Out with the Twin Master … the What?

I was going through the gun safe getting ready for a hunt in Texas (that’s where I am writing this from), and came across a gun case that had lost it’s label. I opened it up, and there was my Rohm TwinMaster Hunter. I have another one back there somewhere, and had gotten them in an odd way. At a SHOT Show several years ago the manufacturer had asked me to test the rifles out.  I agreed, and about two months later they showed up at the airport, and I was called to pick them up. When I got there, I was given a bill for $400.00 (or around there, don’t remember exactly) for shipping and import duties. The guns ended up mine, because when I went to send them back and recover my out of pocket expenses, nobody returned my emails. Eventually I found out they had sold off the airgun business, and I could find no one to return the guns to or collect my outlay. That was OK, because I quite liked the the guns as it turns out, and $400.00 for the rifle and carbine was a great price, though I didn’t figure I’d get  much support with it if needed.

The stock is a Thumbhole sporter, with the trigger guard integrated into the stock. It has a solid feel, but is not bulky. The air cylynder is removed for filling using a propriatary attachment. A bolt action cycles the rifle, auto indexing a five shot shuttle magazine. This is not meant to be a gun review, more of a look back at an interesting hunting rifle….. But putting out about 16 fpe and very good accuracy I’ve had a lot of fun small game hunting with it, mostly for squirrel and rabbits,

The compact carbine was a natural pointer, and hunting for squirrel in the spring as the foliage got thicker was a natural environment for it. During these hunts I often used the single shot tray, as I was trying out some longer alloy and heavyweight lead pellets that didn’t cycle well with the magazine. However, with standard JSB and H&N pellets it was reliable. As mentioned, the magazine is a linear shuttle design, and though it works well enough, it is a bit awkward to load.

As an aside: these pictures also bring back some memories of places I haven’t hunted in a long time. This squirrel hunt took place in the Missinewa Forest of Indiana. There were a few hundred acres of woods with deer, turkey, and lots of squirrel. In eight or nine years of hunting there, I never ran into another squirrel hunter. I felt like this was my own private hunting preserve. I have found that regardless of where I am going to be spending time, by researching I can always find places to hunt on public land. With big game this often means a lot of pressure and low game populations, but squirrel are often left alone in these same areas.

I also used this handy carbine for several rabbit hunts in Michigan. I had an office there for a few years, and always kept a rifle stashed in my Jeep for pick up hunts before and after work. I don’t remember the number of shots per fill, but I didn’t carry a tank with me in those days but rather a hand pump. I don’t recall having to resort to that very often, one charge could easily get me through a week of small game and varmint hunting.

I still see these rifles turn up now and again, through I don’t believe there were more than a handful imported. It’s an example of a product that probably could have achieved decent sales, but circumstances prevented it ever having a chance!

Update: I am writing this from my hotel in Houston, I’ve spent a few days at a lecture series that wraps up tomorrow, then on my way to a buddy’s ranch for some hog and predator hunting. It’s a six hour drive, but I have to stop in Abilene to pick up my rifles and gear that I shipped to a friend to hold for me. They have a population of feral sheep on the property as well, and if time permits I might give them a try.

A final note, keep an eye out, I’ll be posting the information on our prairie dog shoot and airgunning event in S. Dakota coming up this summer. The way it’s shaping up my expectation is for a great three day event!

 

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Grand Slam of North American Squirrel

I love just being out hunting, but think that at the same time there is something cool about a quest …. giving yourself a challenge or a goal, which to my way of thinking enriches the experience. I’ve had several in my life, and with respects to hunting, fishing, and backpacking have had many, accomplished many, and still have many to do. When I got serious about airgun hunting a couple of decades ago, I started thinking about what I wanted to accomplish; all of the game I’d taken with firearms over most of my life, I wanted to now take with an airgun. I want to take one bear, one mountain lion, and one African lion with an airgun. I say one, because for each of these species I only want one, but it’s important to me that I do this before hanging up my rifles. I want to hunt a couple of other places in Africa, South America, and Asia with air as well. These are life goals, and may only be possible to do once in a life. There are others that are much more within reach: I wanted to take all of the predator species in N. America, to hunt deer and turkey in every State where it is legal, and hunt prairie dogs in every region where they can be hunted. Some of these I’ve done, such as deer in every State where they are legal, some I’ve done many times, such as the Grand Slam of predators (coyote, bobcat, fox, raccoon). The one I set myself last years was to document a grandslam of North American Squirrels, which I defined as the gray, the fox, the Abert’s, and a black color phase (could be from any of these species).

My Grandslam consisted of the Gray squirrel, the Fox squirrel, the Black color phase, and the Abert’s squirrel.

I wrapped up a grandslam with the inclusion of the Abert’s squirrel last year. I had shot these in the past with my .22 rimfire, but had never had the opportunity with an air rifle. This year I attended the EBR competiton put on be Airgun of Arizona. and slipped away for a couple days to travel up to the local mountains for an Abert’s squirrel hunt. I won’t go into detail, but I found an area based on some input from a local, along with a bit of pre-hunt scouting, to find an area that was a target rich environment. In two days I collected two limits of these tufted ear bushy tails!

You have to travel a bit to get to the Abert’s unless you live in one of the Grand Canyon States. This map shows where mine came from. You do have to travel, but it can be done on a relatively tight budget, and is something almost every airgunner could do.

The gray and fox squirrels are typically the easiest to bag, because they are so widespread and populations are good. There ranges tend to overlap extensively, and can often be found in the same areas. I have taken both of these in a single hunt in Indiana, Minnesota, Virginia, Illinois. The black squirrel is a variant color phase and can pop up anywhere, however there are certain locations where the likelihood of encountering the strain is much more likely. There is an area of the UP i9n Michigan where I know there will be not only grays, fox, and hybrids, but a high number of those in the black color phase.

The other thing that makes this a do-able challenge is that the costs are not over the top expensive; small game and limited day licenses are frequently available, and even compared to a basic turkey tag are very inexpensive. You don’t need a lot of specialized gear either, a well equipped squirrel hunter will have a pack or messenger bag with binoculars, range finder, pellets, call, game carrier, and (don’t forget) a camera or your phone to document your success. Sometimes I spend more on my mounts from a big game hunt that the hunt itself, but on theis hunt you will eat your trophy so a camera helps you capture the achievement.

I think these need to go into every squirrel hunters bag!

The other thing I like about this challenge is that the seasons tend to be long; most States have a fall and Winter season and some also have a spring season, which gives you a fair amount of time to hunt. Set aside 4-5 weekends to squirrel hunt, you can probably get your gray and fox on the book in the first weekend without having to travel more than an hour from home. But make a trip of it, camp out or get an inexpensive motel and overnight it, traveling and staying out always adds to the experience! The book a flight to Arizona, I can often find a flight for under $200 from the Midwest, renting a car for a weekend is inexpensive and you can either camp or get an out of the way motel …. I think I paid $60. for a clean and simple little place in the mountains on my Abert’s hunt. The black color phase …… you’re going to have to research this, and it might well be the most difficult.

You can often take grays and fox squirrels from the same woods (UL). You also have three seasons to hunt, all of which adds up to opportunity.

 

Turn your hunt into an adventure, give yourself a goal that will turn your hunt from a simple small game outing to a quest! This year I intend to do several of these goal oriented hunts; another squirrel grand slam, predator grand slam, and turkey grand slam all in the same year! I intend to take my bear this year, and I will hold out for a good one, and my first mule deer with an airgun (hope for my draw in Arizona).

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Categories: Airgun Expedition, Airguns of Arizona, Camping with Airgun, Destinations, Predator hunting, Squirrels, turkey | 1 Comment

Random Notes from my Airgunning Archives

Office time: I was sitting in my office/trophy/gun room catching up on my writing, I have article deadlines in Airgunner, Airgun Hobbyist, Predator Xtreme, and Fur Fish Game, and my time was coming down to the wire. For a couple of these projects I needed specific photographs, and got a jolt as I realized what a mess I have on my hands……. Over 75,000 airgun/hunting related photos stretching back to 2007 on hard drives, and approximately 20,000 more spread out on CD’s and thumb drives going back before I started archiving to hard drive. I have hunts and Airgun related events going back to 2003, that have taken me to more than 20 states, five countries, and an island in the Caribbean! I thought it might be of interest to share some of these photos, some have been published though most have not, and reflect on some of these events in my airgunning life!

Trapped in my man cave writing for a good part of the weekend!

Visit to Daystate: A couple years back I was in Scotland on business, then was to head down to London for a conference (pertaining to my “day job”). On the way, I scheduled to stop in for a visit with my brother in-law (Roger) and his family, he’s an ER doctor and lives in Shrewsbury. We had a free morning and as I’d set up a visit to Daystate, which was an hour by car, he decided to join me. We had a great tour of the facilities and an enjoyable lunch with Tony Belas …. But one of the things that sticks in my memory, is that I had a chance to look over a prototype of a new gun. It was called the Compatto, and was to be the first gun from Brocock since the acquisition and merging of their engineering with Daystates team. I fell in love with this compact little semi-bullpup at first sight…… and as you know if you follow my writing and videos it’s proven itself to me in the field!

A kid in a candy store!

Oh yeah, I like this!

The Hunt and the Missing Trophy: Next I stumbled on a few scattered pictures from a hunt down in South Texas several years ago, I was after hogs but it was the small game hunting that stands out on this excursion. In one night, I shot close to a dozen raccoons that were raiding a farmer’s corn bins down by a river bottom that bordered his property, but I also called in the first ringtail cat I’d ever seen. I was doing a rodent squeak and spotted a set of eyes moving towards me. I thought it was a bobcat, and as it ran in towards me, stop and hang up occasionally. Then it jumped up in the fork of a tree at about forty yards. I got my first clear view as it poked it’s head out and looked at me. Having seen in the regulations that this was legal, I line up with my Sam Yang 9mm and dropped him on the spot.

My first ring tail cat next to one of a dozen raccoons I called in that night.

Here’s where my story is less good, one of the guest visiting the ranch was a taxidermist, and said he could do a mount like the one he’d done for the rancher. It was beautiful, so I left my ringtail cat with him to transport back to his workshop in Montana. After waiting about six months I called to see how it was going, only to reach the guys father who told me his son had quite doing taxidermy and moved to Alaska to guide. Long story short (or maybe you think it’s too late for that), he had no idea where my mount was. I hadn’t paid so there was no money lost, but I’ve only shot one other since then, and he wasn’t a good candidate for mounting. I like these little animals, and will eventually shoot one to mount, and that will probably be my last one.

Biltong, the other dried meat: I would hardly call myself a prepper or a survivalist, but a few years back I write an article for Backwoodsman in which I explained how to make Biltong, which is the South African equivalent of jerky …. though it is more like a cross between jerky and prosciutto and I like it more. It is air dried meat, and the easiest way to make it is to build a special drying box. I made the box out of a large storage bin, created mesh covered vents, a computer fan mounted on top to pull fresh air through, a light bulb below to dry the air, racks to hang the meet and you’re ready to go! Cut the meet into strips, wash it in vinegar, spice it with coriander and pepper, leave it in the fridge for a couple hours, wash it in vinegar again, and hang it in the box for 3-4 days. Slice it and eat it afterwards, never last long around my house. I’ve had it made out of kudu, springbok, eland, impala, and my South African butcher when I lived in Australia made it out of kangaroo and emu as well!

Freshly hung strips of back strap from a deer I’d shot in Missouri.

Biltong: ready to slice and eat! This does not last long at my house.

That’s it from me this week. I received several new guns that started rolling in post SHOT Show that I’m currently working with. Also, got in several new scopes and a lot of adjunct gear I’ll be using on hunts over the course of the year. I’m on my way to Denmark for work in mid-March, but going out calling for coyote tonight (in Minnesota) and over the next few nights, then jumping down on a hog/predator hunt in Texas next week. I’m committed to doing more than 20 traveling hunts this year, and plan to do at least 2 per month, so will have some hunting news coming your way as these progress.

Winter is winding down in a lot of the country, so get yourself out there and keep shooting!

Categories: Airgun Expedition, biltong, Brocock, Daystate, Hunting Guns, raccoon | 3 Comments

HW 97 out for Jackrabbits

I mentioned that I was recently down in Texas hunting big game and predators with a buddy named Chacho Gonzales, and while I struck out on my oryx, I did manage to take some predators and small game. One of the small game hunts I really enjoyed was when Chacho loaned me his HW 97 to go after jackrabbits. Now the HW 97 is a fine underlever spring piston rifle right out of the box, but this .20 caliber rifle had been tuned by John in PA, and it was one of the smoothest shooting and accurate springers I’ve shot.

This gun was a pleasure to shoot offhand, but surprised me with it’s ability to shoot rested.

The rifle was easy to cock and I do like the locking mechanism for the cocking lever, a push button release at the distal end of the rifle making for a secure lockup. The gun is ergonomic, and the Rekord Match grade trigger is silky smooth and set to be quite light, it’s …. amazing is the word that comes to mind.

Chacho and I with the HW 97 and a big Texas jackrabbit.

Chacho and I were out for a couple hours after jackrabbits and I found the gun a pleasure to shoot, but also very effective on these big desert hares, making a 35 yard headshot offhand was very do-able. I had a lot of fun, as I generally do, getting back to my roots in airgunning with a springer. When I can do that with a great springer it only makes it that much better!

I was at the SHOT Show a couple weeks ago, and there were some very interesting guns and gear coming out that I’ll be getting my hands on shortly. I left for Japan right after the show and returned home a couple days ago, and already have some boxes sitting in my den waiting to be opened! Keep an eye out, there will be a lot of new hunting stories and reviews coming at you in the next few months.

There is something I’d like to ask those of you following this blog; I am planning 30-35 hunts this coming year, and would be very interested hearing what topics you’d like covered. Are the specific guns, power plants, calibers, pellets, optics, accessories, or hunt locations or type of game you’d like me to cover? Please let me know and I’ll do my best to work it into the schedule.

 

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Categories: Uncategorized | 11 Comments

Jim and the Oryx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

American Airgun Hunter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Categories: airgun ammo, Airgun Expedition, AOA Bushbuck .451, Big Bore Airguns, Big Game, cold weather hunting, Destinations, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

Leaving for my first hunt on 2017!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planning a Hunting Road Trip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Pair of Brocock Rifles on Squirrel Patrol

Trip to Virginia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Little doubt what I'm carrying these days!

Little doubt what I’m carrying these days!

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Not allowed to check my air rifles!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Daylight Raccoon – FX Wildcat Scores

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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