Another Favorite: The Daystate Huntsman!

I am getting a lot of squirrel hunting in this year, having lined up four different farms that are a 15-45 minute drive from my house. These spots don’t get much small game pressure, and the populations of gray and fox squirrels are good. At two of these properties I’ve only seen gray squirrels, at one only fox squirrels and two have a good mix. This morning I got up at 5:30 and drove to the furthest for a morning hunt, stopped by the gym, showered and had a fast lunch, and was in my office by 12:00. It was rainy and very overcast with not a lot of activity, but I did mange to bag a couple big fox squirrels.

The rifle I’ve been using the most for squirrel is the Compatto, but today I opted for one of my long standing favorites, the Daystate Huntsman Classic. This rifle is one of my all time favorites, and to my way of thinking the best looking air rifle ever built. Sleek and ergonomic, my rifle in .22 is very accurate, plenty of power,and a really great trigger set to break at about 14 oz on my gun. The 10 shot cassette magazine function flawlessly and cycles rapidly with a smooth bolt action.

When I got on site it was a gray and dingy morning with a light drizzle coming down. I saw a few potential den trees and a couple large drays and decided to settle in for a closer look. When the conditions make spot and stalk difficult, I look for areas of food sources or shelters and settle in. On this morning, besides the overcast skies, low ambient lighting, gusting winds and constant drizzle, it was hard to pick up and small movements in the branches overhead. I thought my best bet was to sit and methodically glass my way through the trees.

I saw a few drays scattered through the leafless tree tops, and decided to take a closer look.

I saw a few drays scattered through the leafless tree tops, and decided to take a closer look.

I sat down at the base of a big oak, and slipped my binoculars out of the day-pack. I was carrying my Leupold 8X binos, I have these in 10x as well and think the glass is very good in the low light. Almost any bino works on a bright sunny day, it’s when the light is low and you need to look into the shadows that the quality of glass becomes apparent. The reason I choose the smaller and lower mag glass was because you don’t need a lot of magnification when most spotting is inside 75 yards, and lower mag glass seems to work better in lower light. The two manufacturers of binoculars I use the most are my Leupolds and Hawke, unfortunately my Hawkes were stolen out of my bag on one of my overseas trips and I haven’t replaced them yet ….. but I will!

I picked out a number of likely looking trees and methodically worked through each.

I picked out a number of likely looking trees and methodically worked through each.

It never ceases to amaze me, as soon as I started looking though my binos I spotted a couple of squirrels watching me. One was laying on a branch about 50 feet up, and was watching me through the branches. His tail hanging down was the first give away, but as I glassed him noted that he was staring directly at me and feeling comfortable in his camouflage. The second one was off to my left at abvout 60 yards and 50 feet up. He was sitting in a fork in the trunk hidden in the deep shadows, and while he looks obvious in the close up photo with a telephoto lens, he was not at all easy to see with the naked eye.

Tghis one was laying low on a branch watching me, his tail was the give-away!

This one was laying low on a branch watching me, his tail was the give-away!


He looks obvious here, but I’d been staring at the tree for five minutes before picking up my binoculars…. and I didn’t see him until then.

Sitting with my back against the a tree trunk, I was able to lock in a steady hold. I lined up on the squirrel back in the shadows, even though he was further away, he offered a better target. I squeezed the trigger and dropped the bushytail. Turning to get the second one, found that he’d taken off. I was using the 18 grain JSB Exact pellets, which are consistently accurate in a number of guns and provide very good terminal performance.

Lining up the shot, this is another of those guns that is comfortable to shoot from any position.

Lining up the shot, this is another of those guns that is comfortable to shoot from any position.

I worked my way through the woods and saw a couple more squirrels at a distance and on the move. About 9:30 I decided I needed to get to the office and wanted to go for a workout first, so started back to the car. On the way out I spotted another squirrel high in the tree tops, peaking around a tree trunk. Lining up the shot as I stood leaning against a tree, I let the pellet fly and another squirrel came down giving me a brace to add to the freezer. I have found it surprising that there haven’t been many squirrels on the ground yet, I’d have expected the fox squirrels at least to be shifting some of their activities out of the tree tops and onto the ground already.

I stopped right before leaving the woods to dress my squirrels so I could throw them on ice when I got back to my car.

I stopped right before leaving the woods to dress my squirrels so I could throw them on ice when I got back to my car.

The last few minutes of my outing was to quickly skin and gut the squirrels, which I slipped into a plastic zip-lock baggie and tossed into the ice chest. This was a short but fun hunt in challenging conditions, and it reminded me why I love the Huntsman Classic. I know I’ve been going on about the Compatto lately, and you might think me fickle for carrying on about the Huntsman…… but it is possible to love more than one rifle! The thing with the Huntsman is that besides the outstanding performance, as mentioned, I think its the sleekest and most beautifully executed production rifle to date. I’ll be taking a lot of other guns out into the squirrel woods, so stay tuned!

Hunts coming up: black squirrel in Michigan, squirrels and predators in Indiana, quail in California, deer in Utah under special permit, deer and bear in Virginia, oryx, predators, and rabbits in Texas, deer in Alabama, Hogs in Texas….. and I’ll be squeezing in several squirrel, rabbit, and hog hunts along the way…… then comes the SHOT Show!

Categories: Airguns of Arizona, binoculars, Brocock, Daystate, fall hunts, Hunting Accessories, Hunting Guns, offhand shooting, Squirrels | 2 Comments

Grays and Fox squirrel up next!

I took off last week on the next leg of my squirrel grand slam quest, to Southern Minnesota after grays squirrel and fox squirrel. A friend has a large tract of wooded land he uses for hunting, primarily deer and turkey. He hasn’t been out in a while, but has given me carte blanche access, and I decided to use it to go after squirrel, turkey, and coyote. There are also a couple of Wildlife Management Areas close by that I’ve been wanting to explore, so I decided to run and gun living out of my car. I didn’t want to waste time driving between the land and my house or hotels (both a couple hours away), and wanted mobility so didn’t want to set up a camp per se.

Working the a hardwood forest with the Compatto, had opportunities on both grays and fox squirrels.

Working the a hardwood forest with the Compatto, had opportunities on both grays and fox squirrels.

The Compatto was my gun of choice again, I have stacks of guns I need to test, but keep grabbing this one on my way out the door. I consider myself an average shot and a pretty good field shot, but this rifle takes me to a new level when I’m on the hunt. I was hammering squirrels out to 60 yards and 60 feet up, and had confidence every time I pulled the trigger a squirrel would be coming down.
I took a lot of shots sitting with my forearm rested on my knee, quite a few standing while leaning against a tree truck for added support, and a few kneeling. I’ve set he trigger up to break at 18 oz after a moderate take-up, and it breaks like a glass rod. Many of you know that I’ve said a sidelver is my preferred action in PCP rifles, but the bolt on the Compatto has such a good tactile response and is so smooth that I am completely happy with it.

Drays were all over the place, as well as a number of clearly used den trees. This was a squirrel hunters paradises!

Drays were all over the place, as well as a number of clearly used den trees. This was a squirrel hunters paradises!

I shot a lot of squirrels; 10 in two days with 5 grays and 5 fox squirrels. I could have shot that number in one day, the legal limit is 10 per day and I had the opportunity but I want a healthy population to hunt all season. The squirrels were big and healthy, and also pretty spooky which makes them that more challenging and fun to hunt. I noticed that the grays were more active in the morning and late afternoon, and the fox squirrels were out a lot more throughout the day.

First trio on the game carrier!

Not a bad mixed bag!

I’ve got several big game hunts scheduled throughout this year; deer, hogs, turkey, javalina, and exotics ….. and plenty of predator hunting as well. But I can honestly say that squirrel season is one of the highlights of my hunting year! If you haven’t gone out this year, grab your rifle and get yourself chasing bushytails! No matter where you live, odds are high there will be huntable populations in the vicinity.
Any gun putting out 12-25 fpe in .177-.25range can make a fine squirrel gun. The distance at which you can keep your groups inside of a quarter should set a maximum range for you. But here’s a hint, know what your gun is doing at close range as well. I’d say the majority of my misses have occurred at close range when I haven’t noted the 5 and 10-yard POI, so this is a basic part of my rifle preparation these days.

Love thiis hand pellet Tin, wish I'd gotten several more when they were available!

Love this hand pellet Tin, wish I’d gotten several more when they were available!

Here’s a link to the Video
In other News
I just wanted to give a shout out to the guys at AOA for another great job with this year’s Extreme Bench Rest. It was well attended, well organized, with some great guns and shooters. If you haven’t made it to one so far, you need to start planning for next year!

I have some cool hunts coming up; Deer and bear in Virginia, deer in Alabama, oryx in Texas, turkey in California, hogs in Texas and Florida, predators in Texas, Indiana, South Dakota, and Arizona and small game and randon coyote hunts all over the place. And I just got registered for SHOT Show, so there’s a lot happening!


Categories: Airgun Expedition, Airguns of Arizona, binoculars, Brocock, fall hunts, Hunting Accessories, offhand shooting, Pellets, Small Game Hunting, Squirrels, Uncategorized | Tags: | 6 Comments

Aberts Down for Squirrel Hunting Grand Slam!

I was at the EBR in Phoenix over the weekend, and though I didn’t shoot (because of scheduling conflicts) enjoyed my time there. Even when you don’t shoot it’s great to see old friends and meet new ones! But since I wasn’t shooting, I had time to break away for a quick hunt.


I’ve written about what I consider the grand slam of squirrels in North America, and yes I realize there are others, but these are my big four: fox squirrels, gray squirrels, black color phase (fox, gray, or hybrid) and Aberts,. The first two are easy and can be found almost everywhere, the black color phase are regional variations and you have to search for individuals where the color phase most frequently occurs, and the Aberts requires you to travel to regions with natural growths of piñon pines. Arizonans moutnain areas holds large populations of the tufted eared Aberts……. So I was going to take advantage of my open schedule!

I checked around and talked to my buddy Kip Perow to get an idea of where to start. I left towards the end of the day on Friday and worked my way up into the mountains, with beautiful vistas and piñon forest as far as the eye could see. Driving along I saw a road kill Abert, so parked the car and hiked in for a look-see. About 100 yards in there were some giant trees, at least a couple looked like possible den trees, and tons of pine cones littering the ground. I noted the miles so I could find my way back before daylight the following morning, then went back into a little mountain town to find a motel for the night.

Piñon pines all around, the ground covered in needles and cones, and the scent was like natural aromatherapy!

Piñon pines all around, the ground covered in needles and cones, and the scent was like natural aromatherapy!

I had the option to select any of a number of rifles for this excursion, but it probably won’t come as a surprise to many readers that I selected the Brocock Compatto. I am hunting this rifle every chance I get, and can honestly say it is my favorite small game gun right now. I won’t repeat myself too much here, other than to say I find the combination of accuracy, power, compactness, and overall shootability ticks all the boxes when it comes to what’s important to me. I’ve been shooting the heavier 18 grain JSB pellets in my gun, but when I opened the gun case for my hunt realized I’d packed the 15 grain pellets. But as it turned out, they worked perfectly. I pulled the trigger 12 times and accounted for 10 squirrels, including one squirrel I shot twice (to knock him out of the tree) and one miss.

When morning started to break with the scent of pine wafting through the predawn gloom, I was back in the woods sitting in a large natural basin covered in piñons waiting for action. It wasn’t long before I heard barking, and as it started getting lighter saw the branches in a pine about forty yards away and towering overhead shaking in a way that was inconsistent with the light winds. Then I picked out the silhouette of squirrel through the branches. Leaning back against my pack and aiming upwards, I had a clean heart shot and took it. There was a muffled report (this rifle is quiet) and the squirrel dropped with a thud and didn’t move.

Turning back around I saw a second squirrel high up in a tree behind me, and scooted around for the shot. I steadied myself by leaning against a tree, and dropped the crosshairs on his head. I squeezed off the shot and watched as the second squirrel of the morning literally dropped straight to the forest floor. I walked over and gathered up my bag, then moved off through the woods. Over the course of the next 3 hours, three more of these beautiful squirrels were dropped. This was one of those days where everything was textbook perfect and I felt like I could not miss.


These squirrels are not as wary as the grays and fox squirrels I hunt in the Midwest, when they were on the ground and saw you coming, they would run up a tree and watch from a hidden position. Unfortunately for them, they almost never achieved complete coverage and invariably left a shot opportunity.

I am going to schedule another trip back when winter hits, I’d like to go out in the snow and hunt this area off snowshoes, and think it would make for a great little adventure!

Categories: adjustable buttstock, Airgun Expedition, Airguns of Arizona, Brocock, EBR, Extreme Benchrest, fall hunts, Hunting Guns, offhand shooting, Small Game Hunting, Squirrels, where to hunt | 3 Comments

This little Piggy Meets My Compatto

I heard squeals and grunts and stalked in for a look.

I heard squeals and grunts and stalked in for a look.

I was back out in Central Texas on a hog hunt last week, and had four days, so also planned to get in some small game and predator hunting. On the first morning I decided to go after rabbits with one of my all time favorite small game guns, the Brocock Compatto, since hog hunting is better at dusk during the hot summer months. I’d only seen the tail end of a couple cottontails when I heard a squeal, and slowly started working my way over towards the sound.

And found a bunch of smallish pigs rooting and wallowing in the mud.

And found a bunch of smallish pigs rooting and wallowing in the mud.

Peering through the thicket I could see four or five small pigs in a wallow, at 80 yards according to my range finder. Picking a spot about 40 yards from the pigs I slowly worked my way along the edge of the a break in the cedars, until things opened up. I dropped to the ground and scooted the last ten yards on my butt, hidden in the tall grass.

Wanting to get video footage, I pushed my camera on a tripod in front of me. Slanting the screen down so I could see the viewer I slowly moved to a break in the tall grass where I could see the pigs. When they stopped to look, I stopped…. When heads went down I continued my set up. On the way over I’d left another camera pointing at the spot I now sat in so that I had both me and the hogs being recorded.

I dropped to a sitting position and shot off my knee.

I dropped to a sitting position and shot off my knee.

Slowly and quietly cocking the little semis Bullpup, I brought the gun up and waited for one of the pigs, the biggest of this group of small 40-60 lb animals, to give me a broadside and hold up for a few seconds. Dropping the crosshairs of the Hawke scope one the ear, I squeezed the shot, and with a muffle thud the pig rolled over (into the mud) DRT….dead right there as my buddy Scott says. The combination of the Compatto, JSB 14.35 grain Diabolo pellet, and Hawke optics was extremely effective on this pig.

I walked over and pulled the little boar out of the mud, a very smelly and messy undertaking! As I was getting some pictures I heard some fighting back behind where I’d started, and made my way back into the dense thicket, but found nothing. I was on my way back to my gear, and was moving quietly because there seem to be hogs everywhere! Coming around a bend, I was surprise to see three more pigs moving to the water hole. I shuffled back to about 45 yards, a dozen or so feet from where I’d shoot the first pig an hour earlier. This time I was pinned down and my only shot option had to be from the knee. Dropping down and just barely able to see over the grass, I brace my forward arm on my lead knee and to the shot. As with the first, this pig rolled over dead.

I dropped the pellet down the hogs ear and he barely twitched.

I dropped the pellet down the hogs ear and he barely twitched. But he managed to land in the foulest mud-hole I’ve ever had to venture into.

Ok, I might as well address this right now. I am not a big fan of underpowered small caliber guns for hog hunting. The reason I felt secure in this situation was that everything came together; I could get inside of 45 yards, the pigs were small, and just the night before when checking my guns zero, It had turned into a three hour plinking session and from 20 to 60 yards I was not missing with this gun ……. I felt 99% that if I could get inside of 50 yards, I could put the pellet anywhere I wanted it to go. So I’m not going to be the guy to tell you not to do something then turn around and do it myself. But if you are going to do this, have the discipline to know what animal you’ll shoot and what you won’t. If this had been a 150 lb boar I’d have passed. If I couldn’t get inside of 50 yards and the perfect head (brain) shot I’d have passed.If I wasn’t completely comfortable and sure of my gun ….. You guessed it, I’d have passed!

But with this disclaimer aside, the Brocock Compatto brings a lot to the table; pinpoint accuracy, power (32 fpe), ergonomics, compactness, quiet …… A really superior hunting gun! I’ll have the video posting later in the week.

Stop by for a look at the video.

BTW: We’re getting really close to the EBR, if you’re there and see me, stop to say hello….. I’m always interested to meet fellow airgunners!

Categories: Airguns of Arizona, Big Game, Brocock, compact guns, effectiveness, ethics, Hog hunting, Hunting Guns, Power, shot placement, Small Game Hunting | Tags: | 3 Comments

My Favorite Destinations – Part II

In this weeks blog I’ll pick back up on the topic of my favorite regions and location for traveling Airgun hunts. If you want more information on these just post a reply or shoot me an email. We’ll start back up with a look at big game!

I've been hunting in Virginia for a few years now, agreat venue for Airgun hunters. Going back this year for dear and bear!

I’ve been hunting in Virginia for a few years now, agreat venue for Airgun hunters. Going back this year for dear and bear!

4. Deer Hunting: Virginia is another state that should be very high on an airgun hunters bucket list! Though I listed it as a whitetail hunters destination, Virginia is the other state that allows hunters to take a spring time gobbler with their Airgun. Deer and turkey populations are good, license are reasonable, and you can get tags for both species over the counter. I also like to squirrel hunt in these beautiful hardwood covered forest of this state for both fox and gray squirrels. There is pretty good public land access and it’s a great place for putting together a do it yourself hunt.

Prarie dogs are a fast action hunti that will give you a lot of shooting. South Dakota is my favorite place to go.

Prairie dogs are a fast action hunt that will give you a lot of shooting. South Dakota is my favorite place to go.

5. High Density Prairie Dog: S. Dakota. Prairie dogs can be found in several states, but I think some of the best populations I’ve found are in S. Dakota. Shooting prairie dogs with a centerfire is just that …. Shooting. But with an Airgun it becomes a hunt, you get on the ground, stalking, using cover, working for the opportunity. The beauty is, the opportunity just keeps on coming! Going to a place where you can get one stalk after every another in while traversing striking landscapes is what makes this such an exceptional hunt. License are reasonable, there are special low cost licenses for prairie dogs, coyote and other no game species. While there is some public land, these towns get pretty well hammered and can be a challenge for close range airgunners. I’d suggest you set up with an outfitter, it used to be you could find ranchers that would let you pay a small trespass fee but as with most parts of the country, they’ve caught on to the value of this resource and typically lease shooting rights out to an outfitter. My favorite guy to work with is Brett Wiebel at Bad River Birds&Bucks, he’s got great facilities and lots of towns to hunt that are perfect for airgunners.



6. Once in a Life Time: Eastern Cape, South Africa. I think if you are a passionate Airgun Hunter, a trip to the Eastern Cape of South Africa will be the trip that will be the pinnacle of your hunting experience. Beside the adventure of a completely different way of hunting, the variety of big and small game to hunt, and the complete focus you can have on hunting, the place and people make the trip worthwhile on their own. The larger game I normally hunt here are Steinbuck, duiker, Impala, springbok, bushbuck, warthog, kudu, you can hunt predators such as jacket and caracole, and a brilliant selection of small game like Guinea fowl, hyrax, bush hare, springhare. I set up a yearly safari and will be going in August, hunting with my good friends and professional hunters Rob Dell and Andrew Myers at Hounslow Safari’s. Give me a call or email if you’d like to go….. Not cheap but less than a Colorado elk hunt.


7. Jurassic Hunts, Puerto Rico Iguanas; This island has a ecological problem, and a bad one. An estimated nine million iguanas where there should be exactly …. Zero. Some idiots let their pets go, and now the island is on the verge of an environmental meltdown as these lizards exceed the carrying capacity. You need a local with the right permits to hunt, but by hiring the local guide you will also get access to the land. Some of the farms I hunt will allow you to shoot the 3-5 foot long tree dwellers non stop, as you wind through plantations and native jungle bordering the properties. Great shooting, a lot of it, and you’re helping out from both the ecological standpoint along with giving the local economy a boost. Air fare to PR is not bad, it is a US territory so it’s no problem flying in with your airguns. The permits you need for shooting the lizards can be taken care of by the local guides, and if you’re interested in this one let me know.

Using guides: Before I started hunting in further flung destinations I did my own scouting and arranged me own hunts…. These days it’s about half and half. The reason is that if I fly in somewhere and only have a few days available, I don’t have the local knowledge or the time to gain it (initially). A guide is like a hunting buddy that knows the area, it doesn’t diminish the challenge at all, it lets you focus on the hunt where you at least have a chance of encountering game. If I am going to take four days off work and away from my family, pay to fly somewhere, rent a car, pay for a hotel, food, etc, paying a bit more to improve my odds and the quality of the hunt is worth it. When I use a guide that hunts public land, I also use the experience to build the local knowledge. Maybe on my next trip it’s a DIY experience. However another advantage is that a guide often gets you access to private property where there is less pressure, more game, and a better all around experience. Texas is an example of this, you might not need a guide to call in coyote but you won’t find any public land to do it on.

Of course if going to a place to hunt squirrels that I’ve never been I’ll plan it myself. In this case I do a lot of online research, which I blogged about in the past. The destination spots I’ve listed are primarily for larger airgunning quarry (aside from P-dogs) that usually has you under a time constraint (short seasons). Smaller stuff is generally easier to locate for the DIY hunter, and you are not as financially vested or time constrained. As a matter of fact this might be a good entry point to start planning DIY destination hunts, that you can build from. If you want more information about any of these, shoot me an email.

American Airgun Hunter YouTube

American Airgun Hunter Website

Airguns of Arizona Home Page

Categories: Airgun Expedition, Big Game, bird hunting, Camping with Airgun, Deer hunting, Destinations, fall hunts, Prairie dogs, Predator hunting, Rabbits, Regulations, Safari, Small Game Hunting, Small game in winter, turkey, where to hunt, Winter hunts | Tags: | Leave a comment

My favorite destinations Part I

One of the perks of my role as an Airgun writer is that I get to travel to a lot of different places to hunt. One of the questions I get fairly regularly is where do I like to go and where would I recommend others give a try. To this end I’ve picked my five favorite destinations, but have to tell you up from this was not easy, because I have had so many great hunts around the country (and outside).

My criteria for this selection is based on the following; a) enlightened wildlife management and hunting regulations, b) quarry species, availability, populations, and opportunity, c) ease of travel and available options, d) overall cost of the trip (travel, license, guides, trespass fees, etc). I have mostly included those destination in the USA, but have added in a couple of international locations that might be considered once in a lifetime or unique hunts.

Kip from AOA bropught me on my first AZ javalina hunt with an Airgun. His local knowledge was the key to my success.

Kip from AOA brought me on my first AZ javalina hunt with an Airgun. His local knowledge was the key to my success. Here I’m posing with the Evanix Sniper .357 and my cameraman on the hunt.

1. Variety: Arizona – This state opened up all it’s hunting, small and large game, to Airguns with the exception of elk and turkey. You can hunt cous deer and mule deer (only place to do this legally in the US), javalina (only place in USA), pronghorn (only place in USA), black bear, mountain lion. There is a lot of small game: gray squirrels and Albert’s squirrel, cottontail rabbits, quail. Varmint species; jackrabbit, ground squirrel, prairie dogs, Eurasian collared doves, and predators such as coyote, fox, raccoon and bobcat. License costs are reasonable, though you will have to put in for the draw on most of the big game species. In my quest to hunt all the North America species legal with an Airgun, Arizona is a must hunt state. It is worth mentioning also that there is a lot of public land to hunt in Arizona, and self-catered hunts are a great way to go, especially for the small game and predator opportunities. However, unless you have the time to scout the areas for yourself would suggest a guid for your big game hunts. To set up a hunt here you can contact Kip Perow over at AOA, they are outfitting some great hunts.

Hunt predators with my buddy Don Steele out of West Texas, you're bound to hook up with yotes, fox, and probably the best bet for bobcats.

Hunt predators with my buddy Don Steele out of West Texas, you’re bound to hook up with yotes, fox, and probably the best bet for bobcats.

2. Predator and Hog Heaven: Texas was where we started the big bore/ big game hunting revolution a decade back, for three reasons…… Hogs, exotics, and predators! This state has (slowly changing) anomalous laws with respect to hunting Airguns. No game animals could be taken with air, but any unprotected non-game animal could. This meant no squirrel, turkey, javalina, deer (squirrel now allowed BTW), but you could shoot rabbits, ground squirrels, prairie dogs for smaller game. But it was the huge population of predators (especially bobcats), hogs, and exotics that keep me coming down several times every year. I would mention that while I hunted rams and other exotics in the early years, mostly because we were severely limited as to huntable species, I don’t hunt rams any longer. However, when you get into the free ranging blackbuck and aoudad, this becomes a world class destination for firearm, archery, or Airgun hunters. Even when hunting high fence in Texas, these ranches are so large that the hunts are still very fair chase and the antithesis of canned hunts. I don’t hunt African exotics because, well I can go to Africa and hunt more species and take more game for less, so find it hard to justify. One thing about the Lone Star State, there is virtually no public land so you’ll have to pay either a guide or a trespass fee for anything you do. License fees are reasonable, and Texas has inexpensive license options that cover varmint, predators, hogs, and exotics for short (5 day) hunts.

Stomping the foothills of California's Sierra Nevada mountains after turkey.

Stomping the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains after turkey.

3. Turkey and Game Birds: California – face it, when you think shooting and hunting California does not immediately come to mind as a destination. However, the Golden State was one of the earliest to embrace Airgun hunting and write it into their regulations. All small game hunting is permitted with Airguns here; rabbits, squirrel, quail, chucker, and turkey. But it is the turkey that make this a destination spot. It is one of two spring hunting opportunities for turkey in the country (Maryland allows airguns for turkey, but only in fall). But here is what makes it great; there is a huge population of turkey, the seasons and bag limits are generous (three birds per season, one per day), and while private land is much more productive there are both private and public land opportunities available. If you want to take a turkey (legally) with you Airgun, this is a must-go-to destination. Licenses are reasonable, though they can be less convenient to acquire than in many states, until you are in the Fish&Game system and and have an ID number. If you travel in from out of state, be sure to bring your hunter safety ID and/or a current hunting license from your home state (I’d recommend both on your first trip). The guy I’d put you onto to set up a great Turkey hunt is Parrey Cremeans in Redding California.

I’ll follow up next week with Part II of my favorite Airgun hunting destinations!

American Airgun Hunter YouTube

American Airgun Hunter Website

Airguns of Arizona Home Page


Categories: Big Game, Deer hunting, Destinations, fall hunts, Hog hunting, Predator hunting, shooting sticks, Small Game Hunting, turkey, Uncategorized, where to hunt | 2 Comments

Squirrel Season’s Around the Corner!!

As we prepare to roll into the fall months, I find myself spending a lot more time afield scouting the areas I’ll hunt when deer season opens. Patterning deer activity and deciding where to set up my stand helps my success rate of course, but I also use the time hunting America’s favorite small game, the tree squirrel. To be perfectly honest, I think I get as much enjoyment from squirrel hunting as I do from the bigger stuff. A day spent stalking inside of sixty yards on gray and fox squirrels is the perfect tune-up for whitetail hunting. Most hunters that pursue squirrel use either a rimfire or shotgun, but I think they miss out on the fun and challenge that come with using an air rifle. Let’s take a look at the guns, how they work, how they perform, and the shooting characteristics then look at the field experience I’ve gained over the last several years hunting bushytails in the Midwest.

I like all the Brocock guns, but the Specialist and Compatto are really great little wood guns. Compact and easy to move around with, but powerful and accurate at the same time.

I like all the Brocock guns, but the Specialist and Compatto are really great little wood guns. Compact and easy to move around with, but powerful and accurate at the same time.

There are many airguns ideally suited to hunting bushytails, a few of my current favorites include both springers and PCP models. A quick rundown of the springers I’ve been shopoting lately include the Diana 340 N-TEC in .177, the Walther LGV in .22, the RWS ProCompact .22, and I never get tired of my little Beeman C1 .177. Spring piston Airgun are the one I most frequently use a .177, though my all around favorite is still the .22. The PCP’s that I plan to use a lot include the FX Wildcat .25, the Daystate Huntsman Cl;assic .22 (prettiest Airgun ever made IMO), and the Brocock Compatto .22 which is my small game gun of the year. I will also use the .30 more this year as itsd been very effective for prairie dogs and rabbits, and my Daystate Wolverine Type B is a favorite in this caliber.

It doesn’t take a great deal of power to kill a squirrel, though they can be surprisingly tenacious. Most mid power guns are more than adequate so long as the proper shot placement is achieved. Accuracy is the key, as I prefer to use head shots when possible and the brain area of the little rodents is about the size of a quarter. However, once this level of accuracy is achieved, more power is always welcome and gives a bit for margin when taking chest shots or reaching out a bit further.

As the leaves come off the trees squirrels are easier to spot .... but they can see you easier as well!

As the leaves come off the trees squirrels are easier to spot …. but they can see you easier as well!

All of theses guns are scoped to achieve the best performance possible, and I like a 3-9x with a 40 or 50mm objective as these scopes do a good job of picking out hiding squirrels in the lower light conditions encountered early in the morning and late afternoon.  I’ve used the Hawke scopes more than any other this year, and have been well impressed by the optical quality achieved in low light conditions; swapping them from gun to gun. But I’ve also had very good results from the Leapers scopes as well, which are two of my airgunning go to scope manufacturers.

There has been significant development with respect to projectiles available for squirrel hunting over the last few years; polymer tipped hollow points, boat tail pellets, new non-lead materials, and refinement of existing designs. Airguns can be a bit finicky about which projectiles they shoot best. Even guns that are the same model will often have different preferences for pellets. I generally prefer roundnose pellets for squirrel hunting as they offer a good balance of accuracy and terminal performance. 

Squirrels are plentiful, challenging yet not overly taxing for the newbie, and are a great way to get started in Airgun hunting!

Squirrels are plentiful, challenging yet not overly taxing for the newbie, and are a great way to get started in Airgun hunting!

In most guns, one roundnose pellet or another will yield good results, and while I mostly use JSB roundnose pellets, the H&N Baracuda Hunter Extreme work well in several of my guns and provide effective terminal performance. Squirrels are tenacious little critters, but they are not that hard to kill if hit in the right place. Besides the roundnose pellets accuracy, the domed head and heavier weight are just the right medicine for both fox squirrels and their smaller cousins the gray squirrel, which are abundant in our forest.

I find that there is ancillary gear which consistently improves my success rate. Most important is camo; in the spring I like a light weight mesh camo overall and in winter a camo jump suit and always include a face cover and gloves. I also like a compact set of binoculars for scanning the branches and shadows in the trees, I often finding a bushytail staring down on me that was missed by the naked eye. If you intend to stretch out the shooting distance a bit, a range finder can be an asset, as can a mouth blown call to coax a hesitant squirrel into view. I also throw a sharp pocket knife and some latex gloves in my pack for when cleaning time rolls around.

This is my typical gear for a fall/winter squirrel hunt.

This is my typical gear for a fall/winter squirrel hunt.

I have a couple of strategies for hunting squirrels; my favorite is to slowly stalk the woods and listen for chattering or scolding calls. Once I’ve pinned down the general vicinity I’ll start to slowly move towards the sound while scanning the canopy for the tell of a twitching tail. This is one of those times I find a good set of lower powered binoculars very useful in picking up a set of eyes peering down from a fork in the branches or the flicker of fur in the breeze. Another technique that has proven effective is to go out in full camo or a ghillie suit and find a mast producing tree such as walnut or hickory, and settle in for a wait. The flip side of this approach is to find a den tree or a drey and set up an ambush as the squirrels move between home and their food source. Wearing camo for a squirrel hunt may sound like overkill, but I can tell you that based on a lot of experience your success rate will take a quantum leap when you cover up. A face mask and gloves are important as these are the parts of your body that move the most. Over the last few seasons I’ve kept a 3D leafy camo poncho in my bag, which can be worn as effective camo or used to fashion a multitude of blinds…. This is a great bit of gear!

A day in the squirrel woods with an air rifle will get you tuned up for big game season and is also a great way to introduce new hunters to the sport because it combines challenge with pretty high odds for success. To carry an air rifle makes sense because it gives you more than enough accuracy and power to anchor your quarry, but because of the shooting characteristics of these guns (reduce range and noise) allows them to be used just about anywhere one might legally hunt. I enjoy this sport so much that when I score my deer, I am ready to get back on the squirrels!

American Airgun Hunter YouTube

American Airgun Hunter Website

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Categories: .22 ammo shortage, binoculars, Brocock, cold weather hunting, compact guns, Daystate, fall hunts, Hunting Accessories, Small Game Hunting, Small game in winter, Squirrels | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Warthogs and Airguns

While cleaning up my archives, I found this article written about three years ago for one of the hunting magazines, and realized I never submitted it! This was from the hunt where I had Kip and a couple AOA friends along with me to the Eastern Cape in South Africa. Better late than never, right!?!

Hunting SA you spend a lot of time glassing the countryside looking for game. Good glass goes a long way here.

Hunting SA you spend a lot of time glassing the countryside looking for game. Good glass goes a long way here.

I’d been in South Africa for a few days hunting plains game with a collection of new air rifles, when my friend, professional hunter, and outfitter Rob Dell asked if I’d like to take a couple of management warthogs off his farm. Well I had to think about that, for maybe a fraction of a second. Heck yeah I did! The only problem was that I’d been using tamer mid bore guns geared towards the thinner skinned and smaller bodied antelope we’d been hunting, rather than the semi bullet proof hides of these African tuskers. The 100-125 fpe guns in .303 and .357 calibers used for the springbok and duiker would be marginal on warthogs, even for head shots, as the skull of these prehistoric looking pigs is all bullet deflecting curves and reinforced masses of bone.

But I’d brought a couple of my airgunning buddies along on this trip, and one of the guys (Kip Perow from Airguns of Arizona) had XP Airguns Ranger in .45 caliber that was producing a massive (for an airgun) 590 fpe, propelling a 345 grain bullet at 850 fps. This is not a small gun, however it is lighter than I thought it would be, and is dressed in a nicely executed laminate thumbhole stock. The configuration that Kip opted for used a 30″ barrel and a 285 cc air reservoir. To propel the heavy hollow-point bullets (made by Robert Vogel of the gun takes a fill pressure of 4200 psi, and provides two shots per fill with a 4 inch drop in POI at 100 yards. When using this rifle the shooter typically carries a small 4500 psi buddy bottle in their daypack that allows the gun to be topped of 3-4 times in the field. It took a bit of begging, but eventually Kip loosened his grip on the Ranger long enough for me to get it out the door and on to the truck. Gaining temporary control of the gun, Rob and I drove out to an area of the ranch called the wagon wheel where one thing hit home immediately, there were a lot of pigs on the property!

Of the multitude of game species to be hunted in the Eastern Cape, warthog have always been one of my favorites. These animals are plentiful, provide opportunities for still hunting or from a blind, and are one of the prototypical African game animals. I love watching a big boar, tusk gleaming in the sun, trotting along with tail up in the air. What I hadn’t realized is that they are not indigenous to this region of SA, but were introduced in the 1970’s. Like the feral hogs in the states, warthogs are prolific breeders, and it didn’t take long for them to become one of the most common animals on the veld

A decent hog came in, and then a second one almost a twin joined him at the watering hole.

A decent hog came in, and then a second one almost a twin joined him at the watering hole.

Driving down a washboard road, we spotted a warthog about 200 yards out grazing. However the wind was all wrong for a stalk from where we stood, so we drove a couple hundred yards further down the road and jumped out to work our way along a brushline into the breeze. We moved in using the trees and thorn bushes for cover, peeking out from around the clumps of brush occasionally to check the pigs location. The 10-15 mph wind moved our scent away from the boars sensitive nose and covered any extraneous sound as we slow stalked in. We eventually were able to move inside of 50 yards, though it took about 25 minutes to cover the 150 yards.

Rob set up the shooting sticks in the shadow of an umbrella tree, which allowed me to mount the gun and get a solid rest. I like to shoot from a sitting or kneeling position when possible, but this type of hunting often requires standing shots from sticks, so it’s good to practice the technique before the trip. The rifle had been cocked as I’d moved onto the sticks, and dropping the crosshairs on the warthogs shoulder and taking a couple quick breaths, I squeezed the trigger. With a muffled crack followed by the immediate thud of the 325 grain bullet impacting the pigs shoulder, he dropped on the spot.

For the next warthog I tried a different approach, ambush! The region had been experiencing some pretty dry weather, but there were a few dams and waterholes spread about the 10,000 acre property. One in particular, was getting hit on a regular basis, as proven out by the copious amounts of fresh spore. This spot could be seen from a dirt road running parallel to the four wire stock fence, and you could drive by and spot a warthog or two wallowing, but stop the car and they were gone in a flash of tusk and upright tails.

My solution was to get out early and set up a ground blind. I found a spot on the side of a hill overlooking the waterhole, and started construction with a thorn bush growing by a rock that offered an overlook of the surrounding country. Rob then had our tracker use his machete to cut down additional branches from nearby elephant thorns and build me into a circular hide about 3 feet high with a diameter of approximately 4 feet. I was hidden, but if I shifted my position it was followed be a jab from a 2 inch spike! This was one hide that I was not going to fall asleep in, as to do so put me at risk of being skewed like a shrimp at a BBQ!

I was walled in a bit after daybreak and given a radio so I could let camp know when I wanted to be dug out, then left to wait. I propped the gun up on my Gorilla shooting sticks, and sat very still, glassing the area for signs of approaching pigs. No matter what or where you hunt in Africa, a quality set of binoculars is a must. I have been using the Hawke Frontier 10×42 for the last year, and absolutely swear by them. These are moderately priced binos with optical quality far superior than you have a right to expect for the price. And thus equipped I was able to pick up two warthogs making their way towards me, from a very long ways off. Just about that time, a motion right behind me almost had me jumping through the thorns, and as I turned found myself looking directly into the face of a goat! This is a working ranch, and I had to allow that the livestock needs to drink as well. But right now with warthogs on the way? I sat and watched the small flock come in to drink, and after allowing them a few minutes to fill up started tossing rocks in an effort to encourage their immediate departure.

I lined up the shot and squeezed the trigger.

I lined up the shot and squeezed the trigger.

About 5 minutes later, a pig slid over the lip of the dam and cautiously approached the water, settled in, and started to drink. He was about 65 yards from my prickly blind and unaware of my presence. I slowly lined up the shot, with the crosshair right behind the shoulder. And just as my finger was starting the squeeze, a second pig rolled over the embankment. A quick appraisal confirmed these two animals were a mirror image in every respect, so I stayed with my initial target and adjusted the crosshairs to cover the first boar. I applied pressure to the trigger and the gun barked, and it does have a bark!

Watching through the scope, I saw the medium sized pig drop in his tracks, landing about 4 feet out in the middle of some very nasty looking water. He then jumped up, took about five paces, and went down for good. I crawled out of my little elephant thorn corral, scratched up and looking like I’d been thrown into a burlap bag with an angry bobcat, and made my way down to the muddy shore and out through the muck. When I could reach a hind leg, I grabbed it and pulled the young boar back to shore and radioed for the guys to join me.

This pig wasn't pretty to start with, but after the dunking in the pond he was downright ugly!

This pig wasn’t pretty to start with, but after the dunking in the pond he was downright ugly!

Using an airgun to hunt warthogs requires the right guns and ammo to be selected. I have worked with the guys at Hounslow Safaris on the Eastern Cape to develop airgun hunting in South Africa for almost a decade. Based on this experience we have given a lot of thought to the right guns for the game we shoot. I think that warthogs require a minimum of .357 caliber (though bigger is preferable) shooting heavy solid lead or hollowpoint bullets, at a minimum of 350 fpe. There is no doubt that smaller calibers and lower powered guns can kill a warthog, but these are tough animals, and the tolerance for less than perfect shot placement decreases dramatically if one doesn’t use enough gun.


I feel that by using an airgun, the challenge is amplified and the experience that comes from leveling the playing field further increases the sense of accomplishment. At the same time, this method of take only makes sense if the proper equipment, the shooters skill level, and the appropriate shot selection are brought into the mix. If you cannot or do not want to get in close, an airgun is probably not the right tool for you. However, if you want the excitement and challenge of getting up close and personal, I can’t recommend this approach highly enough. We’re putting together a hunt next fall, and will have several big bore airguns available. If you’d like to give it a go, drop my buddies over at Hounslow an email!


Warthog Video

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Categories: Airgun Expedition, Airguns of Arizona, Big Bore Airguns, Big Game, binoculars, Hog hunting, Safari | Tags: | 2 Comments

Out on a hog hunt!

Sitting on a plane right now flying back home from Texas, where I attended the airgun show put together by friend and colleague Tom Gaylord. As soon as the one day event was over, Rossi Morreale and I jumped in a truck with our camera crew from American Airgunner and headed off on a multitude-day hog hunt about three and a half hours west of Dallas. One of the things that made this trip fun was that I was bringing Rossi on his first Hog hunt. Also, one of the crew was Clay Pruitt who has become my primary cameraman on my solo hunts. We’ve become pretty good friends over the last couple years. Funny what being locked in bunkhouses and hunting camps will do …. You either become better friends or can’t stand the sight of each other!

I’ve hunted this ranch before, and pig populations are generally good but weather conditions were putting a strain on movement. The method of hunting is to use brush blinds that have been set up around feeders or water holes in the early morning or evenings. Most people spend the mid day napping to recover from the predawn start, but I like to stalk the thickets and cedars for spot and stalk action.

We got our first round of pigs early, and still have another day to hunt!

We got our first round of pigs early, and still have another day to hunt!

On our morning hunt all four of us sat in one blind near a feeder, so we could get footage for the show. As day break, several large rats started running around, then rabbits started popping up everywhere, quail came out chasing each other around, there was a lot of activity but no pigs. Then I looked up and saw a smallish pig at about 75 yards out, rooting in the scrub. It was hard to see more than the animals back, as the grass between us was fairly high. I told Rossi to get ready as I watched through my binos. There was a feeder about 40 yards to the pigs left which would have brought him into shooting range for the guns we were using, but instead he started drifting away in the opposite direction.

After returning to camp for an early lunch and to rehydrate (it was hot!!) we geared up and took off for the hills as it were. Walking down the road to the far side of the property, I felt like I was leading an old time safari, walking out front with Rossi, Clay, and Chad behind me. Chad and Clay were loaded down with camera equipment and the shooters had their guns slung over a shoulder. When we got to a high point using the dirt road for access, we headed into the very dense thickets. Walking through, actually part walking part crawling through the tunnels of brush and cactus, we pushed a pig. It didn’t seem over alarmed but knew something was amiss (from his point of view). No matter what we tried, he kept ahead of us where we could hear but not see him.

I decided to split the group, where I could make a flanking move to get a head and work my way back toward towards the others. Clay came with me and leaving our packs to lighten our loads, off we went. It took about a half hour to circle the stand of thicket before starting the walk back, where we hoped to push the pig back (unless I could get the shot). Reaching a little clearing with a couple cedars popping up here and there. I sat for 5 minutes glassing the area looking at the base of the trees and anywhere I thought might hide a pig, but saw nothing. As we stepped around a tree I found myself face to face with a big coyote 25 yards away. He was already spinning and launching himself. I snapped up my rifle and fired as he took off directly away from me, but missed just shooting over the dogs head. It was a low percentage shot, but they were having a lot of predator problems and I’d been asked to shoot and coyote or bobcat that we came across.

With that, I went to reload my gun before moving on, only to realize I’d left my ammo in my pack sitting back with the other guys. OK, so I wasn’t going to get a shot but we could still push the pig back towards Rossi. I’ve got to tell you it was by now VERY hot, and we were getting stabbed and ripped by the thicket/cactus gamut we were traveling through. As we came to an area where it was possible to stand and see several yards a head, a grunt came through the brush. With the wind in my favor I very slowly crept towards the sound with Clay right behind me. We held up right behind a tangle of brush and looking though I had a clear look at three decent hogs bedded down completely unaware of us.

I silently chided myself for being there with an empty rifle and slowly backed us up then around these animals, beating a path back towards the other guys. It took us a while in this thorny jungle to locate them, but once we did I loaded my rifle and started back. We’d gone the 400-500 yards towards the bedded pigs when we heard a snort, a squeal, and an explosion of sound as the spooked pigs exploded away.

We got back to the bunkhouse, sweaty, bloody, dehydrated, and tired. By unanimous decision we opted to stay in the air conditioned hut with bottles of ice cold water, to rest up for the evening hunt out of a blind. The ranch manager had found a place in a remote part of the ranch, where even though there were no feeders or water, pig sign was everywhere and it seemed they were using the area as a transit point. He’d cut down a bunch of branches and piled them to make a small wall we could all hide behind. I will tell you we had a pretty exciting afternoon/evening here and took a couple nice boar, but that whole episode was captured by our trusty cameraman and will make it into this seasons American Airgunner. So rather than telling you about it you can see it when the show airs.

I’m on my way to Japan in a couple days, but have many more hunts lined up when I get back! I did get some down time on this trip to do some rabbit hunting using one of my new favorite springers the Diana 340 N-Tec, and had a lot of fun with this very accurate springer.

I’ll have more coming your way soon!

Categories: arrow gun, Big Bore Airguns, Big Game, Destinations, Hog hunting, Hunting Guns, springers | 1 Comment

Gearing up for a springer hunt!

As I mentioned in some recent posts here, Facebook, YouTube, and a couple magazine articles, most of my hunting recently has been with PCP’s but this year I intended to get out more with my springers. Don’t get me wrong, I love my PCP’s and they will make up the bulk of my hunting gear. However, I never stopped shooting springers, and don’t believe I ever will. This is where airgun hunting starts for most outdoorsman, and there are compelling reasons why these guns make sense.


The lessons learned in becoming a good field shot with a springer carry over to anything you’ll ever shoot.

The advantages may be old news for many, but I’ll restate them here for new recruits into the airgunning world. Spring Piston (or gas piston) rifles, all of which I’ll refer to as springers, are self contained and require no charging gear, nor do you need to find a place to fill your tanks. They are accurate, providing you put in the time to learn your rifle well, and appropriately accurate for almost any small game hunting.

Grab a few pellets, and you're good to go!, and there's no debating the effectiveness on small game!

Grab a few pellets, and you’re good to go!, and there’s no debating the effectiveness on small game!

It only fair to state the disadvantages; these guns are harder to shoot than a non-recoiling PCP, but I’d turn this around to an advantage. The techniques you gain from springer shooting, obtaining a consistent hold and follow through on shots, will make you a better marksman regardless of what you shoot in future. These guns can be heavier than a PCP and you do need to cycle them through a moderate to heavy cocking effort, but most shooters (outside of children and smaller ones) don’t have a problem with this.

My other comment is, buy the best gun you can afford. There is no doubt that you can be effective with one of the better mass produced springers purchased at a big box store. But I am willing to bet that inside of a year you’ll want to upgrade your kit. However if you invest a bit more for one of the fine European springers, I’m equally willing to bet you’ll hold on to that gun for a long time. Over thirty years of airgunning, I’ve kept the dozen or so great high end springers acquired along the way (Beeman R1, C1, Webley Patriot, TX200, RWS 34) and will hold on to some of the modern classics in my collection (Walther LGV, Diana 340 N-Tec), while at the same time I’ve gone through literally hundreds of the big box guns. Don’t get me wrong, many of these make fine hunters and if that’s what I could afford, would be happy to start out that way. But it’s a natural progression that as you progress in a sport, the smaller differences in performance become more important to you, not to mention pride of ownership in your equipment.

I’m leaving on another hunt in Texas for hogs in a couple days, and as usual will bring a gun for small game and varminting during down time. The gun I’m bringing is one I’ve been shooting extensively for a few months now, the Diana 340 N-Tec. This is a sleek rifle that is brilliantly crafted and absolutely beautiful; highly figured wood, sharp checkering, ergonomic design, fine metal work and bluing. My rifle is a .177, and small game springers are about the only time I use this caliber now days. I can stack pellets into a half inch group at thirty yards with this rifle shooting JSB exact pellets.

I’ll post either when in Texas or on my return to give you details on the gun and tell you about the hunt. Until then, get out and shoot ……. Hunting seasons are right around the bend!

Categories: bird hunting, Hunting Guns, Pellets, Pest Control, Rabbits, Shooting technique, Spring Piston Airguns, springers, Uncategorized | Tags: | 1 Comment