Like so many hunters in North America, I spend a lot of time out in the field after predators. Unlike the vast majority, I prefer to go after them with airguns rather than high power center fires. There are practical reasons, airguns can be used in areas where firearms can’t; because they are quieter, lower power, or can legally be discharged where a firearm can not. But for me, the primary reason is the challenge….. I use airguns simply because it makes the sport more exciting and greatly increases the sense of accomplishment when I put fur in the truck. Some years ago I decided to set myself a goal of taking a group of predators with my Airgun, and using the nomenclature of baseball and turkey hunting, termed this collection the grand slam. My predator grand slam consists of coyote, bobcat, fox, and raccoon.
Why these animals? All are obviously predators, most can be legally taken with airguns in several states, and all will come in to calls. They are also within reach of most hunters, though bobcats have a more limited range or more restrictive regulations. It took me a full year to do my first grand slam, once I started to focus on this objective, and took place over two states. My coyote and raccoon were taken in Indiana and my bobcat, and fox came in Texas. Texas is the place for predator Airgun hunting, and this year I want to do a grand slam in a single trip to West Texas!
For coyote I like a larger caliber gun, and in the past have had a strong preference for the .308 and .357 caliber generating energy in the 150 fpe range. The guns I’ve used the most for “yotes” have been the Quackenbush, Sam Yang, and Corsair rifles, though I’ve been anticipating the opportunity to hit the field with the Wolverine .303 this season. It is a little lower on the power scale, but I think has more than enough power when coupled with the guns laser like accuracy, and should be strong songdog medicine! I’ll take head shots or body shots with the higher power guns, but I’ve also used 40 fpe .22 caliber guns sticking to head shots. Smaller caliber lower power guns make sense when you have to hunt in more developed areas where there is a need to keep the noise down and the shots flight needs to be limited. Guns like the Daystate Airwolf, the AirArms s510, FX Royale, or AirForce Condor in .22 or .25 are all up to the job for fifty yard coyote control. When hunting coyote I prefer an electronic caller, but have also taken many dogs using a mouth blown call. The ecalls move the source of sound, and therefore the coyotes attention, away from the caller. If hunting in daylight I wear full camo or better yet my ghillie suit, you need to get your quarry in close and personal. At night I use a handheld light if hunting with a partner or a scope mounted light if hunting alone, and make stands at about a mile apart when driving dirt ranch roads, but preselect sites if planning to go out on foot. The more distance covered, the more predators likely to be encountered.
My favorite air gunning trophy is the bobcat, and the .30 caliber guns are perfect if body shots are planned, but a .22 or .25 caliber works fine for headshots. Cats are less wary than coyotes and don’t have the sense of smell that dogs do, but come into the call slower. When called, they will often hang up and watch, sometimes for a long time which can make them harder to spot. In most places bobcats are more spread out and won’t travel as far to the call as a coyote will, so it can take time and patience to score on this feline trophy. It took me a couple years of trying to get my first bobcat, they didn’t come to the call, hung up to far out, popped up when it was my partners turn to shoot, I missed (the worst), but finally I got my first one, then over the next few years several more.
The next on the list is fox, either gray or red. In most places these days the smaller gray foxes are more common, but fox populations have taken a hit with the expansion of coyote territories. Not only do coyotes compete with foxes, they’ll eat them when given the chance. An interesting thing we’ve seen in the Midwestern areas is that fox have started moving in closer to human habitation where there is less pressure from coyote. The guns I use for fox are the 30’s for body or headshots, though I have no problem with the use of a powerful .22 or .25 for headshot in the 50 yard range.
Raccoons are the most frequently encountered species on my grand slam menu, and many people buy airguns for pest control specifically to take out the problematic masked bandit around the garbage cans or chicken coops. A higher power .22 or .25, especially ones with shrouded barrels are perfect for pest control duty. However, I prefer to go out in the very early morning hours around daybreak and call them in with a rodent distress call. Another method that works incredibly well at certain times of the year is to locate a den tree and start raccoon fight sequences. Raccoons, often large aggressive boars will charge directly at the call and you need to be ready to shoot as soon as they stop, because they don’t stay still for long.
I think predators offer the greatest challenge to the airgun hunter, each and every species requires the hunter to put together the right guns, gear, techniques at the right time in the right place. But as you get more into it, the grand slam presents a goal that is within reach of most hunters. You may have to travel for certain species, but the costs are not over the top like they can be for big game hunts. Most predators can be found on public land, usually a basic small game license (in some states no license) is all thats required, which tend to be fairly inexpensive.
Are you out hunting predators with your airguns? If you are, share the experience! We’d all be interested in hearing what guns, pellets, gear and techniques you’re using.