a muzzle loader is much more powerful than any airgun, and that the rate of fire in many ariguns is less than a competent archer can get with their bows. One of the ways that you can protect the right to have access to these tools, is to offer examples of valid uses: hunting, long range shooting competition etc. This is what has been done with muzzle loaders and archery, and there is very little regulation in these areas.

If there are restrictions what would they be? An arbitrary and meaningless limit on power such as our British counter parts? That we can’t have certain calibers or certain powerplants? Again, I think the way to protect these is to show you have a valid application….. I need a big bore because I hunt deer or feral hogs, I need a 50 fpe gun because I shoot long range target competition, etc. That’s one of the reasons I think expanding the hunting laws is a positive factor for all airgunners, hunters or not. In a true chicken and egg scenario, having larger caliber and more powerful guns then helps justify expanding hunting regulations to include airguns. The potential regulation that is troubling is if airguns could not be sold online and shipped without restriction. The limiting of access would damage the sport in this country in a major way, because unlike the UK for instance, airguns are a very small niche compared to firearms and it takes a certain population to support a physical shop. We need to be prepared to lobby and stand against proposed regulation, but trying to hide or fly under the radar just does not work. The fact that firearms are regulated does not stop me from using firearms, it does however restrict where I can buy them. The fact that I can’t buy a 30-06 online is no problem, because I have 10 physical locations within a half hours drive where I can buy them.

The other thing that I’ll mention, there is no “right” to have an airgun, same as there is no “right” to hunt in a constitutional sense. Airguns, if regulated, would be done as with any other consumer product, probably a risk based decision. At some point I would hope we had an organization that would serve as a voice for airgunners in this country. But the logic that we should self regulate ourselves with respect to power or caliber to avoid being regulated escapes me, because the outcome is the same.

Anyways, enough of the rant for now. When I get home I have a few new guns awaiting me, so I’ll be getting in some serious coyote hunting over the next few weeks. I finally have the Bulldog being shipped to me and it should be available to use this weekend. Catch up with you all next week!

Categories: Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Airgun Hunting the USA

We have a fairly large community of hunters in the United States, and are favored with a lot of game and plentiful land to hunt on. In addition, there are few restrictions on gun ownership and the price of firearms is fairly low. As a result, airguns have remained relatively unknown here as they have not historically filled a need. But in the last couple of decades the visibility and availability of air powered guns has been on a steady upswing. This increase in awareness was especially apparent at the SHOT Show in Las Vegas in January. Where in the past only a few airgun relates businesses were around, and they were not heavily trafficked, this year there were several vendors and a lot of interest from the mainstream hunting/shooting community!

We're blessed with plentiful, varied, and widely accessible small game opportunities.

We’re blessed with plentiful, varied, and widely accessible small game opportunities.

This is to some extent driven by the fact that airguns are now being distributed through shops online, so a specialty store with a physical location is not required to obtain a selection of guns and ancillary gear. I assume all the readers of this blog are familiar with the AOA shop, which is both an online business and a physical shop. As an aside,  I think a physical location is especially important for an importer, because it indicates stability and longevity, I am uncomfortable with an import business that is run out of a garage or spare bedroom. I don’t want the company I just purchased a $1200 rifle from to go belly up and one day not be there to answer the phone.

Many mainstream hunters have come to realize that based on the lower power, range, and sound signature, airguns open up new hunting territory for the urban and suburban sportsman. I am an avid big game and upland game hunter, and have several places to hunt within a few hours drive from my home. But by using air rifles to harvest small game and pest species I can be out in the field after squirrel, rabbit, or calling raccoons and coyotes in twenty minutes from doorstep to shooting area. I shot one of the biggest coyote I’ve seen 20 minutes from house a couple weeks ago, where there is no way I could have used a firearm.  A two or three hour small game hunt on Saturday morning becomes possible, and is well suited to a busy schedule. It is also something that is possible just about everywhere in the country, west coast to east coast, urban to rural, to open country.

There are some local regulations which control sales or usage of airguns, but these are the exception rather than the rule. This means that regardless of their geographic location, all shooters have access to online shops and products purchased from these businesses can be shipped directly to a private home address. The other impact of the regulatory status is that the power of airguns is not restricted. This is why sub FAC power levels are not as popular with the hunting crowd, and most of our field guns are in the 18 to 30 fpe range. It lets us hunt the bigger animals at greater distances than say British airgun hunters. This is a reason we see the trend of European manufacturers building guns expressly for the US market growing at a rapid rate.

Lots of states will let you hunt feral hogs, and these rate as a top notch big game species for airgunners, even if classified as pests!

Lots of states will let you hunt feral hogs, and these rate as a top notch big game species for airgunners, even if classified as pests!

Guns and Gear

As previously mentioned, firearms are readily available and inexpensive here. The average spring piston airgun will be priced at around $300 – $400 and a precharged pneumatic hunting rifle will cost $600 – $800 (add another $400 for an air tank and fittings). However one can walk into a gun shop and after an instant background check, walk out the door with a semi auto rimfire and a brick of ammunition (well they used to be able, though rimfire ammo is now scarce and expensive) for under $400.00. The attractiveness of air powered rifles is therefore not a low cost of ownership or to circumvent legal restrictions, but rather all those attributes (low power, limited range, and reduced sound signature) that are unique to airguns. Most of the rifles that are popular here are in line with those used by our British counterparts; indeed many of our most popular quality guns are of British, Swedish, and German manufacture. There is increasing availability of American made guns as well, in both small and big calibers though mostly PCP’s. As in the UK, the trend in this country is moving toward PCPs for most hunting applications, I have several springers that are pulled out a few times a year for a squirrel or rabbit hunt, but I have to admit this does become less frequent and a conscious decision to keep up on my springers with each passing year.

The production pcp rifles in my gun rack provides a snapshot of the models many of us are hunting with. I have many guns from Daystate (Wolverine, Wolverine C, Huntsman Classic), Brocock (Specialist, Concept Elite), FX (Verminator, Boss), AirForce (Talon, Talon-P, Escape, Talon, and Texan), Crosman (Discovery, Marauder, Rogue, Bulldog) and many others from RWS, AirArms, Weihrauch,  BSA, Falcon, Evanix, Hatsan, Walther, Gamo, etc. in a range of calibers from .177 to .50.

Quarry Species

The types of quarry we can pursue in the US include several pest species, some the same as those shot in the UK; rats, pigeons, rabbits, squirrels, crows. It is interesting to note that rabbits are considered game animals in most states, whereas the most abundant hare (jackrabbits) are considered pest species. Pest species do not receive protection whereas game species have bag limits and seasons that offer a higher degree of protection and allows management of the resource. Tree squirrels (fox squirrels, gray squirrels, etc) are also considered a game animal, while ground squirrels are considered a pest species through most of their range. Ground squirrels can be found in towns that contain hundreds of individuals and can cause a great deal of damage to pastureland. Other species we hunt include prairie dogs, marmots (woodchucks, groundhogs, and rockchucks), possums, nutria, European starlings, crows and pigeons. Some states permit game birds such as quail, pheasant, and turkey to be taken by airguns, while others expressly prohibit their use. Other animals such as raccoons, fox, and bobcats, ringtail are considered furbearers and depending on the state have different regulations, some allow airguns and some do not. As you have probably noted, each state has their own set of regulations which range from enlightened and pro airgun to those that expressly prohibit their use (which is thankfully the minority position). We also have a growing number of big game hunting opportunities opening up to big bore airguns, MO, VA, MI, AZ, MI, AL  allow deer to be taken by air, and many (if not most) allow predators, feral hogs, and exotics to likewise be taken by air. There seem to be a couple new states opening up every year and I expect the trend will continue. You do need to be careful to check, understand, and follow state regulations when hunting.

On some of my out of state trips I bring lots of guns because it will give me the opportunity to take lots of game with each, but I'll also carry lots of tools and backup supplies as well. I love driving to my hunts when possible.

On some of my out of state trips I bring lots of guns because it will give me the opportunity to take lots of game with each, but I’ll also carry lots of tools and backup supplies as well. I love driving to my hunts when possible.

State of Airgun Hunting in the States

So while we do not have the tradition of airgunning that our British friends have, we do have a range of quarry species, plenty of land to hunt, a growing selection of guns and airgun specific gear, and a developing distribution network across the country. As mentioned any states are adding regulations to the books which make airguns a legal method of take, and there is a growing awareness by both hunters and wildlife management professionals that airguns are uniquely suited for use in more built up areas where pest and small game populations need to be controlled.

Travel to Hunt

Another aspect of airgun hunting to consider is the ability to travel for hunts. Traveling for big game can be very expensive, in fact more than a couple of out of state trips is not within the reach of most hunters. The cost of licenses and tags, outfitters and guides, limited access to huntable land are all impediments for many hunters. However, the cost of small game / general licenses tend to be pretty reasonable, distances and cost of travel lower (you don’t have to go to Montana to hunt rabbit or squirrel) are doable around a normal schedule, and there is a lot of public land spread across the country where the big game populations are under a lot of pressure but small game and varminting is there for the asking. And yet, the excitement and adventure of traveling to hunt, and the challenge and fun of the hunt is still very high. If you don’t have feral hogs in your state, you wont have to travel far to find one that does. If you don’t have prairie dogs or jackrabbits where you live, go to a place that does! Last year I hunted with my airguns in Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois, Virginia, Alabama, Texas, Arizona, Nevada, California, North Dakota, South Dakota and a couple others for all type of game…… and it was a blast! OK it’s true that this is kind of a second career with writing, etc. for me… but I will bet almost everyone here could manage a couple out of state trips in a year. Plan something, do it, and let us hear about the trips…. I’m sure you’ll have some stories!

Of course the big trips are when you get to go out of country. I remember my Guinea fowl hunts as well as my big game hunts in SA.

Of course the big trips are when you get to go out of country. I remember my Guinea fowl hunts as well as my big game hunts in SA.

Categories: .22 ammo shortage, airgun ammo, Airguns of Arizona, AOA Bushbuck .451, Big Bore Airguns, Big Game, bird hunting, crow hunting, Deer hunting, Destinations, Ground squirrels, Hog hunting, Jackrabbits, pest birds, Pest Control, Prairie dogs, Predator hunting, Rabbits, Small Game Hunting, Squirrels, where to hunt | Leave a comment