My Favorite Destinations – Part II

In this weeks blog I’ll pick back up on the topic of my favorite regions and location for traveling Airgun hunts. If you want more information on these just post a reply or shoot me an email. We’ll start back up with a look at big game!

I've been hunting in Virginia for a few years now, agreat venue for Airgun hunters. Going back this year for dear and bear!

I’ve been hunting in Virginia for a few years now, agreat venue for Airgun hunters. Going back this year for dear and bear!

4. Deer Hunting: Virginia is another state that should be very high on an airgun hunters bucket list! Though I listed it as a whitetail hunters destination, Virginia is the other state that allows hunters to take a spring time gobbler with their Airgun. Deer and turkey populations are good, license are reasonable, and you can get tags for both species over the counter. I also like to squirrel hunt in these beautiful hardwood covered forest of this state for both fox and gray squirrels. There is pretty good public land access and it’s a great place for putting together a do it yourself hunt.

Prarie dogs are a fast action hunti that will give you a lot of shooting. South Dakota is my favorite place to go.

Prairie dogs are a fast action hunt that will give you a lot of shooting. South Dakota is my favorite place to go.

5. High Density Prairie Dog: S. Dakota. Prairie dogs can be found in several states, but I think some of the best populations I’ve found are in S. Dakota. Shooting prairie dogs with a centerfire is just that …. Shooting. But with an Airgun it becomes a hunt, you get on the ground, stalking, using cover, working for the opportunity. The beauty is, the opportunity just keeps on coming! Going to a place where you can get one stalk after every another in while traversing striking landscapes is what makes this such an exceptional hunt. License are reasonable, there are special low cost licenses for prairie dogs, coyote and other no game species. While there is some public land, these towns get pretty well hammered and can be a challenge for close range airgunners. I’d suggest you set up with an outfitter, it used to be you could find ranchers that would let you pay a small trespass fee but as with most parts of the country, they’ve caught on to the value of this resource and typically lease shooting rights out to an outfitter. My favorite guy to work with is Brett Wiebel at Bad River Birds&Bucks, he’s got great facilities and lots of towns to hunt that are perfect for airgunners.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

6. Once in a Life Time: Eastern Cape, South Africa. I think if you are a passionate Airgun Hunter, a trip to the Eastern Cape of South Africa will be the trip that will be the pinnacle of your hunting experience. Beside the adventure of a completely different way of hunting, the variety of big and small game to hunt, and the complete focus you can have on hunting, the place and people make the trip worthwhile on their own. The larger game I normally hunt here are Steinbuck, duiker, Impala, springbok, bushbuck, warthog, kudu, you can hunt predators such as jacket and caracole, and a brilliant selection of small game like Guinea fowl, hyrax, bush hare, springhare. I set up a yearly safari and will be going in August, hunting with my good friends and professional hunters Rob Dell and Andrew Myers at Hounslow Safari’s. Give me a call or email if you’d like to go….. Not cheap but less than a Colorado elk hunt.

iguana

7. Jurassic Hunts, Puerto Rico Iguanas; This island has a ecological problem, and a bad one. An estimated nine million iguanas where there should be exactly …. Zero. Some idiots let their pets go, and now the island is on the verge of an environmental meltdown as these lizards exceed the carrying capacity. You need a local with the right permits to hunt, but by hiring the local guide you will also get access to the land. Some of the farms I hunt will allow you to shoot the 3-5 foot long tree dwellers non stop, as you wind through plantations and native jungle bordering the properties. Great shooting, a lot of it, and you’re helping out from both the ecological standpoint along with giving the local economy a boost. Air fare to PR is not bad, it is a US territory so it’s no problem flying in with your airguns. The permits you need for shooting the lizards can be taken care of by the local guides, and if you’re interested in this one let me know.

Using guides: Before I started hunting in further flung destinations I did my own scouting and arranged me own hunts…. These days it’s about half and half. The reason is that if I fly in somewhere and only have a few days available, I don’t have the local knowledge or the time to gain it (initially). A guide is like a hunting buddy that knows the area, it doesn’t diminish the challenge at all, it lets you focus on the hunt where you at least have a chance of encountering game. If I am going to take four days off work and away from my family, pay to fly somewhere, rent a car, pay for a hotel, food, etc, paying a bit more to improve my odds and the quality of the hunt is worth it. When I use a guide that hunts public land, I also use the experience to build the local knowledge. Maybe on my next trip it’s a DIY experience. However another advantage is that a guide often gets you access to private property where there is less pressure, more game, and a better all around experience. Texas is an example of this, you might not need a guide to call in coyote but you won’t find any public land to do it on.

Of course if going to a place to hunt squirrels that I’ve never been I’ll plan it myself. In this case I do a lot of online research, which I blogged about in the past. The destination spots I’ve listed are primarily for larger airgunning quarry (aside from P-dogs) that usually has you under a time constraint (short seasons). Smaller stuff is generally easier to locate for the DIY hunter, and you are not as financially vested or time constrained. As a matter of fact this might be a good entry point to start planning DIY destination hunts, that you can build from. If you want more information about any of these, shoot me an email.

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Categories: Airgun Expedition, Big Game, bird hunting, Camping with Airgun, Deer hunting, Destinations, fall hunts, Prairie dogs, Predator hunting, Rabbits, Regulations, Safari, Small Game Hunting, Small game in winter, turkey, where to hunt, Winter hunts | Tags: | Leave a comment

My favorite destinations Part I

One of the perks of my role as an Airgun writer is that I get to travel to a lot of different places to hunt. One of the questions I get fairly regularly is where do I like to go and where would I recommend others give a try. To this end I’ve picked my five favorite destinations, but have to tell you up from this was not easy, because I have had so many great hunts around the country (and outside).

My criteria for this selection is based on the following; a) enlightened wildlife management and hunting regulations, b) quarry species, availability, populations, and opportunity, c) ease of travel and available options, d) overall cost of the trip (travel, license, guides, trespass fees, etc). I have mostly included those destination in the USA, but have added in a couple of international locations that might be considered once in a lifetime or unique hunts.

Kip from AOA bropught me on my first AZ javalina hunt with an Airgun. His local knowledge was the key to my success.

Kip from AOA brought me on my first AZ javalina hunt with an Airgun. His local knowledge was the key to my success. Here I’m posing with the Evanix Sniper .357 and my cameraman on the hunt.

1. Variety: Arizona – This state opened up all it’s hunting, small and large game, to Airguns with the exception of elk and turkey. You can hunt cous deer and mule deer (only place to do this legally in the US), javalina (only place in USA), pronghorn (only place in USA), black bear, mountain lion. There is a lot of small game: gray squirrels and Albert’s squirrel, cottontail rabbits, quail. Varmint species; jackrabbit, ground squirrel, prairie dogs, Eurasian collared doves, and predators such as coyote, fox, raccoon and bobcat. License costs are reasonable, though you will have to put in for the draw on most of the big game species. In my quest to hunt all the North America species legal with an Airgun, Arizona is a must hunt state. It is worth mentioning also that there is a lot of public land to hunt in Arizona, and self-catered hunts are a great way to go, especially for the small game and predator opportunities. However, unless you have the time to scout the areas for yourself would suggest a guid for your big game hunts. To set up a hunt here you can contact Kip Perow over at AOA, they are outfitting some great hunts.

Hunt predators with my buddy Don Steele out of West Texas, you're bound to hook up with yotes, fox, and probably the best bet for bobcats.

Hunt predators with my buddy Don Steele out of West Texas, you’re bound to hook up with yotes, fox, and probably the best bet for bobcats.

2. Predator and Hog Heaven: Texas was where we started the big bore/ big game hunting revolution a decade back, for three reasons…… Hogs, exotics, and predators! This state has (slowly changing) anomalous laws with respect to hunting Airguns. No game animals could be taken with air, but any unprotected non-game animal could. This meant no squirrel, turkey, javalina, deer (squirrel now allowed BTW), but you could shoot rabbits, ground squirrels, prairie dogs for smaller game. But it was the huge population of predators (especially bobcats), hogs, and exotics that keep me coming down several times every year. I would mention that while I hunted rams and other exotics in the early years, mostly because we were severely limited as to huntable species, I don’t hunt rams any longer. However, when you get into the free ranging blackbuck and aoudad, this becomes a world class destination for firearm, archery, or Airgun hunters. Even when hunting high fence in Texas, these ranches are so large that the hunts are still very fair chase and the antithesis of canned hunts. I don’t hunt African exotics because, well I can go to Africa and hunt more species and take more game for less, so find it hard to justify. One thing about the Lone Star State, there is virtually no public land so you’ll have to pay either a guide or a trespass fee for anything you do. License fees are reasonable, and Texas has inexpensive license options that cover varmint, predators, hogs, and exotics for short (5 day) hunts.

Stomping the foothills of California's Sierra Nevada mountains after turkey.

Stomping the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains after turkey.

3. Turkey and Game Birds: California – face it, when you think shooting and hunting California does not immediately come to mind as a destination. However, the Golden State was one of the earliest to embrace Airgun hunting and write it into their regulations. All small game hunting is permitted with Airguns here; rabbits, squirrel, quail, chucker, and turkey. But it is the turkey that make this a destination spot. It is one of two spring hunting opportunities for turkey in the country (Maryland allows airguns for turkey, but only in fall). But here is what makes it great; there is a huge population of turkey, the seasons and bag limits are generous (three birds per season, one per day), and while private land is much more productive there are both private and public land opportunities available. If you want to take a turkey (legally) with you Airgun, this is a must-go-to destination. Licenses are reasonable, though they can be less convenient to acquire than in many states, until you are in the Fish&Game system and and have an ID number. If you travel in from out of state, be sure to bring your hunter safety ID and/or a current hunting license from your home state (I’d recommend both on your first trip). The guy I’d put you onto to set up a great Turkey hunt is Parrey Cremeans in Redding California.

I’ll follow up next week with Part II of my favorite Airgun hunting destinations!

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Categories: Big Game, Deer hunting, Destinations, fall hunts, Hog hunting, Predator hunting, shooting sticks, Small Game Hunting, turkey, Uncategorized, where to hunt | 2 Comments

Squirrel Season’s Around the Corner!!

As we prepare to roll into the fall months, I find myself spending a lot more time afield scouting the areas I’ll hunt when deer season opens. Patterning deer activity and deciding where to set up my stand helps my success rate of course, but I also use the time hunting America’s favorite small game, the tree squirrel. To be perfectly honest, I think I get as much enjoyment from squirrel hunting as I do from the bigger stuff. A day spent stalking inside of sixty yards on gray and fox squirrels is the perfect tune-up for whitetail hunting. Most hunters that pursue squirrel use either a rimfire or shotgun, but I think they miss out on the fun and challenge that come with using an air rifle. Let’s take a look at the guns, how they work, how they perform, and the shooting characteristics then look at the field experience I’ve gained over the last several years hunting bushytails in the Midwest.

I like all the Brocock guns, but the Specialist and Compatto are really great little wood guns. Compact and easy to move around with, but powerful and accurate at the same time.

I like all the Brocock guns, but the Specialist and Compatto are really great little wood guns. Compact and easy to move around with, but powerful and accurate at the same time.

There are many airguns ideally suited to hunting bushytails, a few of my current favorites include both springers and PCP models. A quick rundown of the springers I’ve been shopoting lately include the Diana 340 N-TEC in .177, the Walther LGV in .22, the RWS ProCompact .22, and I never get tired of my little Beeman C1 .177. Spring piston Airgun are the one I most frequently use a .177, though my all around favorite is still the .22. The PCP’s that I plan to use a lot include the FX Wildcat .25, the Daystate Huntsman Cl;assic .22 (prettiest Airgun ever made IMO), and the Brocock Compatto .22 which is my small game gun of the year. I will also use the .30 more this year as itsd been very effective for prairie dogs and rabbits, and my Daystate Wolverine Type B is a favorite in this caliber.

It doesn’t take a great deal of power to kill a squirrel, though they can be surprisingly tenacious. Most mid power guns are more than adequate so long as the proper shot placement is achieved. Accuracy is the key, as I prefer to use head shots when possible and the brain area of the little rodents is about the size of a quarter. However, once this level of accuracy is achieved, more power is always welcome and gives a bit for margin when taking chest shots or reaching out a bit further.

As the leaves come off the trees squirrels are easier to spot .... but they can see you easier as well!

As the leaves come off the trees squirrels are easier to spot …. but they can see you easier as well!

All of theses guns are scoped to achieve the best performance possible, and I like a 3-9x with a 40 or 50mm objective as these scopes do a good job of picking out hiding squirrels in the lower light conditions encountered early in the morning and late afternoon.  I’ve used the Hawke scopes more than any other this year, and have been well impressed by the optical quality achieved in low light conditions; swapping them from gun to gun. But I’ve also had very good results from the Leapers scopes as well, which are two of my airgunning go to scope manufacturers.

There has been significant development with respect to projectiles available for squirrel hunting over the last few years; polymer tipped hollow points, boat tail pellets, new non-lead materials, and refinement of existing designs. Airguns can be a bit finicky about which projectiles they shoot best. Even guns that are the same model will often have different preferences for pellets. I generally prefer roundnose pellets for squirrel hunting as they offer a good balance of accuracy and terminal performance. 

Squirrels are plentiful, challenging yet not overly taxing for the newbie, and are a great way to get started in Airgun hunting!

Squirrels are plentiful, challenging yet not overly taxing for the newbie, and are a great way to get started in Airgun hunting!

In most guns, one roundnose pellet or another will yield good results, and while I mostly use JSB roundnose pellets, the H&N Baracuda Hunter Extreme work well in several of my guns and provide effective terminal performance. Squirrels are tenacious little critters, but they are not that hard to kill if hit in the right place. Besides the roundnose pellets accuracy, the domed head and heavier weight are just the right medicine for both fox squirrels and their smaller cousins the gray squirrel, which are abundant in our forest.

I find that there is ancillary gear which consistently improves my success rate. Most important is camo; in the spring I like a light weight mesh camo overall and in winter a camo jump suit and always include a face cover and gloves. I also like a compact set of binoculars for scanning the branches and shadows in the trees, I often finding a bushytail staring down on me that was missed by the naked eye. If you intend to stretch out the shooting distance a bit, a range finder can be an asset, as can a mouth blown call to coax a hesitant squirrel into view. I also throw a sharp pocket knife and some latex gloves in my pack for when cleaning time rolls around.

This is my typical gear for a fall/winter squirrel hunt.

This is my typical gear for a fall/winter squirrel hunt.

I have a couple of strategies for hunting squirrels; my favorite is to slowly stalk the woods and listen for chattering or scolding calls. Once I’ve pinned down the general vicinity I’ll start to slowly move towards the sound while scanning the canopy for the tell of a twitching tail. This is one of those times I find a good set of lower powered binoculars very useful in picking up a set of eyes peering down from a fork in the branches or the flicker of fur in the breeze. Another technique that has proven effective is to go out in full camo or a ghillie suit and find a mast producing tree such as walnut or hickory, and settle in for a wait. The flip side of this approach is to find a den tree or a drey and set up an ambush as the squirrels move between home and their food source. Wearing camo for a squirrel hunt may sound like overkill, but I can tell you that based on a lot of experience your success rate will take a quantum leap when you cover up. A face mask and gloves are important as these are the parts of your body that move the most. Over the last few seasons I’ve kept a 3D leafy camo poncho in my bag, which can be worn as effective camo or used to fashion a multitude of blinds…. This is a great bit of gear!

A day in the squirrel woods with an air rifle will get you tuned up for big game season and is also a great way to introduce new hunters to the sport because it combines challenge with pretty high odds for success. To carry an air rifle makes sense because it gives you more than enough accuracy and power to anchor your quarry, but because of the shooting characteristics of these guns (reduce range and noise) allows them to be used just about anywhere one might legally hunt. I enjoy this sport so much that when I score my deer, I am ready to get back on the squirrels!

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Categories: .22 ammo shortage, binoculars, Brocock, cold weather hunting, compact guns, Daystate, fall hunts, Hunting Accessories, Small Game Hunting, Small game in winter, Squirrels | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Warthogs and Airguns

While cleaning up my archives, I found this article written about three years ago for one of the hunting magazines, and realized I never submitted it! This was from the hunt where I had Kip and a couple AOA friends along with me to the Eastern Cape in South Africa. Better late than never, right!?!

Hunting SA you spend a lot of time glassing the countryside looking for game. Good glass goes a long way here.

Hunting SA you spend a lot of time glassing the countryside looking for game. Good glass goes a long way here.

I’d been in South Africa for a few days hunting plains game with a collection of new air rifles, when my friend, professional hunter, and outfitter Rob Dell asked if I’d like to take a couple of management warthogs off his farm. Well I had to think about that, for maybe a fraction of a second. Heck yeah I did! The only problem was that I’d been using tamer mid bore guns geared towards the thinner skinned and smaller bodied antelope we’d been hunting, rather than the semi bullet proof hides of these African tuskers. The 100-125 fpe guns in .303 and .357 calibers used for the springbok and duiker would be marginal on warthogs, even for head shots, as the skull of these prehistoric looking pigs is all bullet deflecting curves and reinforced masses of bone.

But I’d brought a couple of my airgunning buddies along on this trip, and one of the guys (Kip Perow from Airguns of Arizona) had XP Airguns Ranger in .45 caliber that was producing a massive (for an airgun) 590 fpe, propelling a 345 grain bullet at 850 fps. This is not a small gun, however it is lighter than I thought it would be, and is dressed in a nicely executed laminate thumbhole stock. The configuration that Kip opted for used a 30″ barrel and a 285 cc air reservoir. To propel the heavy hollow-point bullets (made by Robert Vogel of mrhollowpoint.com) the gun takes a fill pressure of 4200 psi, and provides two shots per fill with a 4 inch drop in POI at 100 yards. When using this rifle the shooter typically carries a small 4500 psi buddy bottle in their daypack that allows the gun to be topped of 3-4 times in the field. It took a bit of begging, but eventually Kip loosened his grip on the Ranger long enough for me to get it out the door and on to the truck. Gaining temporary control of the gun, Rob and I drove out to an area of the ranch called the wagon wheel where one thing hit home immediately, there were a lot of pigs on the property!

Of the multitude of game species to be hunted in the Eastern Cape, warthog have always been one of my favorites. These animals are plentiful, provide opportunities for still hunting or from a blind, and are one of the prototypical African game animals. I love watching a big boar, tusk gleaming in the sun, trotting along with tail up in the air. What I hadn’t realized is that they are not indigenous to this region of SA, but were introduced in the 1970’s. Like the feral hogs in the states, warthogs are prolific breeders, and it didn’t take long for them to become one of the most common animals on the veld

A decent hog came in, and then a second one almost a twin joined him at the watering hole.

A decent hog came in, and then a second one almost a twin joined him at the watering hole.

Driving down a washboard road, we spotted a warthog about 200 yards out grazing. However the wind was all wrong for a stalk from where we stood, so we drove a couple hundred yards further down the road and jumped out to work our way along a brushline into the breeze. We moved in using the trees and thorn bushes for cover, peeking out from around the clumps of brush occasionally to check the pigs location. The 10-15 mph wind moved our scent away from the boars sensitive nose and covered any extraneous sound as we slow stalked in. We eventually were able to move inside of 50 yards, though it took about 25 minutes to cover the 150 yards.

Rob set up the shooting sticks in the shadow of an umbrella tree, which allowed me to mount the gun and get a solid rest. I like to shoot from a sitting or kneeling position when possible, but this type of hunting often requires standing shots from sticks, so it’s good to practice the technique before the trip. The rifle had been cocked as I’d moved onto the sticks, and dropping the crosshairs on the warthogs shoulder and taking a couple quick breaths, I squeezed the trigger. With a muffled crack followed by the immediate thud of the 325 grain bullet impacting the pigs shoulder, he dropped on the spot.

For the next warthog I tried a different approach, ambush! The region had been experiencing some pretty dry weather, but there were a few dams and waterholes spread about the 10,000 acre property. One in particular, was getting hit on a regular basis, as proven out by the copious amounts of fresh spore. This spot could be seen from a dirt road running parallel to the four wire stock fence, and you could drive by and spot a warthog or two wallowing, but stop the car and they were gone in a flash of tusk and upright tails.

My solution was to get out early and set up a ground blind. I found a spot on the side of a hill overlooking the waterhole, and started construction with a thorn bush growing by a rock that offered an overlook of the surrounding country. Rob then had our tracker use his machete to cut down additional branches from nearby elephant thorns and build me into a circular hide about 3 feet high with a diameter of approximately 4 feet. I was hidden, but if I shifted my position it was followed be a jab from a 2 inch spike! This was one hide that I was not going to fall asleep in, as to do so put me at risk of being skewed like a shrimp at a BBQ!

I was walled in a bit after daybreak and given a radio so I could let camp know when I wanted to be dug out, then left to wait. I propped the gun up on my Gorilla shooting sticks, and sat very still, glassing the area for signs of approaching pigs. No matter what or where you hunt in Africa, a quality set of binoculars is a must. I have been using the Hawke Frontier 10×42 for the last year, and absolutely swear by them. These are moderately priced binos with optical quality far superior than you have a right to expect for the price. And thus equipped I was able to pick up two warthogs making their way towards me, from a very long ways off. Just about that time, a motion right behind me almost had me jumping through the thorns, and as I turned found myself looking directly into the face of a goat! This is a working ranch, and I had to allow that the livestock needs to drink as well. But right now with warthogs on the way? I sat and watched the small flock come in to drink, and after allowing them a few minutes to fill up started tossing rocks in an effort to encourage their immediate departure.

I lined up the shot and squeezed the trigger.

I lined up the shot and squeezed the trigger.

About 5 minutes later, a pig slid over the lip of the dam and cautiously approached the water, settled in, and started to drink. He was about 65 yards from my prickly blind and unaware of my presence. I slowly lined up the shot, with the crosshair right behind the shoulder. And just as my finger was starting the squeeze, a second pig rolled over the embankment. A quick appraisal confirmed these two animals were a mirror image in every respect, so I stayed with my initial target and adjusted the crosshairs to cover the first boar. I applied pressure to the trigger and the gun barked, and it does have a bark!

Watching through the scope, I saw the medium sized pig drop in his tracks, landing about 4 feet out in the middle of some very nasty looking water. He then jumped up, took about five paces, and went down for good. I crawled out of my little elephant thorn corral, scratched up and looking like I’d been thrown into a burlap bag with an angry bobcat, and made my way down to the muddy shore and out through the muck. When I could reach a hind leg, I grabbed it and pulled the young boar back to shore and radioed for the guys to join me.

This pig wasn't pretty to start with, but after the dunking in the pond he was downright ugly!

This pig wasn’t pretty to start with, but after the dunking in the pond he was downright ugly!

Using an airgun to hunt warthogs requires the right guns and ammo to be selected. I have worked with the guys at Hounslow Safaris on the Eastern Cape to develop airgun hunting in South Africa for almost a decade. Based on this experience we have given a lot of thought to the right guns for the game we shoot. I think that warthogs require a minimum of .357 caliber (though bigger is preferable) shooting heavy solid lead or hollowpoint bullets, at a minimum of 350 fpe. There is no doubt that smaller calibers and lower powered guns can kill a warthog, but these are tough animals, and the tolerance for less than perfect shot placement decreases dramatically if one doesn’t use enough gun.

 

I feel that by using an airgun, the challenge is amplified and the experience that comes from leveling the playing field further increases the sense of accomplishment. At the same time, this method of take only makes sense if the proper equipment, the shooters skill level, and the appropriate shot selection are brought into the mix. If you cannot or do not want to get in close, an airgun is probably not the right tool for you. However, if you want the excitement and challenge of getting up close and personal, I can’t recommend this approach highly enough. We’re putting together a hunt next fall, and will have several big bore airguns available. If you’d like to give it a go, drop my buddies over at Hounslow an email!

 

Warthog Video

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Categories: Airgun Expedition, Airguns of Arizona, Big Bore Airguns, Big Game, binoculars, Hog hunting, Safari | Tags: | 2 Comments

Out on a hog hunt!

Sitting on a plane right now flying back home from Texas, where I attended the airgun show put together by friend and colleague Tom Gaylord. As soon as the one day event was over, Rossi Morreale and I jumped in a truck with our camera crew from American Airgunner and headed off on a multitude-day hog hunt about three and a half hours west of Dallas. One of the things that made this trip fun was that I was bringing Rossi on his first Hog hunt. Also, one of the crew was Clay Pruitt who has become my primary cameraman on my solo hunts. We’ve become pretty good friends over the last couple years. Funny what being locked in bunkhouses and hunting camps will do …. You either become better friends or can’t stand the sight of each other!

I’ve hunted this ranch before, and pig populations are generally good but weather conditions were putting a strain on movement. The method of hunting is to use brush blinds that have been set up around feeders or water holes in the early morning or evenings. Most people spend the mid day napping to recover from the predawn start, but I like to stalk the thickets and cedars for spot and stalk action.

We got our first round of pigs early, and still have another day to hunt!

We got our first round of pigs early, and still have another day to hunt!

On our morning hunt all four of us sat in one blind near a feeder, so we could get footage for the show. As day break, several large rats started running around, then rabbits started popping up everywhere, quail came out chasing each other around, there was a lot of activity but no pigs. Then I looked up and saw a smallish pig at about 75 yards out, rooting in the scrub. It was hard to see more than the animals back, as the grass between us was fairly high. I told Rossi to get ready as I watched through my binos. There was a feeder about 40 yards to the pigs left which would have brought him into shooting range for the guns we were using, but instead he started drifting away in the opposite direction.

After returning to camp for an early lunch and to rehydrate (it was hot!!) we geared up and took off for the hills as it were. Walking down the road to the far side of the property, I felt like I was leading an old time safari, walking out front with Rossi, Clay, and Chad behind me. Chad and Clay were loaded down with camera equipment and the shooters had their guns slung over a shoulder. When we got to a high point using the dirt road for access, we headed into the very dense thickets. Walking through, actually part walking part crawling through the tunnels of brush and cactus, we pushed a pig. It didn’t seem over alarmed but knew something was amiss (from his point of view). No matter what we tried, he kept ahead of us where we could hear but not see him.

I decided to split the group, where I could make a flanking move to get a head and work my way back toward towards the others. Clay came with me and leaving our packs to lighten our loads, off we went. It took about a half hour to circle the stand of thicket before starting the walk back, where we hoped to push the pig back (unless I could get the shot). Reaching a little clearing with a couple cedars popping up here and there. I sat for 5 minutes glassing the area looking at the base of the trees and anywhere I thought might hide a pig, but saw nothing. As we stepped around a tree I found myself face to face with a big coyote 25 yards away. He was already spinning and launching himself. I snapped up my rifle and fired as he took off directly away from me, but missed just shooting over the dogs head. It was a low percentage shot, but they were having a lot of predator problems and I’d been asked to shoot and coyote or bobcat that we came across.

With that, I went to reload my gun before moving on, only to realize I’d left my ammo in my pack sitting back with the other guys. OK, so I wasn’t going to get a shot but we could still push the pig back towards Rossi. I’ve got to tell you it was by now VERY hot, and we were getting stabbed and ripped by the thicket/cactus gamut we were traveling through. As we came to an area where it was possible to stand and see several yards a head, a grunt came through the brush. With the wind in my favor I very slowly crept towards the sound with Clay right behind me. We held up right behind a tangle of brush and looking though I had a clear look at three decent hogs bedded down completely unaware of us.

I silently chided myself for being there with an empty rifle and slowly backed us up then around these animals, beating a path back towards the other guys. It took us a while in this thorny jungle to locate them, but once we did I loaded my rifle and started back. We’d gone the 400-500 yards towards the bedded pigs when we heard a snort, a squeal, and an explosion of sound as the spooked pigs exploded away.

We got back to the bunkhouse, sweaty, bloody, dehydrated, and tired. By unanimous decision we opted to stay in the air conditioned hut with bottles of ice cold water, to rest up for the evening hunt out of a blind. The ranch manager had found a place in a remote part of the ranch, where even though there were no feeders or water, pig sign was everywhere and it seemed they were using the area as a transit point. He’d cut down a bunch of branches and piled them to make a small wall we could all hide behind. I will tell you we had a pretty exciting afternoon/evening here and took a couple nice boar, but that whole episode was captured by our trusty cameraman and will make it into this seasons American Airgunner. So rather than telling you about it you can see it when the show airs.

I’m on my way to Japan in a couple days, but have many more hunts lined up when I get back! I did get some down time on this trip to do some rabbit hunting using one of my new favorite springers the Diana 340 N-Tec, and had a lot of fun with this very accurate springer.

I’ll have more coming your way soon!

Categories: arrow gun, Big Bore Airguns, Big Game, Destinations, Hog hunting, Hunting Guns, springers | 1 Comment

Gearing up for a springer hunt!

As I mentioned in some recent posts here, Facebook, YouTube, and a couple magazine articles, most of my hunting recently has been with PCP’s but this year I intended to get out more with my springers. Don’t get me wrong, I love my PCP’s and they will make up the bulk of my hunting gear. However, I never stopped shooting springers, and don’t believe I ever will. This is where airgun hunting starts for most outdoorsman, and there are compelling reasons why these guns make sense.

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The lessons learned in becoming a good field shot with a springer carry over to anything you’ll ever shoot.

The advantages may be old news for many, but I’ll restate them here for new recruits into the airgunning world. Spring Piston (or gas piston) rifles, all of which I’ll refer to as springers, are self contained and require no charging gear, nor do you need to find a place to fill your tanks. They are accurate, providing you put in the time to learn your rifle well, and appropriately accurate for almost any small game hunting.

Grab a few pellets, and you're good to go!, and there's no debating the effectiveness on small game!

Grab a few pellets, and you’re good to go!, and there’s no debating the effectiveness on small game!

It only fair to state the disadvantages; these guns are harder to shoot than a non-recoiling PCP, but I’d turn this around to an advantage. The techniques you gain from springer shooting, obtaining a consistent hold and follow through on shots, will make you a better marksman regardless of what you shoot in future. These guns can be heavier than a PCP and you do need to cycle them through a moderate to heavy cocking effort, but most shooters (outside of children and smaller ones) don’t have a problem with this.

My other comment is, buy the best gun you can afford. There is no doubt that you can be effective with one of the better mass produced springers purchased at a big box store. But I am willing to bet that inside of a year you’ll want to upgrade your kit. However if you invest a bit more for one of the fine European springers, I’m equally willing to bet you’ll hold on to that gun for a long time. Over thirty years of airgunning, I’ve kept the dozen or so great high end springers acquired along the way (Beeman R1, C1, Webley Patriot, TX200, RWS 34) and will hold on to some of the modern classics in my collection (Walther LGV, Diana 340 N-Tec), while at the same time I’ve gone through literally hundreds of the big box guns. Don’t get me wrong, many of these make fine hunters and if that’s what I could afford, would be happy to start out that way. But it’s a natural progression that as you progress in a sport, the smaller differences in performance become more important to you, not to mention pride of ownership in your equipment.

I’m leaving on another hunt in Texas for hogs in a couple days, and as usual will bring a gun for small game and varminting during down time. The gun I’m bringing is one I’ve been shooting extensively for a few months now, the Diana 340 N-Tec. This is a sleek rifle that is brilliantly crafted and absolutely beautiful; highly figured wood, sharp checkering, ergonomic design, fine metal work and bluing. My rifle is a .177, and small game springers are about the only time I use this caliber now days. I can stack pellets into a half inch group at thirty yards with this rifle shooting JSB exact pellets.

I’ll post either when in Texas or on my return to give you details on the gun and tell you about the hunt. Until then, get out and shoot ……. Hunting seasons are right around the bend!

Categories: bird hunting, Hunting Guns, Pellets, Pest Control, Rabbits, Shooting technique, Spring Piston Airguns, springers, Uncategorized | Tags: | 1 Comment

Compatto and prairie dogs!

This weekend I was down in Texas on a hog hunt which was not so successful, because of the very hot weather and dry conditions the pigs had gone just about fully nocturnal. So I was hunting very early and very late until nightfall, with a lot of down time during the day. To keep occupied I took the opportunity to hunt rabbits with a couple new guns I was testing, but with it being so hot they laid low for a good part of day. During some of the midday down time when the temperature was spiking, it was suggested that I shoot a few pigeons that roosted in the nooks and crannies of an underpass near an abandoned bridge. I was told there were lots of pigeons, best of all was that if insisted on going out in the heat, at least this place offered some shade!

For the outing I grabbed the Compatto, which has a lot to offer for this application: adjustable power to let me reach out and thump them or dialed down to finesse closer shots at lower power. And at any power, I can get laser like accuracy out of this rifle. Now add to this that it’s very compact due to the semi bullpup design, ergonomic from any shooting position, with smooth cycling and high reliability, and you get an idea why this was my editors pick in a recent gear guide I wrote for Outdoor Life.

Shooting in the shade was a great midday break from the direct sun, but these birds are nasty creatures!

Shooting in the shade was a great midday break from the direct sun, but these birds are nasty creatures!

When I got onsite, the first thing I noticed was that there were birds everywhere, with constant flights of these winged rats flying drifting in and out. They also didn’t seem overly concerned with me, at least at first! I started off by sitting next to a concrete pillar that I braced myself and started with longer shots at 75 yards, using either the 2nd or 3rd mildot down. There was no wind here to worry about, so it was all down to getting the elevation right. The pellet this gun prefers is the 18 grain JSB Exact, and I dropped several birds right off. The low report of the gun helped to delay spooking the birds.

After that I started hiking around the pillars and shooting closer birds offhand, one after another they dropped. The Compatto is a good offhand shooter for me, and again owing to its compact design it is easy to move around with and to shoot from any position. The Compatto looks like a cool yet unassuming design, but almost everyone I know that’s shot one has walked away more impressed than they thought they’d be. I posted a short video of a rabbit hunt and Kip Perow of Airguns of Arizona has a nice dairy farm shoot for Eurasian collared doves with the Compatto.

I’m back home for a while and won’t get out for any traveling hunts for a few weeks (will do some local predators though). I’m in my first kayak fishing tourney this weekend ….. Yeah, I know…. fishing and hunting …….a regular renaissance man! But even if not hunting too much in the immediate future, I’ll be down on my range with the Wildcat getting ready for EBR this year!

Hope you’re all having a great summer, if there is a topic, hunt, or gun you’d like covered let me know and I’ll try to make it happen.

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Springers!

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

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

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

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

What Else is Happening?

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

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

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Airguns of Arizona, Brocock, bullpup, Deer hunting, Destinations, EBR, Extreme Benchrest, FX, Long Range shooting, Pest Control, Prairie dogs, Shooting technique, Small Game Hunting, summer time hunts, Uncategorized, where to hunt | 4 Comments

Binoculars and the Airgun Hunter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Categories: binoculars, effectiveness, Hunting Accessories, Optics, Prairie dogs, scope Hawke, Uncategorized | 2 Comments