Down in Puerto Rico Another Iguana Hunt

Hello Everyone, sorry it’s been a while since I posted! I’ve been on the road nonstop, and much of it out of the country the last couple months, but managed to get a bit of shooting and hunting in as well. I spent last week down in Puerto Rico working on the serious iguana problem, one in which the importance of airguns cannot be understated. My first trip to PR to shoot iguanas was about 3 1/2 years ago, after being invited on a shoot with writers from several American hunting magazines: Outdoor Life, Petersen’s Hunting, NRA’s American Hunter, Predator Xtreme, and Sports Afield. PR wanted to bring viability to the problem, and one of the solutions they wanted to launch was a commercialized hunting of these tree dwelling pests.

These iguana have been pressured, when they saw a human they started moving for cover. When caught in the open you needed to shoot fast.

Flash forward a few years, there are a lot of people going to the island for iguana hunts, either specifically to hunt iguanas or fitting a day hunt into a vacation filled with fishing, laying on a beach, or sight seeing. The hunting is making an impact in specific areas, for instance I hunted on the same 300 acre farm visited on the first trip, and this place is getting continued pressure. And the numbers are way down…… don’t get me wrong, three of us removed between 350-400 iguanas in two days of shooting. But where I saw thousands the first trip I saw hundreds on this one. There is no doubt that the hurricane altered the landscape making it harder to access these critters, but numbers were being pushed down before the storm hit.

Why do iguanas need to be culled? The reasons are simple: they are non-indigenous, populating out of control, causing environmental, financial, and infrastructure damage on a significant scale. Why are airguns important to the effort? Because trapping an poison don’t work, firearms can’t be used for legal reasons, and airguns are effective and efficient. Another big plus is that visiting varmint hunters will pay to hunt them, creating a revenue stream for locals at the same time.

The method I employed was to be dropped at a shady area where I could tuck away an airtank (you’ll do a lot of shooting), and ice chest full of water, Gatorade, and diet Coke (it is HOT and HUMID), and my extra shooting and camera gear. I liked to set up in the banana grooves because they are shadey and give off a cool tropical vibe :). I’d go out and shoot for a couple hours, come back to cool down and re-hydrate, then head back out.

I found my “Happy Place” tucked in the shade of a banana grove!

I think a powerful .25 or .30 caliber is about perfect, a .22 while effective in most instances, did not anchor a couple of the really big lizards even with a solid head shot. I learned on my earlier visit that headshots were the only sure way to anchor iguanas.

Getting a stable shooting position and focusing on headshots is the key to success!

It was a great trip, I’m going back in September for 9 days to hunt with a few different outfitters, and when I get back I’ll post some information on options to do your own hunt! I’ll tell you about flights, transportation, hotels, and outfitters…… I think this is one of the really cool hunting experience for airgun hunters…. and it’s only available for airgun hunters!

Hope you are all having a great summer, getting in some shooting, and loving life! Talk again soon.

Jim

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The Trend Towards Larger Caliber Airguns

About a year ago I wrote an article for Airgunner in which I asked, Is the .30 the new .25? I was looking at the reasons hunters used the .25 caliber, and discussing whether the .30 was a better choice than the .25 when measured against the same criteria. The intention of this article is to take closer look at why so many shooters on this side of the pond are moving to larger caliber shooting rigs. Note that I’m not talking about the very powerful big bores shooting cast bullets, but rather the major calibers shooting Diabolo style pellets.

A compact .25 that is accurate and powerful is a great small game hunting gun that will let you take a predator or hog if the opportunity comes up!

This is not an argument of whether a legal or FAC power is better, rather a simple statement of fact that there are more high-powered airguns being manufactured than ever before. In the U.K. it is possible to purchase and use high power airguns, and the question of whether an FAC gun provides the shooter any advantage becomes an important one. In north America however, where there are few or any limitations on airgun power and the potential market is huge. For this demographic it’s fair to say most shooters and hunters own more than one firearm, and for these shooters even an FAC rated air rifle appears to be low power. I know very few airgnners that shoot sub 12 fpe guns here, even if they focus on springers.

Regardless of the power plant employed, if you are limited to 12 fpe, larger caliber pellets become less viable. Shooting a .25 or .30 caliber at 12 fpe would result in a pellet trajectory akin to pitching a shotput underhand, with such a range dependent shift in the point of impact you’d need a ballistic calculator to know where the pellet would hit along a 40-yard flight path. But if unconstrained by power restrictions, the logical design step when moving to a larger caliber is to increase the power output of the rifle.

A .25 will let you take head or body shots, and stretch out further than you could with a .22.

If I want to use a 25 grain .25 caliber pellet in a “Legal” limit rifle, the velocity would have to be kept at around 450 fps to generate 11.2 fpe. Such a slow-moving pellet would be of limited use outside of a dozen yards. On the other hand, use the same pellet but keep the velocity at around 950 fps, generating an energy output of 50 fpe, and it’s a completely different story. This pellet is now zipping along with a flatter trajectory than an 8 grain .177 pellet with a muzzle velocity of 800 fps (generating 11.3 fpe).

Since gravity works at a constant rate, the trajectory is a product of the velocity at which the pellet travels. So, remove the need to limit the power output the logical step is to increase the velocity and resulting power output as caliber is increased. But there is more to it than the muzzle velocity, the smaller caliber pellets generally have a poorer ballistic coefficient and are always much lighter. The effect of resistance on lighter pellets in flight is that they shed velocity more rapidly. This means that even if the .177 pellet was launched with the same muzzle velocity as the much heavier .25 caliber pellet, at 50 yards the larger pellet would be traveling at a higher velocity than the lighter. The trajectory of these two pellets at closer range would be similar, but the drop would be greater in the light weight smaller caliber pellet at longer ranges.

The intrinsic accuracy of the two pellets might be fairly close: but the need to compensate for pellet drop with the smaller caliber pellet makes it harder to shoot accurately, especially under field conditions. This is one of the reasons that many shooters competing in long range target events, as well as those hunting in conditions requiring longer range shots, have been moving to .25 and even .30 caliber rifles in recent years.

Another reason you’ll hear given for the .25 caliber preference, is that the heavier pellets, even though they have a larger surface area, are less effected by wind. Whether this is due to the weight being less influenced by wind, or the fact that at greater distances the heavier pellets are moving at a higher velocity and thereby reducing the time available to exert influence, I don’t know. But my experience shooting on paper and on game leads me to believe this is true, though let me add that if the wind picks up to the point its pushing your pellet off course, it’s time to either move your range in closer or quit shooting.

So far I’ve focused on the trajectory of the larger caliber pellet, and not the power delivered on target. For target shooting this is not a high priority, for hunting applications it may or may not be, depending on several factors. If hunting 1-2 lb. cottontail rabbits on one of my farm permissions, where most shots are inside of 40 yards, a 50 fpe .25 caliber rifle is not necessary. However, if pursuing a 10 lb. jackrabbit at 75 yards, the powerful .25 caliber pellet will be much more decisive in anchoring my quarry. In both scenarios, a more powerful and larger caliber gun gives me the latitude to effectively take both brain and heart/lung shots.

One other consideration is that for many of us hunting in North America, there are more species to hunt that found in many regions. An airgun hunter might have the opportunity to hunt smaller cottontails or larger jackrabbit, large body animals such as turkey or raccoon, or quarry such as prairie dogs that require long range shooting. A .22 could be used for all of these but is a more marginal performer with the larger animals or at longer distances. And while a powerful .25 caiber might be overkill for a squirrel or rabbit at closer range, it is effective, and allows me to have one gun that does it all.

To this point I’ve spoken primarily about the .25, but many shooters are moving to the .30 caliber for many of the same reasons. As far as competitive shooting, some events set .25 caliber as the maximum in the standard caliber class, and the .30 as the gateway into the big bores. My primary reason for moving to the .30 caliber centers more on the need for a rifle I can use for the larger game sometimes encountered on small game hunts. I am going out on a prairie dog shoot next week in South Dakota, and there will be an opportunity to do some long-range shooting on paper and then on live quarry. I will use this opportunity to get my thoughts in order on where the .30 caliber fits into my shooting worldview then, and hopefully Phill will let me do a follow up afterwards!

What has made this discussion relevant, is that there are now many outstanding guns being offered in both .25 and .30 caliber, I’m using the Daystate Renegade, Brocock Bantam, FX Wildcat, and Hatsan BullBoss in these larger calibers, and importantly, have had the opportunity to shoot them all in .22 as well. I will make two general statements: in every instance my long-range shooting (on paper) has been better with the major calibers. And on game (granted this is anecdotal) my impression is that kills have been quicker and cleaner, especially on body shots and at longer range.

Let me windup by saying that the rationale for migrating to larger calibers is situational, but I think for North American hunters there is a lot to think about, for me the .25 has become my all around favorite small game caliber.

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Tips for Spotting Small Game

First look for the right habitat and signs of quarry (tracks, droppings, scrapes, feeding), then carefully and slow survey the area.

I recently posted some videos of rabbit hunts I’d done out in Texas, and received a lot of questions that I thought I’d answer here on the blog. Small game hunting is a lot of fun, and is a good place for new hunters to get started, a way for experienced hunters to get in a lot of field time to keep sharp, and for everyone, a great hunting experience that stands on its own.

Small game can be easier to locate than larger game like deer or turkey, at least in part due to the much higher populations and a propensity to come out in the open. Smaller game animals such as rabbits and squirrels depend on speed or camouflage to protect them. But much of the mail I receive comes from new hunters that are having trouble locating quarry when they get out in the field. In this week I will give you a few hints that can help.

The first one sounds way too simple …… hunt where animals are. If you go into the wrong habitat, or to a place that is over pressured, you are not going to be successful. When hunting public land, get as far from roads and easy access as possible, since many people don’t want to work to fill their bag. I’ve seen many areas in the high desert where nothing is around within half a mile from a dirt road, but hike in a mile and you’ll start to see jackrabbits in numbers.

Also, look for signs of activities: cuttings on the ground when squirrel hunting, droppings scattered about the area, jackrabbit scrapes under cactus or mesquite brush. Often you can find tracks, so know what the prints of your quarry look like, imprinted in soft sand or snow. Look for the types of cover your prey prefers: cottontail rabbits like brush piles, fence lines, and abandoned buildings and equipment they can hide around or under. Jackrabbits like to lay at the base of mesquites on a slight rise that allows them to watch danger coming, with adjacent flats with sparse cover where they can open up when the need comes to flee.

And importantly, when looking for game do just that……. look! It’s not just new hunters I see ignoring this rule, I see guys that get out into the field and just start plowing ahead burning up ground. There are times you want to motor ahead, when getting from one likely spot to another but when you are actually on the hunt you should move slowly. Very slowly, stopping often to look at your immediate surroundings, then looking further ahead to where you are headed to survey all likely looking spots along the way. A set of binoculars can be very helpful, even if your eyesight is good, you might be surprised how much more game you can glass than see with the naked eye. This is especially true in lower light conditions early in the morning, towards evening, or when looking into shadowed areas.

Rabbits and other small game often require on camouflage before relying on speed…. look closely!

When you spot an obvious target, look for others before starting your approach. I can’t count the number of times I’ve almost tripped over a rabbit while fixated on approaching another.

When searching an area, look for telltale signs: a smooth contour that doesn’t quite fit in, a bit of hair being blown at a different speed than the surrounding grasses or leaves, a slightly different color of fur or the amber glow of sunshine passing through a rabbits ears……… and the big one, look for any motion that is inconsistent with the majority of motion. What I mean is that if the wind is blow the grass to the right, and you see something move to the left, zero in on it.

Your objective is to see game and get into range, while your preys objective is not to be seen and to stay away from perceived threats. When everything in your environment wants to put you on the menu, staying alert becomes the key to survival. Rabbits and squirrels see better than you, tend to always be on high alert, and has a safe zone they will try not to let you intrude on, and this is the game you need to play to be consistently successful in the field!

Move slow and use natural cover to your advantage

I hope if you’re just starting out this helps, it is more important than with traditional firearm hunting because your ranges are a bit closer and shot placement more critical. The main thing is don’t get frustrated and/or give up. When I first moved to the Midwest and started hunting tree squirrels, I’d been hunting all my life. But I didn’t have the skill set to consistently go out and limit. Sure, I bagged a few, but it wasn’t until I started watching really experienced squirrel hunters in the woods, that I progressed. They moved much more slowly through the woods than I did, were much more methodical in scanning the trees, and more cognizant of signs than I’d been when small game hunting. Even though I knew how to hunt, modifying my field behavior to slow down, look more, and be more specific in what I was looking for…… paid off in results!

Keep at it and think through your hunts: where to hunt, how to cover the landscape, look at habitat and figure where you’d go if a jackrabbit (view of incoming danger with cover to hide, but enough open ground to take off if spotted).

I just got back from another small game hunt in Texas over the weekend, and though brought back a case of flu, had a great time in the field. In a couple weeks we’ll be heading down to South Dakota on our (now) annual prairie dog shoot with several other Airgunners, which is going to be a blast if last year was anything to go by. Seems like winter is finally over up in the fast north, and I look forward to a summer of varminting, shooting, and getting out for some fishing! Catch up with you all next week!

Categories: Airgun Expedition, Airguns of Arizona, bantam, Brocock, compact guns, compatto, Daystate, Destinations, Jackrabbits, offhand shooting, Pest Control, Rabbits, Small Game Hunting, Spring time hunting, Uncategorized, where to hunt | Leave a comment

Hunting With Springers, a Spring Tradition

You wouldn’t know we’re in to spring based on the weather….. I flew back from an overseas trip this weekend and we had to pass right over Minneapolis because of a major storm, a blizzard actually that dropped about 8″ of snow. I ended up being dropped in Cincinnati,but finally 26 hours after leaving Copenhagen I made it home. Good thing to, because I’ve got a few days of work to catch up on and at the end of the week it’s off to Texas as I mentioned in last weeks post.

A srping piston rifle hunt is one of my Springtime traditions. These guns remind me of my airgun hunting roots more than any other. But it’s not just nostalgia, I appreciate the challenge as well!

I haven’t decided which rifles will be packed along, but I do plan to take along  a couple spring piston rifles to do a couple of my rabbit hunting sessions. Some people give up springers when they start shooting PCP’s, which in some ways is understandable. They are easier to shoot accurately, give a longer shooting range and are especially efficient in larger calibers. However, I’ve always been a fan, and think always will be, of this powerplant.

Spring piston guns are self contained, they offer some pricing advantages, improve your shooting technique, all of which have been oft repeated. But more to the point, they are in my opinion, a blast to hunt with. If nothing else, I kind of feel like I’m paying homage to the sport and the tradition when I use a spring powerplant. I’ve got several I like to use in the field: the Diana 340 N-Tech, Walther LGV, the Weihrauch HW90, and of course my beloved Beeman C-1 which is the one airgun I’ve owned from almost the start. I bought this rifle in .177 in the late 80’s and have never even considered selling or trading along the way.

On one trip last spring the Diana N-Tech in .22 did a stellar job on rabbits for me: I like a gas rams firing cycle and this one has a very smooth firing cycle and the trigger is outstanding out-of-the- box. I typically shoot offhand when hunting a springer, mostly because most spring piston rifles don’t shoot well rested, though I have had good results from the N-Tech off sticks. One thing in general that I like about several springers in my collection is that they can be very sleek since no air reservoir needs to be styled in. The RWS 34 and the N-tech are good examples of this.

My .177 Diana makes short work of the smaller cottontails often hunted in Texas.

Unlike PCP’s, for small game hunting with a spring piston gun I’ll often use a .177, tend towards lighter pellets regardless of caliber, and often shoot specialty pellets like Polymags. I find that at my preffered ranges of inside 35 yards, these work very well on game such as rabbits. For scopes I prefer either a fixed 6x mag or a 3-9 Variable, in more compact designs. Many of the scopes from Hawke or Leapers have made their way on to my spring piston rifles, and especially the lower priced but built-like-a-tank Leapers scopes.

It’s possible to achieve quite good accuracy with a quality springer, but you’ll usually be limited by the hunters ability to maintain accuracy than power generation.

I will say as I look out of my office window at a snowy landscape through a haze of cloudy white, that I can’t wait to hit the warmth of west-central Texas. We’ll be after rabbits, predators, hogs, and doing some scouting for quail. I hope you have a good week and I’ll touch base with you next week with news of our outing!

Categories: airgun ammo, Airgun Expedition, Airguns of Arizona, effectiveness, Hunting Guns, Jackrabbits, Predator hunting, scope Hawke, shooting sticks, Small Game Hunting, Spring Piston Airguns, Spring time hunting, springers | 1 Comment

Texas, Quail, Rabbits, and Future Hunts!!

This has been a busy week, sorry I’m late posting! I am in Copenhagen again this week for my day job, and before leaving on tis trip was busy getting my guns and gear ready for a trip to Texas just a few days after getting back in country.

As soon as I get back to the states next week, I’ll be packing up for another trip down to Texas… almost feels like I’ve moved back! Have a couple new rifles I’ll be telling you about!

I’ll be meeting up with Chacho to hunt a new lease for rabbits, do some predator calling, and scout for hunts later in the year. Word has come down that Texas will be adding new regulations this year that will permit the use of Airguns for game animals, which will include quail! I’ve been a serious upland bird hunter all my life, but I have to say that since some states (CA, AZ) allowed Airguns for quail hunting, this has shifted my bird hunting focus a bit!

Hunting quail with an airgun is a challenge, and though you obviously don’t take them on the wing, locating them before the run off or take flight is not easy. Neither is getting a head or neck shot as they don’t hold still long when on the move. This year I’ll try for a new grand slam: quail with an airgun. Blue quail in Texas, Mountain and Mearns quail in California, and Gambel’s quail in Arizona! Trying to get these all in one season should be fun, and may give me a reason to pull out the .177 rifles I haven’t used for a while.

My grand slam of quail the Mountain, Mearns, Gambel’s, blue scaled

 

But back to Tejas! If all goes as expected with the hunting regulations we’ll (airgun hunters) have a new venue to hunt mule and whitetail deer, antelope, javalina, and game birds along with all the exotic, varmint, and predator hunting opportunities we’ve had there in the past! I’m in the Lone Star State a half dozen times per year to hunt, but that will sky rocket this year. I’m lucky that from my local airport flights to Dallas are frequent and cheap enough that long weekend trips are practical.

I get excited when I have a quest in front of me, and the grand slam of quail will be one of those. Several years ago I proposed (and completed) the grand slam of predators with an airgun (coyote, fox, bobcat, and raccoon), then the grand slam of squirrels (fox, gray, Aberts, and black color phase) which I did, and next will be quail!! I also like quests that require that I travel and hunt in different types of terrain under varied conditions. We’ll see how it goes!

I’m already planning a squirrel hunt in Arizona right after Airgun of Arizonas EBR 2018, I need to check on seasons but perhaps I can add quail to the ticket if the timing is right. I’ve talked about this in the past, but there is no reason to limit your traveling hunts to big game, as a matter of fact if you do this you’re missing out on a great opportunity.

Part of the excitement of this type of hunt is, that by it’s very nature, small game hunting generally provides multiple opportunities to stalk and bag your game. And if you blow a stalk or miss your shot, not the end of the world, you move on to the next. But add to that the excitement of the journey, being in the field in a new or infrequently visited area. It also lets you revisit places from your hunting past: I lived in Indiana for several years so going back for a weekend squirrel hunt is a chance to visit my old haunts and sometimes hunt with old friends as well.

It will be change: this week I’m dressed in suit and tie moving through Copenhagen, which is a city I know well and like a lot. Next week I’ll be in jeans and camo moving though the mesquite in West Texas…. You’ll never guess which one I prefer……

Categories: Airgun Expedition, Airguns of Arizona, bird hunting, Destinations, EBR, Extreme Benchrest, Hunting Guns, Jackrabbits, Rabbits, Regulations, Small Game Hunting, Spring time hunting, where to hunt | Leave a comment

(Too Early) Spring Prairie Dog Shoot!

I’m always telling you about my successful hunts and I have guys tell me they think that every time I go out there’s game everywhere. This week I’ll share the type of outing that happens a bit more than I write about!

Ever wondered how I shoot and film at the same time. I’ve got one gun with me, but four cameras!

I called my buddy Brett on short notice and told him I really wanted to come down to get an early jump on the prairie dogs. He said “you’re welcome to come over, but don’t know how well you’ll do”. It seems that some dogs were venturing up when the weather was good, but the forecast for the days I had available ……. well, it sucked! Cold, high winds, rain maybe snow flurries, everything that you don’t want. Common sense dictated that I postpone to a later date.: the odds of seeing and dogs was questionable, the few that came up would not be the dumb pups but rather the previous years survivors that were not likely to let me get close, and the howling winds would be a nightmare to shoot in. Going down would not be the smart thing to do.

As I drove in, the towns that were usually alive with activity were still.

So I loaded up my car and got on the road for the 5 1/2 hour drive. Leaving Minnesota there was snow on the ground with a couple light flurries kicking up, the wind was knocking me all over the country highway, but I was happy to be out. I rationalized that I had a coupl;e days off work, my family was busy, and Brett and I needed to discuss the upcoming Airgun Prairie Dog Shoot we’d be hosting in May anyways, so no matter what the trip would not be a waste.

I had a few very cool rifles with me, including the Daystate Pulsar, Renegade, and Brocock Bantam: I passed a couple towns on the way in, and saw one dog where normally I’d see hundreds. When I arrived the weather still sucked, the wind was still frigid and howling, but I set up targets and had fun trying to shoot groups between the gusts. To be honest, things didn’t look good. When the target was more than 50 yards away, the wind opened my groups up too much to even think about hunting.

I set up my tripod, leaded against the wheel to brace myself and shield from the wind, and plinked for a while>

I drove the 15 miles from the ranch back to the steakhouse in town, hung out for a bit catching up on my emails and some American Airgun Hunter related stuff before bedding down for the night. When I awoke there seemed to be a break in the weather, but when I checked the forecast it was set to really fall apart later in the day. I drove out to a prairie dog town, and had a walk-about with the Pulsar and my gear. I stayed out a couple hours, and though it was not so cold today, it was windy with on again/off again showers.

So I got one dog down anyways!

In that entire walk I saw maybe a half dozen dogs, two of which let me in close enough for a shot. The first one I fired an empty chamber as the jumpy rodent dove down his burrow. The next one surfaced right in front of me as I sat contemplating my next move. I lined up the shot and whacked that dog hard, anchoring him on the spot. After that I didn’t see another dog and it started getting colder, windier, and wetter, so I decided to set off for home a day early.

I stopped by the lodge and caught up with Brett for a while, and he said “I could have told you it wasn’t a good time to be out ….. oh wait a minute, I did tell you that”. Anyways, we caught up, talked abou

t our seasons, last time we saw each other I was off to California on a Turkey hunt and he was off to Alaska salmon fishing, and discussed the upcoming shoot in May. As we talked I saw a black line of storm clouds moving in from the West, so said my goodbyes, jumped in the trusty old Outback, and took off for home.

OK, an 11 hour round trip drive to shoot one prairie dog might seem a bit excessive…. and it is. However in retrospect I just wanted to get out a move around a bit. Since getting back from Texas a few weeks ago, I’d been at my office all  day every day, and was happy just to be out on the road, to get in a bit of shooting, and a bit of hiking.b So was it worth it???? Hells yeah!

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Pest Contol: Pigeon in a feedlot!

I’ve had the Daystate Renegade for several months, and have had an opportunity to use it extensively,  a lot of small game has dropped to this compact little bullpup, including rabbits, pigeons, prairie dogs and raccoons. At 30″ LOA it is one of the shorter bullpups, but weighing in at 8.8 lb it is a still a substantial bit of hardware! I’ve mentioned before that these characteristics of a heavier bullpup help to pull the gun into a shooters center of gravity for off-hand shooting, and I don’t say this as an excuse for heavier guns, I really do shoot them better offhand……. and with a good sling you won’t really notice that extra weight when packing the rifle through the brush!

But where I really noted the advantage of the compactness of the Renegade in this particular application, was while carrying it in tight spaces. Moving through sheds and between equipment, shooting from tight windows with limited shooting lanes, were all easier than if I’d been using a full sized rifle.

I used the Renegade on a recent pest shoot for feral pigeons, and inside or outside it did a great job for me!

My afternoon shoot took me into large storage sheds, snaking my way through pipes and conveyor belts inside and out, squeezing between tanks and bins, and into fields and along fence-lines. Some shots were at 15 yards, some at 75 yards, but the majority were between 40-50 yards. A small percentage of my shots were at birds feeding on the ground, but I took the most shooting upwards along the roof-line or perched high up on wires and pipes where the birds staged between feeding and roosting spots. I had to be even more careful with my backdrops than usual, because putting out well over 30 fpe I had to consider the possibility of pass through. The 300 cc air tank provided me enough shots that I could have stayed out all afternoon if my schedule had not been forcing me on-wards.

This 6 shot group using JSB Exact 15.8 .22 caliber pellets showed me the rifle had made it through the airline baggage carriers without incident, and that I was ready to shoot!Before starting on this shoot, I did a quick 6 shot group to check my zero, which is always a good idea after traveling with your rifle, especially if traveling by air! I wasn’t shooting to test accuracy, I’d already done that before leaving home and I’d printed out a trajectory chart so that I knew where the pellet would hit at various distances. I just wanted to make sure the gun hadn’t taken a jolt that threw off the alignment. You’d be surprised how often this happens, and even a slight shift in the POI can really mess up your hunt.

Pigeons were constantly flying into perch on these pipes before entering a whole in the wall of the building where they nested. This was right over equipment covered in a layer of guano. No wonder they wasn’t these birds gone.

I shot here for about an hour and a half, and dropped a couple dozen birds. I recovered some, the barn cats ran out and grabbed a few, and some I could not get to because they landed on roofs or other inaccessible spots. I did collect up those I could, which you see here with the Renegade. I used this bullpup for feathers and fur, and found it a great little hunting rifle. I’d used the Pulsar, which is the electronic big brother of the Renegade, and it is a fine air rifle. However, I really enjoyed the refined simplicity of the Renegade, which forgoes the electronics everywhere but the HTU trigger. And what a great trigger it is, which is something of a rarity on bullpup designs, particularly on those guns not purpose designed to be a bullpup.

A few the birds I collected on this short shoot. During the course of the week I was really impressed with theb Renegade while out after these birds and rabbits…. and there were a lot of rabbits, but that’s another post!

I’ll be taking the Renegade with me on a prairie dog shoot next month and will report back on how it handles the winds and long ranges encountered on the South Dakota grasslands. Until then, stay well…… and get out there and shoot!

Categories: Airgun Expedition, Airguns of Arizona, bird hunting, Daystate, pest birds, Pest Control, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Rabbit Hunt Texas Style

Just got back home from a 6 day hunting roadtrip in Texas, which was comprised of a few different hunt for small game, pest/varmints, and predators. On the good side there were a lot of small game and varminting opportunities, on the not so great side the predator hunting was touch. And it was one of those situations that are difficult to work out, with the conditions we had it should have been great! There was a new moon and it was dark, the winds at night were mild, and the temperature was on the cool side for this time of year. But in three nights of calling we had two fox, one bobcat, a skunk, and a couple of raccoons come in. I took the pair of fox, didn’t get a shot at the cat, and gave the coons and a skunk a pass.

Wer also had a tough time at first with rabbits, places that were supposed to have big populations came up empty. Then we found a place with a few, and I thought I had a half dozen on film, but it turned out that the guy operating my camera got the pause and record buttons confused and the only footage I ended up with was of the ground as he walked between shots! In desperation I called my buddy Chacho out in Odessa, and he put me on to a site loaded with rabbits. On my first hunt I grabbed my Brocock Bantam and some JSB Exacts and hit the field.

There was cactus everywhere, which made everything but standing offhand shots difficult.

There were a lot of rabbits here, both cottontails and jackrabbits. At times I’d spot a rabbit laid up in a scrape under a clump of brush, and kick up 4 more rabbits as I stalked in. I really like the Bantam, it is ergonomic and I found I could shoot offhand with it very well. My shots were from 15 to 75 yards, but I only took the longer ones when I could sit and shoot off my knee.

Hiking back in with one of the many rabbits I bagged on this outing. The Bantam in .22 hit hard and dropped the pellets right on target. I did appreciate the high shot count in this setting as well.

I had four guns to hunt with and only wanted a few rabbits so limited my self to 2 hours per gun, and in that time took about a dozen rabbits. I do believe the Brocock rifles I’ve been shooting lately (Compatto and Bantam) offer a great hunting rifle at a much lower price point than I’d expect. If I could only have one PCP hunting rifle, either of these would be high on my list.

On my way to a mixed bag, I focused on jackrabbits at first.

Anyway, I’m back at home now catching up on my video editing and back to work in the morning. I’ll be doing some long weekend trips coming up: back to Texas for hogs, South Dakota for prairie dogs, and maybe Arizona for some Eurasian collared doves. Hope you all have a great week, and back with more next week!

Categories: Airguns of Arizona, Brocock, Daystate, Jackrabbits, offhand shooting, Rabbits, Small Game Hunting | Leave a comment

Hams on the cloven hoof

I guess you may have heard about the recent trouble with YouTube, many popular channels (like AoA) were shut down, and many of us received community strikes (get three and you’re gone!) on the way to being shut down, It appears tho have been related to a change in some of the algorithms they use to assess videos for appropriateness, at least that’s what I was told. Still at a loss why they seemed to target airguns, but be that as it may most of us are back up and running. I’m glad to say that on appeal and after review, my strike was removed and the age restriction lifted from most of my videos. The problems with age restrictions is that nobody can view your videos unless signed on, which limits traffic. Lets hope this is all behind us, but you never know for sure.

Now lets get back to what this blog is about, hunting! I’ve had several emails rolling in lately asking me about pig hunting with an airgun, and most these come from potential hunters that don’t have too much background on feral pigs so I thought I’d provide some basic information here.  I like hunting deer, but there are only a few states that currently allow airguns for deer, seasons are fairly short and limits low. Feral hogs on the other hand are wide spread, can be hunted with airguns almost everywhere the occur (except California), have no seasons, no limits, and are widely distributed. For this reason, I believe they are one of the best airgunning quarry for big bore airguns in N. America.

One of the ranches I hunt has lots of smaller pigs that can be drawn out in the day by laying corn in the road, but the big boars go nocturnal and are much more secretive …. that’s why they get big!

Feral pigs are rangy-looking non-native members of the domestic swine family. They are called feral pigs, wild pigs, razorbacks and other local names. These animals are originally native to Europe and Asia, and they are aggressive mammals posing serious ecological, economic, aesthetic, medical threats when the invade an ecosystem. Feral pigs have expanded their range over most of the contiguous United States. I’ve hunted them as far south as Florida, as far north as Michigan, as far west as California with many stops in between.

Feral pigs are a nuisance animal in almost every state in the country, though in California they are considered a game animal. Feral pigs look very similar to the domestic pig. They are medium sized hoofed mammals with a long, pointed head and stocky build. Feral hogs come in a variety of colors and sizes, and except for the larger tusk of the boars the sexes look much alike. Their hair is coarse with long bristles (coarser, denser and longer than that of a domestic pig). Domestic pigs start take on these characteristics within a generation if release into the wild. Colors and patterns range from solid black, gray, brown, blonde, white, or red to spotted with multiple colors. Usually the animals are black. An adult develops a thick, scruffy mane with stiff bristles tipped with blonde. Feral pigs have elongated, flexible, tough, flattened snouts, erect pointed ears that stand about four to five inches above their head. Their long tails are straight, never coiled like the tail of a domestic pig. They have four cloven feet, similar in appearance to a deer’s hooves. Boars have four continually growing tusks that can be extremely sharp. The upper tusks can be several inches in length. The upper canines curl up and out along the sides of the mouth. The shorter lower canines also turn out and curve back toward the eyes. Boars can use their tusks for defense and to establish a dominance during breeding.

Going into the Texas thickets is the best bet of finding a big boar in daylight, this is where the layup. It is tough walking through this stuff and seeing the pig before you push it.

 

Setting up an ambush can work well. If you find a place where pigs are moving and stay fairly still this is a good option. Pigs don’t see as poorly as some people would have you believe, but their vision is nowhere near as good as deer.

One of the reasons I like head shots on pigs is that boars develop a thick, tough skin of cartilage and scar tissue around their shoulders. This can make chest shots an uncertain option even with a high-power centerfire, though they can still be effective. I was on a hunt recently where 7 other hunters were using firearms, and I was the only one with an airgun. I shot four pigs, two of which were the largest shot that weekend, and all four dropped on the spot to headshots. The firearm hunters were less selective with their shot placement, and we lost several hours every day tracking their less effective (less selective) shots. I find that hunting with an air rifle makes you think your shot through and make wiser decisions about when and where to shoot.

This ranch has several simple blinds set up in strategic places, feeders, water holes, and natural funnels.

The best all around airgun for hog hunting is a .357 on up caliber from a gun generating 300+ fpe, but light rifles can be used if the hunter hold for closer shots and sticks to the head. My typical shot placement is to drop the pellet either right down the ear, or between the ear and the eye. If you’ve seen any of my videos using lighter rifles this is the only shot I take.

I was out stalking and had scared off a couple big pigs, and in disgust headed back to the ranch to get some lunch. As I crested a hill I saw this little porker running down the road right at me, and dropped him as he topped a hill I’d dropped behind.

Texas is one of my favorite states to hunt hogs in, lots of them and licenses are inexpensive. Unless you know someone with land you’ll probably have to pay to hunt as most of the land in the state is private property, but it’s generally a pretty reasonable price. I’m heading down in a couple weeks to hunt with my buddy Don Steele, where we’ll split our time between predators and hogs. Looking forward to it, we’re talking about setting up a hunt later in the year for a small group of airgunners and will let you know when and the details as the plans come together.

Speaking of airgun hunting events, we are going to do the S. Dakota prairie dog shoot again this year and I will post the details here and, on a video over on my YouTube channel in the next week or so with the details. We had a great time last year and expect this year to be another outstanding trip! I’ll be getting my Bantam out for both of these hunts.

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Airgun Hunting by Night

One of my favorite predator hunting venues is Texas, where the variety and the sheer numbers of predators is incredible:  coyote, bobcat, fox, and raccoons, and the possibility of a mountain lion always present. I’ve been traveling to the Lone Star State to hunt for about 15 years, and for the first five I only hunted in daylight. While I had fair results, it wasn’t until I started hunting at night that the big numbers started rolling in.

My night time hunts began out in Midland with a gentleman that was a guide and competitive predator hunter, by the name of Cody Brunett. We spent a good deal of time cruising back country access roads, shooting off a high rack equipped with lights that let us spin in circles while calling, and we got on a lot of coyotes with the occasional fox and bobcat.

Then a few years back I started hunting with a trapper and predator hunting pro by the name of Don Steele, it is fair to say that he is one of the best callers and predator hunters I’ve ever met. Don has a Humvee equipped with a rooftop shooting platform, lots of land to call, and he gets on predators virtually every time we hunt. His method is to do a set every half mile, and he works the call and the lights, while the lucky ones get to shoot.

Airgun Hunting by Night

Both Cody and Don hunt the wide-open spaces, cover a lot of ground, and shoot from high racks that are equipped with lights and enough hands to operate them. While there is no doubt predator hunting at night is the way to bump up your numbers, for the guy that hunts small parcels of land by themselves, the logistics can be daunting.

One of my hunting partners down in Indiana, Brian Beck, is the king of Airgun coyote hunters and he spends a lot of time out on his own with an Airgun and lights. When we hunt together, one guy operates the call and lights while the other is on the trigger which works fine, and Brian has his system dialed in for managing all the equipment when he hunts alone. Me on the other hand, not so much. I find myself cluttered in gear, wrapped in cables, holding the wrong gear in my hand at the wrong time. So, over the last few years I’ve been trying to narrow down equipment and refine techniques, to find what works for me when I’m out on my own.

It doesn’t have to be pitch black to use the thermal monocular to search for incoming fox.

Lamping requirements are somewhat different for an airgunner than for a firearms hunter: the animals need to be called in closer, and shot selection a bit more precise. Additionally, airguns let you hunt in more built up areas because of their low sound signature and reduced carrying range, where stealth is advantageous. A lighting system that lets you discreetly hunt on a golf course, the edges of town, or suburbia, will be very useful. In the quest to find a rig that suited my hunting needs, I tried various approaches and found a few that worked quite well for me.

There are many handheld and scope mounted lights that serve the purpose: some use an external battery pack with cables to the light, and some are self-contained. In the past, the self-contained units could not produce the level of intensity those lights with an external battery pack achieved. However, that is no longer the case, especially when it comes to the shorter ranges at which Airguns are used. My preference is a hands-free scope or barrel mounted light powered by internal batteries. A red filter is most commonly used, though I’ve had acceptable results with amber filters or even white light, and the green light put out by the Laser Genetic laser lights doesn’t seem to spook predators either. The down side of scope and barrel mounted lights is that they are not easily swept while calling, and for this reason I generally pack two lights; one mounted on the rifle for shooting and one that is handheld for locating incoming targets. This is the least expensive way to outfit yourself for night hunting, and it works well.

A close-up of the Sellmark Pulsar Thermal Monocular, in my opinion the most useful adjunct to night hunting in years.

The next morning a shot of my night time gear: 30 Caliber Rainstorm air rifle, FoxPro call, Sell Mark Thermal Monocular, and hand held spot light for close range shooting.

The Nite Site is an IR device that is comprised of several components: an IR illuminator module, a viewing screen, a tubular scope sleeve to connect the illuminator to your scope, an attachment for mounting the view screen so that it sits atop the scope, and a battery pack to power it all. This system mounts to almost any standard scope, and does a good job of letting you see your quarry even in exceedingly low light. On the downside: earlier versions throw considerable backlight onto the shooters face from the viewer, but newer models allow you to reduce the intensity. Secondly it forces the shooter into a “heads up” position which takes a little getting used to. On the upside: it works very well in situations with no ambient lighting, it mounts on any scope so you don’t need to switch optics and re-zero between day and night, and it is the most cost effective night vision solution to be found. I like this product, and use it frequently.

The day after one of my night time excursions in Texas.

IR Scopes are probably the single best technology solution for night hunting; you get a normal line of sight from a typical shooting position. I mounted the Sellmark Digisight digital night vision scope on my Evanix Snipper .357 PCP rifle, which is my go to suburban coyote gun, and have been getting outstanding results with it. On the upside, it works very well, is easy to zero, and while larger than a standard scope still feels like I’m shooting a “normal” rifle. I did run down the batteries on a couple of all-nighters, but generally get around this by carrying backups and swapping them when needed. The only real negative for me (outside of a hefty price tag) is when I need to use the same rifle for daytime and nighttime shooting; even though there is a setting which allows the scope to be used in daylight, for clarity and magnification I preferred my regular optics, requiring a swap and usually some readjustment. However, if you are building up a purpose designed night time airgunning rig this approach is hard to beat.


Airgun Hunting by Night_6 : Close up of the Nite Site system mounted on my Evanix .357 Snipper PCP carbine.

Light options (from left to right) scope mounted lights from Optronics with external battery packs, handheld laser Genetics, and under barrel mounted Laser Genetics lights.

A Thermal Monocular, while not technically used during shooting, has become my favorite article of night time hunting gear. Before I tell you why, let’s look at what this device is. I have been using the Sellmark Quantum Thermal Imaging Monocular, which delivers “white hot” and “black hot” target viewing at distances of almost a thousand yards. This device can detect heat signatures and provide images with far greater sensitivity than IR night vision. On the upside, it offers truly spectacular results at picking up incoming predators from a long way off. The only downside (besides price again), is that even when the intensity is turned down, I find my night vison is off for a brief instant when I pull my eye away. But the ability to see and track incoming coyotes is nothing short of mind blowing!

The reason the thermal monocular is my favorite night time hunting tool is based on how I use it on solo hunts: which quite simply is to combine it with a traditional scope mounted light. When calling predators into airgun range, I’ll call as usual while scanning the area with the monocular. My rifle is equipped with either a red filter or green Laser Genetic barrel mounted light, which I leave switched on and pointing towards my call. This allows the incoming predator to be tracked until it gets into range, at which time I drop the monocular and get on target using the scope (set at low power). The reason I like this setup is that it permits me to use the same gun and scope at night that is used during the day, I believe that it is less disruptive than scanning a light all over the field, and it has worked brilliantly for me when hunting alone.

So, I’ve presented a few of my approaches to night time hunting with my airguns, the one I use depends on the type of quarry I’m after (coyote, hogs, rabbits), the gun I have along and whether it is doing shared service (night and day hunts), and how I’m moving from set to set. One thing I know for sure: you have more success when you’re out while your prey is out, so night hunting is something you’re going to want to check out if it’s legal in your neck of the woods!

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