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

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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Notes From Shot Show

I’m sitting on the plane winging my way home from the SHOT Show in Las Vegas, and as usual found the exposition interesting and the chance to meet with all the airgun related businesses very interesting. As I’ve mentioned before, I quite taking my video equipment or writing product releases a few years back. My reason was that there are so many people doing this these days, without actually having the field experience, I don’t think there is a lot I could add.

Having said this, there were a few guns that caught my interest, and a couple of trends and observations worth commenting on. This is in no way a comprehensive report on the show, and over the balance of the year I will be shooting (and more importantly hunting) with most of the guns that I found interesting. Videos, articles, blog posts to follow.

I’ll leave the general SHOT reporting to others, but I think the trend towards entry level guns is important….. the gateway into airgun hunting! I would expect that many of these new shooters will transition to higher end rifles, but this allows them to get started with minimal investment.

One gun I will mention, because it is related to enhancements to a rifle that I’ve been shooting and like, is the Brocock Bantam. This bottle forward sibling to the Compatto already had a lot going for it: adjustable power, accuracy, high shot count, fast cycling and reliable magazine, and a very compact and ergonomic semi-bullpup design. The news at the show is that a regulated version of the rifle will be released in the near future. I am especially looking forward to using this rifle on one of my upcoming hunts in Texas or California. The rifle I saw was the prototype, and outside of the regulator gauge it looked like it retained all of the ergonomic design of the standard rifle..

One of the trends I noted, was that there were a number of lower cost PCP’s being released that looked quite interesting. Ones that I am looking forward to shooting (or shooting mores) include the Umarex Gauntlet, a prototype of which I brought to South Africa, the Diana Stormrider, the Hatsan Flash. Hatsan also had a bullpup version of the Flash that was lightweight, ergonomic and positioned at a very competitive price point. The entry level rifle from Evanix that was shown on their booth really piqued my interest, it was a scaled down version of their AR 6 double action platform. What impressed me was that even though cosmetically based on an older design, they have managed to lighten the double action to about 3 lb which makes this a practical double action. I was told that the gun is producing 30 joules when shot single action and 20 in double, and I saw some double action groups hot at the factory in Korea that were excellent. I have the 25 version on the way. And lastly, even though the Compatto is at the high end of the price range, for this quality of gun it is still an exceptional value.

The news on the big bore front was the Umarex Hammer .50 caliber: this represents the most powerful production big bore on the market at 700 fpe. The gun is regulated, had a two shot linear magazine, and after using this gun a couple weeks ago to bag a fallow stag, I can attest to it’s knockdown power! I wasn’t able to get out for range day this year, but was told that over 300 shots were passed through it by the media attendees. Also on the bigger bore front, I noted that AirForce has (finally) come up with a carbine version of the Texan in .308, .357, and .457. This happens just as my .308 Texan was at the gunsmith having the barrel cut down, but I was on the phone canceling that work once confirming I could order the shorter gun right away.

A high point of the SHOT show actually takes place away from the exhibition floor, and that is the Thursday evening dinner that AOA headman Robert Buchanan hosts. It was attended by the movers and shakers from many of the airgun related companies, and some media folks from Europe as well as the States. It was a great time to meet a lot of old friends, get some insights on the airgunning world through their eyes.

Anyway, back to the real world for me this week, I am going to catch up on some video edits from last weeks trip to Texas where I hunted with Chacho Gonzales, and where I’ll firm up my 2018 travel and hunting schedule. I know that I’ll be in Texas, Arizona, Indiana, South Dakota, Virginia, and Mexico this year, and am think about another run down to Puerto Rico. Let me know if you can suggests a new place or a new quarry you’d like to seed me hunt and film this year.

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Pest Control with the Bantam!

I just got back from a 9 day hunt in Texas, and had a great time! Started out at a ranch that was a couple hours north of Fort Worth, where I took a nice blackbuck and a fallow buck during filming for American Airgunner. Then I headed out to a ranch in West Texas, where I took multiple hogs and a ram. But while I was there I also got some small game hunting as well, and the gun I took for this was the Brocock Bantam.

As I drove in and saw the size of this place, and the number of birds moving around, I knew the shooting would keep me busy!

If you are a regular reader, you know I l,Ike the Brocock guns……. a lot! This love affair started with the Specialist and Elite …… but then I met the Compatto and now the Bantam. Upfront I’ll say I am more partial to the looks and balance of the Compatto, however if I could only have one rifle it might be the Bantam. That bottle up front provides such a high shot count at high power, that it’s a hard feature to overlook. And it also has to be mentioned that while I might prefer the look of the Compatto, the Bantam is also a good looking rifle that handles very well…. Outside of the bottle forward design, they are virtually the same gun, so it all comes down to you preference of the bottle or tube reservoir.

I found a spot where I could catch the birds staging before entering the building. I shot many birds without moving from this spot.

The Bantam was a great choice for this shooting: adjustable power, very accurate, quiet….. it did it all for me…. Plus that intangible “shootability”, worked great from any position.

On this trip I had the opportunity to hit the pigeons at a local feedlot, where the birds were a real nuisance. I showed up and worked my way through the buildings and equipment, stacking the birds up. The rifle hit hard and it hit where aimed…. Theo great attributes in a great hunting rifle! And the cool thing was that the bottle took my through the entire shoot and there on to an afternoon rabbit shoot, then out for a hog (but that’s another story).

People are always asking me advice on small game hunting guns, and I am always a bit hesitant to give my opinion, because the rifle you like is a personal matter. When I do I answer I try to do it in the user context of the person using the rifle: what are they going to use it for, what are the conditions, what are their personal preferences, what can they afford, etc. But here I am going to break my own rule, and tell you that no matter you answer these questions, you should take a look at the Compatto and the Bantam if deciding an o a small game gun. I don’t say it lightly, when I say that Brocock is building some of my favorite small game guns right now.

A couple feral pigeons with the instrument of their destruction!

It would be easy to say that the Compatto and Bantam are riding the development wave of Daystate, but in terms of compact design they have brought a lot to the table as well. A gun that is accurate, powerful, compact, and at a competitive price …….. well, it’s worth consideration. I think that it is not the least expensive gun on the market, but arguably one of the best airgun investments.

So I’m off to Scotland again over the weekend, then back home for the rest of the holidays. Right after New Years I’m on my way back to Texas, where my friend Chacho and I are going on an epic hunt, with oryx, aoudad, axis deer, hogs, Spanish goats, predators, and small game/varmints on the menu. We’ll be carrying the Compatto and Bantam as our small game guns so you’ll be seeing some of the results of that in January. Then it’s off to SHOT Show!

Categories: bantam, bird hunting, compact guns, compatto, Daystate, offhand shooting, pest birds, Pest Control, Rifle stocks, Small Game Hunting, Urban hunt | 3 Comments

Texas Bobcat Hunt

The Bobcat is one of my favorite airgun quarry, and my .30 caliber Daystate Wolverine does a great job on them!

I wrapped up at my office early, walked out of the building, and jumped in my car for the half hour drive to the airport. I’d been spending just about every spare minute of the last few weeks acclimating to my new job and moving my family from the cold weather of Indiana, to the frigid weather of our new home in Minneapolis. I’d been under a lot of stress, but as usual, the simple process of setting off on a hunting trip replaced the high stress levels with a sense of excitement. And this promised to be a great trip! A friend down in Texas had called and asked if I wanted to go hunt a couple of his ranches before he departed for New Zealand and his summer hunting gig (rough life). Don Steele is an outfitter that has over a million acres of land to hunt in West and South Texas during winter, then he packs up in spring to bring clients to the spectacular views and even more spectacular game of the Southern Hemisphere for their winter big game season. One thing Don and I have in common is that no matter how much of an opportunity we get to hunt the bigger stuff, varmint and predator hunting is still a passion. And for me it’s doing it with airguns!

In an effort to simplify my travels to the Lonestar State, I’d shipped my guns on ahead so they’d be waiting for me on arrival. The transportation Security Agency (TSA) has always been jumpy about passengers transporting airtanks in checked baggage, and insists on all fittings being removed so that they can perform a visual inspection of the empty tanks. In the past and with 99% of the TSA inspectors the guns themselves could be checked baggage if the reservoirs pressure gauge read empty. But in the last year I’d had two overly zealous TSA agents insist I disassemble the gun in an airport inspection room so they could do a visual assessment on the reservoir. Based on this, and the fact airlines charge so much for excess baggage, I’ve started to ship my guns through Fedex or UPS and have them held at a convenient local office for pickup. This approach has worked well for me thus far, and for the air supply I go online, find a local dive shop or paintball shop, and organize air tank rentals to be picked up on arrival. I’m getting this down to a science, however it does seem ironic that it’s less hassle to check my centerfire rifles and handguns than a 30 fpe pcp! Hopefully this situation will change in future.

It’s a big open country out here. Sheep and cattle ranchers are waging a nonstop fight against the huge population of predators!

Don has the ultimate predator hunting platform, this is the best predator hunting rig I’ve ever seen!

It was a two hour flight down to Dallas, then a 3 hour drive west to Abilene, and another three hours further south to the first ranch we intended to hunt. Texas is expansive country and the properties we hunt are huge. As mentioned, Don has over a million acres of ranchland under contract for the hunting rights, with one of the ranches over 100,000 acres on it’s own! This is not ranchland in the sense of a cultivated farm, but rather stretches of thousands of acres with nothing more than a bunkhouse for the seasonal cowboys or wandering shepherds. I selected a couple of airguns to use on this trip: the Daystate Wolverine .303 was intended as my small predator gun to take bobcat, fox, raccoon, and ringtail cat. I’d used it on a few jackrabbit hunts and though I’d had good results on these big hares out to hundred or so yards, I was ready to step up the action on predators. I also had the Evanix Windy City .357 to focus on wild hog and longer range coyote. Perhaps of not so much interest to Airgun enthusiast, I also packed my .250/3000 centerfire, as we were going to attempt to call up a mountain lion (also called a cougar or panther) that had been killing sheep on one of the properties.

We started calling on the first ranch under less than ideal conditions, April is not as productive as hunting in winter, when animals are hungrier and food not so plentiful. But the real problem was that the wind was starting to blow, with gust in the 25-30mph range. Predators, especially bobcats, get very spooky when the wind is rattling the vegetation. I’ve seen things shut down completely when it starts to blow, and even in the best of times your quarry will be slow to move into the call.  We had a couple coyote come in, but they would not close the deal, hanging up at a 150-200 yards. I took one of these with my friends .223, but was forced to give up on the airgunning front. We headed in to the bunkhouse with the plan to sleep for a few hours, then drop 300 miles south towards the Texas/Mexico border to another property, where low winds were predicted.

At any rate, the next day found us rolling into Don’s daughter and son in laws ranch in the late afternoon. We unloaded our gear and made room in the truck, the son in law Tony was going to join us, and quickly got everything sorted out. He manages this property, which is in the business of raising genetically superior whitetail deer that are sold for breeding stock in areas where the deer are at the shallow end of the gene pool. When you have deer on the property worth many thousands of dollars, tolerance for predators goes down quickly. They have had problems with both coyote and bobcats killing fawns and have been trapping and calling pretty aggressively trying (without success) to eradicate them.

There was sign of cats to be found all over as we scouted the desert.

We were using Don’s humvee with a 2 seat shooting bench and calling tower mounted atop, and making a stand every half mile. The call Don likes is the FoxPro series, which has always been my go-to as well, as it has volume, high fidelity, and an extensive sound library. Lately I’ve also been using the Primos Alpha Dogg with good results. At this time of year we focus on distress calls, jackrabbit, cottontail, rodent, woodpecker being use most frequently. You never know what’s going to show up, but the cats, raccoons, and gray fox like the bird and rodent sounds better and the coyotes respond more constantly to the rabbit calls. We also mix it up with mouth calls like the mini-blaster, and we will “smootch” them in once the’ve moved in on a call. If the hunter leaves the electronic call blasting the predator gets close then hangs up secure that the screaming rabbit is still there, or they charge the call and figure out they’re being played when they come up on a hard piece of plastic rather than a warm furry meal. So when we get the predator coming in, we mute the call and start with a low volume kissing sound that imitates a rodent squeak. This will almost always bring your quarry in closer, with them looking for their quarry!

Setting up in deep camo and calling can bring them out in daylight as well as night, though night calling is generally much more productive. Here I am wearing my 3D leafy camo poncho, which is like a cross between a ghilley suit and a portable blind.

The gun I selected for this trip was the Daystate Wolverine .303 using the Emperor roundnose pellets. We were targeting bobcats, and I thought this would be a great gun for these medium sized predators. The first few sets were a bust, with nothing showing up. then a pair of raccoons charged in on the fifth call, then a coyote on the next (but it didn’t hang around) before going dead again. At about 3AM we were about to call it a night and decided to do one more set. About 30 seconds into the call we spotted a cat moving down the hillside towards us, that hung up in the mesquite and cactus about 70 yards away. I was zeroed at 50 yards, so held a bit high and squeezed the trigger, shooting right over it’s head. A latter walk through showed that I’d judged the distance wrong and the cat was 50 yards away, not 70. It is hard estimating distance at night in unfamiliar territory, and I regretted not packing my range finder in the rush to get on the road. We immediately started smootching (making a squeaking sound), but nothing. About 10 minutes later we caught the glow of eyes reflected from our red filtered lamps, the cat (if it was the same one) had moved about 150 yards to out right, and was about 60 yards from our position. He was walking and I couldn’t get him to stop, so I followed him through the scope and sent the pellet flying. It took the cat broadside and knocked him over, but after a minute of thrashing he got up and started moving. We waited a few minutes then climbed down expecting a nasty bit of tracking through the rattlesnake infested brush, but found the bobcat piled up in an opening about 70 yards away.


So after a few jackrabbit and prairie dog hunts I’d finally had the chance to use the Wolverine on the game I thought it was made for! I will say that for bigger stuff like bobcats and coyote, I think I’ll take the headshot when possible, especially if it’s much further than 50 yards. The Wolverine sends a large diameter chunk of lead downrange, but it is at the lower end of the power spectrum for predator hunting. For the smaller predator like fox and raccoons, I have no problem with body shots. This rifle is very shootable, it has a great stock desing for a “thumbs up” shooting position, it has a very nice trigger, and it is accurate! The high shot count (relative to big bores Airguns) is a plus; however I wish it allowed the hunter to trade off shot count for power. I’d be willing to give up 4-5 shots to get another 30 fpe out of it when needed. While the rifle is a jewel as is, that extra power would allow the hunter to reach out a bit further with a body shot.

We planned to drive to another ranch about 150 miles away the next day, where we’d camo up and get in some daytime calling. Calling at night is more productive, but doing it in daylight is the art of predator calling in my opinion. This is a ranch that Don started trapping many years ago, and he had two or three spots he thought might be productive and wanted to call. I set up on a hillside that gave me a great view in front, and with the light wind in my face I wasn’t concerned about what was behind me. Coyotes will circle around and try to wind the hunter, and it is important that you set up so that they have to come past you to get into that position. Bobcats are all about sight and sound, so the wind direction is not as important. About 15 minutes into the call sequence, I looked up to see another cat moving in through the prickly pear and mesquite, attention focused on the frantic woodpecker sounds emanating from the FoxPro. Don muted the call and let out a couple soft squeaks, at which the cat glided inside of the 50 yards range, which was all she wrote for that cat. I sent the .308 Emperor pellet flying, and it smacked home right between the eyes, dropping cat number two.

A nice cat yielded up during the daylight hours!

As night fell, we went down to a grove of live oaks bordering the remains of a stream (the droughts have been hard out here for a couple years). I swept a red filter light through the bare branches of the trees, not seeing anything. I’d been hoping for a ringtail or at least a raccoon, but nothing was looking back. I started lip squeaking and all of the sudden a pair of eyes came around the truck of one of the old trees at 70 yards distance and probably 30 feet up. We fumbled around a bit as we’d decided to shoot some video and Don had to be light handler and videographer both. But eventually we got ourselves organized, and I squeezed the trigger. The pellet smacked home dumping the masked bandit to the ground. Raccoons are tenacious animals, and I was impressed at how effective this shot had been in anchoring this big boar raccoon at a relatively long range.

This article first appeared in the British “Airgun Shooter” magazine in 2013

Categories: Airgun Expedition, coyote, Daystate, Destinations, distress call, electronic calls, Jackrabbits, mouth calls, Pest Control, Predator hunting, raccoon, where to hunt | 2 Comments

Texas Hunting Trips: One down and two to go before SHOT Show!

Was down in Texas on a hog hunt last week, had some luck and put some meat in the freezer. I hunted both from blinds and out stalking, taking two pigs from the blind and two while on the move. An interesting aspect of the outing was that I used a .25 caliber BullBoss and a Badger .40 caliber rifle and compared the use of a traditional big bore to a small bore for boar hunting. There is not doubt that the big bore had several advantages; I could reach out much further, take body shots as well as head shots, and go after bigger pigs. However, when I kept the range inside of 60 yards, stuck with head shots, and went after smaller pigs, the .25 did great on anchoring my quarry……. with the benefit (not fully appreciated in this wide open space) of being quieter.

Checking my approach to a feeder to make sure I didn’t spook anything on my way in.

In a blind made of branches and other natural materials, I was well hidden.

A decent size pig came in and dropped to a head shot from the .40.

Along with several other pigs that came in from this evenings hunt, there was plenty of bacon and ham to go around! The guys have a great skinning shed on the property.

Sorry if the photo quality is substandard, but most pictures were taken in low light conditions. One thing I notices was that even with my big bore, which is not suppressed, the hogs didn’t seem as jumpy as they did when a firearm discharged. When that happened a group of pigs, even a long way off from the shot, would head for the hills and not come back. With the big bore, on the shot they would jump, then go right back to feeding. BTW: I have an article coming out in Predator Xtreme in which I will discuss the use of smaller caliber guns for taking hogs, which I think is doable if you stick to a few rules of engagement.

I am going back to Texas the first week of January to film a couple segments of American Airgunner, and it will be good to hunt with Rossi again, we always have a good time. I’ve also enjoyed watching him develop as an airgunner and a hunter, he’s made incredible progress in a short time. After that I’m off with some buddies after predators, but have no idea where that will take us as he has land under lease across the state. The only guy I know that if the weathers bad, he’ll drive to a spot hundreds of miles away where conditions are (hopefully) better.

Me and Chacho at the gate to Trent’s ranch, this guy is a serious airgunner I really enjoy hanging and hunting with. We’re going to have a great hunt…. even better if we bag our game this time!

After that I’m back at work with a few short local hunts until January, when I return to Texas yet again to hunt for a week with my good buddy Chacho, going after gemsbok, Spanish goats, and predators. We hunted hard last time I was down and put on some classic stalks, but I was never able to drop the hammer on a big Gemsbok ram, so we’re calling this the redemption hunt! I am especially looking forward to this hunt with Chacho and the ranch owner Trent, who I got to know on the week we spent tracking through the rough ranch-lands!

The it’s off to the SHOT Show, which is an important time of the year for me, with respect to planning my years activities as it relates to hunting, gear use and reviews, and planning magazine article and youtube video content for the following year. I don’t usually bring a camera along anymore, since there are so many guys doing airgun reviews these days, but maybe Ill pack one this year in case there is something so exciting I can’t wait to share it!

Pig Hunting Video

Categories: Airgun Expedition, Big Bore Airguns, Big Game, Destinations, Hog hunting, Predator hunting, SHOT Show, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Took the Bantam Squirrel Hunting!

Hello All, After a short break, I’m back at it! The beginning of this month was the squirrel season opener up in my norther neck of the woods, and I laid down my fishing rods (especially tenkara) and started hunting again. Over the summer I was in South Africa, and then a couple prairie dog shoots, but mostly I worked and had a couple overseas trips, fished, and spent time with my family. But I am booked out with hunting from now until SHOT Show!

My first pair of fox squirrels with the Bantam, one was a 60 yard headshot.

With the opening of squirrel season, I had the chance to get out with the Brocock guns, shooting both the Compatto and the Bantam. As a matter of fact I was just out on an overnight squirrel hunting trip that I’m writing up for my monthly article in Airgunner magazine. BTW: in case you didn’t know it, this magazine can be found at Barnes & Nobels now, give it a perusal if you haven’t seen it before. I had an adventure, and being caught in a thunderstorm in my camping hammock added spice.

What I want to write about here though, is the Brocock Bantam, this gun took forever to reach me, but it got to go out hunting as soon as I laid my hands on it. This is a bottle up front version of the Compatto, still one of my favorite small game guns. It is otherwise much the same gun as the Compatto, though it does offer a much higher shot count. The Bantam was hitting 31 fpe and I got about 28 fpe with my Compatto, and somewhat counter-intuitively the Compatto is a couple ounces heavier.

A six shot group: 4 in the left hole two in the right from 45 yards off shooting sticks.

I was out for two days of hunting and plinking, and had plenty of air, never having to make the 40 minute hike back out to my vehicle for a recharge. Man this rifle is accurate, I set a cup up at 40 yards and took 6 shots, which fell into a bigger hole that was four pellets and a smaller hole that took two of the JSB Exact Jumbos the rifle seems to eat up! The two holes were an 1/8th of an inch apart, and I was shooting from a sitting position off the Primos Magnum Pole Cat sticks I’ve been using since last season.

In the field the gun was a fine example of a high capacity gun that retains compact dimensions. It was easy to move about with through the thick early fall foliage, shootable from every position, my only negative comment was that this is a loaner gun and doesn’t have a sling mounted. For longer hikes in and out of the campsite, I carried the rifle mounted in a carrier that is integrated into my pack, with the rifle strapped down. This made it easy to carry, but didn’t allow for a fast dismount, so I missed a couple opportunities along the trail.

However, the effectiveness as a hunting rifle was right where you wanted it to be. I’ve been both head shooting and body shooting squirrels with this rifle, and the tack driving accuracy, power, and over all shootability make it a very effective hunting gun. I think my preference is still the Compatto, just because I’m a fan of the ultra-compact dimensions. I do have to admit though, that the high shot count of the Bantam was great for this outing. But even saying it is in the same league puts it in rarefied air in my view. I’ll keep using both of these rifles through the season and give you a detailed comparison once I’ve had time to be as familiar with the Bantam as I am with the Compatto.

Now that I am back at it, I’ll work to catch-up on the questions and comments that have been coming in. Thanks for staying plugged in, I’ll make every effort to update you on hunts and new guns/gear as they happen. In the meanwhile …. keep on hunting and I’ll be back with you all soon!


Categories: Airguns of Arizona, binoculars, Camping with Airgun, compact guns, Daystate, fall hunts, Hunting Guns, shooting sticks, Small Game Hunting, Squirrels, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Out For Dassie…..

I spent the first half of June at my buddy Robs ranch in South Africa, and had some great big bore airgun hunts for Wildebeest, impala, springbuck, bleesbuck, taking one wildebeest but several each of the other species using different guns and ammo. I also got in a fair bit of small game and pest shooting in, and one of my favorite of these is always rock hyrax, also called dassie. These are strange animals, with many similarities to ground hog or prairie dogs, but in fact their closest surviving relative is the elephant! Dassie live in most of the rocky cliffs, and many start to migrate out into the flat lands, especially as populations increase. I had an impala down that morning and was not going back out for plains game until late afternoon, so grabbed my .22 and headed out on a hyrax hunt.

I’m on the lookout for him…. while he’s on the lookout for me! A dassie down on the flats, note how they tear up the ground around their burrows.

The gun I carried was the pre-released Umarex Gauntlet, and in my pack I had my shooting sticks, range finder, water, and extra pellets, and I had my 10x binos strapped to my chest. I glassed the area looking for a population of the animals, and once located I hiked into range. As I moved in, they dropped down their holes, which is exactly what I expected to happen. I found a place where I could tuck into the shadows of a stunted tree, and waited until they started resurfacing. I put a couple down cleanly, and missed a couple as well, it was windy and I had make some on the fly adjustments. I am happy to say that misses, like my hits, were clean. Stop by my youtube channel if you’d like to see the video footage, click here.

The rocky cliffs were home to the largest concentrations of hyrax….. not called rock hyrax for nothing!

This dassie heads for the hills as we see each other at the same time.

I ran into some snobbery about hunting small game, and sometimes also hunting with air rifles, as I stared talking about the experience on social media. In all fairness, these folks of negative attitude never know what they are talking about when it comes to airguns, and generally are guys I don’t think could make it as airgun hunters. But as far as airgun hunting, if you are successful with an air rifle (in my opinion), you are on par with bow hunters and miles ahead of most firearms hunters when it comes to your core field craft and ability to close with your prey. With respect to small game, I contend that the closer you get to the bottom of the food chain, the more wary the game becomes. I certainly had as much challenge, and as much fun, with the small stuff as I did with the large!

I used both .22 and .30 caliber guns, both were effective but the smaller caliber required ne to close the distance under windy conditions, and be more selective with shot placement (the head). Like a lot of burrowing animals, you need to shut down their nervous system or you’ll loose them down the hole, even with a killing shot.

I’m out to Japan next week on business, and while there will indulge another of my hobby’s…. fishing. And more to the point, Tenkara or Japanese fly fishing. I actually don’t know if I’ll have breaks from my meetings, but at the very least will go in search of a famous Tenkara fly shop in Ueno, the district where I’ll stay for my last night before flying home. Back at home, I’ll be off for a few days of prairie dogs in South Dakota, a pig hunt in Texas, and then in September it will be blackbuck and oryx with my buddy Chacho out in West Texas. There will be several other hunts this year, but I am definitely going back to Arizona for another Aberts squirrel hunt as well!

I hope that you are all getting out and doing a lot of shooting, and hunting if you are lucky enough to be in a location with summer quarry. I would really be interested to hear what your summer looks like and what kind of summer hunting or pest control is available to you. In part I am interested to hear about your experiences, but also in part because I am always on the search for new places to go and game to hunt….. you might put some ideas into my head. The other thing that I’d like to leave you with is my thought on small game and pest hunting. This year I’ve taken a few dear, several hogs, a couple javalina, a couple turkey and several heads of African game, and got to watch my buddy Rossi take a bear…. I’ve also had my fill of small game hunting, in fact much more, for squirrel, rabbit, Eurasian doves and pigeons, quail, ground squirrel, prairie dogs and predators….. and hunting these smaller quarry can be every bit a challenging and as rewarding….. Not to mention a lot more opportunity….. grab your rifle, pellets, and gear and get out there! Americans have more opportunity for more types of small game than just about anywhere in the world. Even if you live in a more urban area, you can find productive areas to hunt, take advantage of the opportunity!





Categories: Uncategorized | 3 Comments

A Couple Notes From South Africa

I just returned home from South Africa …… the flight seems soooo much longer on the way home than the trip over, I was worn out (we hunted hard) and I wanted to get home to my family, and delays only made it seem that much longer. I did get a chance to stop in Cape Town for a couple days to visit family before leaving, which was nice (and earned me brownie points with my wife). I’d been on the farm on the Eastern Cape, and it was great to get back to see Rob Dell and Andrew Myers, two good friends I’ve been hunting with for 13 years now…. I still have black hair in those early photos! I took several impala, springbuck, a couple bleesbuck and a big Wildebeest bull, along with a lot of small stuff. There will be a lot of videos and articles from material collected on this trip, but there are three things I wanted to quickly tell you about.

My Beloved Hawke Frontier Binoculars Came Home

I’d lost these Hawke binoculars four years ago, and they’ve been sitting out exposed until a worker found them a couple weeks before my arrive! After cleaning they still worked fine, even though something big had stood on them a time or two!

I hadn’t been out to the farm in almost four years, and one night sitting in the pub Rob asked me “Jim, what were those bino you brought out that you kept whining about losing”? I didn’t immediately remember because I loose and break gears as though I had my own manufacturing plant. But then I said “oh yea, my Hawkes” which brought to mind the fact that I’d lost two sets within a couple months. He walked over to a shelf and pulled a set of badly abused binoculars, caked with mud, antelope dung and hoof marks. They looked like they been through hell and back, but aside from some of the rubber having flaked away, were not as bad as I’d expected. After cleaning them, we found they worked as good as new…… well at least they worked! I gave them to a tracker that was using some pretty low end glass, and he seemed quite happy with them, and they will now live on in the field for a few more years! When Hawke tells you their binos are bullet proof, believe them!

The Omega Compressor

OK, so you’ve probably picked up I’m having a love affair with the Omega compressor. We have one on the farm that the AOA guys shipped over three years ago. In the past we ingratiated ourselves to just about anybody in the country that owned a carbon fiber tanks so we’d have enough air for the hunt. But then then Robert Buchanan shipped a compressor over for one of our hunts and let them keep it, and Hounslow is the only outfitter in S. Africa that I know of that are fully equipped for airgunners. I had several air hungry guns and was shooting nonstop, but we kept the tanks topped off and the guns charged for the duration. In all the years of operation, the Compressor has worked flawlessly, the only problem being that we blew the internal water pump years ago, and since an external one was rigged up, never bothered doing a replacement.

These pumps just keep on working! Hard to think of doing these hunts without a compressor… I used to think of a compressor as a luxury item, but could go on without one now….

Arrow Heads

All of these work, but my order of preference is clover leaf/Toxic, mechanical, and conventional if I must. My feeling is the conventional broad head acts like a wing at super high velocities, and can cause the arrow to do strange things on occasion.

I’ve tried several arrow heads on my arrow shooting airguns (FX Verminator, AirBow, and AirBolts), but found what might be the most effective solution… and cost effective at that. While at Gander Mountain recently (sorry to hear they are going out of business BTW), I saw the Toxic crossbow arrow heads, which for lack of a better description are a clover leaf design. They were expensive at about $40. for three, but I found look alike on ebay that were $11.00 for six. so bought several packs. They were accurate, sturdy (standing up to several shots through targets and hay bales), and punched a large hole….. more to the point they drill a big hole through anything you shoot them at. So you ask how do they work on game? I shoot a 500 lb Wildebeest at 50 yards, drilling a big hole though both lungs before breaking a shoulder and hitting rocks and trees 30 yards on the other side of the animal… and though the arrow broke I could re-shoot the arrow head! The other thing to note is that the wound did not close, and the bleed out was fast and continuous.

Well, I’ve been home for two days and I leave for Scotland on business over the weekend. When I get home I am going to hit the field on another prairie dog shoot, and am going to try to get out to see my buddies at AOA and maybe get in a fast hunt with the guys (if it’s not too hot for them 🙂 ) Hope you’re all having a good summer and will catch up soon!


Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment