Whats in a trophy?

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.

Categories: Big Game, biltong, bird hunting, Daystate, Deer hunting, Destinations, Prairie dogs, Rabbits, Regulations, Small Game Hunting, Squirrels, turkey, Uncategorized, where to hunt | Leave a comment

The Wildcat Went Prairie Dog Hunting

About two months ago I received the FX Wildcat in .25 caliber, which I’ve been target shooting at ranges from 20-100 yards, and getting very good results which I’ve commented on from time to time. I really like this bullpup more than any other I’ve shot; the stock is light, ergonomic and compact, but it’s the great trigger, mid-gun cocking position with a very fast and smooth cycling, and a very effective shroud that made this a gun crying out to go hunting.

I was talking to a friend of mine in South Dakota named Brett, that owns an outfitting company and lodge outside of Draper SD, and he said the prairie dogs were thick, there was a lot of predator activity, and he was in the pre season doldrums. He said he was busy with some of his farming duties,  and couldn’t hunt with me the whole time, but if I wanted to come down and hunt with hime when he could get free, and go off on my own when he was busy that I was welcome to come out for a few days.

Lots of prairie dogs out, with a lot of shooting in the 50-100 yard range (some further and some closer)

Lots of prairie dogs out, with a lot of shooting in the 50-100 yard range (some further and some closer)

I scheduled a few days out of the office, loaded up my outback with a ton of gear, and was on my way! Getting out to this Western region of the state is about a 6.5 hour drive, a bit longer this time as I sat for a while as my speeding ticked was writen up, and after an uneventful (other than my visit with the State Trooper) I arrived at the lodge and unloaded my gear. I’d brought 5 CF air-tanks and 8 rifles along, and one of the primary rifles I used was my Wildcat!

The gun handled very well, and what I said regarding my intial experience held true; I’ll use any gun that works, but I am almost always accutely aware that I’m hunting with a bullpup and making some tradeoffs in doing so. But with the Wildcat I feel like I have a well balanced hunting rifle, that happens to be a bullpup. It cycles quickly without having to dismount the gun, the trigger requires no compromise just a pleasure to use in the field.

When the winds were calm this gun could reach out to 100 yards, but when it got above 7-8 mph it was time to dial in the distance. And it got windy a lot over the days I was there.

When the winds were calm this gun could reach out to 100 yards, but when it got above 7-8 mph it was time to dial in the distance. And it got windy a lot over the days I was there.

I shot about 30 dogs on a morning outing, between 40 – 120 yards. The heavy .25 caliber jsb Kings I was shooting made a siginificant impact on the dogs, knocking them over solidly. My approach varied depending on location, sometimes I’d sneak in and sit down with the gun on my tripod, then wait for them to resurface. Sometimes I crawled over the ridge of a hill and shoot prone. Once in a while I’d shoot kneeling or even offhand on closer shots, and in every position found the gun fit me well.

Generally we leave the dogs where they end up. Between hawks, yotes, fox, badgers, skunks, and rattlesnakes (all of which we saw)... and each other, they were gone in a short time.

Generally we leave the dogs where they end up. Between hawks, yotes, fox, badgers, skunks, and rattlesnakes (all of which we saw)… and each other, they were gone in a short time.

The Wildcat cycled flawlessly, except for a couple of operator errors when I double loaded a pellet. I was refilling the gun after five magazines noticing only a slight drop in the point of impact toweards the end of a string.

This shoot was a lot of fun, but man was it hot with a capital H! I lasted about three hours at a time before going back to the truck for an ice cold coke or bottle of water. But in 4 days I got in at least i hunt with each of the gun/pellet combos I’d brought along. I got in a couple of evenings of rabbit hunting, and called in and shot some coyotes. I saw fox, badgers, porcupine, whitetail and mule deer, pronghorn, and pheasant everywhere!

On my last morning we went out on a rabbit hunt, but only a half hour and a couple bunnies in, got the message that severe weather was moving in fast. We drove back at high speed, I quickly showered, and threw the last of my gear in my vehicle, having packed the night before. Running 12 miles down a dirt road along the strom front, I cut east before the hail caught me and outran the weather heading due east.

This was a great trip, and I love having South Dakota right on my doorstep! Next trip up for me is Texas for hogs and predators, then back to Arizona for jackrabbits and prairie dogs. Also going to do a quail hunt there later in the year. Also planning my squirrel hunting grandslam this year; fox squirrel in Indiana, grays in Minnesota, Black color phase in Michigan, then out to AZ again for Aberts. Also will probably hit the fall turkey hunt in CA, had a great time there for the spring season! We are so lucky in the States with all of the hunting opportunity we have. And here’s the thing, by using airguns and going after small game and vermint species you get the excitement of a traveling hunbt without the high expense of big game trips!

Categories: airgun ammo, Airguns of Arizona, bird hunting, FX, Ground squirrels, Jackrabbits, Prairie dogs, Rabbits, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Getting Results with a Springer!

Last week I spoke about avian pest control with springers, this week I will talk a bit more about how you can improve your results when hunting with a springer. As mentioned, I took time while shooting in Arizona recently to leave the PCP’s behind and take a number of springers out to hunt. Many of us have shifted over to hunt more with PCP’s these days, and there are a lot of compelling reasons to do so. However, there are also compelling reasons why springer still remain with us, and will do so for a long time to come. Chief amongst these reasons are that springers are fully self contained, requiring no additional air source or filling equipment. These guns are relatively inexpensive, with a PCP you are going to spend several hundred dollars between guns/tanks/pumps to get started, where a springer is going to cost a couple hundred bucks to get skin in the game (of course this climbs if you want a high quality Euro-gun). Those of us that are well and truly “hooked” have become acclimated to laying out the big bucks for or gear, but new shooters and younger shooters especially (speaking as a father that had to bankroll all these new hobbies) don’t want to invest so much to get started. The other thing that a lot of shooters don’t fully appreciate, is that these guns will make you a better shooter, because they are not forgiving of bad habits in marksmanship.

Shooting off hand for my best results requires a gun that is compact, has a respectable level of intrinsic accuracy,  and fits well with a decent trigger, but it is the hold and follow through that makes a huge difference and is within my control.

Shooting off hand for my best results requires a gun that is compact, has a respectable level of intrinsic accuracy, and fits well with a decent trigger, but it is the hold and follow through that makes a huge difference and is within my control.

Walking through the dairy farm using an inexpensive Ruger Air Hawk, I was dropping Eurasian doves out to 40 yards consistently, shooting both offhand and rested. My buddies Scott and Rossi, who like me are primarily PCP shooters, were also doing well with the springers. But some others (cameramen…. I won’t mention by name to protect the innocent) weren’t doing so well. These guys didn’t have airgunning experience but had grown up shooting powder burners, so why was this? I think it boiled down to three things: 1) they were not used to dealing with the marked trajectory of an airgun, 2) they were not used to dealing with the shooting characteristics of springers with regards to hold sensitivity, and 3) they were not used to shooting at steep angles. My proof point on these assumptions is that as we worked through each one, their shooting improved.

Same thing when shooting the gun rested on my knee, loose hold, consistent, and good follow through will deliver best results.

Same thing when shooting the gun rested on my knee, loose hold, consistent, and good follow through will deliver best results.

The trajectory of a spring piston airgun can require the shooter to hold the gun high at 10 yards low at 20 yards, dead on at 35 yards, and high at 40 yards, with variations all along the path of flight. What does this mean? Simply, that you need to know where your gun is impacting the target along its path so that you can aim appropriately. This is one reason airgunners generally want a scope with some reference system of aimpoints on their scopes reticles. Mildots or a MAP system will provide the shooter with a frame of reference when shooting at different ranges. My preference is to set up targets from 10 – 40 yards, shoot a three shot group at each distance, and graph the shift in point of impact (POI) on a small card that can be taped to the stock, slipped into the scope cover (so you can see it when the cover is flipped open), or at least kept in my shirt pocket for fast reference. Another thing that can be a great help, and I always have with me, is a range finder. Using this piece of gear along with the trajectory chart can make a huge difference in your success rate.

The next item on springers is the shooting technique itself. Shooters, especially when using a magnum springer that jump on discharge, often compensate by holding onto the gun with a death grip! They pull it in tight to the shoulder, grasp the forestock until their knuckles turn white, and flinch when the trigger is pulled, then immediately lift their head to see if they hit the target. One of my friends and colleagues from American Airgunner by the name of Tom Gaylord, has been preaching the use of the “artillery hold” for springer shooting for many years. The gun is held firmly (but not rigidly) to shoulder, the forestock is laid on the open hand then very lightly grasped, and the gun is allowed to cycle without forcibly being locked in place. In addition you need to make sure you hold the gun in exactly the same way every time you mount it. The other common mistake I see is that the shooter pulls their head up to look art the result of the shot. Keep your cheek welded to the stock and try to watch the impact through the scope. This may be hard to see on a jumping springer when compared with a PCP to be sure, but the mainpoint is that you keep your position consistent until the pellet is down range.

When I shoot a springer rested, its hand on rest, gun in hand, hold loose and follow through .... see a pattern developing :) ?

When I shoot a springer rested, its hand on rest, gun in hand, hold loose and follow through …. see a pattern developing 🙂 ?

You may hear that you can’t shoot a springer rested because of the bi-directional recoil. There is some truth to this, but the answer is more involved. You can’t shoot it rested the same way you do a firearm is a more accurate statement. This is for all the reasons stated above; when you rest a springer lay your front hand on the rest with open palm up, lay the rifles forestock on the palm of your hand and grasp very lightly, then you will get good results. The same provisos apply, be consistent in your hold and stay on target until the pellets hits.

The last point is to remember that as counter intuitive as it seems, when your shooting upwards at a steep angle, you typically need to hold under your target. If there is a tree 20 yards away and there is a bird sitting 60 feet (20 yards) up in the branches, that bird is effectively 20 yards away from you not 40. The distance that matters is the horizontal distance, though your brain is telling you it is further. Now as you start shooting at greater distances and steepers angles the variables you need to factor in are not quite as simple, but a good rule of thumb is to hold lower than you’d expect. When I’m shooting up at a dove or pigeon at a distance that I haven’t ranged, I’ll hold on the chest figuring if I am shooting high it will result in a headshot, but if the trajectory component kicks in I’ll hit where I am aiming on the chest.

I believe, and have proven this out on many occasions, working on the points discussed here can result in marked and immediate improvements in field shooting. While everything discussed is valid for both springers and PCP’s, springers are less forgiving when you ignore the rules. This is also why shooting a springer makes you a better marksman overall. I had so much fun with springers on this trip, that I’ve been shooting them all week down in my basement range after work!

Categories: bird hunting, offhand shooting, Pellets, pest birds, Shooting technique, Small Game Hunting, Spring Piston Airguns, springers, summer time hunts, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Avian Pest Shoot with Springers

Still love shooting the springers!

Still love shooting the springers!

I had a couple good days at the end of last week with my buddy Scott D and a few others doing a dove shoot with a a selection of different guns. One thing I really enjoyed was one full day in which we only used spring piston guns. First time I’d done that in a while, but it is something I like to do every now and again. Being so caught up with all the new PCPs, I like to remind myself how I got started, and what the majority of airgunners still shoot.

It’s true that PCPs are easier to shoot accurately, they can be more powerful, are more effective with larger calibers and are often multi-shot and fast to cycle. But the fact that with a springer you needn’t worry about an air source, they are affordable, and they help tighten up your shooting skills. I was going back and forth between the RWS 34, Ruger Air Hawk, and Umarex Octane in .177 and .22 and found that I was consistently racking up the doves out to 45 yards. I didn’t get the numbers I do with my PCP’s hunting the same area, mostly because my limit with a springer is 45 yards, outside of this my accuracy falls off. Fewer shots means fewer birds, yet I still racked up respectable numbers.

Shooting the spring piston guns made me really pay attention to technique; breathing, trigger work, cheek weld to the stock of course, but especially my hold on the forestock. When shooting off a rest such as a fencepost or rail, I’d lay my hand on the fence and place the rifles forestock in the same position every time, with a very loose hold. This so called artillery hold makes a big difference, especially when shooting off the rest. All three of us (Me, Scott, Rossi) are primarily PCP shooters these days, however as we started getting familiarized with the guns our results started to become quite good. But while these guys were anxious to get back to their PCP’s, I actually made myself a promise that I was going to start using my springers a bit more this year!

I liked this Ruger for offhand shooting.... just goes to show you can airgun hunt on a budget!

I liked this Ruger for offhand shooting…. just goes to show you can airgun hunt on a budget!

This bird dropped DOA at 40 yards.

This bird dropped DOA at 40 yards.

I also don’t shoot .177 very much these days, but two of the three guns were in the minor caliber. Both the JSB Exacts and the H&N Hunter Extreme yielded up good results, though sometimes the birds would fly a ways before dropping. This wasn’t always a negative, as birds shot on the roof would fly off before dropping. The .22 did seem to deliver quicker results dropping birds on the spots, but I’m not sure they resulted in a higher kill percentage. I also shot some birds with Polymag pellets, and these were quite effective in both calibers.

There were several different types of birds flying around; though not as many feral pigeons as usual and not as many mourning doves either. The huge swarms of starlings were absent, and fewer Eurasians. But there were more whitewings (also a migratory game bird) than typically seen. As much fun as the shooting was, we couldn’t last too long under the intense Arizona summer sun. We were trying to get out shortly after first light and pack it up by lunch, going back out in the late afternoon. This was my first time shooting these dairy farms in summer, I generally don’t go out until October; there were still lots of birds out, but not as many…. putting this into perspective, birds numbered in the hundreds rather than the thousands but it was still nonstop shooting.

I was filming hunts for a couple of different projects, and after we were finished my friend and colleague Rossi Morreale and I drove over and spent the afternoon at Airguns of Arizona visiting with Robert, Greg, Kip, Shawn and the team, We had a great time shooting guns and shooting the breeze! I also went to look at their new van, the traveling gun shop. I love this concept, the AOA guys are taking their guns to the people by supporting gun shows, competitions, and other events. An absolutely great idea, if you get a chance to check it out when they visit your area take advantage of it!

These avian pest control sessions are a great opportunity for me to test new rifles as they are so target rich. I can take a gun out for an hour and get 30-40 birds at any range I want to try. And it’s appreciated, the farmer thanked us and told us to keep up the good work. I think I should mention something here though, because we talk about the need to cull these pest birds some people think they can roll up to any dairy farm with their guns and be meet with open arms……. this is not the case. The dairy owners don’t want a lot of strangers roaming about with gun (even Airguns) shooting around their workers, animals, equipment, and buildings. The best bet is to find a guy with permission to bring you out….. but a lot of guys don’t want to do this anymore because they find that the guys they bring out try to go back on their own, which has resulted in both being tossed out and the permission lost. If you find someone to bring you out, have the common courtesy to not try to impose yourself on a permission they took the time to cultivate!

Next week I’m back with the Wildcat and on my way to South Dakota to shoot prairie dogs for several days. Taking six guns and five air bottles long with enough gear to keep me shooting all day every day for the week. Getting ready for that trip I’ll be working the guns up over the chrony, then Chairgun, then validating them in the field. I like to make a cheater card for each gun, so that I feel confident going from 30 yards out past 100 yards.

Also wanted to do a little self promotion (excuse me for this)and to mention a few of the articles I have coming out; This month in my Predator Xtreme column I talk about Bullpups, in Fur Fish Game it’s a deer cull in Virginia with big bores, in Fish&Game/Sportsman I have a review of some of my favorite guns (some Daystates and FX guns in there, and the Bushbuck 🙂 ). Coming out in the British magazine Airgunner July 18th is an article on my recent Iguana cull in Puerto Rico (last month was turkey hunting in California). If you get a chance check these out, I appreciate the support and like the editors to see that there’s a growing interest in our sport.

By the way, I see over on Jock’s blog that he has an introduction to AOA’s Kip Perow…. Go give it a read! I’ve hunted a lot with Kip over the last few years, he’s a great guy and an asset to the airgunning world, a guy worth knowing. I’m out for this week, catch up with you all next week!

Categories: Airguns of Arizona, bird hunting, offhand shooting, pest birds, Pest Control, Small Game Hunting, springers, summer time hunts, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Enter the Wildcat…. A Personal Game Changer!

Over the last few years I’ve written about several PCP Bullpup rifles, and while I’ve liked some better than others, I often said things about the class like they are good examples of form following function, a good example of the class, but mentioning my preference tends towards carbines when I want a compact gun. Many bullpups I find too heavy, others too chunky, some I don’t love the ergonomics, but I can still appreciate how they would appeal to shooters who’s sense of aesthetics run that way. I am able to use these guns, evaluate and write about them, but I’ve never come across one that breaks into the ranks of my favorite guns.

Compact, lightweight, ergonomic, great trigger, best cocking mechanism I've seen on a bullpup ... fits just right. I might be a convert!

Compact, lightweight, ergonomic, great trigger, best cocking mechanism I’ve seen on a bullpup … fits just right. I might be a convert!

The Wildfast is a very quick rifle to cycle, and you don't need to taker the gun off your shoulder.

The Wildfast is a very quick rifle to cycle, and you don’t need to taker the gun off your shoulder.

That may change. In last weeks blog I posted on bullpups in general, saying I was waiting on the delivery of the FX Wildcat in .25, and to my great pleasure it arrived the next day.With respect to some of the standard caliber bullpups I’ve used, I liked the Crickets overall design and thought the ergonomics were pretty good, but all three of the guns I had to shoot were fidgety with feeding problems and I found them pellet sensitive. The Evanix Bullpups are powerful, accurate and I liked the side lever, semi, and full auto versions, but they are chunky, heavy, the semi/full auto version wasn’t good for the cold weather I hunt in. The Snowsummit P-12 surprised me, a budget version accurate, powerful, and a nicely proportioned stock at a budget price, but the bolt action positioned behind the shooters cheek made it hard to cycle without dismounting. A couple of the custom Marauder bullpups I shot had all the positives of the full sized rifle with respect to performance, but they tended to by chunky with an awkwardly placed bolt. Now don’t get me wrong, none of these critiques are meant to imply I disliked the guns altogether, and I felt several (maybe most) offered a solid hunting platform. It’s just none of them offered the complete package necessary to pull me away from my compact little hunting carbines.

The eight shot rotary magazine is easy to load, and after a few hundred pellets cycles flawlessly.

The eight shot rotary magazine is easy to load, and after a few hundred pellets cycles flawlessly.

My last few days with the Wildcat may force me to reexamine this position. The guns ergonomics are really outstanding: compact, lightweight, the guns comes to shoulder with a perfect fit. The cocking uses a sidelever that is smooth as silk and features an articulated cocking handle. But what sets it apart if the fact that FX has managed to position the cocking handle in front of the trigger allowing for the fastest cycling manual bullpup I’ve shot. The two stage trigger would be very good in a quality full sized rifle, but in a bullpup it’s as rare as common sense in Washington. On a 215 BAR fill (the Wildcat fills to 230 BAR but my local fill source has not been able to fully charge my tanks recently) I’ve been getting about 50 usable shots, but in a four (eight pellet) clip sweet spot am only seeing about an 8 fps spread, with the FX .25 caliber pellets hovering around the 910 fps range. So having power in the xxxx fpe range is great, the ability to deliver pellet after pellet exactly where you want them to go is what brings it all together! I set up a baby sized prairie dog target first at 40 yards then at 65 yards, and put 8 shots into one fat hole at 40 yards, then the next 32 pellets into the kill zone at 65 yards on every shot!

I set up a prairie dog sized target at mid and long range to shake the gun out. It was impressive!

I set up a prairie dog sized target at mid and long range to shake the gun out. It was impressive!

This is the first time I am using a gun of this persuasion and not thinking of it as a bullpup, but rather a very solid hunting gun that happens to be a bullpup. The rifle appears able it realize it’s full potential to be a great compact hunter, it doesn’t seem to make any compromises. Over the coming weeks I am taking the gun along on a few upcoming hunts in target rich opportunities (prairie dogs and Eurasian doves) and will make it my primary squirrel gun in the upcoming season. So stay tuned, I’ll be bringing you some real world experience as I gain it.

Other than shooting the Wildcat, I’ve been working on enhancing my office/gun/trophy room and on my basement range and filming studio. I am getting all set for the cold months of winter, after the hunting seasons has ended. This is the time when I do my chrony work, look at different pellets, test trigger, strip guns down, (try) some rebuilds, and do all that busy work that I don’t want to give up field time in the hunting seasons for. Would be interested in seeing what you guys are doing for indoor shooting ranges, and am always looking for good ideas to enhance my own. Maybe in one of the upcoming blog posts we can take a closer look at what I’ve built. The fact that the right set up lets you put hundreds, or even thousands, of pellets through your hunting guns in the off-season is a benefit the vast majority of powder burners will never get.

Also getting ready for my 8th airgunning safari to South Africa, and was on Skype this morning with my friends on the Eastern Cape planning out the session. Were going to focus on some coastal and some mountain properties so that I can get a chance for some of the last species of plains game I have not yet taken. But we’ll also spend a lot of time predator hunting for jackal and lynx, and of course the array of small game species. For the first time I am going with the intention of shooting video footage of all the small game species for my YouTub channel.

That’s about it for this week, hope you’re all having a great summer and be back with you soon!

Categories: bullpup, compact guns, FX, Hunting Guns, Safari, Wildcat | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Thoughts on Bullpups and Actions

Thoughts on Bullpups

I was down in my basement range this morning shooting a few of the bullpups I either own or have on loan. Now there are guys that love the look and feel of a bullpup…… there are those that maybe don’t love the looks or “feel”, but appreciate the compactness (this is me)…… and there are those that just don’t like anything about them. I have said before that I think bullpups are study in form following function, these guns are meant to be deployed quickly, in crowded conditions or tight spaces, to carry while letting the shooter have freedom of movement.

I like to be in the field with a traditional rifle, but more importantly, I’m the hunter that wants the best tool for the job. And there are times such as shooting in the tight confines of a truck, in buildings, or hiking through very heavy underbrush when a more compact a gun is more practical. Recently I used the Benjamin Bulldog on a hog hunt in Texas where I had to crawl through acres of thicket, and when I got an opportunity to shoot a big, mean, and way too close hog, barely had space to shoulder the gun it was so tight. The bulldog worked well, I don’t think a full size gun would have, at least I don’t believe I could have crawled through the under growth with a long barreled rifle to even have gotten the opportunity!

This bullpup had most of it going on; accurate, moderately powerful, quiet, compact, lightweight .... but then didn't quite make it because its a single shot and a bolt action. It got very close, hopefully the Wildcat can bring it home!

This bullpup had most of it going on; accurate, moderately powerful, quiet, compact, lightweight …. but then didn’t quite make it because its a single shot and a bolt action. It got very close, hopefully the Wildcat can bring it home!

 

There are different attributes that I look at and give weight to when evaluating a bullpup; I want the overall length greatly reduced over the standard rifle version of the gun, with no loss in power or accuracy. And since the same length barrel is generally used on a bullpup as on a full sized rifle, there is no reason this should not be achieved. I want the controls and ergonomics to be optimized for the package; good trigger, easy to reach/deploy safety, and importantly I want it to be light weight. Reducing the LOA is important, but if the weight isn’t concurrently reduced I feel like something is being missed.

Having shot almost every bullpuped airgun on the market, including a bunch of custom guns, I am still searching for my version of the perfect example. Out of all these guns ranging from .177 to .357 caliber in single shot, bolt, sidelever, semi and full auto actions, none have achieved my ideal. Most retain the performance which is great, some have come up with good triggers (not easy in this design), accessible and easy to deploy safety, and some have delivered actions that match this style of guns. Some have developed ergonomic stock designs, though several still feel “chunky” and I’m not always impressed with the comb …. or at least the place where the cheek welds to the stock. The other area where most of the bullpups I use fall short, is getting the weight down. For some reason, many of these bullpups I’ve used are quite heavy. I will add that because of the compactness of these rifles, the weight seems distributed along the shooters center of gravity, and is therefore not an issue when shooting. As a matter of fact I do find that I do some of my best offhand shooting with the heavier pups. However, extra weight is noticeable as you slosh through through a muddy bottom land while hunting squirrels or crawl along an arroyo while out on a desert prairie dog shoot!

The reason I’ve pulled out the “pups” and have been shooting them so much, is that I just got word that the FX Wildcat I ordered is on the way, and I want to benchmark it against my current best in class. I cannot wait to get my hands on it  having been told by a couple of friends who have been shooting the Wildcat that they think it is the closest thing to what I’ve described as my ideal. Great performance, outstanding trigger, a perfectly positioned sidelever action (talk more about this later), ergonomic, but the real attraction not often achieved is that this design is compact, narrow across the beam, and lightweight.

Over the coming weeks I’ll start sharing my experience with the gun, and give some side by side comparisons with several other bullpup models. After a couple weeks on the range it will go with me to South Dakota on a prairie dog shoot, where it will get a thorough workout on the huge population of these burrowing rodents! If you subscribe to Predator Xtreme take a look at this month’s Airguns Advantage column, my topic is bullpups.

My Favorite Action

I’ll start out by saying that I like several PCP rifles that don’t use my favorite action. But they have so many other things going for them that I can overlook this. Mitigating features are: outstanding performance, great triggers, ergonomics, craftsmanship, design, high volume air capacity, high shot magazine capacity, ruggedness/reliability …… but if looking only at the action my favorite is hands down the sidelever. I find it the most intuitive, reliable, smoothest, quietest, and fastest to cycle.

I think the bolt action is the best looking, and several are fairly easy to cycle, especially on the premium range guns. For instance, I wouldn’t change the bolt on my Huntsman Classic for a sidelever, because well, the gun looks perfect as is. But I am sure that if it was a sidelever I could cycle it more quickly for a follow up shot. I find it easier on most sidelever actions to cycle the gun without dismounting from my shoulder, which can be a big plus when hunting and needing a quick follow up.

A bolt functions well and looks good. Many rifles I rate very highly, perhaps most, use a bolt action.

A bolt functions well and looks good. Many rifles I rate very highly, perhaps most, use a bolt action.

In the Quackenbush big bore design the bolt is decoupled from the cocking action and used only for accessing and closing the loading port. A second cocking bolt compresses the hammer spring.

In the Quackenbush big bore design the bolt is decoupled from the cocking action and used only for accessing and closing the loading port. A second cocking bolt compresses the hammer spring.

Last month I was in Puerto Rico on an iguana cull, and switched from a harder hitting .30 caliber gun to a .22, because the .30 used a bolt and the .22 the sidelever action. Not only could I work faster with the sidelever, the other guys continued using bolt action guns and all of them had bruised up their hands after a couple days of shooting!

Shooting the FX Boss, the sidelever is very fast, smooth, and ergonomic. It's not necessary to come of sight when cocking the rifle.

Shooting the FX Boss, the sidelever is very fast, smooth, and ergonomic. It’s not necessary to come of sight when cocking the rifle.

 

Categories: adjustable buttstock, Airguns of Arizona, bullpup, compact guns, Daystate, offhand shooting, Prairie dogs, Rifle stocks, stocks, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Perfect Small Game Hunting Gun: Daystate Huntsman Classic

I get a lot of questions about my favorite rifles for small game, predators, big game, long range shooting, etc. This is a very hard topic to answer, because quite frankly I like many airguns. But also because in the situation I am in as a writer, I have to try to move the answer away from my personal bias and get to the root of what I think the person asking the question it trying to figure out. If my answer is a high end $2000.oo rifle that would melt the shooting heart of any hardcore airgunner, is this the right answer to a 15 year old who is working on his parents to get him (or her) their first air rifle? Should I point to a .45 power house that’s generating 600 fpe, to a guy that wants a squirrel gun he’s going to fill with a hand pump? Of course not. But for this reason I almost always qualify my response by talking about 2-3 different guns that might fit the bill. I receive many guns to shoot, hunt, and write about. All the companies know that if I don’t like a gun I won’t write about it publicly, though I will fill their ears about what I think the deficiencies are. And while I obviously have guns I prefer, quite honestly I try hard not to show a bias.

But for this article I’m going to talk about one of my all time favorite small game rifles, the Daystate Huntsman Classic. It achieves this distinction by meeting several criteria; it is very accurate, moderately powerful, ergonomic, compact, quiet, fast to cycle … though there are quite a few rifles that can meet these same criteria. The reason this particular rifle resonates with me I that it is to my eye, the most well designed, shootable, and well….. prettiest production air rifle ever built. The stock is manufactured from a nicely figured walnut blank, the cheek piece provides solid contact and great sight alignment, the checkering on the grip and forestock is sharply cut and in just the right location, the forestock is shaped to fit the hand perfectly.

To my eye, the Daystate Huntsman Classic, now out of production and replaced by the Regal, is the most beautiful field rifle ever built.

To my eye, the Daystate Huntsman Classic, now out of production and replaced by the Regal, is the most beautiful field rifle ever built.

Is the Huntsman really perfect? Well you could argue some points depending on your preference and what’s important to you. If most of your shooting is doves at a dairy farm or out for prairie dogs where you’ll get hundreds of shots in a day, a bottle forward design like the FX Royale might make more sense. This gun has most of the functional attributes plus a better shot count, and while it is also a very ergonomic hunting rifle that is high on my list, It doesn’t make my heart skip a beat in the looks department like the Huntsman does. If another airgunner argued this was their choice for their favorite gun, I could completely understand their reasoning. Another place that I’ll forgive the Huntsman, because I love the overall package so much, is the bolt action. It actually looks “right” on this rifle and functions well enough, but to be honest I prefer side lever actions these days; they are smoother, quieter, and faster to cycle than a bolt. And yet, as I carried this gun through the woods, the compactness, balance, and shootability let me overlook this little failure to meet my ideal.

The Huntsman Classic balances perfectly, has an excellent trigger, great accuracy, medium power, and is very ergonomic .... and did I mention it looks great!

The Huntsman Classic balances perfectly, has an excellent trigger, great accuracy, medium power, and is very ergonomic …. and did I mention it looks great!

The fact is that the squirrels in the photos would be just as dead if I’d shot it with a Marauder or an AT 44, both much less expensive but perfectly legitimate hunting PCP’s that I’ve used a lot and like a lot, instead of my Huntsman Classic. But man, I loved being out on that day with that rifle, feeling as close to a custom gun built specifically for me as any production gun I’d ever held.

Another squirrel for the bag, it's great when form and function are at the optimum.

Another squirrel for the bag, it’s great when form and function are at the optimum.

But that the point isn’t it? Each of us has their own ideal of the perfect (or as close as reality gets to the ideal) hunting rifle. I think that once you meet some key points; accuracy, appropriate power, reliability, solid trigger, high level of craftsmanship, the rest becomes quite subjective. I always get a laugh when I come across an argument between two guys debating which of their preferred rifles are the best; often both are right, sometimes both are wrong (to my way of thinking), but in the end it doesn’t really matter to anybody but themselves. Remember, in the end the only perfect rifle that is important is the one that is perfect for you. Make sure all of the key elements I’ve mentioned are found in the gun you like, then you decide if its the best for you.

Other Stuff

Not a lot going on, have a couple new guns I’ve been shooting, been working on my basement range and shooting studio so that when winter roles back around I’ll be set for months of indoor shooting. Got my scope mounted camera sorted out, and will be taking that with me to Arizona on a bird shoot and then to South Dakota on a multiday prairie dog and predator shoot.

I’ve added a couple more magazines that I’ll be writing for, and will fill you in on those later. I had my first article in the UK publication Airgunner, on a turkey hunt in California during the spring season. Next month is an iguana shoot in Puerto Rico I did a few weeks back. Also have an article in Fur-Fish-Game on a deer cull with big bore airguns, then in Game&Fish/Sportsman have a gear review on several ny guns to come to market recently. Check them out if you have a chance!

Finally, want to remind you all about the Extreme Bench Rest (EBR) this year. Check out the link on the AoA website, and sign up! This is one of the coolest airgunning events in the world, the competition is outstanding, the people are great, you really need to be there if you’re serious about airguns!

That’s all for now, I’m going to look at some pellets that have been impressing me next week…… and we’ll have more hunts coming!

 

Categories: Airguns of Arizona, Daystate, Pest Control, Rabbits, Rifle stocks, Small Game Hunting, Squirrels | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Squirrel Hunting With The FX Royale

The last couple of years I have more used more guns and been on more hunting trips than I could write about, so this month I want to reach back to a gun I used a lot and really enjoyed taking into the field. One of the great things about writing is that I get to try just about every gun that comes onto the market. The downside is that even when I find a gun I could settle down with, it’s time to move on to the next. And even in the case of guns like the FX Verminator, and Royale, Daystate Huntsman Classic and Wolverine type B that I continue to use for my personal hunts, I don’t get the time to write about each one as much as I like. In upcoming posts we’ll mix it up a bit with a look at some old favorites as well as a look forward with some new guns.

The FX Royale .25 has a smooth as silk trigger that breaks,  like a glass rod, outstanding ergonomics, accuracy, power, and a high shoot count.... a great gun for small game.

The FX Royale .25 has a smooth as silk trigger that breaks, like a glass rod, outstanding ergonomics, accuracy, power, and a high shoot count…. a great gun for small game.

I’ve used the  FX Royale for several hunts over the last few seasons, prairie dogs in Kansas, jackrabbits in California, groundhogs in Michigan, Raccoons in Indiana, and squirrels… lots of squirrels in Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Kentucky, Virginia… and this rifle continues to impress with it’s accuracy, power, inexhaustible shot count, smooth action, and overall shootability. It goes right up there with my other favorites from the top end manufacturers. I’ve written a couple articles on this gun, based on range work and using the gun for long range varminting, and in these pieces the gun is covered is some detail. So this time, I’m just going to jot down notes from a short notice and short duration squirrel hunt.

The Royale is not a small gun, but fairly light and I can shoot it well from any position.

The Royale is not a small gun, but fairly light and I can shoot it well from any position.

This hunt was on a 10,000 acre state recreation about an hour north of Indianapolis, where I do quite a bit of hunting every year. This year has been tougher than most, squirrel populations seem down and I’ve (for the first time) come across other hunters when I’ve been out. As a matter of fact I’ve gotten skunked a couple time, and wondered if I should move my hunting activities to the Southern part of the state to see if it’s any better. However, I didn’t have a lot of time as I’ve been traveling on business a lot, so figured I’d try this well known area once more. I loaded up my day pack with water, range finder, binoculars, granola bars, and hit the road early so I’d be in the woods at daybreak.

Arriving onsite I parked the car on the side of the road, slipped a camo windshirt over my fleece, and worked my way about a quarter mile into the woods following a horse trail, kicking up a nice little buck on the way. I found a spot were there was an abundance of mast producing trees, and sat down leaning back into the base of a tree that had a scooped out depression in the trunk which fit me like an easy chair, and dozed off. I woke up about a half hour later with the sun coming up behind me and lighting the woods. A lot of the leaves were off the trees, though some were still pretty well dressed in orange and burnt red colors. Hoping I hadn’t missed anything with my unplanned nap I got ready to start the timer; a method that has worked well for me is to sit a spot for 20 minutes and if nothing is seen or heard, move a couple hundred yards through the woods and repeat.

Nothing happing here so I slung my pack, shouldered the rifle, and worked along a deer trail to the next likely looking spot. On a small hill overlooking the adjacent rolling hillside I pulled my pack in front of me (one reason I like a messenger style bag) and pulled my binos out. Glassing the area didn’t show me any squirrels, but I did see a lot of nuts carpeting the ground. I sat and waited seeing nothing, and after 20 minutes was getting ready to leave when turning to my left (always scan the area before you get up) saw a fox squirrel on a fallen log forty yards away looking at me an twitching its tail. I slowly brought the rifle up and squeezed off the shot, watching the pellets flight as it smacked dead center in the head. The .25 pellet, a JSB Exact roundnose, hit the little rodent with authority, he flipped backwards and was dead when he hit the ground.

These fox squirrel are fairly large and very tenacious, but this gun pellet combination physically flung the out of the tree on impact.

These fox squirrel are fairly large and very tenacious, but this gun pellet combination physically flung the out of the tree on impact.

I had four more sets with nothing happening, so decided to start back in the direction of the car. I pulled out my binos and started glassing the trees, and spotted an odd lump in the upper branches that turn out to be the top of a squirrels head in a tree about 100 yards away. As I stood looking something warm and wet hit my arm, looking up I saw some little bird had used me for target practice! I guess fair is fair, but this stuff burned like it was acid. I wiped it off and rinsed of with my little bottle of water free sanitizer, then slowly started moving towards the tree where I’d seen the squirrel. I sat at the base of a tree about 30 yards away from where I’d seen the squirrel, who was no longer visible. After a few minutes I saw a tail hanging down from a branch in a tree about 10 yards behind the one I was watching. I waited for several minutes more, with no movement at all, when all of the sudden the squirrel came running down the tree, hit open ground racing for the next tree and ran 10 feet up a small sapling and jumper to a big oak standing next to it. The squirrel was wide open with its head pointed up and its back to me, when my second shot of the day nailed him on the top of the noggin. He dropped like he’d been smacked with a brick.

I generally impose a two squirrel limit on myself, as I’m not overly fond of eating these things, and really only want the tails for fly tying. The meat is dressed, quartered, and given away to an acquaintance who grew up eating squirrel and dumplings, so everyone is happy … well except maybe the squirrel. This is one of the great things about airgun hunting for small game; I leave home at 6:00 and am back, showered, and ready to go out for lunch with my family by noon. It only takes a couple of squirrels to make me feel like it was a productive trip, and I don’t know what I’d do with a large number of squirrels every season if I tired for a 5 squirrel limit every time I went out. For me, it’s better to have three short trips with 1-2 in the bag than one all day trip with a limit.

Have a few trips coming up that I’m looking forward to; heading out to South Dakota on a prairie dog shoot, Arizona for pest birds, the California for ground squirrels. With so much shooting, I’m hardly getting time to go fishing, and am going to try to work in a kayaking/camping/hunting trip as well.

The next thing is to start getting ready for the Extreme Bench Rest in October, this has become my favorite non-hunting airgun event in the year. The competition and organization is great, the people you meet are a quality group, and it’s three days of airgunners heaven. If you haven’t come before, you should give it a go this year!

Categories: Airguns of Arizona, binoculars, Competition, Daystate, Destinations, EBR, Extreme Benchrest, Ground squirrels, Jackrabbits, pest birds, Pest Control, Prairie dogs, Small Game Hunting, Squirrels, summer time hunts | 1 Comment

Urban Hunting Revisited

I have spoken in the past about the fact that airgun hunting is gaining popularity in the US, in part because of increasing urbanization which has resulted in less land available for traditional hunting pursuits. If you look in fields, small woods, areas around railway tracks and industrial buildings you’ll find these areas often become the home territory and feeding grounds for a variety of pest and small game species. Just as frequently you’ll find that a firearm, even a .22 rimfire (if you can find ammo) is not a practical method because of the noise, power, and carry range. Airgun hunting for pest animals provides a service to the property owner while allowing the hunter to get in some exciting hunting and a little off season practice close to home. It is often possible to obtain permission from owners and facility managers to remove pest species that cause financial damage or present a health risk using a hunting tool that minimizes or negates the risk of damage to people or property. When I am asking permission to shoot on a property, I’ll often carry along a gun stowed in the trunk of my car that can be demonstrated on request, you don’t want to make an initial approach with gun in hand so leave it in the car. This has led to more than one impromptu plinking session and a new airgunning convert to boot! When asking permission the landowner will sometimes voice concern over liability; I carry a form letter which assumes responsibility for any damage I might inadvertently cause and to release the owners from liability for any injury that might befall me while on their property.

A gun to be used in an urban setting should be compact, quiet, offer the appropriate power, and be very accurate. Some guys that are starting to run urban trapping lines have found an airgun to be a great bit of equipment to include in their kit.

A gun to be used in an urban setting should be compact, quiet, offer the appropriate power, and be very accurate. Some guys that are starting to run urban trapping lines have found an airgun to be a great bit of equipment to include in their kit. The FX Verminator is one of my favorite Urban hunting guns, Extremely accurate, adjustable power, many configurations, a take-down design, it has it all going for it!

The guns I prefer for urban hunting duty have changed with new guns coming to market, but the criteria for choosing an urban hunting gun has not changed much over the years. It depends on what type of game, what is the range, is there more than a normal concern about collateral damage, do I need to be discreet? Answering these questions caused me to consider what constituted the perfect hunting gun for urban hunting/pest control, and I formulated my own set of requirements. The gun must be accurate, quiet, compact, generate appropriate power for the intended use, accept various accessories such as lights, lasers, and these days even cameras, and I prefer a gun that can be taken down, folded’ or telescopes. Often times you need to make either a stealthy approach to the shooting area or keep a low profile while shooting so a compact and quiet gun is a basic requirement, along with accuracy and appropriate power.

Unless you getting into an unshrouded big bore, most airguns are quieter than firearm, some more than others. The Pre-charged pneumatics that I am focusing on in this post tend to be louder, producing a firearm like crack though at a substantially lower volume. While the report of even a high power air rifle is much quieter than a rimfire, a shrouded barrel can be made very quiet.

Urban hunting for pest such as pigeons, starlings, rats and smaller species typically occur at closer ranges, say inside of 25 yards. So a great deal of power does not need to be generated to achieve fast clean kills. One could argue that a gun producing 12 fpe is adequate for most pest control duties, and it won’t cause damage in the case of a missed shot. If you need to shoot something bigger such as a groundhog or raccoon a more powerful pcp rifle makes sense.

I mentioned that the gun should provide a means of mounting targeting accessories such as scopes, lasers, and lights. In my opinion a scope is essential gear on an urban hunting gun, both because surgical precision is required and urban pest control often takes place in darker conditions where a scope will collect light and enhance accuracy in low ambient light situations. A high power scope is unnecessary for the ranges typically associated with urban hunting. There are a couple of other pieces of gear that are of use in these conditions; such as a laser and a flashlight mounted on the gun using a specialized mounting system with remote switches that permit them to be easily set up and quickly deployed.

It doesn't take a lot of power, in fact lower is better, for taking small pests around the yard or small farm. I used this 12 fpe pistol/carbine conversion a lot on squirrel and pigeons.

It doesn’t take a lot of power, in fact lower is better, for taking small pests around the yard or small farm. I used this 12 fpe pistol/carbine conversion a lot on squirrel and pigeons.

As I’ve pointed out many times before, one of the most compelling advantages of hunting with airguns is that they open up new hunting grounds closer to home. Urban settings are all around us and offer up opportunities in target rich environments that can provide a lot of shooting fun and practice.

Categories: adjustable buttstock, air pistols, Airguns of Arizona, compact guns, pest birds, Pest Control, stealth hunting, Urban hunt | Leave a comment

Shooting sticks

I was in Puerto Rico hunting iguanas a few days ago, and brought a fair bit of gear with me. But I forgot a key piece of equipment, my shooting sticks. I made some and got by, but made me think about this critical yet often times neglected article of gear.

Lining up the shot with the FX Boss, the .303 and this rifle were a great combo for long range shooting,

Lining up the shot with the FX Boss, on my Rhino bipods, which are not fast to deploy but are rock stable.

I think that shooting offhand is one of the fundamental skills any hunter needs to develop, and work to maintain. I have a small indoor range in the basement of my house, and almost every day that I am at home I spend a few minutes shooting from standing, kneeling, and sitting positions without any external support. There are times in the field when these are the only shots available, especially for spot and stalk style hunts. I was a better offhand shooter in my youth, I was stronger, steadier, and spent a lot more time every day with my rifle in hand. I still shoot well enough offhand and don’t hesitate if this is the shot I need to take.

However, when given time and choice I prefer to shoot off sticks. I had never used them much until several years ago while getting ready for a hunt in South Africa, the PH I was hunting with told me to practice off sticks before our hunt started. I was really impressed how tight my groups became and how dramatically long range shooting improved. This is especially useful when hunting small game with an air rifle because the kill zone is small and shot placement critical. I’ll still shoot a squirrel sitting in a tree 30 yards away offhand, but if the shot stretches out to 55-60 yards I want sticks. Of course you can always rest or brace against a natural object, a tree trunk or rock, but sticks are always there when you need them. This is even more the case when shooting in the wide open spaces such as on a prairie dog shoot where naturally occurring rests are far and few between.
A monopod is the least stable, but is fast to deploy.

A monopod is the least stable, but is fast to deploy.

I prefer shooting sticks over bipods because they are easier to use under a variety of conditions, are out of the way when you don’t need/want them, and adapt to multiple shooting positions. I have used monopod, bipod, and tripod sticks and all have pros and cons: the mono is the fastest to deploy and most flexible, but least steady. Bipods are much steadier, are not as fast to deploy or move around but still fairly maneuverable, and their are some compact versions. Tripods are the most steady, but the slowest to set up, the most unwieldy when a shift or change in position is required, and generally the bulkiest. I have settled on the bipod for several reasons; I like how fast I can deploy the sticks I carry, I can turn and move around with little commotion, and With technique you can get a rock solid hold. Sometimes I’ll go with a tripod if we’ll be fairly stationary and my shots will be especially long.
The other thing that I want is a rest for the rifle that is easy to mount the gun in, that grips and protects the stock, and let’s me rotate and make adjustments with minimal fuss. The height also needs to be adjustable for the three main shooting positions, standing, kneeling, and sitting. If shooting prone I prefer to simply use my backpack, though if this will be my primary shooting position is one of the few times I prefer a bipod for field work. The most common method of adjusting the height are mutlipiece legs locked into place with integrated clamps, though some use a grip release. These are very fast to deploy, the only problem is most that I have tried don’t pack down very compactly. In the end the stick that has become my favorite is the Gorilla  bipod, which is a heavy duty, solid bipod that I can put my weight on and lock down steadily.
What I really like with these Gorilla sticks is that I can use them as they were intended and move them about, but if I’m set up to shoot squirrels high up in the trees but one pops up on the ground, I just slide my hand down a leg and brace the gun. This allows me to cover a wide arc with any vertical adjustments that might be required. With some of my light weight sticks this is not as easy nor effective.
Again, I am not in any way implying you shouldn’t practice and take offhand shots, but if you have the time and situation that allows the use of sticks, unless you are one a truly excellent offhand shots, you will achieve better shot placement and more game in the bag with them than without.
Categories: adjustable buttstock, Hunting Accessories, Long Range shooting, offhand shooting, Optics, Pest Control, shooting sticks | Leave a comment