Pest Control with the Bantam!

I just got back from a 9 day hunt in Texas, and had a great time! Started out at a ranch that was a couple hours north of Fort Worth, where I took a nice blackbuck and a fallow buck during filming for American Airgunner. Then I headed out to a ranch in West Texas, where I took multiple hogs and a ram. But while I was there I also got some small game hunting as well, and the gun I took for this was the Brocock Bantam.

As I drove in and saw the size of this place, and the number of birds moving around, I knew the shooting would keep me busy!

If you are a regular reader, you know I l,Ike the Brocock guns……. a lot! This love affair started with the Specialist and Elite …… but then I met the Compatto and now the Bantam. Upfront I’ll say I am more partial to the looks and balance of the Compatto, however if I could only have one rifle it might be the Bantam. That bottle up front provides such a high shot count at high power, that it’s a hard feature to overlook. And it also has to be mentioned that while I might prefer the look of the Compatto, the Bantam is also a good looking rifle that handles very well…. Outside of the bottle forward design, they are virtually the same gun, so it all comes down to you preference of the bottle or tube reservoir.

I found a spot where I could catch the birds staging before entering the building. I shot many birds without moving from this spot.

The Bantam was a great choice for this shooting: adjustable power, very accurate, quiet….. it did it all for me…. Plus that intangible “shootability”, worked great from any position.

On this trip I had the opportunity to hit the pigeons at a local feedlot, where the birds were a real nuisance. I showed up and worked my way through the buildings and equipment, stacking the birds up. The rifle hit hard and it hit where aimed…. Theo great attributes in a great hunting rifle! And the cool thing was that the bottle took my through the entire shoot and there on to an afternoon rabbit shoot, then out for a hog (but that’s another story).

People are always asking me advice on small game hunting guns, and I am always a bit hesitant to give my opinion, because the rifle you like is a personal matter. When I do I answer I try to do it in the user context of the person using the rifle: what are they going to use it for, what are the conditions, what are their personal preferences, what can they afford, etc. But here I am going to break my own rule, and tell you that no matter you answer these questions, you should take a look at the Compatto and the Bantam if deciding an o a small game gun. I don’t say it lightly, when I say that Brocock is building some of my favorite small game guns right now.

A couple feral pigeons with the instrument of their destruction!

It would be easy to say that the Compatto and Bantam are riding the development wave of Daystate, but in terms of compact design they have brought a lot to the table as well. A gun that is accurate, powerful, compact, and at a competitive price …….. well, it’s worth consideration. I think that it is not the least expensive gun on the market, but arguably one of the best airgun investments.

So I’m off to Scotland again over the weekend, then back home for the rest of the holidays. Right after New Years I’m on my way back to Texas, where my friend Chacho and I are going on an epic hunt, with oryx, aoudad, axis deer, hogs, Spanish goats, predators, and small game/varmints on the menu. We’ll be carrying the Compatto and Bantam as our small game guns so you’ll be seeing some of the results of that in January. Then it’s off to SHOT Show!

Categories: bantam, bird hunting, compact guns, compatto, Daystate, offhand shooting, pest birds, Pest Control, Rifle stocks, Small Game Hunting, Urban hunt | Leave a comment

Texas Bobcat Hunt

The Bobcat is one of my favorite airgun quarry, and my .30 caliber Daystate Wolverine does a great job on them!

I wrapped up at my office early, walked out of the building, and jumped in my car for the half hour drive to the airport. I’d been spending just about every spare minute of the last few weeks acclimating to my new job and moving my family from the cold weather of Indiana, to the frigid weather of our new home in Minneapolis. I’d been under a lot of stress, but as usual, the simple process of setting off on a hunting trip replaced the high stress levels with a sense of excitement. And this promised to be a great trip! A friend down in Texas had called and asked if I wanted to go hunt a couple of his ranches before he departed for New Zealand and his summer hunting gig (rough life). Don Steele is an outfitter that has over a million acres of land to hunt in West and South Texas during winter, then he packs up in spring to bring clients to the spectacular views and even more spectacular game of the Southern Hemisphere for their winter big game season. One thing Don and I have in common is that no matter how much of an opportunity we get to hunt the bigger stuff, varmint and predator hunting is still a passion. And for me it’s doing it with airguns!

In an effort to simplify my travels to the Lonestar State, I’d shipped my guns on ahead so they’d be waiting for me on arrival. The transportation Security Agency (TSA) has always been jumpy about passengers transporting airtanks in checked baggage, and insists on all fittings being removed so that they can perform a visual inspection of the empty tanks. In the past and with 99% of the TSA inspectors the guns themselves could be checked baggage if the reservoirs pressure gauge read empty. But in the last year I’d had two overly zealous TSA agents insist I disassemble the gun in an airport inspection room so they could do a visual assessment on the reservoir. Based on this, and the fact airlines charge so much for excess baggage, I’ve started to ship my guns through Fedex or UPS and have them held at a convenient local office for pickup. This approach has worked well for me thus far, and for the air supply I go online, find a local dive shop or paintball shop, and organize air tank rentals to be picked up on arrival. I’m getting this down to a science, however it does seem ironic that it’s less hassle to check my centerfire rifles and handguns than a 30 fpe pcp! Hopefully this situation will change in future.

It’s a big open country out here. Sheep and cattle ranchers are waging a nonstop fight against the huge population of predators!

Don has the ultimate predator hunting platform, this is the best predator hunting rig I’ve ever seen!

It was a two hour flight down to Dallas, then a 3 hour drive west to Abilene, and another three hours further south to the first ranch we intended to hunt. Texas is expansive country and the properties we hunt are huge. As mentioned, Don has over a million acres of ranchland under contract for the hunting rights, with one of the ranches over 100,000 acres on it’s own! This is not ranchland in the sense of a cultivated farm, but rather stretches of thousands of acres with nothing more than a bunkhouse for the seasonal cowboys or wandering shepherds. I selected a couple of airguns to use on this trip: the Daystate Wolverine .303 was intended as my small predator gun to take bobcat, fox, raccoon, and ringtail cat. I’d used it on a few jackrabbit hunts and though I’d had good results on these big hares out to hundred or so yards, I was ready to step up the action on predators. I also had the Evanix Windy City .357 to focus on wild hog and longer range coyote. Perhaps of not so much interest to Airgun enthusiast, I also packed my .250/3000 centerfire, as we were going to attempt to call up a mountain lion (also called a cougar or panther) that had been killing sheep on one of the properties.

We started calling on the first ranch under less than ideal conditions, April is not as productive as hunting in winter, when animals are hungrier and food not so plentiful. But the real problem was that the wind was starting to blow, with gust in the 25-30mph range. Predators, especially bobcats, get very spooky when the wind is rattling the vegetation. I’ve seen things shut down completely when it starts to blow, and even in the best of times your quarry will be slow to move into the call.  We had a couple coyote come in, but they would not close the deal, hanging up at a 150-200 yards. I took one of these with my friends .223, but was forced to give up on the airgunning front. We headed in to the bunkhouse with the plan to sleep for a few hours, then drop 300 miles south towards the Texas/Mexico border to another property, where low winds were predicted.

At any rate, the next day found us rolling into Don’s daughter and son in laws ranch in the late afternoon. We unloaded our gear and made room in the truck, the son in law Tony was going to join us, and quickly got everything sorted out. He manages this property, which is in the business of raising genetically superior whitetail deer that are sold for breeding stock in areas where the deer are at the shallow end of the gene pool. When you have deer on the property worth many thousands of dollars, tolerance for predators goes down quickly. They have had problems with both coyote and bobcats killing fawns and have been trapping and calling pretty aggressively trying (without success) to eradicate them.

There was sign of cats to be found all over as we scouted the desert.

We were using Don’s humvee with a 2 seat shooting bench and calling tower mounted atop, and making a stand every half mile. The call Don likes is the FoxPro series, which has always been my go-to as well, as it has volume, high fidelity, and an extensive sound library. Lately I’ve also been using the Primos Alpha Dogg with good results. At this time of year we focus on distress calls, jackrabbit, cottontail, rodent, woodpecker being use most frequently. You never know what’s going to show up, but the cats, raccoons, and gray fox like the bird and rodent sounds better and the coyotes respond more constantly to the rabbit calls. We also mix it up with mouth calls like the mini-blaster, and we will “smootch” them in once the’ve moved in on a call. If the hunter leaves the electronic call blasting the predator gets close then hangs up secure that the screaming rabbit is still there, or they charge the call and figure out they’re being played when they come up on a hard piece of plastic rather than a warm furry meal. So when we get the predator coming in, we mute the call and start with a low volume kissing sound that imitates a rodent squeak. This will almost always bring your quarry in closer, with them looking for their quarry!

Setting up in deep camo and calling can bring them out in daylight as well as night, though night calling is generally much more productive. Here I am wearing my 3D leafy camo poncho, which is like a cross between a ghilley suit and a portable blind.

The gun I selected for this trip was the Daystate Wolverine .303 using the Emperor roundnose pellets. We were targeting bobcats, and I thought this would be a great gun for these medium sized predators. The first few sets were a bust, with nothing showing up. then a pair of raccoons charged in on the fifth call, then a coyote on the next (but it didn’t hang around) before going dead again. At about 3AM we were about to call it a night and decided to do one more set. About 30 seconds into the call we spotted a cat moving down the hillside towards us, that hung up in the mesquite and cactus about 70 yards away. I was zeroed at 50 yards, so held a bit high and squeezed the trigger, shooting right over it’s head. A latter walk through showed that I’d judged the distance wrong and the cat was 50 yards away, not 70. It is hard estimating distance at night in unfamiliar territory, and I regretted not packing my range finder in the rush to get on the road. We immediately started smootching (making a squeaking sound), but nothing. About 10 minutes later we caught the glow of eyes reflected from our red filtered lamps, the cat (if it was the same one) had moved about 150 yards to out right, and was about 60 yards from our position. He was walking and I couldn’t get him to stop, so I followed him through the scope and sent the pellet flying. It took the cat broadside and knocked him over, but after a minute of thrashing he got up and started moving. We waited a few minutes then climbed down expecting a nasty bit of tracking through the rattlesnake infested brush, but found the bobcat piled up in an opening about 70 yards away.

 

So after a few jackrabbit and prairie dog hunts I’d finally had the chance to use the Wolverine on the game I thought it was made for! I will say that for bigger stuff like bobcats and coyote, I think I’ll take the headshot when possible, especially if it’s much further than 50 yards. The Wolverine sends a large diameter chunk of lead downrange, but it is at the lower end of the power spectrum for predator hunting. For the smaller predator like fox and raccoons, I have no problem with body shots. This rifle is very shootable, it has a great stock desing for a “thumbs up” shooting position, it has a very nice trigger, and it is accurate! The high shot count (relative to big bores Airguns) is a plus; however I wish it allowed the hunter to trade off shot count for power. I’d be willing to give up 4-5 shots to get another 30 fpe out of it when needed. While the rifle is a jewel as is, that extra power would allow the hunter to reach out a bit further with a body shot.

We planned to drive to another ranch about 150 miles away the next day, where we’d camo up and get in some daytime calling. Calling at night is more productive, but doing it in daylight is the art of predator calling in my opinion. This is a ranch that Don started trapping many years ago, and he had two or three spots he thought might be productive and wanted to call. I set up on a hillside that gave me a great view in front, and with the light wind in my face I wasn’t concerned about what was behind me. Coyotes will circle around and try to wind the hunter, and it is important that you set up so that they have to come past you to get into that position. Bobcats are all about sight and sound, so the wind direction is not as important. About 15 minutes into the call sequence, I looked up to see another cat moving in through the prickly pear and mesquite, attention focused on the frantic woodpecker sounds emanating from the FoxPro. Don muted the call and let out a couple soft squeaks, at which the cat glided inside of the 50 yards range, which was all she wrote for that cat. I sent the .308 Emperor pellet flying, and it smacked home right between the eyes, dropping cat number two.

A nice cat yielded up during the daylight hours!

As night fell, we went down to a grove of live oaks bordering the remains of a stream (the droughts have been hard out here for a couple years). I swept a red filter light through the bare branches of the trees, not seeing anything. I’d been hoping for a ringtail or at least a raccoon, but nothing was looking back. I started lip squeaking and all of the sudden a pair of eyes came around the truck of one of the old trees at 70 yards distance and probably 30 feet up. We fumbled around a bit as we’d decided to shoot some video and Don had to be light handler and videographer both. But eventually we got ourselves organized, and I squeezed the trigger. The pellet smacked home dumping the masked bandit to the ground. Raccoons are tenacious animals, and I was impressed at how effective this shot had been in anchoring this big boar raccoon at a relatively long range.

This article first appeared in the British “Airgun Shooter” magazine in 2013

Categories: Airgun Expedition, coyote, Daystate, Destinations, distress call, electronic calls, Jackrabbits, mouth calls, Pest Control, Predator hunting, raccoon, where to hunt | 2 Comments

Texas Hunting Trips: One down and two to go before SHOT Show!

Was down in Texas on a hog hunt last week, had some luck and put some meat in the freezer. I hunted both from blinds and out stalking, taking two pigs from the blind and two while on the move. An interesting aspect of the outing was that I used a .25 caliber BullBoss and a Badger .40 caliber rifle and compared the use of a traditional big bore to a small bore for boar hunting. There is not doubt that the big bore had several advantages; I could reach out much further, take body shots as well as head shots, and go after bigger pigs. However, when I kept the range inside of 60 yards, stuck with head shots, and went after smaller pigs, the .25 did great on anchoring my quarry……. with the benefit (not fully appreciated in this wide open space) of being quieter.

Checking my approach to a feeder to make sure I didn’t spook anything on my way in.

In a blind made of branches and other natural materials, I was well hidden.

A decent size pig came in and dropped to a head shot from the .40.

Along with several other pigs that came in from this evenings hunt, there was plenty of bacon and ham to go around! The guys have a great skinning shed on the property.

Sorry if the photo quality is substandard, but most pictures were taken in low light conditions. One thing I notices was that even with my big bore, which is not suppressed, the hogs didn’t seem as jumpy as they did when a firearm discharged. When that happened a group of pigs, even a long way off from the shot, would head for the hills and not come back. With the big bore, on the shot they would jump, then go right back to feeding. BTW: I have an article coming out in Predator Xtreme in which I will discuss the use of smaller caliber guns for taking hogs, which I think is doable if you stick to a few rules of engagement.

I am going back to Texas the first week of January to film a couple segments of American Airgunner, and it will be good to hunt with Rossi again, we always have a good time. I’ve also enjoyed watching him develop as an airgunner and a hunter, he’s made incredible progress in a short time. After that I’m off with some buddies after predators, but have no idea where that will take us as he has land under lease across the state. The only guy I know that if the weathers bad, he’ll drive to a spot hundreds of miles away where conditions are (hopefully) better.

Me and Chacho at the gate to Trent’s ranch, this guy is a serious airgunner I really enjoy hanging and hunting with. We’re going to have a great hunt…. even better if we bag our game this time!

After that I’m back at work with a few short local hunts until January, when I return to Texas yet again to hunt for a week with my good buddy Chacho, going after gemsbok, Spanish goats, and predators. We hunted hard last time I was down and put on some classic stalks, but I was never able to drop the hammer on a big Gemsbok ram, so we’re calling this the redemption hunt! I am especially looking forward to this hunt with Chacho and the ranch owner Trent, who I got to know on the week we spent tracking through the rough ranch-lands!

The it’s off to the SHOT Show, which is an important time of the year for me, with respect to planning my years activities as it relates to hunting, gear use and reviews, and planning magazine article and youtube video content for the following year. I don’t usually bring a camera along anymore, since there are so many guys doing airgun reviews these days, but maybe Ill pack one this year in case there is something so exciting I can’t wait to share it!

Pig Hunting Video

Categories: Airgun Expedition, Big Bore Airguns, Big Game, Destinations, Hog hunting, Predator hunting, SHOT Show, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Took the Bantam Squirrel Hunting!

Hello All, After a short break, I’m back at it! The beginning of this month was the squirrel season opener up in my norther neck of the woods, and I laid down my fishing rods (especially tenkara) and started hunting again. Over the summer I was in South Africa, and then a couple prairie dog shoots, but mostly I worked and had a couple overseas trips, fished, and spent time with my family. But I am booked out with hunting from now until SHOT Show!

My first pair of fox squirrels with the Bantam, one was a 60 yard headshot.

With the opening of squirrel season, I had the chance to get out with the Brocock guns, shooting both the Compatto and the Bantam. As a matter of fact I was just out on an overnight squirrel hunting trip that I’m writing up for my monthly article in Airgunner magazine. BTW: in case you didn’t know it, this magazine can be found at Barnes & Nobels now, give it a perusal if you haven’t seen it before. I had an adventure, and being caught in a thunderstorm in my camping hammock added spice.

What I want to write about here though, is the Brocock Bantam, this gun took forever to reach me, but it got to go out hunting as soon as I laid my hands on it. This is a bottle up front version of the Compatto, still one of my favorite small game guns. It is otherwise much the same gun as the Compatto, though it does offer a much higher shot count. The Bantam was hitting 31 fpe and I got about 28 fpe with my Compatto, and somewhat counter-intuitively the Compatto is a couple ounces heavier.

A six shot group: 4 in the left hole two in the right from 45 yards off shooting sticks.

I was out for two days of hunting and plinking, and had plenty of air, never having to make the 40 minute hike back out to my vehicle for a recharge. Man this rifle is accurate, I set a cup up at 40 yards and took 6 shots, which fell into a bigger hole that was four pellets and a smaller hole that took two of the JSB Exact Jumbos the rifle seems to eat up! The two holes were an 1/8th of an inch apart, and I was shooting from a sitting position off the Primos Magnum Pole Cat sticks I’ve been using since last season.

In the field the gun was a fine example of a high capacity gun that retains compact dimensions. It was easy to move about with through the thick early fall foliage, shootable from every position, my only negative comment was that this is a loaner gun and doesn’t have a sling mounted. For longer hikes in and out of the campsite, I carried the rifle mounted in a carrier that is integrated into my pack, with the rifle strapped down. This made it easy to carry, but didn’t allow for a fast dismount, so I missed a couple opportunities along the trail.

However, the effectiveness as a hunting rifle was right where you wanted it to be. I’ve been both head shooting and body shooting squirrels with this rifle, and the tack driving accuracy, power, and over all shootability make it a very effective hunting gun. I think my preference is still the Compatto, just because I’m a fan of the ultra-compact dimensions. I do have to admit though, that the high shot count of the Bantam was great for this outing. But even saying it is in the same league puts it in rarefied air in my view. I’ll keep using both of these rifles through the season and give you a detailed comparison once I’ve had time to be as familiar with the Bantam as I am with the Compatto.

Now that I am back at it, I’ll work to catch-up on the questions and comments that have been coming in. Thanks for staying plugged in, I’ll make every effort to update you on hunts and new guns/gear as they happen. In the meanwhile …. keep on hunting and I’ll be back with you all soon!

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Categories: Airguns of Arizona, binoculars, Camping with Airgun, compact guns, Daystate, fall hunts, Hunting Guns, shooting sticks, Small Game Hunting, Squirrels, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Out For Dassie…..

I spent the first half of June at my buddy Robs ranch in South Africa, and had some great big bore airgun hunts for Wildebeest, impala, springbuck, bleesbuck, taking one wildebeest but several each of the other species using different guns and ammo. I also got in a fair bit of small game and pest shooting in, and one of my favorite of these is always rock hyrax, also called dassie. These are strange animals, with many similarities to ground hog or prairie dogs, but in fact their closest surviving relative is the elephant! Dassie live in most of the rocky cliffs, and many start to migrate out into the flat lands, especially as populations increase. I had an impala down that morning and was not going back out for plains game until late afternoon, so grabbed my .22 and headed out on a hyrax hunt.

I’m on the lookout for him…. while he’s on the lookout for me! A dassie down on the flats, note how they tear up the ground around their burrows.

The gun I carried was the pre-released Umarex Gauntlet, and in my pack I had my shooting sticks, range finder, water, and extra pellets, and I had my 10x binos strapped to my chest. I glassed the area looking for a population of the animals, and once located I hiked into range. As I moved in, they dropped down their holes, which is exactly what I expected to happen. I found a place where I could tuck into the shadows of a stunted tree, and waited until they started resurfacing. I put a couple down cleanly, and missed a couple as well, it was windy and I had make some on the fly adjustments. I am happy to say that misses, like my hits, were clean. Stop by my youtube channel if you’d like to see the video footage, click here.

The rocky cliffs were home to the largest concentrations of hyrax….. not called rock hyrax for nothing!

This dassie heads for the hills as we see each other at the same time.

I ran into some snobbery about hunting small game, and sometimes also hunting with air rifles, as I stared talking about the experience on social media. In all fairness, these folks of negative attitude never know what they are talking about when it comes to airguns, and generally are guys I don’t think could make it as airgun hunters. But as far as airgun hunting, if you are successful with an air rifle (in my opinion), you are on par with bow hunters and miles ahead of most firearms hunters when it comes to your core field craft and ability to close with your prey. With respect to small game, I contend that the closer you get to the bottom of the food chain, the more wary the game becomes. I certainly had as much challenge, and as much fun, with the small stuff as I did with the large!

I used both .22 and .30 caliber guns, both were effective but the smaller caliber required ne to close the distance under windy conditions, and be more selective with shot placement (the head). Like a lot of burrowing animals, you need to shut down their nervous system or you’ll loose them down the hole, even with a killing shot.

I’m out to Japan next week on business, and while there will indulge another of my hobby’s…. fishing. And more to the point, Tenkara or Japanese fly fishing. I actually don’t know if I’ll have breaks from my meetings, but at the very least will go in search of a famous Tenkara fly shop in Ueno, the district where I’ll stay for my last night before flying home. Back at home, I’ll be off for a few days of prairie dogs in South Dakota, a pig hunt in Texas, and then in September it will be blackbuck and oryx with my buddy Chacho out in West Texas. There will be several other hunts this year, but I am definitely going back to Arizona for another Aberts squirrel hunt as well!

I hope that you are all getting out and doing a lot of shooting, and hunting if you are lucky enough to be in a location with summer quarry. I would really be interested to hear what your summer looks like and what kind of summer hunting or pest control is available to you. In part I am interested to hear about your experiences, but also in part because I am always on the search for new places to go and game to hunt….. you might put some ideas into my head. The other thing that I’d like to leave you with is my thought on small game and pest hunting. This year I’ve taken a few dear, several hogs, a couple javalina, a couple turkey and several heads of African game, and got to watch my buddy Rossi take a bear…. I’ve also had my fill of small game hunting, in fact much more, for squirrel, rabbit, Eurasian doves and pigeons, quail, ground squirrel, prairie dogs and predators….. and hunting these smaller quarry can be every bit a challenging and as rewarding….. Not to mention a lot more opportunity….. grab your rifle, pellets, and gear and get out there! Americans have more opportunity for more types of small game than just about anywhere in the world. Even if you live in a more urban area, you can find productive areas to hunt, take advantage of the opportunity!

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Categories: Uncategorized | 3 Comments

A Couple Notes From South Africa

I just returned home from South Africa …… the flight seems soooo much longer on the way home than the trip over, I was worn out (we hunted hard) and I wanted to get home to my family, and delays only made it seem that much longer. I did get a chance to stop in Cape Town for a couple days to visit family before leaving, which was nice (and earned me brownie points with my wife). I’d been on the farm on the Eastern Cape, and it was great to get back to see Rob Dell and Andrew Myers, two good friends I’ve been hunting with for 13 years now…. I still have black hair in those early photos! I took several impala, springbuck, a couple bleesbuck and a big Wildebeest bull, along with a lot of small stuff. There will be a lot of videos and articles from material collected on this trip, but there are three things I wanted to quickly tell you about.

My Beloved Hawke Frontier Binoculars Came Home

I’d lost these Hawke binoculars four years ago, and they’ve been sitting out exposed until a worker found them a couple weeks before my arrive! After cleaning they still worked fine, even though something big had stood on them a time or two!

I hadn’t been out to the farm in almost four years, and one night sitting in the pub Rob asked me “Jim, what were those bino you brought out that you kept whining about losing”? I didn’t immediately remember because I loose and break gears as though I had my own manufacturing plant. But then I said “oh yea, my Hawkes” which brought to mind the fact that I’d lost two sets within a couple months. He walked over to a shelf and pulled a set of badly abused binoculars, caked with mud, antelope dung and hoof marks. They looked like they been through hell and back, but aside from some of the rubber having flaked away, were not as bad as I’d expected. After cleaning them, we found they worked as good as new…… well at least they worked! I gave them to a tracker that was using some pretty low end glass, and he seemed quite happy with them, and they will now live on in the field for a few more years! When Hawke tells you their binos are bullet proof, believe them!

The Omega Compressor

OK, so you’ve probably picked up I’m having a love affair with the Omega compressor. We have one on the farm that the AOA guys shipped over three years ago. In the past we ingratiated ourselves to just about anybody in the country that owned a carbon fiber tanks so we’d have enough air for the hunt. But then then Robert Buchanan shipped a compressor over for one of our hunts and let them keep it, and Hounslow is the only outfitter in S. Africa that I know of that are fully equipped for airgunners. I had several air hungry guns and was shooting nonstop, but we kept the tanks topped off and the guns charged for the duration. In all the years of operation, the Compressor has worked flawlessly, the only problem being that we blew the internal water pump years ago, and since an external one was rigged up, never bothered doing a replacement.

These pumps just keep on working! Hard to think of doing these hunts without a compressor… I used to think of a compressor as a luxury item, but could go on without one now….

Arrow Heads

All of these work, but my order of preference is clover leaf/Toxic, mechanical, and conventional if I must. My feeling is the conventional broad head acts like a wing at super high velocities, and can cause the arrow to do strange things on occasion.

I’ve tried several arrow heads on my arrow shooting airguns (FX Verminator, AirBow, and AirBolts), but found what might be the most effective solution… and cost effective at that. While at Gander Mountain recently (sorry to hear they are going out of business BTW), I saw the Toxic crossbow arrow heads, which for lack of a better description are a clover leaf design. They were expensive at about $40. for three, but I found look alike on ebay that were $11.00 for six. so bought several packs. They were accurate, sturdy (standing up to several shots through targets and hay bales), and punched a large hole….. more to the point they drill a big hole through anything you shoot them at. So you ask how do they work on game? I shoot a 500 lb Wildebeest at 50 yards, drilling a big hole though both lungs before breaking a shoulder and hitting rocks and trees 30 yards on the other side of the animal… and though the arrow broke I could re-shoot the arrow head! The other thing to note is that the wound did not close, and the bleed out was fast and continuous.

Well, I’ve been home for two days and I leave for Scotland on business over the weekend. When I get home I am going to hit the field on another prairie dog shoot, and am going to try to get out to see my buddies at AOA and maybe get in a fast hunt with the guys (if it’s not too hot for them 🙂 ) Hope you’re all having a good summer and will catch up soon!

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Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Made it to South Africa ……but still traveling

Sorry I haven’t been keeping up with the blog the last couple of weeks, but it’s been crazy times. Last week we had the prairie dog shoot in South Dakota, which was an absolute blast. Weather was hard on us, but all the guys bagged around 50 dogs per day each, and the whole event was great! The shooting was solid, lots of great airgunners and LOTS of Airguns, and my buddy Brett put on a great weekend for all of us. Breakfast and dinner at the lodge, box lunches brought to us out in the field kept us fed, and we broke up into small groups to work a handful of the 50 towns Brett has access to.

I have an article coming out next month in Airgunner in which I relate some of the details of the hunts and the guns; but I will say here that the Daystate Rengade was my go to gun and it performed flawlessly in the field! A lot of the guys had FX Wildcats, and I have a video out from last year using this bullpup at the same SD ranch……. Another very solid performer! And a start at the even was the Omega compressor supplied to me by AOA. This compressor, simple to use, quiet, reliable, kept all of our CF tanks and guns charged through heavy usage…… We were eating up the air and without this compressor we would have been severely hamstrung!

Now to the title of the blog; I left Minneapolis on Saturday and flew 7.5 hours arriving in Amstrerdam early Sunday morning. I had about an hour to make my away across the airport and jump my plane for Capetown. After 11.5 hours in the air on the second leg, I disembarked at about 9:30pm (still Sunday). This was a great moment for me, I’d been away for almost three years, and as many of you know SA is my second home. My mother in law lives on the coast about 40 minutes away, I hadn’t told her I was going to be in country and I plan to Surprise her with a short visit after my hunt.

All my gear and guns made it, but my gun case looked like it had been pushed out of the plane before it landed. A heavy duty aluminum case caved in at one end, and it took the police and I while to pry things apart. But they (along with a hammer and crowbar) helped me reform the case after inspection. One of the reasons I fly into Capetown rather than Jo’berg is that the SAP force are friendly, helpful, and very professional, and the two officers that were on when I arrived made the entrance a breeze.

I cleared customs after a quick look at my documents, and as it was quiet this time of night, had a chat with one of the custom officers who picked up on my accent. By 10:30 I’d caught a shuttle over to the Cape Verde Hotel which was a 5 minute ride from the airport, and was checking in. I’d slept about 8 hours across my two flights so was in pretty good shape, but I’d been sweating like a dog on a couple of ocassion S during the trip and badly needed a shower and change of cloths. I did this quickly, then ran down to the bar for a really outstanding burger and cold drink, then went to bed and slept a solid 7 hours.

After breakfast, I caught the shuttle back to the airport, where I am now sitting and writting. In a couple of hours I fly up to Port Elizabeth on the Eastern Cape, and my good friend and PH Andrew Myers will meet me for the three hour drive out to Rob Dells farm. The weather is beautiful and I am looking forward to being back in the veldt! If I get in before nightfall, will get my rifles sighted in so we can start hunting in the morning!

We’ll be going after blue wildebeest, kudu, blesbuck, impala, warthog, duiker and a bunch of small game…. So will have a lot of news coming your way and will try to stay in touch!

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Prairie Dogg’n!

With spring in full swing, it’s time for my first prairie dog trip of the year!

Prairie dogs are a great carmint hunting species, because they need to be culled to keep healthy populations contained in sustainable areas without wrecking havoc on agricultural land.

I’ve been out in Denver for my sons graduation from grad school, one more kid to go and I’m tuition free! While visiting I’ve been like a hunting dog made to sit and watch a parade of birds ……. there are prairie dogs everywhere! My sons condo is situated overlooking a park, and the number of prairie dogs is mind blowing considering we’re in the middle of a city. Every couple years the numbers get high, the city comes in and poisons them, animal right advocates sue, they get ruled against, and the cycle starts all over. There is no denying the damage they do, when I was flying in you could see vast areas of farms on the approach pockmarked with burrows. You’d see areas of cultivation with a big patch of mounds and dirt juxtaposed. Prairie dogs are a part of the landscape, and they should be protected and maintained in certain areas, but left unchecked they will go out of control quickly. The choices for control are poison, or shooting them, and my preference (for many reasons) is to shoot them!

On my trip out to Denver suburbs where my son lives, there are constantly expanding prairie dog towns popping up in parks, greenbelts, and often times lawns. Every couple of years they poison and bulldoze areas to clears these rodents of. This little town is situated between a freeway, a parking lot, and a busy intersection.

I fly home tonight and have a few days in the office, but then I am loading up and heading out to S. Dakota for a couple of days of prairie dog hunting with a group of airgunners. Theses are guys I’ve had online discussions with, but never met in person, and look forward to a few days of hanging with fellow airgunners…… ones that are as airgun-mad as I am, and will drive a few hundred miles for the sport.

I already started putting my gear together; and have packed an Omega compressor and 5 carbon fiber tanks to keep us aired-up, my Wildcat .25, Renegade .22, Compatto .22, and still have room to select 3-4 other guns, loads of pellets, a portable shooting bench (for sighting in not hunting), along with all my personal gear. I’ll get some shooting in, but will also help Brett Guide some of the guys, and will do a lot of video with the intention of getting something posted by the middle of the following week, before leaving for South Africa.

I’m really looking forward to hunting with these guys, I’m bringing a lot of the gear that I’ve been testing hope to get some other user opinions and feedback. I’m also going to be producing a couple videos for AOA that demonstrate the techniques I use for hunting these varmint: shooting sticks, optics, long range techniques, and the rest of my kit.

After that …………

Three days after returning from South Dakota, I’m off for South Africa for 16 days of non stop airgun hunting: going to try to add to my African game species with a Blue Wildebeest, as well as a lot of repeats on other plains game and small game species. Really looking forward to this trip: it’s my 9th hunt in SA, the 7th with airguns only, but I haven’t been over for three years which is my longest time away since my wife and I got married there over 20 years ago! Besides the hunting I have a lot of good friends that I am looking forward to seeing. Will try to get a couple updates posted along the way!

Hope you’re all off to a good summer, and I’ll be catching up soon with a lot of new guns and hunts!

Categories: Airgun Expedition, Airguns of Arizona, Big Game, biltong, Brocock, Daystate, Destinations, Ground squirrels, Long Range shooting, Pest Control, Prairie dogs, shooting sticks, Shooting technique, summer time hunts, Uncategorized, Wildcat | Tags: | 2 Comments

Gear Updates: New Compressor (for me), my perfect shooting styx,and updating my cameras

The Omega Compressor was the first bit of new gear I’ve been using….. and to be honest I don’t know how I’ve survived without it! Well yes I do, with 6 carbon fiber tanks I’d have to drive 40 minutes to have filled, and I never seemed to be able to get to the paintball store when their tanks were charged to 4500 psi, so I was always lower than need for my high pressure guns from the start. I’d often end up using my hand pump to top the guns off.

When the 70 some pound box arrived on my doorstep, I looked for a place to stow it away. I settled on a garden cart I bought at Costco that allows me to wheel it wherever I want for use. The compressor was well pack and very secure in its packing. The directions were concise and clear, the fluids and lubricants I needed to get started were included, and it took me less than 15 minutes to fill it, attach the filling hose and power cable, and hit the on switch. The fan kicked in and the water started pumping …. all over the floor! I took off the side panels (very easy BTW) and found that one of the hoses had slipped off the pump, and after reattaching it I hit the on and it started running without a problem.

I hooked up my large capacity, medium capacity, and low capacity tanks which all filled up to 4500 psi and then shut off when reaching this magic number, which I had set….. great to know the automatic shutoff works so well. Then I started filling guns directly from the compressor, and was impressed at how quickly rifles that charged to a high fill pressure such as the Bush Buck, or with a large capacity tank like the Texan, was charged.

So there is no doubt that even though the costs of the Omega is great as far as compressors go, it’s still a chunk of change. But I have to say, if you shoot a lot, or shoot guns that fill to a high pressure, it an investment that is well worth it. In retrospect, if I’d realized how hassle free these compressors were from a usage and maintenance stand point, I would have cracked the wallet a lot sooner!

Very compact, fairly quiet, clean, wife friendly compressor that fits unassumingly in a corner of the garage… this is one of the coolest and most useful items I’ve added to my airgunning gear in a long time! It is a gear changer for me, and I’ll be bringing it on our prairie dog shoot next month in South Dakota.

The Omega compressor has an intuitive user interface and the control board is uncluttered with only a few controls required. The large gauge is where you both monitor your pressure and set the cut off pressure. One the bottom row is the on/off switch which puts the compressor on standby, the start button which initiates filling and the off which cuts filling. There is a meter for monitoring run time so you know when to service, and the adjustments for setting up venting cycles.

On the top is the filling/monitoring port for water and anti-freeze, the bleed valve, and the fill hose connection. There is a knob that allows you to lubricate every 6 hours of operation as needed (there is an alert to indicate if lubrication required sooner)..

After getting the Omega set up, I went to town topping off my two 80 CF tanks, two 17CF tanks and two pony bottles to 4500 psi (which took a few hours), then I started filling guns directly, which only took a few minutes! After one week with this device, I don’t know how I’ve survived without it!

A lot of people that have followed me over the years know I prefer to use shooting sticks in the field, and lately I’ve been using the Primos Shooting Styx. The reason is simple: they are the most compact, easy and fast to deploy, and flexible to use shooting rest, I’ve ever used. They are also incredibly stable: I’ve been testing guns in the field of these sticks rather than using a bench rest, and the results I am getting are outstanding.

What I really like about these sticks is they are so compact, yet exceedingly fast to deploy…. and once deployed they are surprisingly stable!

Once opened it’s easy to adjust the height by opening or closing the legs, and grabbing them just under the notch allows you to lock them in place with a small amount of grip pressure.

These sticks are so simple I am amazed they work so well…., but they do! I have two versions: the Pole Cat Shooting Styx and Pole Cat Magnum Shooting Styx. These sticks are three pieces on each of the two legs, which are a narrow gauge hollow pole with an elastic cord running through the lumen…. much like the poles used in a camping tent. There is a clever retainer that holds all the pieces together when not in use, loosen this and shake the sticks and viola, they are deployed! I can keep these sticks in any of my daypacks or messenger bags, even the smallest, and they are great for shooting from a sitting or kneeling position.

In a couple weeks when we hit the prairie dog towns in South Dakota I will have these sticks with me, so if you are there take a look. Or better yet, give them a try!

Between my magazine articles, YouTube Videos, and other online projects, I am constantly challenging my existing photography and videography gear and have been Supplementing and Enhancing my Camera Equipment. My primary video cam has been the Canon Vixia HF G20 for a couple of years now, though I also use a Canon T-6i SLR for both video and still photography. I’ve supported this set up with three GoPro Hero 3’s. While I like the image quality of the GoPros there are two shortcomings in my books. the sound is not so great and they have no zoom function.

To get around this I started looking at other “action Cam” types of cameras and came across the Fujifilm XP 90 waterproof camera. It is the size and configuration of a point and shoot, but the image quality is very close to the GoPro, it has a 5x optical zoom, and a large LED monitor that actually allows me to see what I’m filming. And while a lot larger than the GoPro, I can still easily mount it on my scope, and with the 5x zoom can get much better action shoots of…. shooting!

The other thing I wanted was smaller camera than my Canon t-6i for still photography. But it still needed to produce images of publication quality to illustrate my magazine articles. And for this I selected the Nikon CoolPix A900 camera, which has a 35x digital zoom and produces great stills (20 megapixels) that are sharp. clear, and can be blown up without destroying the resolution. The LED display is on an articulated arm, which is especially useful if I want to use it as a backup videocam, and it captures a true 4k video.

This is all backed up with a number of adjunct gear, a Tascam DR5 audio recorder, a collection of wired and wireless lavalier mics, several tripods of various heights and weights, an array of mounts for scopes, babckpacks, chest or head mounts, and a mountain of back up rechargeable batteries for all of these devices.

I’ve mentioned the South Dakota Prairie Dog Hunt a few times, and we still have a few openings if you want to join, it’s going to be a blast! My buddy Brett Waibel has a great lodge with a lot of prairie dog shooting, and this is an excellent time of year to be out shooting them. I’m going to bring a lot of cool guns, we’ll have a compressor on site (see above), and whether you’ve shot prairie dogs before or not, you’ll enjoy this outing. Brett has given us a great price and it’s all inclusive… you just need to get yourself to the lodge!

This is going to be a fun shoot, you should join if you can! That’s it for me this week, got a lot of work to do this week for my day job, but am planning to get out turkey hunting next weekend. Hope your all off to a good spring/summer, and catch up next week!

 

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Struck Out on Turkey…. Getting Ready for Round II…..

I’m on my way home after a tough hunt, that didn’t exactly turn out the way I’d hoped. I was in Northern California after turkey. There are easier ways and harder ways to get gobblers out here, you can hunt the vineyards, farms, and suburban areas….. and this is both fun and productive, or you can go into the wilder places for mountain turkey, and that’s what we were doing on this trip. And to make it a bit more challenging, I only had two days free to hunt.

My gun of choice for this rough hunt was the Daystate Renegade, I wanted something compact and easy to carry in an already heavy load out.

My buddy Parrey wanted to use a compact and lightweight gun as well. so I brought my Brock Compatto for him to use.

I flew into Sacramento and then drove two and a half hours north, arriving at 12:00 am. Four hours later a friend (Parrey) was picking my up for the hour drive to the gates of a high country ranch. Driving in we’d stop in areas that my buddy knew, and fire of a coyote howl looking for a shock gobble. One of the areas where we got an immediate response was on a fire road, and we were able to work above and around the tom to set up a couple decoys (a jake and a hen) and settle in to call as the birds came off the roost.

It had been raining and everything, including me, was soaking wet and it was cold! Living in Minnesota 32 degrees doesn’t sound too bad, but sitting in a puddle when it’s 32 reminds you….. It’s cold! We heard a Google, then by a shift in direction we knew the tom was on the ground and moving towards us. But then a hen cut in front of the incoming tom and pulled him away. Then it went quiet….. I mean in an area where only the day before Parrey had been picking up birds all over the place, now we were only getting sporadic gobbles. And then the storm hit, a cell parked right over us and it dumped buckets on us, much of it blowing sideways. The mile hike in had taken us about a half hour, but it took us well over an hour to hike back to the truck. We sat there for another hour waiting for a break, but it kept getting worse so we decided to call it a day. I’d only had three hours sleep over the last two days, and was pretty ragged after a relatively short hike (albeit pretty nasty conditions). I was dropped at my hotel about noon, and when I got to the room crawled into bed and slept for a couple hours. When I woke up I had a combined lunch and dinner, hit sports authority for a couple items of gear I’d forgotten, went back to the hotel where I climbed back in bed and slept straight through to my 3:00 am wake up call.

We covered a large tract of land over two days of nonstop hiking and calling

We hike to a ridge and call, just trying to locate birds. They’d gobble on the roost, but as soon as they hit the ground went silent. Where only two weeks earlier Parry had seen a flock of a couple rio grandes, we couldn’t buy a response!

Driving out the next morning, we could see this was to be a much better day. From the stars and moon in the sky, it didn’t look like there was a rain cloud within miles. As we drove onto the ranch, we saw wet bear tracks in the road, and as we came around a bend, a smallish black bear cut across in front of us. We saw jackrabbits and deer in numbers, but strangely enough we did not get a single response. We set off on an six mile loop, along which were several canyons and saddles in which we were sure we’d find birds.

I was carrying a gun I’ve been shooting with really good results, the Daystate Renegade .22. This compact little rig was very comfortable to carry, and on paper I’d been getting some great results. I’d been down at the river before leaving home, with a bunch of life sized turkey targets, and between 10 -60 yards I could sink pellet after pellet into the kill zone on ahead shot. This was shooting off the same sticks (Primos Shooting Styx) that I’d be using on the hunt. I was so confident in this bullpup, that I could not wait to get on a turkey.

No matter how much you want it or how hard you work for it, nothing is a guarantee when hunting. I’d used up some of my valuable hunting time and a bit of cash without bagging a turkey, but had a great time …. even if I am a bit sore as I write this. We did take a break of a couple hours to shoot some ground squirrels, but my turkey will have to wait until next weekend when I head for another airgunning state…. more about that latter!

But alas, that didn’t happen. In all the miles climbing up and down the rugged hills and rock faces, cling every couple hundred yards, we only got a very few half hearted responses and always from a long ways off. What made it doubly frustrating is that we knew there were birds all around us, and every thing about the conditions told us it should be a banner day and not a shut out. But a shut out it was, we stayed out until the state mandated 5:00pm cut off and outside a couple hens, saw nothing.

Well that’s not entirely true, though we couldn’t find a turkey, we did happen across a pasture on the way out where ground squirrels were making their spring entrance, and I shot a few between 50-80 yards. I sat on the ground with the gun up on sticks, dropping them with head and a couple body shots. So while I didn’t get my turkey, I did get in a fun little varminting session, and feel even more secure with the gun. I’m jumping down to Virginia next week after we tape a few segments of American Airgunner in the studio, and will have another go at it.

What I can say is that the Renegade is dead accurate, hits hard with the JSB 18 gr pellets it prefers, and has a fantastic trigger. The side lever cocking action and the 10 shot magazine fed perfectly without a hitch noted, and with the strap I mounted the carried well. I appreciated this, because between my turkey hunting paraphernalia and camera gear I was well and truly loaded down. In a seated position with this rifle on sticks, it locks on and is rock stable, a great field gun.

Now I just need to use it to get my turkey!

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Categories: Airgun Expedition, Announcements, binoculars, bird hunting, bullpup, compact guns, Daystate, Ground squirrels, Small Game Hunting, Spring time hunting, turkey, Uncategorized | 2 Comments