Gear Updates: New Compressor (for me), my perfect shooting styx,and updating my cameras

The Omega Compressor was the first bit of new gear I’ve been using….. and to be honest I don’t know how I’ve survived without it! Well yes I do, with 6 carbon fiber tanks I’d have to drive 40 minutes to have filled, and I never seemed to be able to get to the paintball store when their tanks were charged to 4500 psi, so I was always lower than need for my high pressure guns from the start. I’d often end up using my hand pump to top the guns off.

When the 70 some pound box arrived on my doorstep, I looked for a place to stow it away. I settled on a garden cart I bought at Costco that allows me to wheel it wherever I want for use. The compressor was well pack and very secure in its packing. The directions were concise and clear, the fluids and lubricants I needed to get started were included, and it took me less than 15 minutes to fill it, attach the filling hose and power cable, and hit the on switch. The fan kicked in and the water started pumping …. all over the floor! I took off the side panels (very easy BTW) and found that one of the hoses had slipped off the pump, and after reattaching it I hit the on and it started running without a problem.

I hooked up my large capacity, medium capacity, and low capacity tanks which all filled up to 4500 psi and then shut off when reaching this magic number, which I had set….. great to know the automatic shutoff works so well. Then I started filling guns directly from the compressor, and was impressed at how quickly rifles that charged to a high fill pressure such as the Bush Buck, or with a large capacity tank like the Texan, was charged.

So there is no doubt that even though the costs of the Omega is great as far as compressors go, it’s still a chunk of change. But I have to say, if you shoot a lot, or shoot guns that fill to a high pressure, it an investment that is well worth it. In retrospect, if I’d realized how hassle free these compressors were from a usage and maintenance stand point, I would have cracked the wallet a lot sooner!

Very compact, fairly quiet, clean, wife friendly compressor that fits unassumingly in a corner of the garage… this is one of the coolest and most useful items I’ve added to my airgunning gear in a long time! It is a gear changer for me, and I’ll be bringing it on our prairie dog shoot next month in South Dakota.

The Omega compressor has an intuitive user interface and the control board is uncluttered with only a few controls required. The large gauge is where you both monitor your pressure and set the cut off pressure. One the bottom row is the on/off switch which puts the compressor on standby, the start button which initiates filling and the off which cuts filling. There is a meter for monitoring run time so you know when to service, and the adjustments for setting up venting cycles.

On the top is the filling/monitoring port for water and anti-freeze, the bleed valve, and the fill hose connection. There is a knob that allows you to lubricate every 6 hours of operation as needed (there is an alert to indicate if lubrication required sooner)..

After getting the Omega set up, I went to town topping off my two 80 CF tanks, two 17CF tanks and two pony bottles to 4500 psi (which took a few hours), then I started filling guns directly, which only took a few minutes! After one week with this device, I don’t know how I’ve survived without it!

A lot of people that have followed me over the years know I prefer to use shooting sticks in the field, and lately I’ve been using the Primos Shooting Styx. The reason is simple: they are the most compact, easy and fast to deploy, and flexible to use shooting rest, I’ve ever used. They are also incredibly stable: I’ve been testing guns in the field of these sticks rather than using a bench rest, and the results I am getting are outstanding.

What I really like about these sticks is they are so compact, yet exceedingly fast to deploy…. and once deployed they are surprisingly stable!

Once opened it’s easy to adjust the height by opening or closing the legs, and grabbing them just under the notch allows you to lock them in place with a small amount of grip pressure.

These sticks are so simple I am amazed they work so well…., but they do! I have two versions: the Pole Cat Shooting Styx and Pole Cat Magnum Shooting Styx. These sticks are three pieces on each of the two legs, which are a narrow gauge hollow pole with an elastic cord running through the lumen…. much like the poles used in a camping tent. There is a clever retainer that holds all the pieces together when not in use, loosen this and shake the sticks and viola, they are deployed! I can keep these sticks in any of my daypacks or messenger bags, even the smallest, and they are great for shooting from a sitting or kneeling position.

In a couple weeks when we hit the prairie dog towns in South Dakota I will have these sticks with me, so if you are there take a look. Or better yet, give them a try!

Between my magazine articles, YouTube Videos, and other online projects, I am constantly challenging my existing photography and videography gear and have been Supplementing and Enhancing my Camera Equipment. My primary video cam has been the Canon Vixia HF G20 for a couple of years now, though I also use a Canon T-6i SLR for both video and still photography. I’ve supported this set up with three GoPro Hero 3’s. While I like the image quality of the GoPros there are two shortcomings in my books. the sound is not so great and they have no zoom function.

To get around this I started looking at other “action Cam” types of cameras and came across the Fujifilm XP 90 waterproof camera. It is the size and configuration of a point and shoot, but the image quality is very close to the GoPro, it has a 5x optical zoom, and a large LED monitor that actually allows me to see what I’m filming. And while a lot larger than the GoPro, I can still easily mount it on my scope, and with the 5x zoom can get much better action shoots of…. shooting!

The other thing I wanted was smaller camera than my Canon t-6i for still photography. But it still needed to produce images of publication quality to illustrate my magazine articles. And for this I selected the Nikon CoolPix A900 camera, which has a 35x digital zoom and produces great stills (20 megapixels) that are sharp. clear, and can be blown up without destroying the resolution. The LED display is on an articulated arm, which is especially useful if I want to use it as a backup videocam, and it captures a true 4k video.

This is all backed up with a number of adjunct gear, a Tascam DR5 audio recorder, a collection of wired and wireless lavalier mics, several tripods of various heights and weights, an array of mounts for scopes, babckpacks, chest or head mounts, and a mountain of back up rechargeable batteries for all of these devices.

I’ve mentioned the South Dakota Prairie Dog Hunt a few times, and we still have a few openings if you want to join, it’s going to be a blast! My buddy Brett Waibel has a great lodge with a lot of prairie dog shooting, and this is an excellent time of year to be out shooting them. I’m going to bring a lot of cool guns, we’ll have a compressor on site (see above), and whether you’ve shot prairie dogs before or not, you’ll enjoy this outing. Brett has given us a great price and it’s all inclusive… you just need to get yourself to the lodge!

This is going to be a fun shoot, you should join if you can! That’s it for me this week, got a lot of work to do this week for my day job, but am planning to get out turkey hunting next weekend. Hope your all off to a good spring/summer, and catch up next week!

 

Save

Save

Save

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Struck Out on Turkey…. Getting Ready for Round II…..

I’m on my way home after a tough hunt, that didn’t exactly turn out the way I’d hoped. I was in Northern California after turkey. There are easier ways and harder ways to get gobblers out here, you can hunt the vineyards, farms, and suburban areas….. and this is both fun and productive, or you can go into the wilder places for mountain turkey, and that’s what we were doing on this trip. And to make it a bit more challenging, I only had two days free to hunt.

My gun of choice for this rough hunt was the Daystate Renegade, I wanted something compact and easy to carry in an already heavy load out.

My buddy Parrey wanted to use a compact and lightweight gun as well. so I brought my Brock Compatto for him to use.

I flew into Sacramento and then drove two and a half hours north, arriving at 12:00 am. Four hours later a friend (Parrey) was picking my up for the hour drive to the gates of a high country ranch. Driving in we’d stop in areas that my buddy knew, and fire of a coyote howl looking for a shock gobble. One of the areas where we got an immediate response was on a fire road, and we were able to work above and around the tom to set up a couple decoys (a jake and a hen) and settle in to call as the birds came off the roost.

It had been raining and everything, including me, was soaking wet and it was cold! Living in Minnesota 32 degrees doesn’t sound too bad, but sitting in a puddle when it’s 32 reminds you….. It’s cold! We heard a Google, then by a shift in direction we knew the tom was on the ground and moving towards us. But then a hen cut in front of the incoming tom and pulled him away. Then it went quiet….. I mean in an area where only the day before Parrey had been picking up birds all over the place, now we were only getting sporadic gobbles. And then the storm hit, a cell parked right over us and it dumped buckets on us, much of it blowing sideways. The mile hike in had taken us about a half hour, but it took us well over an hour to hike back to the truck. We sat there for another hour waiting for a break, but it kept getting worse so we decided to call it a day. I’d only had three hours sleep over the last two days, and was pretty ragged after a relatively short hike (albeit pretty nasty conditions). I was dropped at my hotel about noon, and when I got to the room crawled into bed and slept for a couple hours. When I woke up I had a combined lunch and dinner, hit sports authority for a couple items of gear I’d forgotten, went back to the hotel where I climbed back in bed and slept straight through to my 3:00 am wake up call.

We covered a large tract of land over two days of nonstop hiking and calling

We hike to a ridge and call, just trying to locate birds. They’d gobble on the roost, but as soon as they hit the ground went silent. Where only two weeks earlier Parry had seen a flock of a couple rio grandes, we couldn’t buy a response!

Driving out the next morning, we could see this was to be a much better day. From the stars and moon in the sky, it didn’t look like there was a rain cloud within miles. As we drove onto the ranch, we saw wet bear tracks in the road, and as we came around a bend, a smallish black bear cut across in front of us. We saw jackrabbits and deer in numbers, but strangely enough we did not get a single response. We set off on an six mile loop, along which were several canyons and saddles in which we were sure we’d find birds.

I was carrying a gun I’ve been shooting with really good results, the Daystate Renegade .22. This compact little rig was very comfortable to carry, and on paper I’d been getting some great results. I’d been down at the river before leaving home, with a bunch of life sized turkey targets, and between 10 -60 yards I could sink pellet after pellet into the kill zone on ahead shot. This was shooting off the same sticks (Primos Shooting Styx) that I’d be using on the hunt. I was so confident in this bullpup, that I could not wait to get on a turkey.

No matter how much you want it or how hard you work for it, nothing is a guarantee when hunting. I’d used up some of my valuable hunting time and a bit of cash without bagging a turkey, but had a great time …. even if I am a bit sore as I write this. We did take a break of a couple hours to shoot some ground squirrels, but my turkey will have to wait until next weekend when I head for another airgunning state…. more about that latter!

But alas, that didn’t happen. In all the miles climbing up and down the rugged hills and rock faces, cling every couple hundred yards, we only got a very few half hearted responses and always from a long ways off. What made it doubly frustrating is that we knew there were birds all around us, and every thing about the conditions told us it should be a banner day and not a shut out. But a shut out it was, we stayed out until the state mandated 5:00pm cut off and outside a couple hens, saw nothing.

Well that’s not entirely true, though we couldn’t find a turkey, we did happen across a pasture on the way out where ground squirrels were making their spring entrance, and I shot a few between 50-80 yards. I sat on the ground with the gun up on sticks, dropping them with head and a couple body shots. So while I didn’t get my turkey, I did get in a fun little varminting session, and feel even more secure with the gun. I’m jumping down to Virginia next week after we tape a few segments of American Airgunner in the studio, and will have another go at it.

What I can say is that the Renegade is dead accurate, hits hard with the JSB 18 gr pellets it prefers, and has a fantastic trigger. The side lever cocking action and the 10 shot magazine fed perfectly without a hitch noted, and with the strap I mounted the carried well. I appreciated this, because between my turkey hunting paraphernalia and camera gear I was well and truly loaded down. In a seated position with this rifle on sticks, it locks on and is rock stable, a great field gun.

Now I just need to use it to get my turkey!

Save

Categories: Airgun Expedition, Announcements, binoculars, bird hunting, bullpup, compact guns, Daystate, Ground squirrels, Small Game Hunting, Spring time hunting, turkey, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Prepping the Renegade for Hunting Season!

Man this gun is accurate! I was sighting in at 30 yards in preparation for my California turkey hunt. Headshots are the rule and they are frequently close in, 5-30 yards is the norm. Those close in shots can be tricky, so I’m getting my practice in. Loving these shooting sticks BTW.

I spent the weekend shooting the Daystate Renegade, the second bullpup design out of this great airgun manufacturing powerhouse. The first was the Daystate Pulsar, a beautiful and technology packed bullpup. And while I loved shooting that gun (and it shot very well), my taste run more towards less complex technology for the field…. The electronic trigger was outstanding, but the other onboard electronics, the built-in laser, not to mention a price tag that could send you into cardiac arrest … were more than I needed.
Then at the SHOT Show a couple of months back I spent time looking at the new entry, the Daystate Renegade. It shares many of the stylistic attributes with the Pulsar, with what for me is an important difference, it is mechanically actuated. It uses the same technology shared with the Wolverine and Regals models, both of which I use, like, and trust. There is still an electronic component as the Regals uses an electro-mechanical trigger they have named the Hybrid Trigger Unit (HBU). The electronic are used to sense the triggers location, but the actual sear release is manual. I also like that the HBU is powered by a standard 9V battery.

The stock allows for a comforatbvle mount regardless of whether I was standing, sitting or kneeling.

I am taking this bullpup out on a Turkey hunt in California when the season opens in April, but in the meantime, I’ve started shooting the gun on the range and plinking with it to get familiarized. The gun is quite compact and ergonomic. There is an adjustable buttpad, a cover over the rear action which makes for a comfortable cheek weld and provides a good line of sight using low or medium height mounts on the elevated rail. The pistol grip provides a comfortable hold, with good access to the safety placed right behind the trigger. The action is my favored sidelever cocking with a drop-down handle, which allows the shooter to cycle the action very quickly.

10 shot group off the bench at 25 yards

 

This 6 shot group was at 50 yards, with me sitting and shooting of the Primos Shooting Styx. What a combination!

I will post my quantitative results later bit I will tell you that this gun is very accurate, and I am looking forward to doing some long-range work with it on prairie dogs this upcoming season. With a high shot count, accuracy, power, shootability it goes on my list of impressive bullpups.

Also wanted to let you know, I will be hosting a prairie dog shoot in South Dakota, and will attach a link below for those that are interested. It’s going to be a lot of fun, you’ll arrive Thursday afternoon, hunt all day Friday and Saturday, and depart for home on Sunday. I’ve negotiated a great price which includes food, lodging, and limited guiding to the prairie dog towns (on private lands). I’ll also have a ton of guns along if you either don’t have your own or want to try something new. I’ll bring my Compatto, Bantam, Huntsman Classic, Regal and a few other guns if you want to have a go with them!  If you want more info or to register, you can contact me at echochap@aol.com.

I’ve been working on my home office/studio/trophy room the last couple of weeks as well. I am starting a series of “how to” videos for airgun hunting, and will record the non-shooting, non-hunting segments from here. I am always interested in hearing if there are topics you’d like to see included, and have already received some great input from blogs readers.

Wanted to share my new day hunter kit: I built up a kit for shorter airgunning trips where I don’t need a mountain of space consuming gear. It starts with a messenger bag manufactured by Leapers, which contains my binoculars, a range finder, a portable electronic call from Primos, a small game carrier, Primos Shooting Styx, a knife, GPS (or compass), extra pellets (and magazines when appropriate), snacks, toiletries, and water, and a light. This little kit can keep me out all day long, and is very comfortable to carry. It is unobtrusive and can be moved out of the way when hiking or shooting, but accessed without have dismount guns and gear.

Got everything including binoculars, range finder, e-call, extra pellets, knife, and shooting sticks packed in this handy tactical messenger bag.

I have about a dozen different carry options ranging from this compact set up to a high-volume pack that can keep me out for days. This is one of the topics I’ll be covering in the aforementioned video series.

Categories: Airguns of Arizona, bird hunting, bullpup, Daystate, Destinations, Hunting Accessories, Hunting Guns, Optics, shooting sticks, Small Game Hunting, turkey | 1 Comment

Spring Around the Bend!

We’re still in winter….. Deep in winter in some of the country…… But spring isn’t too far off. There are three things that keep me and my Airguns out hunting when we get to that time of year: the prairie dogs start popping up and staying up on the plains, the groundhogs in the eastern and Midwestern states come out, and in some parts of the country squirrel hunting is back with us! You have to look around to find a state with a spring season (mine is Kentucky), but it’s a fun and can be a challanging time of the year to hunt.

The challange is because the leaves are out and as the season progresses it and the ground cover and thorn patches get thick. Moving can be an effort, and finding a shooting lane once you find game and get in range has its own difficulties. Also nuts are not yet on the trees, so you’re not getting the cuttings raining down to help locate quarry. There are buds and new growth coming out, so squirrels may stay high in the thickening canopy.

This said, if you move slowly though the woods, keep an eye out looking for movement above and shaking branches you can get to the squirrels. On the upside, for the same reason you have a hard time seeing the bushytailed rodents, they have a hard time seeing you. This is the Season where I spend a lot of time slowly moving around a tree trying to pinpoint the source of the shaking tree limbs, while looking for a shooting lane.

I like a medium power, dead accurate rifle, preferably in .22 or .25 for this application. And while not as insistent on a multishot as I am for winter hunts (hard to single load with cold, shivering, or gloved hands)I do still prefer it. A gun I’ve used a lot is my Daystate Huntsman Classsic……. As often mentioned, bedsides accuracy, right power, quiet, multishot, I believe it is a beautiful gun and I just like to carry it, look at it, and shoot it!

As I write this post I am sitting in my hotel in Copenhagen, and I’ll be working the next few days before heading home over the weekend. The Daystae Renegade showed up on my doorstep right before I left….. only had time to sight it in and plink on my indoor range, but I like what I saw and am anxious to get home for some more serious range work with it! If all goes well. Plan to take that gun on a prairie dog trip to S. Dakota in the near future.

Also have some new shooting sticks coming in that I’ll be testing out: plan to both write and produce a video on this topic…. Stay tuned!

Categories: Brocock, Daystate, Prairie dogs, Small Game Hunting, Spring time hunting, Squirrels, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Recent Texas Pig Hunt

Just returned home after a few days of hunting in Central and West Texas; the good news was that it was a great series of hunts, I shot a few hogs with different Airguns, got out for quite a few rabbits in my down time from pigs, and I got to a feedlot to shot feral pigeons…… Lots of shooting! The bad side is I came home with a raging case of flu, and I’m on my way out West tomorrow to tour universities with my youngest daughter….

One of the hunts that I quite enjoyed saw me out with the Hatsan Hercules in .45. I was dropped at a blind that overlooked a feeder and mud wallow that always draws pigs. I’ve noticed that it tends to be smaller, younger, and yes, dumber hogs that come in during daylight. Under hunting pressure the big ones, especially the big dominate boars tend to go nocturnal, laying up during the day. So I did not have an expectation of finding anything big, but I did expect to see pork on the cloven hoof!

Small pigs came in, fighting, eating, and wallowing. The pig I’d laid my croshairs on got jumped just as I was shooting!

I settled in, and within an hour pigs started coming in, as excited they were all in the 40 – 80lb class. They were also very jumpy, they would run in the run out just as quickly. Finally I had one move out to where I had a good broadside head shot, and just as I was squeezing off the shot a second bigger one approached my target for a fight. I was committed to the shot and followed through, and when the .45 caliber roundball smacked him in the head just below the eye, he rolled over DOA. The challenger, which I could now see was a better pig, was off in a flash.

I was tucked away in a blind made of old pallets, with tree branches threaded through the slats. Offers good cover and an open shooting lane.

With all the pigs exploding off in different directions, I sat and watched for a few minutes. Nothing else was going to happen, so I climbed out of the blind to collect my cameras and go have a look at my entry for our next BBQ. With my back to the wallow, I was pulling my rifle out in case I needed a finishing shot. I doubted this because I hadn’t seen the dead pig move, and when I turned to walk over was surprised to see three more little hogs back at the wallow. They’d walked in while I was turned around, and with the wind in my favor and their attention on food and wallowing had not seen me.

The first pig went down hard to a head shot with the .45 roundball.

I dropped on my backside and pulled my shooting sticks out of my pocket, mounted the rifle, and lined up another shot. With a bang and the sound of the roundball hitting home for the second head shot in 20 minutes, the pig fell over. And then I realized what I had done ….. I’ll never learn!

I was caught flat footed stepping out of the blind, and dropped to my butt as I pulled out my shooting sticks and dropped pig #2!

My hunting blood was up and I took the shot, with the pig in the middle of an oozy, stinking, #@# filled wallow of muck, and I had to get the pig out before he sank! I ran over, ignoring the first pig, and threw a few dead tree limbs into the muck, to slow down me sinking into it as I reached out to grab a leg. I got it, but it was so muddy and slippery I could hold on. To make thing worse the mud acted like a suction cup and would not release the pig. Running back to my pack I grabbed my game carrier, which is a series of nooses I slip over the heads of rabbits and squirrels, and ran back. Taking a noose and slipping it over the leg of my slowly sinking swine, I put my back into it and pulled him out. Such was the effect of the mud, I almost broke my back pulling this little 70 lb animal out…… But I had him!

Great planning obn my part, I dropped him in the middle of the wallow!

My clothing and my person on the other hand, were a muddy, stinking mess. When I got back to the ranch I showered, and carefully bundling up my cloths, threw them in the trash to be burned! I’ve done this before, and my homecoming reception when bringing back cloths in this condition is …… Shall we say less than warm. The jeans were old and falling apart anyways!

I was a stinking mess by the time I pulled the second pig out of the quagmire.

So I was there for four days and this was but one hunt, and videos will come out on my site shortly. Next week it’s university of Washington with my daughter, then I leave for Denmark on business …….. But then it’s another hunt, this time a few days in South Dakota (providing the PDogs are coming out), then it’s turkey madness in April, with trips to ZVirginia and California on the books!

Categories: airgun ammo, Airgun Expedition, Big Bore Airguns, Big Game, effectiveness, Hog hunting, Hunting Accessories, shot placement | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

Out with the Twin Master … the What?

I was going through the gun safe getting ready for a hunt in Texas (that’s where I am writing this from), and came across a gun case that had lost it’s label. I opened it up, and there was my Rohm TwinMaster Hunter. I have another one back there somewhere, and had gotten them in an odd way. At a SHOT Show several years ago the manufacturer had asked me to test the rifles out.  I agreed, and about two months later they showed up at the airport, and I was called to pick them up. When I got there, I was given a bill for $400.00 (or around there, don’t remember exactly) for shipping and import duties. The guns ended up mine, because when I went to send them back and recover my out of pocket expenses, nobody returned my emails. Eventually I found out they had sold off the airgun business, and I could find no one to return the guns to or collect my outlay. That was OK, because I quite liked the the guns as it turns out, and $400.00 for the rifle and carbine was a great price, though I didn’t figure I’d get  much support with it if needed.

The stock is a Thumbhole sporter, with the trigger guard integrated into the stock. It has a solid feel, but is not bulky. The air cylynder is removed for filling using a propriatary attachment. A bolt action cycles the rifle, auto indexing a five shot shuttle magazine. This is not meant to be a gun review, more of a look back at an interesting hunting rifle….. But putting out about 16 fpe and very good accuracy I’ve had a lot of fun small game hunting with it, mostly for squirrel and rabbits,

The compact carbine was a natural pointer, and hunting for squirrel in the spring as the foliage got thicker was a natural environment for it. During these hunts I often used the single shot tray, as I was trying out some longer alloy and heavyweight lead pellets that didn’t cycle well with the magazine. However, with standard JSB and H&N pellets it was reliable. As mentioned, the magazine is a linear shuttle design, and though it works well enough, it is a bit awkward to load.

As an aside: these pictures also bring back some memories of places I haven’t hunted in a long time. This squirrel hunt took place in the Missinewa Forest of Indiana. There were a few hundred acres of woods with deer, turkey, and lots of squirrel. In eight or nine years of hunting there, I never ran into another squirrel hunter. I felt like this was my own private hunting preserve. I have found that regardless of where I am going to be spending time, by researching I can always find places to hunt on public land. With big game this often means a lot of pressure and low game populations, but squirrel are often left alone in these same areas.

I also used this handy carbine for several rabbit hunts in Michigan. I had an office there for a few years, and always kept a rifle stashed in my Jeep for pick up hunts before and after work. I don’t remember the number of shots per fill, but I didn’t carry a tank with me in those days but rather a hand pump. I don’t recall having to resort to that very often, one charge could easily get me through a week of small game and varmint hunting.

I still see these rifles turn up now and again, through I don’t believe there were more than a handful imported. It’s an example of a product that probably could have achieved decent sales, but circumstances prevented it ever having a chance!

Update: I am writing this from my hotel in Houston, I’ve spent a few days at a lecture series that wraps up tomorrow, then on my way to a buddy’s ranch for some hog and predator hunting. It’s a six hour drive, but I have to stop in Abilene to pick up my rifles and gear that I shipped to a friend to hold for me. They have a population of feral sheep on the property as well, and if time permits I might give them a try.

A final note, keep an eye out, I’ll be posting the information on our prairie dog shoot and airgunning event in S. Dakota coming up this summer. The way it’s shaping up my expectation is for a great three day event!

 

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Grand Slam of North American Squirrel

I love just being out hunting, but think that at the same time there is something cool about a quest …. giving yourself a challenge or a goal, which to my way of thinking enriches the experience. I’ve had several in my life, and with respects to hunting, fishing, and backpacking have had many, accomplished many, and still have many to do. When I got serious about airgun hunting a couple of decades ago, I started thinking about what I wanted to accomplish; all of the game I’d taken with firearms over most of my life, I wanted to now take with an airgun. I want to take one bear, one mountain lion, and one African lion with an airgun. I say one, because for each of these species I only want one, but it’s important to me that I do this before hanging up my rifles. I want to hunt a couple of other places in Africa, South America, and Asia with air as well. These are life goals, and may only be possible to do once in a life. There are others that are much more within reach: I wanted to take all of the predator species in N. America, to hunt deer and turkey in every State where it is legal, and hunt prairie dogs in every region where they can be hunted. Some of these I’ve done, such as deer in every State where they are legal, some I’ve done many times, such as the Grand Slam of predators (coyote, bobcat, fox, raccoon). The one I set myself last years was to document a grandslam of North American Squirrels, which I defined as the gray, the fox, the Abert’s, and a black color phase (could be from any of these species).

My Grandslam consisted of the Gray squirrel, the Fox squirrel, the Black color phase, and the Abert’s squirrel.

I wrapped up a grandslam with the inclusion of the Abert’s squirrel last year. I had shot these in the past with my .22 rimfire, but had never had the opportunity with an air rifle. This year I attended the EBR competiton put on be Airgun of Arizona. and slipped away for a couple days to travel up to the local mountains for an Abert’s squirrel hunt. I won’t go into detail, but I found an area based on some input from a local, along with a bit of pre-hunt scouting, to find an area that was a target rich environment. In two days I collected two limits of these tufted ear bushy tails!

You have to travel a bit to get to the Abert’s unless you live in one of the Grand Canyon States. This map shows where mine came from. You do have to travel, but it can be done on a relatively tight budget, and is something almost every airgunner could do.

The gray and fox squirrels are typically the easiest to bag, because they are so widespread and populations are good. There ranges tend to overlap extensively, and can often be found in the same areas. I have taken both of these in a single hunt in Indiana, Minnesota, Virginia, Illinois. The black squirrel is a variant color phase and can pop up anywhere, however there are certain locations where the likelihood of encountering the strain is much more likely. There is an area of the UP i9n Michigan where I know there will be not only grays, fox, and hybrids, but a high number of those in the black color phase.

The other thing that makes this a do-able challenge is that the costs are not over the top expensive; small game and limited day licenses are frequently available, and even compared to a basic turkey tag are very inexpensive. You don’t need a lot of specialized gear either, a well equipped squirrel hunter will have a pack or messenger bag with binoculars, range finder, pellets, call, game carrier, and (don’t forget) a camera or your phone to document your success. Sometimes I spend more on my mounts from a big game hunt that the hunt itself, but on theis hunt you will eat your trophy so a camera helps you capture the achievement.

I think these need to go into every squirrel hunters bag!

The other thing I like about this challenge is that the seasons tend to be long; most States have a fall and Winter season and some also have a spring season, which gives you a fair amount of time to hunt. Set aside 4-5 weekends to squirrel hunt, you can probably get your gray and fox on the book in the first weekend without having to travel more than an hour from home. But make a trip of it, camp out or get an inexpensive motel and overnight it, traveling and staying out always adds to the experience! The book a flight to Arizona, I can often find a flight for under $200 from the Midwest, renting a car for a weekend is inexpensive and you can either camp or get an out of the way motel …. I think I paid $60. for a clean and simple little place in the mountains on my Abert’s hunt. The black color phase …… you’re going to have to research this, and it might well be the most difficult.

You can often take grays and fox squirrels from the same woods (UL). You also have three seasons to hunt, all of which adds up to opportunity.

 

Turn your hunt into an adventure, give yourself a goal that will turn your hunt from a simple small game outing to a quest! This year I intend to do several of these goal oriented hunts; another squirrel grand slam, predator grand slam, and turkey grand slam all in the same year! I intend to take my bear this year, and I will hold out for a good one, and my first mule deer with an airgun (hope for my draw in Arizona).

Save

Categories: Airgun Expedition, Airguns of Arizona, Camping with Airgun, Destinations, Predator hunting, Squirrels, turkey | 4 Comments

Random Notes from my Airgunning Archives

Office time: I was sitting in my office/trophy/gun room catching up on my writing, I have article deadlines in Airgunner, Airgun Hobbyist, Predator Xtreme, and Fur Fish Game, and my time was coming down to the wire. For a couple of these projects I needed specific photographs, and got a jolt as I realized what a mess I have on my hands……. Over 75,000 airgun/hunting related photos stretching back to 2007 on hard drives, and approximately 20,000 more spread out on CD’s and thumb drives going back before I started archiving to hard drive. I have hunts and Airgun related events going back to 2003, that have taken me to more than 20 states, five countries, and an island in the Caribbean! I thought it might be of interest to share some of these photos, some have been published though most have not, and reflect on some of these events in my airgunning life!

Trapped in my man cave writing for a good part of the weekend!

Visit to Daystate: A couple years back I was in Scotland on business, then was to head down to London for a conference (pertaining to my “day job”). On the way, I scheduled to stop in for a visit with my brother in-law (Roger) and his family, he’s an ER doctor and lives in Shrewsbury. We had a free morning and as I’d set up a visit to Daystate, which was an hour by car, he decided to join me. We had a great tour of the facilities and an enjoyable lunch with Tony Belas …. But one of the things that sticks in my memory, is that I had a chance to look over a prototype of a new gun. It was called the Compatto, and was to be the first gun from Brocock since the acquisition and merging of their engineering with Daystates team. I fell in love with this compact little semi-bullpup at first sight…… and as you know if you follow my writing and videos it’s proven itself to me in the field!

A kid in a candy store!

Oh yeah, I like this!

The Hunt and the Missing Trophy: Next I stumbled on a few scattered pictures from a hunt down in South Texas several years ago, I was after hogs but it was the small game hunting that stands out on this excursion. In one night, I shot close to a dozen raccoons that were raiding a farmer’s corn bins down by a river bottom that bordered his property, but I also called in the first ringtail cat I’d ever seen. I was doing a rodent squeak and spotted a set of eyes moving towards me. I thought it was a bobcat, and as it ran in towards me, stop and hang up occasionally. Then it jumped up in the fork of a tree at about forty yards. I got my first clear view as it poked it’s head out and looked at me. Having seen in the regulations that this was legal, I line up with my Sam Yang 9mm and dropped him on the spot.

My first ring tail cat next to one of a dozen raccoons I called in that night.

Here’s where my story is less good, one of the guest visiting the ranch was a taxidermist, and said he could do a mount like the one he’d done for the rancher. It was beautiful, so I left my ringtail cat with him to transport back to his workshop in Montana. After waiting about six months I called to see how it was going, only to reach the guys father who told me his son had quite doing taxidermy and moved to Alaska to guide. Long story short (or maybe you think it’s too late for that), he had no idea where my mount was. I hadn’t paid so there was no money lost, but I’ve only shot one other since then, and he wasn’t a good candidate for mounting. I like these little animals, and will eventually shoot one to mount, and that will probably be my last one.

Biltong, the other dried meat: I would hardly call myself a prepper or a survivalist, but a few years back I write an article for Backwoodsman in which I explained how to make Biltong, which is the South African equivalent of jerky …. though it is more like a cross between jerky and prosciutto and I like it more. It is air dried meat, and the easiest way to make it is to build a special drying box. I made the box out of a large storage bin, created mesh covered vents, a computer fan mounted on top to pull fresh air through, a light bulb below to dry the air, racks to hang the meet and you’re ready to go! Cut the meet into strips, wash it in vinegar, spice it with coriander and pepper, leave it in the fridge for a couple hours, wash it in vinegar again, and hang it in the box for 3-4 days. Slice it and eat it afterwards, never last long around my house. I’ve had it made out of kudu, springbok, eland, impala, and my South African butcher when I lived in Australia made it out of kangaroo and emu as well!

Freshly hung strips of back strap from a deer I’d shot in Missouri.

Biltong: ready to slice and eat! This does not last long at my house.

That’s it from me this week. I received several new guns that started rolling in post SHOT Show that I’m currently working with. Also, got in several new scopes and a lot of adjunct gear I’ll be using on hunts over the course of the year. I’m on my way to Denmark for work in mid-March, but going out calling for coyote tonight (in Minnesota) and over the next few nights, then jumping down on a hog/predator hunt in Texas next week. I’m committed to doing more than 20 traveling hunts this year, and plan to do at least 2 per month, so will have some hunting news coming your way as these progress.

Winter is winding down in a lot of the country, so get yourself out there and keep shooting!

Categories: Airgun Expedition, biltong, Brocock, Daystate, Hunting Guns, raccoon | 3 Comments

HW 97 out for Jackrabbits

I mentioned that I was recently down in Texas hunting big game and predators with a buddy named Chacho Gonzales, and while I struck out on my oryx, I did manage to take some predators and small game. One of the small game hunts I really enjoyed was when Chacho loaned me his HW 97 to go after jackrabbits. Now the HW 97 is a fine underlever spring piston rifle right out of the box, but this .20 caliber rifle had been tuned by John in PA, and it was one of the smoothest shooting and accurate springers I’ve shot.

This gun was a pleasure to shoot offhand, but surprised me with it’s ability to shoot rested.

The rifle was easy to cock and I do like the locking mechanism for the cocking lever, a push button release at the distal end of the rifle making for a secure lockup. The gun is ergonomic, and the Rekord Match grade trigger is silky smooth and set to be quite light, it’s …. amazing is the word that comes to mind.

Chacho and I with the HW 97 and a big Texas jackrabbit.

Chacho and I were out for a couple hours after jackrabbits and I found the gun a pleasure to shoot, but also very effective on these big desert hares, making a 35 yard headshot offhand was very do-able. I had a lot of fun, as I generally do, getting back to my roots in airgunning with a springer. When I can do that with a great springer it only makes it that much better!

I was at the SHOT Show a couple weeks ago, and there were some very interesting guns and gear coming out that I’ll be getting my hands on shortly. I left for Japan right after the show and returned home a couple days ago, and already have some boxes sitting in my den waiting to be opened! Keep an eye out, there will be a lot of new hunting stories and reviews coming at you in the next few months.

There is something I’d like to ask those of you following this blog; I am planning 30-35 hunts this coming year, and would be very interested hearing what topics you’d like covered. Are the specific guns, power plants, calibers, pellets, optics, accessories, or hunt locations or type of game you’d like me to cover? Please let me know and I’ll do my best to work it into the schedule.

 

Save

Categories: Uncategorized | 12 Comments

Jim and the Oryx

We spooked these oryx coming around a bend and before I could un-sling my rifle they’d put a half mile of hills and desert between us.

I’d been invited to West Texas to hunt oryx with an online friend named Chacho Gonzales. I get a lot of invites and can’t do them all, but this one intrigued me because there are only three exotics in Texas I have a burning desire to take with an air rifle; the blackbuck, the aoudad, and the gemsbuck/oryx. In  addition, after having several conversations with Chacho by email and over the phone, he seemed like a guy I’d enjoy hunting with. I had a slim window to do this hunt between the new year and Shot Show, because I’m out of the country for a while right after that and then already booked for hunts on my return. We set a schedule, I booked flights out and we planned it all out. I arrived in Dallas and rented a car for the drive out to Odessa to meet up with Chacho, and after our first in person meeting we dropped about two hours south to a ranch outside of Fort Stockton.

We arrived at the ranch taking ranch access road several miles in from the state highway, and passed through a gate of Lone Star Trail Outfitter, which primarily caters to deer hunters, though the owner Trent, has Oryx and a big population of feral Spanish goats on his approximately 7000 acre ranch, though he also hunts adjacent land belonging to other family members. Trent has a very comfortable lodge that he put us up at, and little did I realize at the time his wife Tammi was coming in daily from their hopuse back in town to feed us ….. and this lady can cook. I had some of the toughest stalks I’ve done in years covering literally miles every day, and think I still put on a few pounds from the food I was being served!

Chacho and I sat in the back of the truck as we cruised slowly through the country side, sometimes on roads some times not.

Just like Africa, and this did remind me of my friends farms in South Africa, we spent a great deal of time behind our binoculars,

I’ll go straight to the point, I didn’t get my Oryx, but have nobody to blame but myself. Trent, Chacho and I hunted hard for three days, and I had a couple opportunities and a couple close calls, but was unable to seal the deal. I should have, but didn’t make it happen. Our approach to hunting differed a bit from what they normally do, which is shooting from a high rack in the back of a ranch truck. This would not work for the airgun ranges we needed, instead we would drive and glass to locate one of the three or four herds roaming the property, and then Chacho and I would jump out and work out an approach to stalk into shooting distance.

On the first stalk we worked our way into an area where we’d glassed a small herd of oryx, climbing up and down through the rocky and cactus covered hills.

We finally had an opportunity when Trent spotted a herd in the distance working its way along the sidfe of a hill quite a ways off. With the wind in our face and sun to our backs, Chacho and i jumped out and climbed a one hill and jogged around another to try to cut the herd off. This is when we discovered that the herd often had one animal well ahead of the herd and another trailing it acting as sentries. We came around the side of the hill to find this l;ead animal grazing head down about 150 yards from us. We both saw the animal at the same time and hit the ground as he looked up. We laid there peering through the grass from behind a frazzled thorn bush watching, and this young bull knew something wasn’t right. But with the sun in its eyes and the rapidity with which we’d dropped, it hadn’t seen us. With the wind in our favor he wasn’t going to wind us either, at the same time he continued to stare for about 15 minutes. Finally he dropped his head and we tried to crawl to a side where a rise in the ground would give us a chance to move. But after only 10 yards he lifted his head again, pinning us in place again, albeit in the cover of a slightly higher bush.

 

We spotted an oryx at about 125 yards that had its head down eating. It lifted its head as we dropped to the ground! Note: the arrow shows the oryx, head down and feeding.

 

I tired to line up a shot, but 125 yards was further than I wanted to shoot, I couldn’t get out from behind the thorn bush we were hiding behind, and between the tall grass and having my butt anchored to the ground, I could see the animals body.

Again I tried to line up a shot, but it was still to far and I didn’t have a clear shooting lane at any rate. As we sat there, pinned just under the ridge of a hill, we saw the rest of the herd trot out behind the sentry and run along a trail just under the ridge of the hill we were sitting on, but on the other side! We sat glued to the spot at we watched 9 sets of the big curved horns and the heads of the animals slowly trot by us withing 30 yards, but without any chance of a shot! This ended our first day, and not wanting to pressure the herd too much we called it a day and returned to the lodge for dinner and then to prepare for a calling session for predators as darkness fell.

Moving on to another stalk the next day, we spotted a small herd with a nice bull moving into a thicket, and a new stalk was on!

The next morning we drove down a road for about a half hour while stopping to glass the distant hills. After seeing no trace of the herds we started driving through a thicket with Trent and Chacho in the front laying out plans while I sat in the back. I was messing with my pack, and glanced up to see the back of a small group of oryx slipping in the patchy thicket less than a hundred yard from us. They weren’t terribly spooked, and were walking not running from us. We jumped off the truck and swung about 200 yards to the side to get the wind and sun in our favor and started to stalk in, going very slowly and very quietly. We’d stop frequently and look high and low across any opening in the scrub. After about a half hour, I caught sight of an animals back through the bush.

We were still a hundred yards away, and came up to a broad expanse with almost no cover between us and the animals. But we could see several oryx, with some starting to bed down. We spent almost the next hour crawling, back tracking, and working the wind, the sun, and the shadows to get inside of 70 yards. But then we came up against a wall, there was absolutely nowhere to move to, and the animals were all bedded behind a jumble of thickets and thorn bushes. I crawled into a sitting position under a mesquite behind a couple of yuccas, and looked for a shooting lane to thread the .452 bullet though. The big bull I wanted stepped behind a tree and started to move away, but a smaller bull stood, partially hidden behind the brush and it looked like they would all move on. I saw a small opening and quickly lined up my shot and let it fly. The report of my rifle was followed by a mesquite branch exploding between us though it looked like the deflected bullet might have impacted the bull high on the shoulder. The herd hightailed it out toward the hills, and I followed slowly looking for blood until they topped the ridge, then I stepped it up following and glassing the herd for a couple of miles. I could not find blood or pick out a wounded animal, and after another hour the herd took off at high gear not to be spotted again after topping the third hill between us.

 

I could never get a clear shot, but finally worked into 65 yards and decided to try to thread my shot through the heavy brush.

So of course I was disappointed, we hunted hard and got in a couple world class stalks on a really wary and smart game animal. I had a couple of missed opportunities but could fault nobody but myself. At the same time I had a fantastic time in the field, made a couple of good friends with Chaco and Trent, and did have much more success on the predator hunts ……. but that’s another story for another time!

American Airgun Hunter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Save

Save

Categories: airgun ammo, Airgun Expedition, AOA Bushbuck .451, Big Bore Airguns, Big Game, cold weather hunting, Destinations, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments