I’ve had a great couple days out in Arizona, hunting jackrabbits and rockchucks (groundsquirrels) with the AoA gang: my usual hunting partner out this way Kip and this time we were joined by Robert and Gregg (who readers of this blog know as the AoA power hitters). We drove about three hours north of Phoenix to base out of Seligmen, staying once again in the Canyon Inn on the historic Route 66.
We wanted to do a prairie dog hunt as well, but while there were dogs everywhere we looked, they are a pest species with a season which doesn’t open until later in the summer. But that was OK, because there are spots in the area we’ve hunted before that are known to be loaded with the big desert jackrabbits. Most of our American readers knows this, but for those in other countries let me tell you about the jackrabbit; it is a very large hare, that lives in our western deserts and grasslands. It lives in the open, is very wary and very fast, and breeds like ….. well, like rabbits. the can get up to 11-12 lb, and they can consume a lot of grass which can be an issue in the more arid cattle ranching areas they thrive in. Over the years I’ve often said these are one of my favorite airgun quarry, because you spot and stalk them more like hunting deer than typical small game.
The other quarry we had our sights on were the northern AZ ground squirrels that the locals call rockchucks. these rodents are less gregarious than the California ground squirrels (commonly called gray diggers) that I grew up shooting out on the left coast. Mostly they are found in small family groups, more typically a couple or small cluster are encountered in isolated areas of rocks and cliff, and they don’t let you get too close unless the approach is done with a lot of care.
In terms of guns, we had some great ones: this is always a big plus when you got the main guys from one of the biggest airgun companies in the country going out with you, they have all the cool toys! We had the Daystate Ranger, Wolverine .303, the first Wolverine .22 (the first one in the USA anyways), The FX Royale, and the little gun I fell instantly in love with, the Brocrock specialist. Robert knows that I am a major fan of the compact hunting rifle/carbine, and always manages to get one gun into the mix that I’m going to fixate on, and this time it was the .22 caliber specialist. However, everyone of these guns is a winner, and we used them all on the 3 or so dozen jackrabbits, number of cottontails and several rockchucks we piled up. Kip and I did most of the shooting, and poor Greg got the duties of cameraman. It’s fair to say that we got some great footage that will be coming out in various video productions in the near future. Roberts another one of those airgun business owners that knows how to shoot, and he got some really nice long range shots in.
I’ll be releasing a number of articles about the guns, the hunt, the gear and the quarry, in the next few blogs. and in this one want to tell you a bit about the Brocock Specialist. This is probably the smallest, most compact, best shooting, lightweight hunting carbines I’ve ever shot. Unlike the 12 fpe British configuration I’d read about in the British Airgun Shooter magazine. the gun AoA is importing is a little 20 fpe firecracker, giving three cycles of the 6 pellet rotary magazine before a fill is required. In those rare instances I’ll need more than 20 shots in a hunt, I’ll slip a buddy bottle into my pack. but man this gun is a pleasure to carry! I took off on a couple of long hikes with this gun, where I had to climb the jagged cliffs and jumbled rockpiles, and the lightweight synthetic technical style stock was easy to carry in the no-stud sling I’d brought along (my loaner guns almost never have swivel studs installed, but I’ll probably carry the Specialist I ordered in an AR type three point sling.
This gun comes right to the shoulder, can be maneuvered and pointed even in some of the heavier brush we encountered, and the cut-away buttstock and ergonomic pistol grip let me achieve a consistent and solid hold. The gun I was shooting was wearing a Hawke 3-9×40 MAP6 scope, which was the perfect size to complement this gun, and I’ve always felt their scopes provide very good optical quality in general, but if you look at the value for money they are exceptional. I was shooting JSB 14.3 domed pellets in the 800’s, producing an honest 20 fpe gun. I didn’t have a chrony on this trip, but found the shot to shot variation pretty mild until shot 20, then it stepped off the cliff…… no problem, just top off every third to forth magazine. Again, I wasn’t doing quantitative range work, but at 50 yards I could jump a ping-pong ball sized rock all over the place without a miss. And when out hunting the gun, put down everything I aimed it at, putting down several big jacks out to 80 yards. This gun was especially deadly at 50 yards, where between the intrinsic accuracy with a great hunting pellet, and the terminal ballistics being just right on the medium sized airgun quarry, it was an effective combination for me. I’ll be doing a full write up and a lot more hunts with this gun in coming weeks.
I also go a lot of shooting in with the .22 Wolverine, which was of particular interest for me as I’ve used it’s big brother (the .303) on predator and long range varminting since it was released to market. I know from personal experience that in .303 this gun does the job on bobcats inside of 75 yards, and is a hammer on raccoons and jackrabbits out to a 100 yards. However on jackrabbits at closer ranges, say 35 yards, the pellet from the .303 can ice pick the animal, allowing it to run 100 yards before it realizes it’s dead. I’d wondered if a smaller caliber with a less mass might provide a better dump of energy on these shots. And it certainly seems to! This gun was also strong medicine on jackrabbits, for the most part rolling them from the closer to the longer range shots. Of course this gun has the accuracy expected from a Daystate product, and Kip and I got some good doubles with him shooting the .303 and me the .22 version of the gun…….. both are superb hunting rifles.
We brought the FX Royale 400 along……. somebody had been using the Boss .303 on an earlier hunt and neglected to pack the rifle for our trip……….grrrr……… But it’s all good because that Royale .25 is one of my favorite bottle fed guns ever! As a matter of fact two of my most productive prairie dog trips ever were done on a two day trip using the Royale 500 on a hunt with my son, then I did a five day follow up on another ranch in the area with the Verminator, which is one of my most used hunting guns. On this outing, Robert, Kip, and I all shot the Royale to take some 80-100 yards jackrabbits.With the innovative smooth twist barrels pioneered and used by FX, every one of their guns I’ve shot over the least couple years have been absolute tack drivers. I will use the Boss .303 on a few hunts later this summer and will have a lot more to tell you about this gun then. I’ll be on my way out to North Dakota next week, and will hopefully be racking up my first Pdogs of the season with the Boss, no doubt my ever present verminator will be there!
The other bit of kit worth a mention are the Hawke Frontier ED Binoocular, I was using my 10X which were perfect for the long range spotting of hidding jacks back in the sometimes heavy brush. The quality of glass used on these mid priced optics is surprisingly good (because a quality set of glass can easily cost more than your gun), and was a great aid in the low light early dawn and end of the day “last rays of the sun” dusk shooting that are the most productive.
So Stay tuned …… more to come on our outing in upcoming posts.