Springers!

I was on the phone with AOA’s head honcho Robert Buchanan last week, and we were talking about some of my upcoming hunts. Sometimes I take my own guns, sometimes I borrow guns to try out in the field, and I was asking Robert if there was anything new to use for small game. He said there were a few, but it was too bad that springers were not my thing. I’ll save the gun we were talking about for another time, it was the fact that a guy I know pretty well thought I was not interested in springers that I want to speak about. Because if that’s the case, probably people that don’t know me so well would have the same view.

This is probably fair, because most of what I write about these days are PCP’s, and much of it is about predators and big game. But I am a small game and varmint hunter at heart, and even if I am using PCPs more these days, I still enjoy shooting springers, and make a point of getting out several times every season with them. This is especially the case when I go out after rabbits and squirrels when small game seasons roll around in early fall.

The thing that I really like about these rifles are that they are fully self contained, and outside of a pocket full of pellets, you don’t need anything else. No fill tanks, n search for air….. And the guns are very reliable. I’ve never taken a springer out of its case for a hunt and found it unusable. While there are many advantages to a PCP, I’ve had many times encountered a slow leak or a fully degassed gun that has impacted my plans for a hunt. This is especially true because I get a lot of prototype and pre released guns to use. I’ll often carry a springer as a back up, especially when traveling for a hunt.

Lately I’ve been shooting three break barrel springers in particular; the Walther LGV, the Diana RWS 34  Pro Compact, and the Diana 340 n-tec, all in .22 caliber. All of these are fine rifles that are accurate and great small game guns. I’ve been running a lot of pellets though them looking for the best hunting projectiles for the start of squirrel season in a few weeks. I’ve made myself a promise that I’d do a lot more with springers this season. I’m not giving up my PCP’s!! But, I will aim for more balance, so if you’re a springer fan, I’ll have more for you this year.

What Else is Happening?

I’m doing some coyote pest control for a friend that owns a bird preserve this week, and have my calls charging. I’m using one of my .357’s that is set up to shoot the JSB diabolo pellets, as I’ll be shooting around buildings and equipment. My plan is to hit the predawn and early evening hours around my work schedule, hopefully I’ll have a good report for you next week.

Thern I leave on Saturday for the Lone Star state, been going down there so much this year I’m starting to feel like a local again! Going for Hogs, predators and rabbits. Hope you’re all continuing to have a great summer and will catch up next week!

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Prairie Dogs, plinking, and target practice…. summers going well!

Hope you’re all having a great summer so far! I’ve been on the run, since summer started I’ve been to Scotland, Australia, Florida, and California on business. But I’ve managed to get in some hunting as well! I was in Texas a couple times on a hog and small game hunts, was in South Dakota a couple times to shoot prairie dogs, been getting in some local coyote, and doing a bit of catch up on gun testing and general bench-work. Going back to Texas in a couple weeks for hog up North, then heading South for some varmint/predator shooting.

Today was good, I pulled the Brocock Compatto and the Concept Elite for some plinking/target shooting, a general good old fashion fun shoot. I noticed on my last SD hunt that I was shooting a lot from a kneeling and sitting position (which after losing 30 lb by the way, is a whole lot easier), so today decided to really focus on offhand shooting. I’m finding that as I get older, I have to work harder to stay in shape and to shoot well. I made myself a promise to spend at least a couple hours every week practicing my offhand shooting. Both of these rifles are great offhand shooters, which isn’t always the case with compact rifles. Its all about ergonomics, and on the Compatto especially the Daystate influence comes through.

I spent a lot of time shooting off a knee on my last trip to SD, and felt really good and solid. But still will practice on a regular business.

I spent a lot of time shooting off a knee on my last trip to SD, and felt really good and solid. But still will practice on a regular business.

I’m also spending time on the bench getting ready for this years EBR …. for once I’m taking my own rifle and a rest. The rifle? The FX Wildcat in .25, the accuracy on this rifle is outstanding, So I’m trying to get a couple hours a week on the 25 meter range with this gun.

South Dakota was fun: I was down visiting my buddy Brent Waibel at his lodge in the South – Central part of the state. It’s called Bad River Birds and Bucks, and a beautiful property with lots of game. He has a couple prairie dog towns too close to livestock for centerfires that he sets aside for me to shoot over with Airguns. I brought a mini air armory along, but two of the guns I particularly enjoyed shooting were the FX Wildcat and the Compatto. I covered about 10 miles per day hiking the hills,  shot about 50-60 dogs, and see a lot of other wildlife along the way.

I put in the miles, and enjoyed every step of it.

I put in the miles, and enjoyed every step of it.

Eyes were always on look out. There are literally hundreds of these burrowing rodents running around at any given moment.

Eyes were always on look out. There are literally hundreds of these burrowing rodents running around at any given moment.

Compact guns like these are great for packing up and down hills, especially when it’s as hot and humid as this trip proved to be. Of course, if the guns can’t perform the portability means nothing…. But both of the rifles are performers! On the few occasions when the wind died down I took shoots out to 75-100 yards with the Compatto and out to 125 with the Wildcat. I love the Compatto as a compact ultralight hunting rig, but the Wildcat is hard to beat as a long range small caliber gun!

I jumped a couple yotes but too far and wrong guns, saw a lot of deer and a few pronghorn, and this place has more pheasant than you could hope to find in one place… and wild birds at that. I’ll have some articles coming out soon in Predator Xtreme, Outdoor Life, Fur-Fish-Game, and Airgunner that tell the storys of all these hunts, and will have some YouTube videos posting as well.

Saw many mulies in velvet, this is a great destination for deer hunting ... only can't use Airguns.

Saw many mulies in velvet, this is a great destination for deer hunting … only can’t use Airguns.

BTW: If you are interested, we will schedule a three-day prairie dog shoot and Airgun extravaganza out in SD next year. Great lodging, food, lots of prairie dogs, and I’ll bring a mountain of guns along. We’ll be posting more info soon. Have a great week and I’ll follow up with you next week! With everything else going on and all the traveling I’ve fallen behind in answering your posts to the blog, and am going to go catch up now.

Categories: Airguns of Arizona, Brocock, bullpup, Deer hunting, Destinations, EBR, Extreme Benchrest, FX, Long Range shooting, Pest Control, Prairie dogs, Shooting technique, Small Game Hunting, summer time hunts, Uncategorized, where to hunt | 1 Comment

Binoculars and the Airgun Hunter

I had an interesting question put to me recently; If Airgun hunting is a close range shooting application, why do you always talk about taking binoculars as part of your kit? The answer is that there are several reasons, some are general and some are more specific to my aging eyes!

The first thing to do is look at my hunting needs and what my current problems are, then discuss how the use of binoculars addresses these problems. I hunt in many different ways and in many different environments, from spot and stalk in the open desert to ambush tactics in dense forest, to blinds in agricultural areas. The common thread is a need to spot game before it spots me, and most of the critters I hunt have better eyesight than I do. So the obvious use of glass is to extend my range of vision so that I can see my quarry before it spooks.

Whether spot and stalk hunting or shooting from a blind, I am looking for animals feeding, bedded down, or slowly on the move from place to place, and in most cases trying not to be seen by any passing predator. Jackrabbits in the desert will lie in scraped out depressions under cactus with only their ears popping up to sweep for sounds of danger. Squirrels will sit in the fork of a tree looking out from between the branches and foliage (especially in spring and early fall). Prairie dogs will lay flat on their mounds with only their eyes above the burrows rim. Coyotes will move in from a long ways off, and hogs will hold still in the dense thickets…….. And almost always your are dealing with naturally camouflaged fur and feathers and frequently light variations and shadows.

Cheap binos like the ones around my neck seen in a picture about 15 years ago, are a little better than nothing. Get a decent pair, and they will become a regular article of gear.

Cheap binos like the ones around my neck seen in a picture about 15 years ago, are a little better than nothing. Get a decent pair, and they will become a regular article of gear.

So my problem space comes down to a) needing to see further, b) needing to pick up subtle shape and colors that don’t fit in, and c) looking into deeply shaded areas. Now, in the beginning of this post I said my eyes are not what they were in my younger years, but still they are not bad. I don’t wear glasses and outside of small print, don’t really have problems in my day to day life. But picking out subtle variations in color in low ambient light is no longer my strong suit.

So the advantage for me is that using a set of 8x or 10x glasses I can see a lot further out, even subtle movement or outlines of a small target species. I can look for telltale signs, a slight movement of the hair on a squirrels tail blowing in a breeze, the glint of a prairie dogs eye looking at me between the blades of grass, that might be hard to spot at even 40 or 50 yards. I can see a frozen up in the shadows of a dense thicket …. All much more clearly than possible to the naked eye, even if your vision is perfect. I don’t care how experienced you are, how perfect your eyesight is, or how much mastery of field craft you have…. you will see more when using binoculars!

Like scopes, with binoculars you generally (but not always) get what you pay for. I’d stay away from the real cheap plastic wrapped hanging on hooks brands that you see at xxxmart. However, in the $100-$200 range there are some decent models at the lower end of the price range from companies like Leupold or Cabelas house brands available. Their are also some good ones from Hawke that perform way above their modest price points. Also as with scopes, most glass will work find in the middle of a bright clear day, it’s the low light conditions that sets the apart.

You can get a set of Hawke or Leopold binos for under a couple hundred bucks, and I think one of the best airgun hunting investments you'll make.

You can get a set of Hawke or Leopold binos for under a couple hundred bugs for the buck going.cks, and I think one of the best airgun hunting investments you’ll make. These Hawkes have been with me on many hunts over the last few years. I think one of the best band

For most of my hunting applications I like an 8x or 10x magnification, finding anything higher takes more work to hold steady, weighs more, and are more than what I need. I like a compact model, and will either wear them on a chest strap if they will be used continuously, or will slip them intio a pocket of my pack if the are required less frequently.

I spend more time behind my binos than behind the trigger when hunting plainsgame in South Africa .... you have toi find it before you can shoot it!

I spend more time behind my binos than behind the trigger when hunting plainsgame in South Africa …. you have toi find it before you can shoot it!

If you haven’t used binoculars in the past, give them a try and I think you’ll agree with me.  I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve swept an area with my naked eye, then go back with a bino assist and seen multiple animals that had been undetected. This is one of those bits of gear that are always in my kit!

 

Categories: binoculars, effectiveness, Hunting Accessories, Optics, Prairie dogs, scope Hawke, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Texas Hog Hunt: Doesn’t always go as planned!

I was out in Central Texas on a hog hunt the last couple days, and really had a challenging trip. This was a case of making the hunt what you want it to be. The ranch I was on had feeders set up with blinds, and to cater to the hunters coming in they would haul you out in the morning and bring you back in the mid day, then. Back to the blinds in the late afternoon for the evening hunt. Just about every time I go out to do this, I see pigs. But what I’ve noticed is that I see a lot of small young ones, and that’s a good way to take meat pigs. It’s also to be honest, a pretty laid back hunt, less than 50 yards of hiking with a lot of sitting. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fun and productive approach, and greatly enhanced when you decide to use a big bore Airgun!

A small meat pig was about all I could manage in the miserable weather we had.

A small meat pig was about all I could manage in the miserable weather we had.

But I’ve been to this ranch before and I figured something out; if you’ve hunted pigs before you know they are smart. And the big ones that have survived long enough to get that way have figured out going to a feeder in the morning and evening is probably not a good idea. They tend to hold up in the thickets during the day and go nocturnal feeding when hunters aren’t around. So I alter my approach, when the other hunters in camp are getting up at 4:30 for the morning hunt, I stay tucked away in my sleeping bag. I let them have their time on the blinds, but when they get picked up at 10:00, I go off into the thick stuff on foot. This gives me 5 hours to work the rough stuff before the blinds are repopulated for the afternoon hunts. And by doing this I see a lot of pigs…. And some big ones!

I’ve been on a run of bad weather the last couples months; south Texas, North Mexico, South Dakota, California…… I keep hitting heavy rain and winds. This trip was no different, I was geared up for warm dry weather, and icy cold rain came from out of know where. Thirty minutes into my hike out, I was soaked to the core, and I swear my light canvas boots weighed five pounds each from the water they had absorbed. All of the sudden I heard squeals and grunts coming from deep in the brush. I slowly moved in and spotted the back end of a big boar at a stand still in the thicket. The only problem is that I didn’t have a decent shot. I tried to move around and find a shooting lane, but the vegetation and wind worked against me, I spooked him either by sound or smell and he took off disappearing in an instant. I put in six miles of stalking in a about five hours, and though I saw a lot of hogs, probably 30 or 40, I could never quite get the shot. I had worked my way back to within a mile of the ranch house and was cold, wet, and hungry, so decided to plod back in and take a break.

He was small and young, but meat on the barbie, right?

He was small and young, but meat on the barbie, right?

Walking down a plowed break in the thickets, I saw a smallish hog run out of the bush and head straight towards me! The wind was in my face and in my favor, so I slowly stepped back into the brush and let him close the distance. At forty yards stepped out, he stopped and started to turn, and I let the .452 Caliber bullet loose. It hit between the eyes and an inch down, cropping him on the spot. On walking up I saw he was small, probably hitting the 50 lb mark because he was wet, but still tender pork for the fire pit. Some of the guys were hunting for meat, so after going back for the truck we hauled and dressed the animal, and I gave him away. This was one of the smaller pigs I’ve shot, but in retrospect I was glad I’d taken the shot….. The weather got worse and it turned out to be the only hog I dropped in the two days I was out.

I did get in some fun small game shooting, using some small bores to drop rabbits, pigeons, ground squirrels, and the biggest bloody pack rats I’ve ever seen! But that’s another story I’ll fill you in on later.

No hunts this week, I’m sitting on a plane winging my way to Australia for a conference, and will be away until next week. The gun I wanted to use for the hunt above was the new AoA Bushbuck .452 Carbine. If I’d had this gun I’d have taken that big boar with a quartering shot, it’s doing over 500 fpe, but it came to me too late. But everything about this rifle is blowing my mind! I have 23 big bore rifles, and I really like most of them, love a couple, but nothing else matches this gun. The performance, shootability, quality of build, styling …… It’s something special. Next post I’ll tell you more about it!

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Talking to a couple of “Antis”

My wife and I were out with a group the other night, some of the people we knew some not. A friend asked how my turkey hunt out in California had gone, and before I answered a woman at the table said “hunting is disgusting, do you hunt”? Well I could guess her position and was going to move the discussion in a different direction, when her husband joined in saying “all hunting should be banned”? Ok, now I would engage as I saw my wife and a few friends roll their eyes with a “here we go” look. I asked them why the held this opinion, and the response rolled right off their tongues; it’s cruel to innocent animals, it damages the environment and threatens species, it’s unnecessary, and barbaric in today’s society.

I started by mentioning that as we had just finished a steak dinner (which I noticed they’d eaten with zeal) they were not against killing all animals, just specific ones? They said that was different because cattle were raised to be eaten. So you’re OK with the fact that land is cultivated and repurposed so other (wild) animals are excluded, predators and pest species removed, and then an animal that has been raised in artificial surroundings slaughtered and brought to market I asked? Well we have to eat, he responded, and you don’t have to kill an innocent deer to do that.

I choose to eat venison I said, as you choose to eat beef. Is a deers life more valuable than a cows? How do you determine the hierarchy of importance of animal life? Is it by the size of the animal, it’s intelligence, the condition under which it was born? Animals born into the wild are different than those specifically raised to be eaten. I asked do you eat fish? You do, OK let me ask how much of that fish do you think was born wild in the sea and how much was farmed? So animals born into the wild shouldn’t be eaten …….. Unless they are fish?

But let me come back to another statement you’ve made a couple times about “innocent” animal. I think you’re anthropomorphizing, how can an animal be innocent or guilty? An animal does what an animal will do, no right or wrong. Do you think hunters hunt and kill animals because they believe them guilty or evil? Well I guess it might seem that way for pest control, in that pigeons for instance are “guilty” of eating feed and pooping in the barn. But shooting them is not for retribution but rather to stop the damage they are doing to something we as society feel is more important ….. Feeding cattle so they could be turned into your dinner tonight.

I went on to say that you could argue, the three year old buck that I shot, processed and ate had a much better life than the beef, chicken, hogs and other livestock raised for this couples food. The woman said with some contempt “it’s wild but then you shoot and kill it which is cruel”. I asked, do you think the domesticated animals at some point fall into packaged select cuts to be shipped to the supermarket? Stammering with no response, which I took as an invitation to continue on. And wild animals, do you think they go to a hospice and quietly fade away under heavy sedation? They generally will be hunted down and killed by predators when too young, old or sick to escape that fate. Do you think this is less traumatic than a one shot kill from a hunters gun or bow?

Sensing this would go nowhere and wanting to move into less contentious territory, I made a statement; Hunting is a natural part of the human condition. You say I don’t have to hunt to eat, and that is true. However something must die for me to live, and I don’t hide from that. I have to hunt because that’s part of who I am, and the way I hunt and the species I hunt for, makes a direct contribution for people like you who eat beef but want no responsibility for a life taken. I remove the predators and pest species that would drive up the prices and limit the availability of the food you eat. And by hunting, and the fees I pay to do so, I am the on contributing to maintaining terrain and the wildlife you say hunters are putting sat risk. We are also, besides footing the bill, the ones driving the most important aspects of the environmental movement towards a sustainable balance. Honestly what have either of you contributed to or done to benifit the outdoors. He said, but you do that to support your own interest. And rather than argue I asked, what does that matter, it gets done.

The acid test to morality for a lot of people, hunters included, is did you eat what you shot? It is a good thing to do that, however what is most important is that there is a wildlife management imperative at play. If you kill a protected animal to eat it….. that is wrong. If you kill an overpopulated species to protect the environment and don’t eat it…… that is right. Those viewed as “trophy hunters” have an additional vile spewed at them. But here is the point, if a guy hunts because he wants the horns, the meat is still used. I hunt more deer than I can eat every year, but between friends and hunters against hunger nothing is wasted. The hunters motivations don’t matter, driven by horns or meat doesn’t matter, what does matter is that from a game management perspective it was the correct action and game wasn’t wasted.

At which point the woman said “I just don’t think it’s right to kill innocent animals”. So after all this we were right back where we started. And it hit me that, if I were to meet with an anti-hunter that could crisply articulate why hunting is wrong, they could not sway my core belief that it is natural and correct behavior for at least a subset of humans. And likewise these two had a fundamental belief that hunting was bad and nothing I said would change that. So not wanting to continue a dead-end debate we switched to something less contentious, Hillary verses Donald.

Categories: ethics, Pest Control | Tags: | 6 Comments

When it rains ….. It pours!

Well, my California turkey hunt was a great experience, but from a results standpoint not what I’d hoped for. It took three days of hunting some very rugged country in the foothills leading up to the Sierras, to finally shoot a tom on my last day. That story is being used for an upcoming article, but I mention it here to tell you about one of the most challenging and stressful aspects of my hunting these days…. Getting the story, photos, and videos!

My approach to hunting has always been that, success is good but not necessary. It is the hunt, time spent in the field, that mattered most. And at the core that’s the way I still feel, however there’s been a shift over the last few years, where a significant portion of my income now comes from writing. And to write the type of articles I want to write, I need to have a certain level of success. Sure, the occasional piece on an unsuccessful hunt is acceptable, as a matter of fact it’s important to show that the guys you are reading or seeing in videos and hunting shows go through the same ups and downs. But you can only have so many of these, and the last couple of months the weather has been out to get me!

It rained and was windy in California on my turkey hunt.

It rained and was windy in California on my turkey hunt.

weather_2

It rained and was windy in Texas on my predator hunt. Spent most of my week trapped in an old bunkhouse

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It rained and was windy in South Dakota on my prairie dog shoot. Knew it was early in the season, but 40 mph winds made the limited long range shoots impractical.

I was telling a buddy of mine recently, that if a state is in a long term drought, they need to invite me for a hunt. I’ll bring more rain in a few days of hunting than they’ve seen all year! In the last few weeks I traveled to South Texas and N. Mexico to an arid region that doesn’t see much rain, and it rained the entire 6 days I was there. But a rain could have been worked through, it was the 40 mph winds that shut down the predators. Then a couple weeks later I pitched up at a friends ranch in S. Dakota for a few days of prairie dogs. Now I knew I was going too early in the winter/spring transition and that the greater number of dogs would be down their holes getting their pups ready to invade the grasslands, but still expected to see a fair number. But again, rain, lightening, and high winds shut me down. I saw maybe thirty in three days and shot a dozen or so (at very long range). I did something I never do, went home a day early as the weather was projected (and did) get worse. Then the California hunt, rain and wind again!

Still, I’d be an absolute twit to complain too much, because in the end I hiked beautiful country, got some shooting in with a bunch of new rifles, had some hunting success (though limited), scouted some new area for return visits, and overall had a great time with a lot of my hunting buddies. My only “problem” is that I have to revisit all these spots so I can fulfill the writing and filming obligations. Now here’s where my wife gets a bit irritated with me ……. I made the mistake of complaining that having to redo these hunts was going to seriously impact my kayak fishing this summer….. but I get no sympathy. I mean I returned home from my turkey hunt in time for my wedding anniversary (dinner)… and even bought a gift and card before I left!

Three of the guns I’m shooting a lot right now are the Brocock Compatto, the Daystate Pulsar, and the FX Wildcat, and each is a superb example of Airgun manufacturing in different ways. The Compatto is light, compact, accurate, and powerful but maintains more of the feel of a classic sporting rifle. I’ve been carrying this gun in situations where I’ll be butting in a lot of miles, and as I get ready for my biking/kayaking/backpacking trips this summer expect this to be my go-to gun. The Wildcat has been blowing me away with it’s long range accuracy, and I’ve taken this on some long range shoots (including my recent rained out trip) and quite honestly do better at 100 yards with this than just about any rifle I’ve used. I find the stock a pleasure to shoot from just about any position, and love the smooth side lever action that’s been positioned well ahead of the trigger. This is the fastest cycling action I’ve seen on a bullpup (outside of a full auto gun I once had) and is a great prairie dog rifle. An the Daystate Pulsar….. Accurate, powerful, ergonomic with a trigger that breaks like glass, electronically controlled, consistent…. A thing of beauty from a design, engineering, ergonomics, and performance. The only negative is that it’s so beautiful I am hesitant to take it on many of my hunts where I can be pretty rough (abusive?) to my guns and I don’t want to scratch it.

On my way to the UK then over to Australia next month for my day job, but also squeezing in a hog Hunt in Texas and a return to S. Dakota to settle with the prairie dogs after they stood me up last time. Hope that you’re all getting out for some shooting, and can catch up next week when I’ll share some highlights of last weeks turkey hunt!

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Traveling for a Hunt

I’m on my way to California for my spring turkey hunt. In the last two days, I have seen probably over a hundred gobblers and hens within 10 miles of my house. It seems you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting these birds as they prepare for their spring rituals and hunters get ready to trick, intercept, and bag them as they in turn go through their own rituals…… Get the guns ready, familiarize with new gear, choose where to go. I have several permissions close by, so why am I off to Cali? Well the weather is a plus, there was a weird hail/snow thing happening this morning in Minneapolis, turning into a white out on the way to the airport, to frigid cold with blue skies by the time I arrived. I have to tell you that snow in April seems wrong on so many levels to a native Californian. But that’s not why I’m flying west…..

It’s because California is one of the only states that allows turkey to be taken with an Airgun, the populations are high, and the bag limits generous (1/day 3/season). I hunted here last year, and it is now on my list for a “must do” yearly trip. Might head out in fall as well. The gun I’m using is a new favorite of mine: the Brocock Compatto, which if you’ve been following the blog, FB or YT should come as no surprise! Dead accurate, moderately powerful, very compact, I’ve been loving this rifle. I shipped my guns and CF air tank on ahead to my host, and am hoping everything is ready to go.

I’m flying into Sacramento, arriving at 8:00pm, then going straight to Walmart to pick up my license. A word of warning, bring a hunter safety card or past CA license to show when purchasing your license or you could have problems. Then I have a two hour drive to Redding. I’ll get to the hotel at about 11:00 and my gear will be waiting for me. Will get my stuff gathered, check my rifles zero in the headlights of my rental car, then try for a couple hours sleep before my 4:30am pickup.

I am on assignment to write an article for Outdoor Life on this hunt so there’s a bit of pressure, and I’ve never hunted with my host before. But we’ve been talking on the phone and he’s a prostaffer with Mossy Oak, so he knows his stuff. We have thousands of acres to hunt over, so even though he tells me the birds have been henning up, I think my chances are as good as they get.

I’m the kind of hunter that I never really worried if I got my quarry or not. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always hunted hard and tried my best, it would be disingenuous to say it didn’t matter. I just never felt burdened by pressure, but these days with photographers and deadlines and commitments for content, well let’s just say things are not as relaxed as they once were. But I still live for this! Nothing is better than being out, rifle in hand, and possibilities in front of me.

Turkey with an Airgun is great, I’ve taken them on both sides of the country now and only wish there was more opportunity to hunt them with an Airgun, as this is a quarry that is perfect for us. You get all the thrills of calling and opening a dialog, talking the birds in close for a shot. And the shooting is all about precision, head or base of the neck on a target that does not stand still long is a challange. Body shots don’t move as much, but they are also not quite as clear cut as a head shot…….. Nothing on the turkey (vitals-wise) is where you expect it to be. You really need to study your kill zone charts for standing and strutting birds to feel secure on that first bird.

I hope wherever you are, you’re going through your own preparations, thinking about the possibilities, and are able to spend some enjoyable time afield. Hope to be updating you with some interesting news on the next post!

Categories: Airgun Expedition, Airguns of Arizona, bird hunting, Brocock, compact guns, Daystate, Hunting Guns, Spring time hunting, turkey, where to hunt | Leave a comment

Raccoon in the Morning

It started as a squirrel hunt on a very early fall morning a few years back. I was hunting my friends place in central Indiana, but when I rolled up the drive, my friend came out to meet me. This was unusual, I hunted the property often but almost never saw anybody when I arrived before daylight, this was a hobby farm after all….. no early rising farmers here. Any said, hey Jim do me a favor, if you can take out some raccoons we’d appreciate. They got into the chickens last night and killed a bunch before we got out to see what was going on.

Shifting gears was not a problem, I had a baby squirrel distress call that didn’t work all that often, but when it did to could be impressive. Normally I would use my Fox Pro with some raccoon fight sequences, but didn’t have that packed in my gear bag for this trip. Shouldering my Benjamin Marauder .25, I hiked back into a woodlot in a somewhat saturated area and got ready to call. This was not a pure guess, I’d found a tree with a lot of coon droppings around it on an earlier trip, and always suspected it to be den tree and had intended to call it. I figured that I’d start for raccoon, but if I saw one of the big bushytail fox squirrels I’d revert to plan A for at least long enough to put one in the bag.

Tucked away in the early morning hours as the sun starts to filter in through the forest canopy. I love being in the woods in camo, feeling like I blend into the background, watching deer walk by within feet and birds landing almost on top of me.

Tucked away in the early morning hours as the sun starts to filter in through the forest canopy. I love being in the woods in camo, feeling like I blend into the background, watching deer walk by within feet and birds landing almost on top of me.

I sat for a few minutes looking around then pulled my distress call out. It was nothing much, the bellows style Knight and Hall call. It can also be flipped over and blown into, emitting a high pitch baby squirrel squeal. I blew it for a few minutes with no luck, then took a break. I watched a young doe pass by, then started up again.

This time I did see something, and all of the sudden the action cranked up fast. A coon was charging right towards me, the only problem I started with the call before I got myself into position and had the rifle laying on my lap. If I moved I was busted. Then he stepped behind a tree, and I raised the rifle, but nothing. I figured maybe he busted me, but gave the call another try letting loose a sorrowful squeal. Next thing I knew he stepped out from behind a tree a few yards from where I thought he was and looked right at me.

The gun was up and ready this time, and I was watching through the scope with the crosshairs right between the eyes. I squeezed the trigger and the pellet impacted with a “thwack” right where it had been intended to go, producing a clean headshot. The coon rolled over and was DOA. I tried a few more sets but didn’t have any further luck, still my buddy and (more importantly) his wife felt that I had avenged their chicken and gotten rid of one pest that was living close to their poultry.

The .25 is a solid raccoon caliber, out of a medium to high power PCP it will do the job with either a headshot or a body shot, though head is better on these tenacious animals. I’ve taken scores of the masked bandit with the .25, and find a heavy round nose pellet is a consistent performer. That’s one of the things I really like about the caliber, great for small stuff but is ready for bigger quarry when needed.

Clean kill, one shot to the head and he flipped out of the tree, flopped and dropped inside of a half minute. Raccoons are sometimes varmint/pest, sometimes fur bearer, and sometime predator depending on where you are hunting and sometimes season or context.

Clean kill, one shot to the head and he flopped over and went till inside of a minute. Raccoons are sometimes varmint/pest, sometimes fur bearer, and sometime predator depending on where you are hunting and this was a pest control outing.

I want to wish you all a very happy Easter, a time for family and reflection, and hope you and yours have a great day. I am off on Monday morning for South Dakota for a couple days, and hoping for an early start to my P-dog hunts. It is kind of iffy though, I’ve been struggling with weather my last few outings. I am dying to get the Daystate Pulsar out for some long range field work, and hopefully will have a video coming your way soon.

Jim

Categories: distress call, electronic calls, mouth calls, Pest Control, Predator hunting, raccoon, Squirrels, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Long Range Pest Shooting

I get a lot of questions about using standard caliber (.22 and .25) Airguns for long range pest control. In this context, long range means 75 to 125 yards, and the viability is dependent on three primary variables: environmental conditions, the gun, and the ammunition. If everything lines up, you can get impressive results on prairie dogs, ground squirrels, Eurasian doves, and other smaller species that are out there a ways.

Conditions includes things such as wind, rain, shooting up or down hill, intensity and direction of sun, shooting position and rest (shooting off a portable bench, sticks, sitting, prone). A a rule, if you have anything more than a wind of a couple mile per hour, you’ll need to pull it in. The other thing you need to understand, is that the wind where you are is not necessarily the same as the wind where your game is. So besides looking at indicators at the muzzle, you need to look for those along the path and at the termination point.

Shooting off a bench is about as solid as you're going to get it, but not practical for most hunting applications.

Shooting off a bench is about as solid as you’re going to get it, but not practical for most hunting applications.

You need to make sure that you have a stable rest and shooting position, the gun has to be rock solid and so do you. In my experience the most stable position is shooting prone with the gun rested on an attached bipod or resented on a bag. However, this position is often not possible, because you need to shoot over grass, brush, or rocks. The next best is off a portable Benchrest, but again this is not always practical, especially when you need to move a lot. The way I often end up shooting is sitting with the gun on a bipod or tripod, and to fortify my position I’ll try to find a backrest I can lean against.

You can get a stable rest off bipods, and these provide lots of mobility in the field.

You can get a stable rest off bipods, and these provide lots of mobility in the field.

The gun of course needs to be capable of shooting tight groups, and higher velocities with a heavy projectile is preferable. I have found guns in the 35 to 70 fpe range tend to work well for reaching out. I don’t mind a single shot rifle for this application as you tend to have time to reload and you are most frequently shooting in warmer climes. A heavier gun is easier to stabilize, but I haven’t necessarily found that the rifle needs to have a long barrel.

Pellets that I tend to use for longer range shooting are round nose and heavy. These are generally more accurate, they retain energy better, and produce a good terminal effect on quarry. Heavier pellets are a bit less susceptivity to wind, but still if the winds start blowing, dial it in.

Round nose pellets are my preferred projectile when it comes to Diabolo pellets, especially for long range shooting.

Round nose pellets are my preferred projectile when it comes to Diabolo pellets, especially for long range shooting.

Some of the guns I have had good results with are the FX Royale, the FX Verminator, the Daystate Air Ranger, and on the less expensive end I have even had good results with the Benjamin Marauder out of the box. The thing is you need to put the gun, scope, pellet, and shooting technique into practice on a regular basis, and understand how and where it shoots at increments across the range you’ll be shooting. Fill out a card that maps the POI at 10 yard increments, because this can have a major impact on your success as a long range varmint sniper.

The last thing I’d recommend is advice I am unable to follow myself, pick one gun and use that one gun. As your familiarity with your rig increases, so does your effectiveness. If you use this advice, you’ll be able to shoot varmint out to 100 yards ethically and efficiently!

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Compatto goes to Texas

I would have liked this gun if even a modest performance due to its dimensions. But add in great performance and this rifle had me at hello!

I would have liked this gun if even a modest performance due to its dimensions. But add in great performance and this rifle had me at hello!

The Compatto is a semi-bullpup rifle from the merged design team of Brococks and Daystate, that is loaded with new technology. If you’ve read this blog for long, you know I have a marked preference for compact hunting guns, and the Compatto is certainly compact. But performance-wise it can stand with the best full sized hunting rifles on the market. The rifles great trigger, a very smooth bolt action, three step adjustable power, an effective shroud, are all very impressive. However it is the semi-bullpup configuration with the trigger moved well forward of the receiver, that is the secret sauce in this rifle. The design allows a full length barrel on a rifle with a reduced LOA.

The ten shot rotary magazine worked flawlessly through multiple tins of pellets, and its fast and easy to load.

The ten shot rotary magazine worked flawlessly through multiple tins of pellets, and its fast and easy to load.

And all this in an airgun that really deserves the name “tack hammer”; on the bench the gun could punch five shot sub ½” groups at 50 yards all day long. It liked the JSB Exacts the best, though I did find the rifle to be fairly pellet tolerant. These days when I find a pellet that performs well it tends to be all I’ll shoot out of that gun when hunting. I find myself using several rifles at any given point in time, and it makes sense to remove variables whenever possible.

A couple buddies and I were hunting a ranch down in South Texas, about fifteen miles from the border with Mexico, holding great populations of coyote, fox, and bobcat. Our base was an old bunk house used for short naps during our otherwise round the clock hunting activities. Toward dusk one afternoon, I decided to grab a small bore rifle and go bag a few jackrabbits. Our primary predator hunting tactic is to call for coyote and cats, but I thought I’d try to lay out a bait pile as well. The primary livestock on this property is sheep, and while they don’t want to eradicate these big desert hares, there is a desire to manage the numbers. Three jackrabbits consume as much of the sparse vegetation as a sheep.

This rifle shoots very well offhand for me.

This rifle shoots very well offhand for me.

The gun I had along for small game duty was the Brocock Compatto, which I’d been shooting regularly for a couple of months and had built up a lot of confidence with. I thought this hunt would be a perfect application for Brococks compact hunting rig. The landscape here is rugged and covered with thick scrub-brush such as ocotillo and creosote that I’d have to crawl and push though in daytime. However going out at night I could keep to the roadsides where it was a little less dense, but still not a place for a long barrel or bulky gun. Our technique for this shoot would be to drive the truck slowly down the road working red filtered lights and I’d walk along in front of it. The rabbits would take off through the brush and away from the lights, occasionally stopping to look around and this is when you take the shot.

As we drove down the road, we started seeing jackrabbits almost immediately. They were uncharacteristically shy and took off as soon as they noticed us. At this point there was still enough daylight that the lamp wasn’t required. Coming around a turn in the road, I saw one run up a hillside and take cover in the thick brush. I had an open shooting lane as the rabbit hunched down 35 yards away from me. Shooting offhand I lined up the shot and let it fly. The pellet hit dead on target and the rabbit sprang up in the air, coming to rest feet up. I walked out and collected him, throwing the carcass up on the shooting platform before moving on.

Even with out a sling mounted, the Compatto was easy to move around with.

Even with out a sling mounted, the Compatto was easy to move around with.

Working our way along the road it started to get very dark, as there was no moon and overcast in any event. Using lights. I bagged another four rabbits at ranges from 25 to 60 yards, that offered pretty much a replay of the first rabbit taken in terms of terminal performance. The next rabbit took flight when we kicked him up, and ran out to the middle of a little airstrip used by bush pilots coming in with clients for mule deer hunts. Using my range finder I saw that he was 85 yards out, and from my workup of the gun and scope before the hunt, estimated the appropriate holdover would be the second mildot below the crosshairs. The illuminated reticle made it much easier to position the mildot on the rabbits silhouette, and when I squeezed off the shot he took a half dozen steps and rolled over. With this fifth bunny in the bag we called it a night. Check out the video at:

I am liking this rifle more with each passing day, going to take it for some long range prarie dogs in a couple weeks, and am expecting it to do very well on the wide open grasslands of South Dakota.

Categories: Airguns of Arizona, Brocock, bullpup, Daystate, Hunting Guns, Jackrabbits, offhand shooting, Pest Control, Prairie dogs, Rabbits, Rifle stocks, shrouded barrel, Small Game Hunting, stocks, Uncategorized | Tags: , | 5 Comments