Thoughts on Competition and the Extreme Bench Rest

Me lining up a shot, I proved you don't have to shoot well to have fun!

Me lining up a shot, I proved you don’t have to shoot well to have fun!

I’m getting packed up and preparing to leave on an airgunning hog hunt down in Texas for a few days. It’s going to be a lot of fun, getting out in the field for a quarry and in a place where modern big bore airgun hunting really took off. Being out in the field, and hunting is one of the things that bring me a great deal of satisfaction and enjoyment.

I have to admit that I never had any great interest in competitive shooting; I have always been impressed with good shooting, but the type of methodical interest in the smallest of detail to wring the absolute best accuracy out of gun and ammo, never captured my interest. When I’d read my monthly subscriptions to the British airgun magazines, I’d absorb the hunting articles while glancing over the field target match reports.

Everyone getting ready to shoot, Quail Creek has a very nice purpose designed airgun range.

Everyone getting ready to shoot, Quail Creek has a very nice purpose designed airgun range.

But then about three years ago I attended EBR which was my first match (outside of the LASO big bore long range matches) that really focused on the discipline of target shooting. I smiled as I watched these guys pull out specialized rifles with heavy, angular, chunky stocks, placed in over engineered bench rest, set up timers and wind flags and at what seemed precisely timed intervals carefully squeeze of a shot. This was a million miles away from my typical shooting environment, but it held no strong appeal. I shot that first match with a borrowed gun I’d never touched before, and while the other guys on the line were letting off a shot a very minute, I sat down, threw the rifle over my camera bag and was done in about four minutes. Every shot a dead rabbit…. But a mediocre score that dropped me in the middle of the pack. Then I shot the timed silhouette and the fast paced action, and had a blast! Now this was an event I wanted to try again someday. Unfortunately that year I could only spend a day before having to return home for a family gathering.

Looking down range.

Looking down range. Noah, a 12 year old shooter, clean the clock of the majority of shooters. This kid is one to watch!

But I thought to myself on leaving, next year I’m going to bring my own gun and really practice up! And I did…. That year I brought my FX Boss, sighted in and proven for the EBR and also brought my Huntsman Classic for a .22 for the other events. Misfortune snarled at me again, the wife of one of my staff (from my day job) decided to have a baby on Saturday morning, and I found myself on the way back to Minneapolis to pick up a suit and tie, before climbing on a later plane to fly to the east coast to cover a meeting for him….. no shooting that year!

So this year I was all set to come to play!! But shortly before the scheduled event I was called to our corporate headquarters to review my department’s performance: the good news was that our performance was very good and that I could still make the event. The bad news was the meeting was in Tokyo and I returned to Minneapolis the night before and had to leave early the next morning for Tucson. I was worn out and disinclined to lug my guns along, so once again shot borrowed guns …. And I shot horribly. But I still had a great time …. And that’s what I want to write about in this post!

And the winners are .... that's Tim MaMurray standing center stage in the winners circle.

And the winners are …. that’s Tim McMurray standing center stage in the winners circle.

Why would I kill myself to rush halfway around the world, say hi and goodbye to my family that I’d been away from for a week, to jump on another plane for a cross country flight? It’s because while I have a growing interest in the competition (and I swear next year I’ll be prepared J ) the Extreme Benchrest has become for me the ultimate airgunning event! There are great shooters, many very interesting guns, a lot of old and potential new friends, and no matter who you are a chance to learn and see something new. The fact that the heads of some of the finest airgun manufacturers in the world have a presence and are committed to the event provides an outstanding opportunity for airgunners to meet the guys that produce the guns and gear, and speak with them in a relaxed and open manner. The camaraderie is great as well: I know I’ll see my friends from Europe, south of the border, and from all over the country. The guys from AOA do a fantastic job of organizing and hosting the event, and I have some good friends in that group that are always fun to catch up with. The fantastic social gathering can’t be discounted, I think you’d have to work hard not to enjoy it!

The shooting events include the 25 Meter Benchrest, the 75 yard Extreme Benchrest, the Time Silohuette, Field Target disciplines, and pistol matches. There is something there for just about every shooter, and I will go into more detail on each event and the competitors in upcoming blog posts. I will tell you that after years of watching these serious shooters, I am motivated to take a more competitive view of the EBR in future, I was happy to be a spectator (and spectators are very welcome by the way). But when you see how focused and talented these guys are, you want to jump in and do your best. There are Sportsmen and Professional classes for the events, so newbie or very experienced there is a place for you.

So now I’m going back to packing for the Texas hunt in the morning, and will follow up with you later to share more experiences and observations about the EBR!

 

Categories: Airguns of Arizona, Competition, Daystate, Destinations, EBR, Extreme Benchrest, Long Range shooting, Shooting technique | Leave a comment

A Date With My FX Verminator!

I was watching Shane Keller clean up in the speed silhouette event at the Extreme Bench Rest shooting his FX Verminator left handed, and it got me thinking back over my experience with the gun. I have been blessed and lucky in that my love of Airguns and hunting dovetailed with a modest skill with the pen and keyboard, and writing about the sport has become a second job for me. I still have a professional life outside of airgunning, but I spend a lot (just ask my wife and kids) of time shooting and hunting. Having professed awareness of my great luck, I feel like an ingrate when I complain, but here it is; I have too many guns to shoot. OK, I can almost see you rolling your eyes and strumming the world’s smallest violin, but there is a real cost to this……. Namely I don’t have time to shoot or hunt my favorite guns as much as I’d like, and the Verminator is a perfect example. Cycle through dozens of new guns each year, try to get out on a few hunts with the ones that make the cut, and it doesn’t leave much time to circle back on the old favs.

Shooting my Verminator out on the wide open grasslands of Kansas, this gun is a long range tack hammer!

Shooting my Verminator out on the wide open grasslands of Kansas, this gun is a long range tack hammer!

 

At full power with heavy round nose pellets the Verminator delivers a lot of power exactly where it's needed.

At full power with heavy round nose pellets the Verminator delivers a lot of power exactly where it’s needed.

 

But that’s exactly what I intend to do with my .25 caliber Verminator. I’ve taken rabbits, prairie dogs, raccoons, guinea fowl, pigeons and ground hogs with this superb take-down rifle over the last couple years, but it hasn’t made it out to the field with me much recently. But tomorrow I’m heading to the snow covered woods in pursuit of squirrels, and my Verminator’s coming out of hibernation. So let me tell you why this gun is one that stays in my collection even if I don’t get to shoot it much; 1) it is a very accurate rifle, 2) it is powerful when it needs to be, but can be dialed down when appropriate, 3) the bottle butt stock provides a lot of air for a high shot count, 4) the side lever cycles very quickly and feeds reliably, and 5) it breaks down for transport, and can be put together in a variety of configurations.

With the long barrel/shroud extension assembly, the bipod attached, and the power turned up this gun was a sniping machine taking out long range prairie dogs on a couple hunts in Kansas a while back. The intrinsic accuracy let me dump prairie dogs out past a 100 yards, with the hard driven .25 pellets knocking them head over stumpy tail. The other great thing was that the high volume of air let me stay in the field shooting for much longer than my buddies that seemed to constantly be hiking back to the truck for a refill.

Then a while later I mounted the short barrel and took off for a hike around a buddies farm after rabbits. Atypical of some bottle/stock configurations this guns fit and ergonomics were comfortable to shoot quickly offhand standing or kneeling, which this property and game called for. Here, unlike the prairie dog hunts where I was shooting constantly all day, I dropped the crosshairs on a couple rabbits and both of them were anchored in place. Another trip followed, shooting in buildings and around equipment and buildings. I mounted the shroud extension and dialed down the power, and used the gun to quietly dispatch starlings and pigeons in big numbers. Pass through and collateral damage from the occasional miss (shooters fault not the gun) bounced off the tin roof without puncturing it, ensuring I’d be allowed back on another day! That’s why this gun stays in my gun room, and why I’m leaving the new gun I’m supposed to be testing this weekend on the rack, to go on a field date with the Vermintor!

Out around the farm on this trip, I had the shroud extension on to reduce noise.

Out around the farm on this trip, I had the shroud extension on to reduce noise.

This big cottontail didn't know what hit him.

This big cottontail didn’t know what hit him.

You can see more in this article on my website:   http://www.americanairgunhunter.com/Verminator.html

I hope you are all enjoying the winter hunting season, and urge (at least you northerners) to get out there and hunt/shoot before the dog days of winter set in for real! I’m flying out to Texas next week for some big bore action on pigs, then Arizona on birds, fitting in the squirrel and coyote hunts when and where I can……. Because by the time SHOT Show rolls around in January it’s going to be too cold to go out in my neck of the woods. It will be me, a mountain of guns and pellets, and a lot of work on the indoor range!

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Concept Elite

I’ve just posted a video on the Brocock Concept Elite, and will be adding more information on it soon. Taking it out squirrel hunting this weekend then out for rabbit in Texas and AZ in the next few weeks. Below is the transcript from the video, and the link is;

The Brocock Concept Elite 22S6 is a high performance PCP hunting rifle in a compact package. The LOA is 38” and weighs in at about 6.7 lb.

The Concept shares many attributes with another Brocock model, the Specialist, but unlike the stripped down and very functional Specialist (which I hunted with, reviewed, and loved BTW), the Concept is equipped with the features you’d expect in a full sized premium gun.

The Concept is dressed in a thumbhole stock shaped from a piece of nicely figured walnut, with sharply cut checkering on the pistol grip and forestock. The muzzle is threaded and the air reservoir, which uses a 30 mm airtube providing substantially more onboard air storage than other Brocock carbines while still looking and balancing well.

The gun is cycled via a bolt action that has two slots in the receiver, the front locks the gun for firing and the rear serves as the sole safety, holding the breech open in a non-firing position. This bolt was a bit stiff at first, but is loosening up as I put more pellets through it. The pellets are feed through a cylinder that holds 6 shots, and is sturdy and reliable ….. as a matter of fact it is the same unit used in most Brococks multi-shots.
The gun fills to 200 BAR, and is connected via a proprietary fill probe…. Fill it up. Bleed the line, disconnect and you’re ready to shoot. I sat down at my indoor range to test several pellets, getting a one hole 6 shot group with H&N Baracudas. A big surprise, I tried several pellets including my JSB Exact jumbos which quite atypically, the gun didn’t like. Both the H&N Baracuda’s and Baracuda match were far and away the most accurate.

Filling the gun to 200 BAR and running the H&N Baraudas over the chrony, there was not a curve but rather the velocities stared high and fell off. Vmax = 772 fps, V min = 694 fps, Vmean = 738 fps over 36 shots with a 78 fps spread. However, if you measure shots 1-18 the velocities range 772-743 fps for a 29 fps variation. When hunting birds I refilling after the 5th magazine (30 shots).
Then I braved the MN cold and moved outdoors to shot at 50 yards, and while the groups opened up a bit, they could still be covered with a quarter….. better if I hadn’t been shivering! Shooting offhand at 30 yards yielded up good results as well.

Following is a look at how the gun performed for me while on a pest control shoot for Eurasian doves out in a much warmer Arizona. The number of birds here is incredible, and I worked my way through the feedlots, barns and tree lines bordering the farm. I had the opportunity to shoot the gun offhand, off sticks, and using whatever rest were available.

So what do I think? The Concept Elite is one of the nicest compact hunting rifles I’ve ever shot. It fulfilled the basic requirements for excellent accuracy and yielded up power in the 20+ fpe range and is an outstanding performer on small game. While it’s a bit on the loud side and the bolt was stiff at first, it is ergonomic. Points well. And is a blast to shoot. This is one I’m buying for my collection.

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Compact Hunting Rifles: Stepping Out With The Brocock Concept Elite

OK, so it’s no big secrete amongst those that know me, I’ve got a thing for compact hunting rigs. Set me up with a selection of the premium PCP rifles, and my natural tendency is to gravitate towards the lightest, shortest, yet always full performance gun in the collection.

After the recent AOA sponsored EBR I headed out with a small group of friends to shoot pest birds, and while my hunting companions carried and FX Royale, a Kalibr Cricket, and a RAW 1000….. I opted for the diminutive Brocock Concept Elite S6 .22, and didn’t have a minutes regret. The gun provided consistent accuracy out to 75 yards (and further at times), adequate power to drop doves and pigeons at those ranges, and suprising shot count considfering the smallish air reservoir.

The Concept Elite S6 is a compact and all around hunting rig that does everything a full size rifle will.

The Concept Elite S6 is a compact and all around hunting rig that does everything a full size rifle will.

So I’ll tell you what the gun is, but first a quick work on what it isn’t. It is not the ultra-compact Specialist, which is a gun I really like that was recently discontinued. The specialist gave up everything that added weight; the stock was a cut away pistol grip affair that used a light weight wood (painted black), had a very small diameter air tube, didn’t have an air gauge or a shroud, and as a result was quite lout without an added moderator. It was however the most ergonomic compact full power gun I’ve ever shot.

The number of birds on this shoot was incredible,,, and the Concept did a great job at 75 yards... some were further.

The number of birds on this shoot was incredible,,, and the Concept did a great job at 75 yards… some were further.

These three frames show a dove exploding under a well placed chest shot.

These three frames show a dove exploding under a well placed chest shot.

Now enter the Concept Elite; it has an air gauge, a larger diameter air tube, a modest shroud) and a beautiful hardwood thumbhole stock. It is still very compact. but the weight has crept up significantly (though still under most full sized guns). Where the specialist was a work-a-day hunting tool the Concept Elite is something of a looker. The stock is first and foremost ergonomic, but the wood is finely figured, the styling very sleek, the checkering generous and finely cut, and the trigger very nice. The Concept Elite uses the same revolver type cylinder magazine as used on the Specialist, which is easy to load and in my experience on both guns exceedingly reliable.

I worked my way along the border of the trees surrounding the feed lots and pens shooting birds out of the trees offhand, off the fences and roof tops off sticks, and out in the middle of the fields resting on the trucks rooftop, and found the gun shootable from virtually every position including some quite awkward ones as I worked to thread my way between fences, buildings, troughs, and cows.

We walked away with an excellent bag of birds, this was just a small portion of the mornings take.

We walked away with an excellent bag of birds, this was just a small portion of the mornings take.

I’m going to get the gun on the range with a bunch of pellets for some quantitative shooting for groups and over the chony. I also plan to use it for some squirrel hunting next weekend when I get back home and will give a follow up on performance in the brutal Minnesota winter squirrel woods!

Other stuff
I hope all of you are enjoying the winter hunting season. I’m sorry I’ve been late with my postings but this time of year is crazy for me as I get a lot of my materials for articles in (Predator Xtreme, FurFishGame, Airgun Shooter, and Airgun Hobbyist) videos, and the American Airgunner program in a four month window, so please stay with me and I’ll get back on track soon. If there are any guns, gear, or hunts you’d like me to cover in an upcoming blog post, just let me know.

Categories: Airguns of Arizona, Brocock, offhand shooting, pest birds, Rifle stocks, stocks, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Part II: My Personal History with Big Bores

In this second part I’m going to take a look at the growth of big bore airguns, again from my personal observations, so it’s a history that is skewed to what I’ve seen. Having spent a lot of my life living around the globe, I found that the history I learned in school wasn’t quite the same as the history others were learning in Europe, S. America, Asia, Africa ……. in broad strokes it’s the same but the interpretation and importance of events differs. So be it with my history of big bore airguns!

Perched on a hillside overlooking a waterhole in South Africa, with my binos up and .457 airrifle at the ready.

Perched on a hillside overlooking a waterhole in South Africa, with my binos up and .457 airrifle at the ready.

For me it started when I was looking for a guinea fowl gun to take to South Africa about twelve years ago, and knew I wanted something more than the standard calibers I was working with, and was thinking about something that could shoot a .30 roundball. In doing my homework I came across references to the Lewis and Clark gun, and even older guns used for hunting and military purposes. That was interesting, but what was more important was that I came across the name of Dennis Quackenbush, which I talked about in last weeks post.

The first gun Dennis built for me was a .308, which was configured as a short rifle (20″ barrel).He’d been selling this gun for a couple years in small numbers, and mostly guys were using them as a sort of novelty, with hardly any discussion of them being used for hunting….. Except for one guy out in Texas by the name of Eric Henderson. I’d used my .308 for coyote, fox, and raccoon, but heard from Dennis that Eric was shooting hogs, rams, and other exotics. I had Dennis build me a .50 caliber with a longer barrel, and after a couple phone calls with Eric, jumped a plane and flew down to hunt with him.

Pig down at 65 yards. This gun delivered more than enough power to anchor this pig, which by the way was the ugliest I'd ever seen even before I dragged it out of the water hole and through the mud (hich didn't improve on its looks).

Pig down at 65 yards. This gun delivered more than enough power to anchor this pig, which by the way was the ugliest I’d ever seen even before I dragged it out of the water hole and through the mud (hich didn’t improve on its looks).

At this time there were not too many places where you could hunt these guns, so Texas became ground zero for us. As a matter of fact most of the places where you could hunt with big bore airguns restricted them to high fence non-game animals. I took a lot of rams in Texas, Ohio, Michigan, Oklahoma, with the .308 and .50 caliber guns from Quackenbush. This was not my favorite type of hunting, but it did let us get a lot of the initial experience with these guns on game.

The only other big bore guns I found during these early days were being built by Gary Barnes, and were the polar opposite of the practical hunting guns Dennis was building. They were very expensive, took a a very long time to build, and well quite honestly always seemed to me like the fantasy swords of the airgun world. I shot a couple of them, but was never inclined to take one hunting.

 

My .50 caliber Sam Yang Dragon slayer is a great 75 yard predator gun with roundball or light slugs.

My .50 caliber Sam Yang Dragon slayer is a great 75 yard predator gun with roundball or light slugs.

Slide7

 

Then one day I got a call from the guys in Korea to say that they had built a rifle called the Dragonslayer in .50 caliber. They had the first gun to hit the USA shipped to me, and I took it out to hunt hogs. This gun was much lower power than the Quackenbush rifles I was shooting, but it was very accurate with roundball, and I managed to take deer, hogs, and later some smaller African antelopes as well as many predators with it. Having a production gun readily available was a game changer, because by this time Dennis was lining up buyers as fast as he could build guns and not everyone that wanted to hunt a big bore could get one. The second thing that happened was that it opened a market for big bore airgun tuners that could up the power on these production guns.

A few other guys with backgrounds as machinist started small scale production of bigbores. Joe Bontrager, Leroy Rodenaur, Jack Haley and a few others were turning out guns in limited number, but still the demand outpaced supply. Some of these guys didn’t stay in business long; Bontrager over extended himself and his business failed. To be honest, I liked Bontrager small bore guns but was not at all impressed with his .50. It was powerful enough at about 300 fpe, but it was inaccurate with every projectile I tried, had a terrible stock, and one of the worst triggers I’ve ever used. I never felt comfortable enough with this rifle to hunt with it. Leroy’s rifles are really well made, I used his little .457 short rifle to take a deer in Missouri a few years back and was quite impressed with it. Unfortunately for us (fortunate for him) his business in aeronautics took off and his time to manufacture guns vanished…. so if you have one of his guns, good on you and hang on to it! Jack was the guy that started turning out guns in numbers, and his design was really a slightly modified early generation Quackenbush knock off, but he built them solid, they were powerful and accurate and they did offer a viable alternative to waiting on a Quackenbush.

During this time Dennis had come out with his long action (LA) model guns, and the first three he built for Eric, Randy Mitchell, and I to bring to South Africa where we used them to take a lot of big game. Several tuners and modders have taken these guns and cranked up the power getting over 600 fpe and going to some very large calibers (.72), The American manufacturer Crosman entered the fray with a .357 called the Benjamin Rogue, which was accurate, powerful, but also very big, heavy, expensive, and the electronic action did not resonate with the market leading to it being discontinued within a couple years. But this gun was responsible for getting a lot of visibility for big bore airguns in the mainstream hunting media. My hunting buddy Randy had also started manufacturing a gun through his company Adventures in Airguns called the Corsair in .308, eventually adding a .357 to the line. These are sleek little guns, that can be very accurate and powerful, and many owners have added sleek stocks available from Richards MicroFit.

The Korean manufacturers; Sam Yang expanded their line of big bores to include .357, .457, and .50 calibers and Evanix came to market with a wide array of .357′s in the 100-135 fpe range. these guns were notable for a few reasons; they were moderately powerful and are well suited for predators and medium sized game, they are moderately priced, and readily available. However, without being tuned to generate higher energy output the Evanix guns are not well suited for larger quarry.

More recently the Europeans entered this niche segment with the .303, which is the smallest of the big bores that I prefer to call midbores. The Daystate Wolverine came out with FX fast on their heels with the companies Boss .303. These guns are in the 100 fpe energy range and are great predator guns that are very effective and practical for small game. as well.

Concurrent with the development of guns there has been rapid development of ammunition with Seth Rolands BHD, Robert Vogels Mr. Hollowpoint, Hunters supply, and H&N coming out with a wide range of airgun bullets. In addition JSB has come out with traditional Diabolo style pellets in .303 and .357. There are now pellets and bullets to meet just about any application from small to big game, in a multitude of calibers.

At the present time I know of three new big bores that are either completing the prototype phase or preparing to go into production, and expect that by the time the 2015 SHOT Show comes around we’ll have some new guns available.

I’m finishing this blog entry as I prepare go out for another day in Virginia hunting with my Quackenbush (converted to a muzzle loader), taking a nice whitetail on opening day of season. I’ve shot lots of mule deer, blacktail, and whitetail with firearms before switching to big bore airguns and they tend to be a bit hazy, but I clearly remember pulling the trigger on every one of my more than three dozen airgun harvested deer…… As more venues open up to hunt deer with big bore airguns, I think it becomes less likely I’ll use my fireams again!

NOTE: I wrote this a few weeks ago, and just realized I never posted it. Sorry for the delay!

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Extreme Benchrest in Tucson

This was my 3rd EBR, and it is one of my favorite events.... outside of hunting.

This was my 3rd EBR, and it is one of my favorite events…. outside of hunting.

I’ve been on the road the better part of a couple weeks now, first in Tokyo on business followed by a quick trip to Arizona to participate in the Extreme Benchrest competition sponsored by Airguns of Arizona, Daystate, and FX Airguns. Then back to (a frozen) Minneapolis. The jet lag, hours in the airport, frustration of using borrowed gear …… was it worth it? A loud an resounding yes!!

I go to several Airgun related events throughout the year, from competitions, to airgun shows, to hunts, to tests of new products….. and the EBR has become a high point in my year, for several reasons. First, it is a gathering of shooters from a wide geographic area; all over the States, Europe, South America and the rest of the world. Next the competition is at a high level, in the sportsman and pro classes with several events including benchrest, field target, and silhouette disciplines. There is a wide selection of guns from many manufacturers, along with modified and custom guns. And finally, it is just a lot of fun. I get to see friends from around the world that I don’t often get to catch up with.

I rented a car at the airport in Phoenix and drove down to Quail Creek south of Tucson. When I arrived on Friday afternoon, many shooters were already down at the range getting their guns and gear set up. Quail Creek has done a fine job on the design and build of their airgun range, with 20 well marked lanes and solid, ergonomic, and comfortable benches to shoot from. The range lanes go to 75 yards, with movable targets mounts. I checked in and caught up with the AOA guys and several other friends, then ran over to get set up in my weekend digs.

And our lodging for the event was an airgunners frat house! I was rooming with Ted Bier (Ted’s Holdover) and Gilles Barry (Airgun Gear Show) with Andrew Hugget a charter member staying in another house, but using ours as a staging area. Ted was the first to arrive, but kindly took the room with the small single beds figuring that Gilles and I would not fit. There were guys testing guns in the hall way, swapping stocks at the dining room table, pellets, scopes, and gun cases were piled randomly around the living room. It was a great setting, lots of interesting talk on guns, gear, the industry, YouTube, airgunning history and trivia, Ted’s always entertaining and Gilles just cracks me up …… but both really know their stuff!

How did I shoot? I was there. thats what matters :)

How did I shoot? I was there. thats what matters :)

Day 1 started with a 6:30 briefing session, to cover competition rules, safety rules, and general information. The first even was the 25M BR and my flight was shooting at noon, so I immediately went back to the house and back to bed for a quick nap, followed by breakfast, and was back on site by 10:30. Actually, I walked out of my room and directly into Gilles who was doing an Episode of :Airgunners Cribs” which you can see in the attached video here: http://youtu.be/2ivMXCRtW8A . The 25M was interesting to observe; with serious competitors shooting modified or custom rifles off custom rests, with weighed, washed and sized pellets. These guys showed me everything I was doing wrong….. I shot a borrowed rifle, with pellets I found stuffed into a gun case, rested on my backpack initially….. my results spoke to my preparation :) . But no excuses (even though I’ve just presented every one I can think of), I shot my best and found that what would be 25 dead prairie dogs doesn’t cut it when shooting for scores!

The next event was the timed silhouette, which is the most exciting airgun competition I’ve seen. There were two groups, sportsman and pro, that shot three rounds with high score retained. Shane Keller was a machine with his single shot rifle clearing the targets in amazing times (you can see the guns and times in the results). I also watched a 12 year old shooting phenom named Noah from Texas. This young man was dead accurate and FAST…. he’s somebody to watch in future.

At the close of the day, there was a cocktail party for us all to get together and talk over the days events. Ross Marshal from Milbro served as master of ceremony, with Ted and I giving keynote talks, topics related to airgun hunting for me (no surprise there) with Ted presenting filming techniques and answering frequently asked questions from his YouTube channel. We all hung out and chatted afterwards, then joined up with Gilles, Andrew,Shane, Kip and several of the AOA gang at a Mexican restaurant for a well earned dinner.

Gilles getting either some coaching or chop busting from Kip....  If you know Kip you guess which..

Gilles getting either some coaching or chop busting from Kip…. If you know Kip you guess which..

Day 2 started off with the obligatory briefing (the range masters were outstanding by the way) and then to the 75 yard EBR. Lots of mid bores with the usual suspects in attendance, namely the FX Boss and Wolverine. But there were others of note; John Bergquist had a self built bottle fed Marauder .30 and there were a couple RAW 1000 HM’s on the line, again you can get the resdults here: http://youtu.be/2ivMXCRtW8A .  A big congrats to Tim McMurray for winning the. Extreme Bench rest with his own USFT rifle.

It's becoming the norm, but Shane Keller is the guy to beat getting ready for next year.

It’s becoming the norm, but Shane Keller is the guy to beat getting ready for next year.

If you didn’t make it this year, you really need to attend next years match. If you were at this event, I’d say there is a high likelihood you’ll be back next. For my part I am going to be ready, I will get my gear ready, pick the gun I intend to use, get a rest set up, and practice……. of course I say this every year and then don’t follow through. But that’s what is cool about EBR, you can be as serious (or not) about competing as you want to be, but just being a part of it is worth the trip!

After we wrapped up, I met up with Scott Dellinger and a couple other friends to shoot Eurasian doves….. but that’s for another post.

 

Categories: adjustable buttstock, Airguns of Arizona, Competition, EBR, Extreme Benchrest, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

Winter Time Hunting is Here

Being a native son of Southern California, cold weather and I have not always been on friendly terms. I lived in Northern Europe for many years and even did a couple sabbaticals up in Trondheim Norway pushing up against the Arctic circle, but warm weather is coded into my DNA!

Winter is a great time to hunt ....... if you are properly prepared!

Winter is a great time to hunt ……. if you are properly prepared!

I’m writing this blog entry sitting in a cafe on the outskirts of Tokyo, the weather is a bit overcast and drizzly, but a sports jacket is all I need to stay warm. But talking with my wife by Skype last night she told me we had our first snow of the season in Minneapolis and that its getting cold! So when I get back home, those easy going “grab a gun and go” fall squirrel hunts are a thing of the past. In the next part of the season I’m going to be spending as much time getting my warm clothing layers, cushion seats, and chemical hand warmers ready as I will getting my gun and hunting gear prepared.

But winter hunting has several advantages ….. one is no bugs! I’m up in Minnesota these days, and even into fall the mosquitos threaten to carry you away, so having them gone is a good thing. Also no ticks, which at the risk of threatening my outdoor guy facade, freak me out! Also for squirrel hunting, leaves off the trees and snow on the ground makes it easier to see the crafty rodents. Of course they have an easier time seeing you as well. My way around that is snow camo, my personal opinion is that no other pattern in any other condition covers you as well as snow camo in snow. My luck shooting crows climbs exponentially in winter for this reason alone.

I’ve been using the snow camo pattern cloth tape to camo my gun as well, and even throw it on my shooting sticks. During the fall hunts I don’t generally carry a pad to sit on, but a nice thick insulated pad with a back rest is great as it gets colder, wetter, or snowier. I mention those chemical warmers, I buy the big economy packs and on cold days put one in each jacket pocket to give me a quick access to warm my hands (I prefer thinner or no finger gloves), I also put a couple in my front pants pockets, and my inside jacket pockets if real cold.

I always dress in layers that have a means of venting, especially if hiking, carrying a load, or variable weather conditions are expected. Nothing quite as bad as sweating on a hike into a stand, then sitting still in the freezing cold with damp clothing. You need a way to keep cool while exerting yourself, and either removing or opening zipper vents is the way to do this.

For underwear I use a light synthetic base, wool outer layer, and if very cold an external layer of fleece underwear. Then I like a technical sweater, a light zip up jacket and my heavy jacket over the top. For pants I will often wear jeans over my underwear, then my insulated overalls over that if it’s very cold, though I’ll skip the jeans in less severe weather. Anytime the weather gets cold, even if not cold enough for insulated outer wear, I prefer overalls as they keep any cold air slipping in as you twist and bend moving through the woods.

I like a thin cotton sock under thick wools socks, and my winter boots are a half size up to give my toes room to wiggle. Feet are the hardest thing to keep warm, but I haven’t had a lot of luck with those smaller chemical heaters meant to slip into your boot…… best I can say is make sure you keep your feet… warm then man up.

Other articles of clothing I wont do without are a fleece collar that bunches up around my neck but can be pulled up to cover my lower face, a fleece beanie that can be pulled down over me ears, or if really cold a full fleece balaclava. I really believe that these items are very often the difference between comfort and misery when out on the very cold winter days.

So I leave Tokyo Narita tomorrow afternoon, fly back to the Twin Cities after an all night flight, say hello to my girls, then jump on a plane Friday morning for Arizona. Why, besides sunshine and warmth, you might ask? Because the Extreme Bench Rest in Tucson starts on Friday with competition starting up on Saturday, then on Monday we’re going to do a pest bird shoot with my friend Scott Dellinger which is always a blast.

If you live close enough to drive to Tucson, even if you don’t intend to compete, I’d recommend that you come on over. There’s a lot to see, a lot of shooting, and a lot of people there to talk to. Besides the usual suspects from AOA, Terry Doe from Airgun World and Airgunner magazines from the UK will be there, Gilles Barry from Airgungear.com, Ted of TedsHoldover, Steve form the Yellow Forum, and me from American Airgunner and Predator Xtreme along with all the guys from Daystate and FX will be shooting (pellets and the breeze) and it’s a very good time for all! Hope to see you there, and if you do make it stop by to say hello, I really enjoy meeting fellow airgunners.

Categories: Uncategorized | 6 Comments

My Journey into Airgun Hunting

I get a lot of questions about how I got into airgunning and what changes I’ve seen over the last several years. In this two part post I’m going to look at one airgunners journey into an emerging hunting sport, grounded in Europe but gaining maturity in the United States. In this two part article I am going to talk about my experience as an airgun hunter, the people and events that have formed my worldview of our sport. A disclaimer; what I am presenting is a personal history and outlook on events, others have different experiences and views. This is mine!

We have a very strong hunting culture in the USA, and it can be argued that it is the most egalitarian and inclusive hunting community in the world. There is however one area in which we have historically lagged behind, and that is the sport of airgun hunting. I’m sure there will be some that read this and smile, or maybe laugh out loud, and based on the exposure many have had to airguns in the past this might be understandable. But two things I can tell you; awareness of what the modern airgun can do is taking hold, and there is a USA based airgunning subculture that is growing and breaking new ground. Hunting laws around the country are incorporating the use of airguns for a variety of quarry from small game to predators to big game species.

To frame this discussion up, let’s take a quick trip back in the history of airguns, and it is a long and storied past. There are examples of precharged pneumatic big bore airguns that are traced back to Bavarian Nobles of the 16th century, with reports of them being used to take large game such as Russian boar. During Napoleonic times there was at least one Austrian battalion of airgun riflemen that were known for their ability to direct accurate and high rates of fire in the direction of their enemies. Closer to home and in the less distant pass, it has become common knowledge that Lewis and Clark carried a twenty shot repeating big bore air rifle to impress the heck out of indian tribes they met along the way.

I didn’t know any of this when I relocated to Europe for school and work in the early eighties, though it was quickly apparent that my lifelong interest in hunting and shooting wasn’t going to go anywhere under the oppressive gun laws of my temporary home. But one day while whining about never getting to shoot, an Austrian friend suggested that I give one of his airguns a try. And what an airgun! It was an under barrel spring piston airgun that sported a finer stock than anything I’d ever shot before. We spent an afternoon plinking and shooting rats at a local tip, and I was hooked. But my real awakening to the sport occurred a few weeks later when I was looking through the international magazine rack at the airport in Amsterdam, and found a British magazine dedicated to airguns and airgun hunting! I’d grown up on Outdoor Life, Sports Afield, Fur-Fish-Game and all the other great American hunting and shooting publications so this discovery had me floating higher than everybody else in Amsterdam.

When I got back to the states in the late 90's, I found that it was a very different type of airgun hunting than I'd experienced overseas, and the first time I had the choice to choose airguns over firearms.

When I got back to the states in the late 90′s, I found that it was a very different type of airgun hunting than I’d experienced overseas, and the first time I had the choice to choose airguns over firearms.

What I quickly figured out was that the British have such rigid anti-gun policies in place that the airgun developed in an atmosphere quite different than back home. These guns had become one of the only ways the rank and file Brit could shoot, and they had concurrently developed their guns for hunting applications. While we were running around small game hunting without .22 rimfires back home, our cousins across the pond were having at the rabbit, rook, and wood pigeon populations with finely crafted spring piston airguns. An interesting aside and not sure if this is factual or urban legend, but I’ve been told by several “in-the-know” UK airgunners that the reason for the 12 fpe limit was self-inflicted. UK manufacturers in the 70′s were building spring piston guns with most topping out in the 12 fpe range, when out of Germany and Spain a new threat appeared, magnum springers! To protect their markets British companies lobbied for limits to block these imports….. and as a rule it’s easier to get a law passed than to get it repealed. At any rate it seems as good a reason as any other I’ve heard for this somewhat arbitrary power limit. So I used airguns to hunt where legal, and did almost all my fun shooting with them for several years. After spending a decade in Europe followed by a few years in Asia and Australia, which also had a more developed airgun culture for the same reason as the UK, I brought my passion for airguns home to roost.

This picture was taken in the Mojave desert outside on the California/Nevada border in 1998, and became the cover of my first book "American Airgun Hunter" a few years later.

This picture was taken in the Mojave desert outside on the California/Nevada border in 1998, and became the cover of my first book “American Airgun Hunter” a few years later.

When I got back home to Southern California in the late 90′s I started taking my beautiful German spring piston airguns out after jackrabbits and ground squirrels but never once ran into another airgun hunter. I thought I was all alone, but then I came across the Beeman catalogs and learned there were others taking the leap into high end airguns. As a matter of fact I bought a Beeman C1 (which I still have and shoot) and an R1 that went in a trade a few years back. A little historical juxtaposition; a few years later when writing a review on my first book “American Airgun Hunter” Dr. Beeman said “Jim Chapman is all about results, and will hunt with guns I wouldn’t be seen with” I try to keep an open mind and a sense of context when reviewing any new gun rather than my personal bias.  A bit later I stumbled across Tom Gaylord’s Airgun Letter and started to get a sense that there were a few others like me around.

My son was my hunting partner back in the early days, and we got to do some great trips together. He's off at grad school now, so we don't get out much any more.

My son was my hunting partner back in the early days, and we got to do some great trips together. He’s off at grad school now, so we don’t get out much any more.

Eventually my work took us to the Midwest, and coincidentally a perfect storm of events; I had my introduction to squirrel hunting, I started surfing the internet and found a few other hardcore airgun hunters, I discovered several domestic sources for quality gear, and the advent (actually the reincarnation) of precharged pneumatic airgun technology! All of these factors were impactful, but the latter was a game changer!

Spring piston Airguns were all we had early on and still have two obvious advantages in my view, they are generally much less expensive and they are fully self-contained. They are less expensive because they are simpler to manufacture, have efficiency of scale, and probably the most important factor is they require no additional filling gear. A good quality springer will cost you about 1/4 of the price of a budget PCP and high pressure air tank. This is also why they are self-contained, the energy required to shoot the gun comes from you physically cocking the rifle and setting the piston, for which the investment is 35-50 pounds of cocking effort. But you can take one of these guns and a tin of pellets and hunt as long as it takes you to shoot through 500 pellets, then get another tin and keep on going. Even with the availability of PCP guns, it is the springers that dominate the market still.

Another big step on my airgun journey was when I started tuning cheap Chinese guns and hunting them.

Another big step on my airgun journey was when I started tuning cheap Chinese guns and hunting them.

The primary disadvantages are also two fold; springers are much harder to shoot than a PCP, or a firearm for that matter. There is a bidirectional recoil to the firing cycle, which makes these guns more hold sensitive, and because of the lower velocities when compared to firearms a longer dwell time, or time between the trigger being pulled and the pellets exiting the barrel. Let me say right up front that I am a pretty good, but not a great, shot. Yet I cannot count the number of times a really good centerfire shooter has told me he got one of those damn BB guns, and that it is so inaccurate his targets look like he patterning a shotgun. Then I pick up the gun and shoot a clover leaf, not because I’m an intrinsically better shot (most probably I am not), but because I know how to shoot a springer. Springers don’t like to be rested, they don’t like to be gripped tightly, and all airguns regardless of powerplant are impacted more by trajectory. This is one of the reasons for the slow understanding of the potential of airguns as hunting tools; new shooters didn’t realize a different technique was required and there were not enough resources available to help them.

Precharged pneumatic guns are the ones that were being used a few hundred years ago, but then disappeared from the scene until relatively recently. Why? Because they were technically difficult to manufacture and they were very expensive so when rifled barrels came along firearms were more powerful and far simpler and cheaper to manufacture. But again, necessity is the mother of invention, the Brits wanted/needed a gun that was more accurate, quieter, more compact and easier to shoot accurately. Companies like Daystate, Webley, BSA, and AirArms jumped on the bandwagon and started to produce some truly superb small game hunting guns. These guns store a volume of high pressure compressed air in some manner of onboard storage container; a reservoir or bottle under the barrel, or a bottle in the buttstock, to store enough air to shoot several shots per fill.

Randy and I back in 2003-2004 with a couple of our early PCP's, he had a BSA Techstar and I had a Webley Raider.

Randy and I back in 2003-2004 with a couple of our early PCP’s, he had a BSA Techstar and I had a Webley Raider.

This onboard storage needs to be filled either manually with a hand pump (looks like a bicycle pump on steroids) or from a high pressure tank that in turn is fill with a compressor (think diving bottles or paintball tanks). These guns, at least in the standard calibers, are virtually recoilless and therefore very easy to shoot accurately. They can be tuned to be substantially more powerful than springers, and they can be made very quiet. Another advantage is that the gun is where the energy is stored, not the ammunition. Many PCP rifles offer adjustable power, so I can take my predator gun, dial down the power for practice in my basement, and then tweak it up when I hit the field. There is nothing like a lot of practice with the same gun you use for hunting!

The disadvantage of the PCP is that they are expensive, and the filling gear can cost as much or more than the gun. At some point you need to fill the guns and tanks, so unless you have your own compressor you are not self-sufficient. And my last critique is the flipside of the fact they are easier to shoot, they don’t require the discipline of perfecting your shooting technique that a springer does. I had worked closely with the old management of Crosman, and was on their Prostaff for a while, and got the first Discovery to test and hunt with, and provided a lot of feedback that was later found in their Marauder model, which made PCP technology affordable in a US based product. But even before this another US manufacturer by the name of AirForce came out with a relatively inexpensive PCP that could bump up the power for an honest predator gun. These guns did a lot to make PCP an option for the everyman gun. I would say that most serious airgun hunters eventually gravitate to the PCP, but many never give up their springers.

So we started getting the PCP rifles in our hands, tuning them to shoot at higher and higher energy outputs, shooting further and going after larger animals. This is where I believe the foundation of airgun hunting in the USA and the UK started to diverge. I write for one of the British hunting magazines and have to be very careful when discussing long range shooting, taking body shots, and going after larger quarry, because their hunting ethic is based on a 12 fpe worldview.

But the other paradigm shift related to no imposed power limits is that larger calibers became practical. A .25 caliber pellet restricted to 12 fpe at 40 yards has a trajectory of a brick tossed underhand, while at 40 fpe it is fairly flat shooting. A groundswell of powerful .25 caliber guns started coming on to the market driven by the acceptance of American Airgunners. Even ten years ago there were very few .25 caliber guns on the market with even fewer choices when it came to pellets.

The other part of the perfect storm has been the people I’ve met along the way. In the early 2000′s I was shooting many springers and had branched out to buying cheap Chinese imports and tuning and modifying them, and also doing some rebuilds and conversions on the Crosman 2240 platform to build up hunting air powered handguns. Then through the “Yellow Forum” where I was researching these guns, I met Randy Mitchel. He had one of the only airgun hunting websites at the time. Right now you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting an airgun hunting website, but Randy’s was one of the first. He is a very solid writer, and was generating all the content himself.

Until that point except for a couple scientific books on the measurement of blood flow in adult and pediatric heart disease and several scientific articles in peer review journals, I’d only written a couple of articles on fishing and travel for regional publications, but asked Randy if I could do a couple pieces for his website. These were well received, and are really what laid the groundwork for all the other opportunities I’ve had in airgunning since. But just as important for me, was that Randy was one of the first guys I meet that was as fanatical about airgun hunting as me, plus he is a master in the art of squirrel hunting. Over the next few years I’d travel down to Kentucky to hunt with him, I took my first airgunning deer ( a nice 12 pt buck) sitting next to him in a treestand, and spent a great two weeks hunting big game with him in S. Africa on my 3rd safari. We eventually wrote a book together on squirrel hunting with airguns. I consider myself very proficient in this discipline of small game hunting, which probably would not have been the case if I hadn’t become friends with Reverend Randy!

And then along came Mr. DAQ; Dennis Quackenbush is the father of the modern big bore airgun and he started building guns shooting .308, .457, and .50 caliber cast lead bullets. Dennis built rifles that a small group of us started using to hunt predators, feral hogs, and exotics (no states allowed larger native game animals to be taken with airguns at the time). Over the last ten years the ranks of airgun hunters in general, and big bore airgunners specifically, has exploded onto the hunting scene. Mainstream manufacturers such as Crosman, Evanix, Sam Yang, Daystate, and FX are building guns in the .30, .40, and .50 caliber range. And I expect to see several new big bores hitting the market at the 2015 SHOT Show.

Eric Henderson and I started traveling all over the country to hunt our airguns... I could even talk him into a small game hunt every now and again. We've been hunting together for over ten years now!

Eric Henderson and I started traveling all over the country to hunt our airguns… I could even talk him into a small game hunt every now and again. We’ve been hunting together for over ten years now!

In about 2004, Dennis Q introduced me to another guy by the name of Eric Henderson that was hunting predators, hogs, and exotics out in Texas, telling me I had to talk to this guy. He set up the call, and Eric and I hit it off from the start. Eric invited me to come down to Texas to hunt with him, and a few weeks later I was on a plane flying down to meet him, which started many years of us partnering up for hunts all over Texas, Kansas, Michigan, Virginia, Missouri, Oklahoma, and South Africa with our airguns, most often those built for us by Dennis. Eric made the first big bore airgun hunting videos and got me in front of a camera for the first time. Eric was instrumental in getting recognition for big bore airguns, his videos, he got the airgun hunting segments of American Airgunner started in the beginning, and was the originator of the LASSO long range shooting competiton. Eric was one of the first big bore guys out there and our friendship had a real impact on me personally and the sport in general. I don’t think Eric gets the acknowledgement he deserves for his contribution.

Another good friend and hunting partner I met along the way was Brian Beck, who is in my opinion the best predator hunter in the country using an airgun. Brian competes in open predator hunting competitions against guys using high powered centerfires and consistently places in the top finishers. During my years in Indiana, we hunted a lot and tried a lot of new guns together. Over the years I’ve met and hunted with a lot of other guys that have each in their own way, had an impact on me and/or the sport. I’ve hunted with Terry Tate (he of the giant cowboy hat), Robert Vogel (Mr. Hollowpoint), Seth Rowland of BHD, airgun/hunting fanatics Chip Sayers and Charles Peebles down in Virginia, Dammion Howard down in Alabama, Brian Cook in Missouri,  Scott Dellinger down in Arizona and many others.

About three years back, I was talking with AOA’s owner (and himself an airgunning fanatic) Robert Buchanan at the SHOT Show, and he invited me to visit their shop on an upcoming trip to Phoenix. When I got there I was really impressed with his operation, the guns he carried, and his staff. Recently one of my main hunting partners has become Kip Perow, who is an airgun expert and the resident hunter at Airguns of Arizona. Kip and I have hunted jackrabbits, prairie dogs, javalina, and done a S. African safari together. Kip is a font of knowledge and information on airguns, and a great guy to hunt with. Kip has been doing some great hunting and review videos, and much to my envy took the first airgun mountain lion a short while back!.

One the media side, Predator Xtreme has offered me a home for the last eight years, and provided a platform with my regular column Airgun Advantage, then Fur-Fish-Game started publishing my work, and when I was asked to contribute to Tim Smiths efforts on Airgun Hobbyist to introduce hunting I jumped at the chance. Then I was offered the opportunity to write a semi-regular series for Airgun Shooter in the UK. And then about two years ago I was asked to join the Roundtable sessions on American Airgunner with Tom Gaylord, Rick Eustler, Steve Criner, Steve Fjestad, and AA host Rossi Morreale, last season being asked to co-host with Rossi and Steve to help out with the hunting segments of the program. Through the media connections I’ve been able to shoot, talk, and hang with a great group of talented airgun hunter/writers such as Nigel Allen, Terry Doe, Giles over at the Airgun Gear Show, and Ian Bartlett. Another source of awareness for airguns in the States has been provided by many other airgunning authors such as Ron Robinson, Robert Hamilton, and Tom Gaylord, who have also had an impact on me and helped me develop a better understanding of the craft.

There are also a lot of guys that I’ve spoken or communicated with in cyberspace that have contributed to our sport; Ken Cox spearheaded the drive to get airguns legalized for Deer in MO, Thomas Jue and Robert Hamilton besides being very good writers, did much to help craft the California airgun hunting regulations and get them approved. Cedric (AKA Tofazfou) has been a great influence on long range shooting with mid and big bores, Ted Beal that has been a shooting star on the YouTube space and gotten a lot of visability for airguns, Manny the Hawaian hog slayer has been a strong voice for the Korean guns, and many many others I’m not mentioning (sorry, not enough space). And of course Steve (in CT) , the owner and leader of the Yellow Forum, the biggest and in my opinion, best airgun forum to be found. Steve and I have become friends over the years, and I think his role has been key in the wide adoption of airguns in the States. Keeping independent minded airgunners within boundaries is like herding prairie dogs, and he does a fine job. This forum has been the source of a tremendous amount of information and has been a great asset for many airgunners newbies and enthusiasts alike,

My point is that I and a few others get a lot of credit for helping to get airgun hunting going in the States… and get a lot of the credit.  I have been lucky to be part of it, but the growth has been driven by a community of dedicated airgunners. I am also aware that what I am presenting is my view, and others may have another perspective, and that I have left out other key players, but after all I am talking about my journey in this post. There are many guys with a lot of experience, but the ones I’ve names have also had visibility and/or made a significant and last contribution.

Most states now allow some type of airgun hunting; it may be strictly varmint and nongame pest, small game, or predators. Feral hogs are probably the most available big game species, and a growing number of states either allow deer to be taken with airguns or have changes to regulations up for discussion. Small game hunting (squirrel, rabbit, game birds) with a standard caliber airgun, both springer and PCP’s, is one of my favorite outdoor activities. During squirrel season I go out 2-3 times in the week on short hunts within 30 minutes of home, and spend a couple of hours in the woods and typically bag a couple squirrels. Then on Saturday I’ll do an all-day out-for-a-limit session! This type of hunting is available, inexpensive, a lot of fun, and a great way to get more hunters in the field. More states are adding new regulations or expanding existing ones every year, a trend I believe will continue.

When I go out to shoot prairie dogs with my centerfires, it is not hunting but an exercise in shooting. There is nothing wrong with this and it is certainly more productive than using an airgun. But I like to hunt more than shoot, so when I get on the ground working my way through a prairie dog town with an air rifle, using cover to stalk in and camo to ambush resurfacing dogs, I’ve turned the shoot into an actual hunt. OK so 40-50 dogs is a good day, but when I head in at the end of an outing, I’ve put miles in on the ground and had to work for those 50-100 yards shots. It’s not for everyone, but for me it doesn’t get much better!

I do a lot of predator hunting with an airgun (raccoons, fox, bobcat, coyote), which roughly fall into two categories; the first is simply to increase the challenge. I hunt in the same area I’d normally use a rifle in, so the sound of a gunshot or carry of the bullet is not an issue, but we have to work a bit harder and a bit smarter to succeed. The second type is when we are going after problem animals in more built up areas where we have to be quiet and we are in tighter confines. In the former the airgun is purely to enhance the sport, in the latter it’s a more appropriate tool.

My community of friends have taken a lot of game across the categories, and my airguns have accounted for squirrels, ground squirrels, rabbits, jackrabbit, rockchucks, groundhogs, prairie dogs, hyrax, vervet,  pigeons, doves, crows, quail, turkey, Guinea fowl, Egyptian Geese, ducks (legal in SA), deer, hogs, warthogs, javalina, duiker, Steinbuck, springbuck, bushbuck, impala, kudu, mongoose, raccoon, jackal, fox, bobcat, coyote and many exotics. Next blog post I’m going to drill down on my thoughts on the development of big game airgunning, which is an interesting story in its own right.

Next: Part 2- I’ll talk about my views on the recent history Big Bores airguns and big gam hunting!

 

 

Categories: Airguns of Arizona, Big Bore Airguns, Big Game, bird hunting, crow hunting, Deer hunting, Destinations, Ground squirrels, Jackrabbits, Long Range shooting, pest birds, Pest Control, Prairie dogs, Predator hunting, Rabbits, Regulations, Safari, Small Game Hunting, Spring Piston Airguns, Squirrels, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Another Short Hunt

Was out squirrel hunting today with the Brocock Specialist, love this little gun but more about this later. So far this year has been great for squirrel hunting up here in my new home of Minnesota, as I mentioned in the last post I’ve found a lot of public land to hunt, bushytail populations are high, weather hasn’t gotten terrible yet, and I have a ton of cool guns and gear to get out in the field with. Besides the public land I’ve found, we live in a suburban area about 20 miles out of the city that has a lot of new housing developments going up in what until recently had been farmland. Lots of 5-20 acre woods that are being bulldozed (price of progress I suppose) that I’ve been going to early in the morning before construction work starts or late afternoon after it ends.

The leaves are coming off the trees, the squirrel populations are good, and I'm finding a lot of places to hunt. Of for a walk-about with my handy little Brocock Specialist over my shoulder!

The leaves are coming off the trees, the squirrel populations are good, and I’m finding a lot of places to hunt. Of for a walk-about with my handy little Brocock Specialist over my shoulder!

I reckon that most the trees and wildlife are going to be gone from these area soon, but I scout, get an idea of the squirrel populations, then give myself a limit. The one 10 acre stand of woods by my house has a lot of mast producing trees a few den trees, and I estimated probably 20 squirrels…. it’s pretty thick and probably more when counting both grays and fox squirrels, definitely more the former. Based on this I decided that I’d take eight, then shut it down …. I think I’m the only one hunting there. Well, I’ve shot seven over the last couple weeks so decided this afternoon would be my last hunting visit, though I will go back with my camera for photo work. I’ve shot these seven over 5 trips, the first was a scouting run and the next four I gave myself 2hours or 2 squirrels, which ever came first, Three times it was two squirrels, and once it was two hours that came first …… it’s a great way to hunt while conserving the limited resource on these small wooded areas.

Today was a bit colder and I was busy until late afternoon, so bundled in a jacked I rolled into the dark and overcast woods at about 4:00. Less than ten minutes in, I spotted two grays running around, coming in my direction. I slowly sank down to wait for them to move into shooting range…… and I sat………. and I sat….. but they had vanished into thin air. So I hoisted my messenger style pack and rifle and started back further into the woods. The area is a mix of mast producing trees; walnuts, hazelnuts, and acorns, with the whole north border up against cornfields. There is a fair mix of evergreens all of which covers some hills with a deep ravine running right through the middle of it.

The gun I choose today was the Brocock Specialist with a 6 shot rotary magazine. Mine is in .22 caliber and is generating about 21 fpe. This model is not shrouded and a bit on the loud side, though the muzzle is threaded and I do have accessories for it, though in this case I wasn’t worried about a little noise. The gun is accurate, and the cut-a-way stock with a well formed pistol grip comes very quickly to shoulder. I’ve found on previous hunts using this gun I shot well with it offhand, and as a matter of fact didn’t even bother with my usual (Primos Trigger) sticks. The rifles stock is black out of the box, though min is wrapped in a vinyl camo treatment. With the sling I’ve mounted, I throw the lightweight little compact over my shoulder and I am good to go. In this particular area I always have some climbing to do so really appreciate how compact the Specialist is.

P1010261 (800x600)

A while later I spotted three squirrels chasing each other around and started a slow stalk, but part was there I was busted and two of them took of like a flame had been lit under their tails. But the third one was no where to be seen, so I sat down to wait. But after 20 minutes I decided it was time to go, but first decided to sweep the are with my little compact binos …… and there in a big oak forty yards away and about 25 feet up sitting in a fork and hidden in shadows, was squirrel number three sitting on hi haunches, chewing a nut, and watching me! I leaned back against a small tree trunk, put my pack on my knee to get some elevation, and slowly squeezed the trigger. The bushy tail crumpled ……… but didn’t fall out of the tree! I spent the next half hour trying to throw a branch to knock him down, I tried shooting him down, all without success….. so I guess some owl will get dinner on me tonight. Anyways, that was how I closed out my experience at this location. With only a few self imposed rules it gave me several short hunts close to home, and at the risk of repeating myself ad nauseum, you can only do this with an airgun…… ya gotta love them!

Brocock Gun News

I’ve got some new guns coming in, and we’ll take a closer look at Brocock. Airguns of Arizona is the US importer and distributor of Brocock products and as you may have heard, Brocock was acquired by Diana (not the airgunning Diana) which is the parent company of Daystate. Brocock has new management, new production facilities, and of more importance to us ……. new products. I think Brocock is one of the underrated airgunning gems, and my hope is these changes will increase their visability and make more people aware of these hot little hunting rigs!

Extreme Benchrest!!

Looking forward to the EBR down in Tucson in November; this is one of my favorite events of the year. Great venue, great shooters, and a great chance to see lots of friends from the States and the UK. I’ve already made my flight reservtions, registered to shoot all three of the competitions (haven’t decided on guns yet), it’s a LOT of fun. Registrations to compete have just about reached capacity, but even if you’re not going to compete it is worth the trip …. hope to meet a lot of the blog readers there!

Categories: Airguns of Arizona, binoculars, Brocock, Daystate, offhand shooting, Rifle stocks, Small Game Hunting, Squirrels, Uncategorized, where to hunt | 9 Comments

Practice Before Hitting the Field

I do a lot of practicing with my airguns before, during, and after hunting seasons. A good portion of this is after work in my basement range at 15-20 yards, and you may wonder what value that has. If I was just shooting off a bench, not much. But I find that using field positions; prone, sitting, standing, off hand and off sticks while shooting a FT target with the smallest kill zone is great for a tune up or for refining technique.

My basement is unfinished, so I lay one of my wife’s yoga mats down to soften the concrete contact points where knees and elbows meet the floor. And try to get fifty to a hundred shots every day, focusing on guns I’ll be using for upcoming hunts. I also shoot off sticks when possible during my hunts, usually sitting or kneeling. When I’m going to Africa I spend a lot more time shooting off sticks while standing as this is the most common shot option.

Some years ago I got a letter taking me to task for shooting off sticks instead of shooting offhand. My response was that you want to take the highest percentage shot whenever possible, and I don’t care how good an offhand shot you are, you’ll do better when rested. A lot of places you’ll encounter will have grass or other obstructions that preclude shooting prone with your gun over your pack. Many of the others will not have natural objects, such as rocks or trees, to rest on. A good set of sticks is the perfect answer for these situations.

The other advantage of this practice with respect to the hardware, is that you get accustomed to each guns trigger. Pulling it three or four hundred times in low intensity (non hunting) conditions gives you time to study the trigger while committing it to muscle memory. And moreover, you get accustomed to the general shooting characteristics of your rifle. With all the loading you’ll be doing, it will condition you to move quickly in the field where it counts.

I know I can belabor the point, but for the vast majority of us an airgun is the only hunting tool (aside from a bow) that will allow this much practice. It’s all that much better when we’re using the same guns will be depending on in the field.

Well summer is winding down; I got out on four prairie dog shoots, a few trips out for jackrabbits, groundhogs, and pest birds ……. but the real season is just getting started. In the couple weeks since opening, I’ve already been out of seven hunts in five new places and, have bagged a dozen and a half bushytails with a few different guns. Granted most of these are a couple hours in duration after work or on weekends before family time kicks in, and usually only a squirrel or two before I pack it in, but it seems like I’m getting a lot of field time in. In addition I’ve got four weeks of vacation that I’ll be stringing together to use on several major hunts between now and early next year. I love these filler hunts though. After the EBR I’ll be hitting the dairy farms with my buddies Scott and Steve. I know I’m repeating myself, but you gotta love this time of year!

By the way, just wanted to mention again the joys of a compact full power gun. I was out early this morning with the Brocock Specialist .22, and it was a joy to carry and shoot in the heavy fall foliage. Using JSB Exact Match pellets, the gun is putting out about 21 fpe and along with the accuracy is all out of proportion to the diminutive size of this carbine…… love the gun!

 

Categories: Big Game, bird hunting, crow hunting, Deer hunting, Destinations, Jackrabbits, offhand shooting, pest birds, Pest Control, Prairie dogs, Rabbits, shooting sticks, Shooting technique, Small Game Hunting, Squirrels, Uncategorized | 5 Comments