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Whats in a trophy?

Posted by on August 9, 2015
This spindly little springbuck ewe, and little whitetail buck were both trophy animals to me, becuase they were the first examples taken once they became legal in their respective jurisdictions. Besides the trophy value (to me) the deer made great jerky and the springbuck became biltong!

This spindly little springbuck ewe, and little whitetail buck were both trophy animals to me, because they were the first examples taken once they became legal in their respective jurisdictions. Besides the trophy value (to me) the deer made great jerky and the springbuck became biltong!

Like a lot of airgun hunters using powerful adult oriented Airguns. I came to the sport with a lifetime of hunting experience. I was using firearms for small game, mule deer, blacktail deer, feral hogs, bird hunting and predators in my native California for many years before moving to Airguns. As a matter of fact, I was getting to a point where I found myself in a bit of the doldrums, and was starting to lose interest. I wanted to increase the challenge but never have gotten real excited by archery, so to up the challenge quotent I moved to handgun hunting. This kept me going, but after a while this also started to loose attraction, in part because I started using handguns that were really hand held rifles in terms of performance. But when I found Airguns, it really kindled a fire under me. I like shooting rifles better than anything else, and here was a way that I could hunt with a rifle, but approach the game like a bowhunter.

Like most hunters, I hunt for the love of hunting. I’m not big on trophies in the traditional sense. For me it’s not all about a huge rack, set of horns or ivories, it’s about the challenge, the hunt, and the experience around it that make it a memory worth keeping. The trophy might be encapsulated in a photograph, a video, the pages of a story written, or sometimes a mount or a skin.

If you walk into my office/den/trophy room/man-cave you will find skin rugs on the floor, European mounts of African and North American game, and I can tell you right now it won’t be the largest head taken. Most of my mounts are representative examples of the species, the reason they are a trophy is what they mean to me. All the Whitetail I have are from the first seasons deer could be legally taken in the various States as they allowed big game hunting with airguns…. and I have them all. My African game are the first examples ever taken with an airgun, most acquired years before anybody else had gone to South Africa with an airgun. Some are from an exceptionally difficult hunt, or some from a goal I’d set for myself.

This photo was the trophy for me, my son and I in Nevada, before a year or so before he left for college. With undergrad and now grad school we don't get to do these too often anymore.

This photo was the trophy for me, my son and I in Nevada, before a year or so before he left for college. With undergrad and now grad school we don’t get to do these too often anymore.

These goals that I set are what I want to talk about; the first one I ever wrote about was the grandslam of predators which included coyote, bobcat, fox, and raccoon taken in a single season. I have done this a few times now, but because of where I live the hardest species to bag is always the bobcat. However, this is a great adventure for an airgun hunter, and the coyote, fox, and raccoon can be taken in most of the country. If the bobcat is the only one you need to travel for, it represents an objective that is within the financial reach of most hunters. If not every year, every few years or a once in a decade hunt, it is something to reach for that is do-able. You may never be able to afford the $15k price tag of an elk hunt or trophy mule deer, but a few hundred to round out the predator grandslam is another matter.

Another hunt that many people will have to travel to complete, for one speciman or the other, is what I’ve called the squirrel grandslam; comprised of a gray squirrel, fox squirrel, black color phase, and Aberts squirrel. The gray and Fox squirrels are found almost everywhere, the blacks are found in most locals rarely but are common in others, and the Aberts is only in the Rockies. When I’ve told some people that I flew to Michigan to shoot a black squirrel and to Arizona or Colorado for an Aberts , they think I’m crazy to do that for a squirrel. I try to explain for me it’s the journey as much as the destination. At the end of the season knowing I achieved this hunting goal, that took a lot of planning, a lot of work, and a lot of great time in the field is the trophy!

On my way to a grandslam, these all came from Indiana and Michigan, but going to have to travel for the Aberts!

On my way to a grandslam, these all came from Indiana and Michigan, but going to have to travel for the Aberts!

There are always new goals: this year I want to take a turkey in the three states that allow them to be taken with Airguns (California, Virginia, and Maryland). I have been working on taking prairie dogs in every state where they have huntable populations. It’s all about the hunt.

I also like to travel and hunt in new places; I like to do this for big game and bird hunting, but there is something very cool about hunting in a new place, with different landscapes and different challenges. The journey, setting up in camp, a lodge, or even a rundown motor inn adds to the experience. And the new people you can meet along the way only make it that much better.

So if you’ve always wanted to travel for hunting, but the expense is too great, try it with you airgun. There is a much better chance of finding public land that hold good populations of the species you’re after. No tags are needed and most States have varmint, small game or predator licenses at reasonable prices. You don’t need a string of pack animals to bring you into the back country after elk, get your camping gear and go to an out of state national forest to hunt tree squirrels, or BLM land to hunt predators. Make you trophy about the experience, not the size of the animal or even the species you are hunting. On an out of state squirrel hunt I might shoot 10-15 squirrel on a weekend outing, whereas on a deer hunt I might not get a shot, and if I do hopefully it’s only one shot and my hunt is over. And I will tell you, I remember my great squirrel hunts as well as any deer hunt I’ve ever been on!

Random Notes:

Speaking of traveling hunts, a couple weeks ago hunting with my buddy Brett out in SD we took a lot of prairie dogs, some rabbits, and a couple coyote….. just a fantastic trip and only 6 hours from my doorstep. Next I’ll be in Arizona for rabbit and quail, California for turkey and quail, Virginia for deer and turkey (I hope), and Texas for hogs and predators.

Shooting the FX Wildcat and remain very impressed. This gun has been very effective on rabbit and squirrel, and want to use for raccoon when season kicks in.

Also wanted to let everyone know that I am writing on a regular basis for the UK based “AIRGUNNER” magazine, so take a look if you have the opportunity. You can subscribe to this magazine online, which is how I get almost all my subscriptions these days.

Lastly, I’ll be in the UK at the end of the month for work and to visit my brother in law and family. His house is about an hour from Daystate so I will try to get over for a visit and to see what the guys are up to.

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