I was thinking about my airgun hunts this year, those after the Christmas holidays when things start to slow down. There were a few stand outs that I really enjoyed, with a few more to come during the summer before the real season starts back up and my winter hunts kick in.
Getting time to hunt??
A lot of people ask me how I get in so much hunting every year, especially the people who know me and know my work schedule ……. it’s not all airguns, hunting, and writing, I have a professional life completely dissociated from my outdoor activities! For instance, I’m flying back from a meeting in Houston as I write this, and leave the following Saturday for a conference in Japan, I’m back for a couple weeks, then flying out to Scotland for more meetings with colleagues. Then will be back in Japan a month later, and so it goes. In the meantime, my older kids are away at University, but I have a daughter and of course my wife at home and want to spend as much time as possible with them. In the time window mentioned above, I am fitting in a prairie dog shoot in ND, jackrabbits in AZ, a sponsored hunt outside of the continental US I can’t talk about yet, and a studio taping session for American Airgunner. I also have deadlines for several columns and articles, and commitments to review and provide a feedback report on two new guns.
So how is it accomplished? Well first, I do get a generous amount of vacation, and with my travel schedule some flexibility in setting up my work week. The other thing, if I have to fly to Texas for work towards the end of the week, I will sometimes ship my gear ahead of time, and when I finish working ship my business attire back and pick up my hunting gear on Friday afternoon. I’ll then hunt Saturday and Sunday, before flying home on Sunday evening. Other times I’ll keep an eye out for cheap flights (have several apps for this), and when I find a $120 flight to Phoenix, DFW. LV or some such location, I’ll buy it then start calling people I know looking for a hunting opportunity. If it’s in a good place for laying by the pool, shopping or shows, and I’ll have my nights free, I’ll bring my girls along (they are not hunters so need other enticements).
To get the time free, and enough of it, I use my vacation/PTO time wisely. I’ll take a Friday off with a half day (Monday morning) off, fly out after work on Thursday, hunt Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and fly home early Monday morning to be back in my office by lunch. In this way I can turn a week of vacation with a couple comp days into three separate trips. On top of that I might break down one four day trip into two separate hunts: hogs at one ranch, then shift gear and go after predators at another when I have a few days in Texas for instance. Then I do a lot of short hunts near home, squirrel, rabbit etc for a couple hours early on Saturday or Sunday before my family wakes and our weekend activities get started ….. or a couple predator stands after everyone else goes to bed. For shooting and initial testing, I have a pretty well equipped indoor range and video/photo set up in the basement of my house…. 20 yards as is, 25 if I set up at a wonky angle. When I need to test a lot of guns at longer range I’ll get all the chrony and initial pellet evaluations at closer range, then bring several guns out to my outdoor bench to shoot longer range and get a lot done at the same time. Organization is key.
So I talked a bit about how I travel and how I get the time, but a big question is how do I find a place to hunt? There Are a couple ways, I’ll search the classifieds in a magazine like Predator Xtreme or look online for Outfitters/Guides that are advertising hunts. I’ll call them and ask about hunting with an airgun, prices etc, then if it’s a hog hunt for instance I’ll ask if I can hunt rabbits, coyote etc in my down time. The answer is often yes and I can get a lot of hunting accomplished for a reasonable price in a short time. I’ll also look around for land owners that will let me pay a trespass fee, especially to hunt varmint and small game. You can call local sporting goods shops, pubs, and B&B’s to seek out leads, and this is especially productive for less frequented destinations. If I’m driving rather than flying I’ll take more chances, and look for public land: WMA, BLM, Nat’l forest etc and use google maps to select an area to hunt. This can pay off sometimes, and even when it doesn’t its still fun and the cost is a tank or two of gas.
As I started getting more visibility in the media, a lot of invites to hunt with people all over the country started coming in, actually more than I have time to do. Sometimes other hobbyist, sometimes outfitters and guides that hope we can get an article out of a hunt, or sometimes an airgun company will set it up for me to try out a gun. Believe me, I know how lucky I am. I’ve been airgun hunting for the last 25 years, and it’s only that last few years that I’ve been getting these perks. I’ve carried the cost and paid the dues over the years, and even with the perks almost everything I make from writing gets plowed right back into the sport. But I’ve also made some strong friendships along the ways, guys like Brian Beck, Chip Sayers, Scott Dellinger, Randy Mitchel, Eric Henderson, Kip Perow, that I’ve been hunting with for years now…. can’t put a price on that!
The hunts I have coming up this year? I’ll be going to Texas for several hog and predator hunts, and will get some small game in there. Also going to Georgia and Florida on hog hunts. Have deer trips planned in Virginia, and Alabama… will try for a tag in Arizona for the little desert Coues deer, javalina and bear. Maybe back to California for the fall turkey season, spring was a blast! Have a couple dairy farm shoots for pest birds in Arizona, prairie dogs in Kansas and South Dakota, squirrel and jackrabbits in several states. i’m heading back to South Africa on airgun safari with my buddies at Hounslow, and I’m trying to organize a javalina hunt in Mexico. I have a lot of new guns and ammo to use…….this is going to be a great season! Hope to keep in touch with everyone through the blog, and also say thanks to you for reading and continuing to support this blog! If there are any hunts, equipment, discussion of methods or techniques you’d like to see me cover, please let me know.