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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Talking to a couple of “Antis”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When it rains ….. It pours!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Traveling for a Hunt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Raccoon in the Morning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jim

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

Long Range Pest Shooting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Compatto goes to Texas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This rifle shoots very well offhand for me.

This rifle shoots very well offhand for me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prepping the Compatto!

I’ll be leaving at the end of the week for a few hunts spread over a dozen days all around the great state of Texas. I’ll be doing hunts for a black buck, hogs, predators, and rabbits using several new rifles. The gun I’ve selected for my small game hunt is the Brocock Compatto, a compact little hunting rig that had me hooked from the first time I saw it a few months back when visiting Daystate over in the UK. Anybody that knows me, knows that I have a fondness for carbines and short barreled rifles, at the same time I am not willing to compromise on performance to get the reduced dimensions. My shooting experience with this rifle indicates I’m on the trail of a great small game hunting rig.

This little rifle has it all going for it; accuracy, 30 fpe energy (adjustable power), a great trigger, a smooth bolt action cocking mechanism. The semi bullpup configuration allows a longer barrel while reducing the LOA.

This little rifle has it all going for it; accuracy, 30 fpe energy (adjustable power), a great trigger, a smooth bolt action cocking mechanism. The semi bullpup configuration allows a longer barrel while reducing the LOA.

I find the stock on the rifle ergonomic and compact, the rifle weighs 5.9 lbs and has an overall length of 34″ including the Lothar Walther barrel replete with the Hugget moderator. I found that the rifle facilitated a good cheek-weld and sight alignment, comfortable positioning of the trigger finger, it’s easy to get at the safety, and I can easily cock the rifle while staying on target. I guess if I had to be picky, the only aspect I’m not completely sold on is the positioning of the Picatinny mount accessory rail, as it happens to sit right where I like to position my hand on the forestock. Having said this, it doesn’t really bother me and it’s a minor complaint.

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I do like the fit and ergonomics of this semi-bullpup design. I could see this becoming my favorite squirrel rifle this season!

I’ll post an in depth review on my website and a video on the American Airgun Hunter YouTube channel after my upcoming hunt, and will include detailed results shooting over the chronograph for velocity and shot count. For now I will say that the shot to shot consistency with this rifle is very good, it generates about 29 fpe, and gets 30-35 usable shots. Another nice feature is that the gun has an adjustable power setting in three steps, allowing the hunter to prioritize power or shot count.

The accuracy at 25 and 50 yards is very good, and I frequently shot ragged one hole 5 shot groups at 25 yards, and groups easily covered by a dime at 50 yards.  The 10 shot rotary magazine worked flawlessly, and I think this is an exceptionally smooth functioning gun!

From a qualitative perspective, I’ve spent a lot of time shooting steel spinners at varying distances offhand, sometimes off sticks, standing sitting, kneeling, and prone. The gun is one of the most shootable rifles I’ve ever gotten my hands on. I cannot wait to get it out hunting!

I wanted to share this initial experience from my work up of the gun. I’ll be posting some results to share how it worked on cottontails, the big Texas jackrabbits, and maybe we’ll manage to call up a raccoon or fox. Hope you all have a great week, and can make time to get out and do some shooting!

Categories: Airguns of Arizona, Brocock, Daystate, Hunting Guns, offhand shooting, pest birds, Pest Control, Power, Prairie dogs, Rifle stocks, shooting sticks, Small Game Hunting, stocks, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Planning a Traveling Hunt

Sitting on the plane winging my way home from Japan again. I do this trip 6 or 7 times per year, and it just doesn’t get any shorter. However it lets me catch up on movies I probably wouldn’t see otherwise and much needed time to catch up on writing. But these trips also give me time for planning my trips. Next week I’m leaving for 11 days in Texas, on three separate hunts.

I’ve had a lot of readers write to ask me how I go about planning a traveling hunt, so thought I’d use this flight time to tell you how I go about organizing my trips, because there is a need to maximize my time to get everything done. The objectives of the upcoming Texas hunts, besides satisfying my love of hunting, is to fulfill the following deliverables: use 4 different guns to take multiple species (predators, hogs, black buck, jackrabbits), generate 4 articles for various magazines (and a couple blog posts), generate 4 short articles for my website and 4 videos for youtube. This year I have commitments to write over 50 articles, do 25 YouTube videos, and about a dozen segments for American Airgunner. With a full time job outside the hunting world the only way I make this work is by planning

The first thing to do is decide what and where I’ll hunt, which of the guns I have in for testing are suited for the intended game and hunting methods. The next step is to build a schedule, for instance two days I’ll use gun X to hunt quarry X. The next two days, etc etc. Then for those hunts I storyboard the articles and video so that I know what video or photos I’ll need. I also figure out if I can use some ancillary gear (scopes, pellets, shooting sticks, range finders etc) for some additional articles or videos.

The camera gear I’m using these days are: a Cannon Rebel T6i DSLR, a Vixia HD Videocam, a couple of GoPro’s, a compact Sony Videocam, a couple tripods, selfie stick and a scope mount for through-scope shots. I bring extra batteries, SD cards, and my laptop so I can write and edit during my down time. This puts on a lot of pressure to get results, and hunting is hunting so there are no guarantees. I typically build in some extra days in case things don’t go as planned.

I book my flights well in advance to keep costs down, but you have to watch out for hidden costs. I can get a flight on a budget carrier to Texas for $200.00, but then they charge me $200-300 for checking my guns, though shipping the guns in advance is an option. I frequently fly on business and have pretty high flight status on Delta, so if I can get my flights on this airline can check my guns for free. Even if the base ticket price is higher, with no baggage fees the actual cost is lower (and Delta is my go-to airline).

For air, if I don’t ship tanks in advance I’ll find a dive shop online and rent full tanks and have them waiting for pickup on my arrival. Some times there is a local source that can loan me tanks in the area, AoA when flying into Phoenix, AoT when flying into Dallas, or friends in the area that I hunt with that always have full tanks on hand.

I hunt on my own, with other airgun hunters, and various outfitters. When hunting new areas alone, I’ll use google maps and do as much online research as possible, plus talk with people that know the area. However when hunting in new areas it is generally more productive to go out with a local, so this is an approach I’ve been using more. In an upcoming post I’ll do a behind the scenes write up of my Texas trip to tell you how my plans went and if I got everything done that was required!

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Choice of Caliber

After all these years of hunting, shooting with, and writing about Airguns, the most frequent question I get is “what caliber is best”? The answer I give is probably not the crisp and clear response that is hoped for, because there are many variables that come into play. Personal preference aside; it depends on the type of gun, the power levels being used, what the gun is being used for, what’s available in the gun model the buyer wants. I’ll tell you about my personal preferences and why, then take a bit broader look at the question.

The right caliber depends on the job you need done. Right now you can get diabolo pellets ranging from .177 to .357!

The right caliber depends on the job you need done. Right now you can get diabolo pellets ranging from .177 to .357!

My preference in PCP calibers for small game has generally been a .22. That is not to say there is anything wrong with a .177 or .20, however the .22 has a breadth of application that is hard to beat. Most PCP designs generate the optimal power for the larger pellet, the .22 is accurate (as a rule), and it carries well for longer range shots (compared to the smaller pellets). A round nose or a hollowpoint has good terminal performance on small pest species, but a heavy pellet in a more powerful gun will also let you step it up on larger game such as a groundhog or raccoon.

On the other hand I don’t have such a strong preference for the .22 in springers and will often shoot .177. In springers, guns set up for .177 may have a lighter cocking effort than a larger caliber, I think they recoil less, and from a practical point of view, this is the most common caliber for these guns. I also tend to limit my shots to closer range out of a springer, because I don’t shoot them as well as PCP’s, so I’m not as concerned about long range capability. One of my all-time favorite rifles, which I’ve frequently spoken of, is the little Beeman C1 carbine. I have taken more game, ranging from ground squirrels to very large jackrabbits with this 14 fpe .177 than any spring piston gun I’ve ever owned. The .22 caliber version of this particular rifle, did not appeal to me, I didn’t like the shooting characteristics, the accuracy was only OK, and the trajectory was loopy. But in other springers I found the exact opposite, with better accuracy in the .22 over the .177……. So sorry to those wanting a black and white answer …. It depends.

I'm using the .25 a lot these days for my small game guns. But if you like the .22, no problem there either. I save the .177 for the smaller stuff, but that's just me. Lots of small game falls to the .177, but I hunt in some thick brush and want a decisive hit that anchors my quarry.

I’m using the .25 a lot these days for my small game guns. But if you like the .22, no problem there either. I save the .177 for the smaller stuff, but that’s just me. Lots of small game falls to the .177, but I hunt in some thick brush and want a decisive hit that anchors my quarry.

The reason I’m not a bigger fan of the .20 is simply a question of logistics; pellets are harder to find, there is a more limited selection of designs, and fewer guns chambered for it. And when you do find one, you may have to pay more for it. But that doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with the caliber, and many ways it is a good compromise getting higher velocities than the .22, longer carrying range than a .177 with a flatter trajectory than a .22, and larger wound channel than the .177. If you can find it in the gun you like, and have a supply of the pellet it performs best with, this can be a great option for a springer especially.

There is of course the .25 which has been the biggest of the Diabolo pellets. But recently we’ve been presented with more choices; the .30 and .35. I love these calibers in the right gun (generally a PCP) for the right game. Before Talking about where these are favored calibers, let me say something about big calibers in springers. There are a few .25 caliber springers on the market, and recently I’ve been using a newly released .30 caliber springer. These guns would not be my recommendation if it was to be your only rifle, or if the intended use was anything other than hunting. They are hard to cock, kick like a mule, and take a lot of practice to be accurate with. They are specialty guns for a niche market. And again while the bigger calibers in spring piston guns would not be my usual recommendation, if you have a hunting application requiring a moderate amount of power and the generation of a big hole, there is nothing wrong with the option. They are actually fun to shoot …. In moderation!

The .30 is good for smaller predators and small game. A good crossover caliber, and if you get a shot at a yote, take it.

The .30 is good for smaller predators and small game. A good crossover caliber, and if you get a shot at a yote, take it.

But if we shift the discussion to large calibers in PCP’s the story changes; I mentioned that in the past my PCP preference has been the .22, but for much of my small game hunting I’ve been moving to the .25 over the last few years. In a 45 fpe gun it works great on squirrels and rabbits, but if an opportunity presents for a fox or a raccoon it’s still a decisive round. And in the last couple years the .30 has been impressing me. Like the .25 it bridges the small and medium sized quarry, but skews a bit more towards the larger stuff without being ridiculously over powered for smaller targets. I’ve taken squirrel, rabbits, raccoons, bobcats and coyote with this caliber in a 80 fpe gun.

The .35 is the new kid on the block, and it is impressive …… For the right application. It would not be my choice for bigger game such as deer or hogs. A .35 cast bullet out of a 200 fpe gun is acceptable, but the .35 Diabolo in a 100 fpe gun is not a big game gun. It is however a great predator gun; I’ve taken bobcat, coyote, javalina, and turkey and it’s a great option for this type of quarry. It’s way too much for small game though.

The .35 was my go-to for suburban coyote, gets the job done, and is just about perfect for those inside of 50 yard shots, body or head.

The .35 was my go-to for suburban coyote, gets the job done, and is just about perfect for those inside of 50 yard shots, body or head.

So to distill my message from this rambling post; for a small game springer .177 or .22 work for me. For my small game PCPs I like the decisiveness and flexibility of the .25. If I am going to bridge small game to predators the .30 is a good option, and if I won’t be heading south of predator sized game the .35 works a trick. And note that for every one of these “rules of thumb” there are exceptions. So use what I’ve said as a guide line bout don’t be too rigid, the main thing is that you want a gun you like, that has its sweet spot where you’ll do most of your shooting, but has the flexibility to cover you in those corner cases.

Other stuff

In Japan right now, but when I get home, will rest up for a few days then off to Texas for 11 days of hunting for small game, hogs, predators and black buck! This is the start of a very active hunting period for me, booked for 2-3 traveling hunts per month throughout the rest of the year! Going to South Africa, Mexico, and maybe Patagonia as well! Check in often, I’m back on track with updating the blog, I hope you’re all getting out shooting and enjoying the tail end of winter!

Categories: Airgun Expedition, Big Bore Airguns, Hunting Guns, Jackrabbits, Long Range shooting, pest birds, Rabbits, Small Game Hunting, springers | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments