A Pair of Brocock Rifles on Squirrel Patrol

Trip to Virginia

I’ve made some good friends and airgun hunting buddies down in Virginia over the last 8 years, and try to get down every year to hunt with them. This year I was also meeting up with Rossi Moreale and our cameramen to film segments for the American Airgunner, but had arrived a couple days in advance to do a doe hunt, scout the farm, shoot my rifles, and get in some squirrel hunting. Nathan has a beautiful farm in the Shenandoah Valley, and besides having high populations of deer and turkey, is loaded with both fox and gray squirrels. We wanted to get in the stand by 2:00, but decided to go to another area and spend a couple hours squirrel hunting. He went in to get his gun and I broke into my case, only to find we were both using Brocock rifles, and for much the same reason: compact, accurate, powerful, good shot count, and quiet.

My hunting buddy Nathan Wenger and I decided to get out for a fast squirrel hunt before getting serious about deer and later bear. Without planning it, we'd both brought Brocock rifles along for small game.

My hunting buddy Nathan Wenger and I decided to get out for a fast squirrel hunt before getting serious about deer and later bear. Without planning it, we’d both brought Brocock rifles along for small game.

Down time during big game hunts is a great opportunity to get out with your small game gun for some rabbit or squirrel hunting. If you take your animal early it gives you something to do while the rest of your party hunts:  on this hunt, I arrived earlier than the rest of the group so had a bit of free time, and additionally we all had a down day between the end of deer season and the start of bear season. A nice attribute of both our rifles was that they were quiet, we didn’t run a high risk of scaring off every deer in the vicinity.

The rifles: Brocock Concept delivers those attributes these rifles are known for, accurate, powerful, efficient, reliable and most of all compact. The gun uses the bolt action and cylinder type magazines this product line has employed for several years, which has been proven out in the field. This gun speaks for the tradition of Brocock rifles. The Compatto on the other hand, is the future of the company, and represents the first product out of the merged Brocock/Daystate development teams. This rifle is very accurate, quite powerful, has a bolt action that as silky smooth and easy to cycle, uses a Daystate style magazine (also proven in the field) and it stayed true to the compactness of Brocock, but achieved this through an innovative semi-bullpup design.

Nat was using the Concept Elite, a well balanced and shootable little rifle that shows off the best attributes of the Brocock design from before the acquisition by Daystate.

Nat was using the Concept Elite, a well balanced and shootable little rifle that shows off the best attributes of the Brocock design from before the acquisition by Daystate.

Little doubt what I'm carrying these days!

Little doubt what I’m carrying these days!

Nathan and I took a walk in the woods, both of us using our rifles to nail multiple one shot kills at squirrels 40-60 yards. The JSB Exacts provided both excellent accuracy, but also did a great job with respect to terminal performance. My favorite shot was when Nathan head shot a gray that fell into the river, and I got to watch him go after it, the whole time balance on the edge of disaster a log roll from a cold swim.

Lining up the shot, one of those rifles I do really well with in field conditions.

Lining up the shot, one of those rifles I do really well with in field conditions.

The guns handled as well as we could have asked for; to me a great small game gun has to be accurate, it has to be appropriately powerful, it has to be fast and easy to cycle, it has to be ergonomic and comfortable to shoot under field conditions,, but more over it has to be compact and easy to carry. I have three Brocock rifles; the Specialist, the Concept Elite, and the Compatto, and this is my order of preference though all three are fine hunting rifles. I’ve been saying for a while now that if the Compatto is viewed as the benchmark of the combined Brocock/Daystate rifles we can expect in future, airgun hunters have something exciting to look forward to!

Wwe dressed the squirrels, both well pleased with our respective guns' performance and got ready for our deer hunt. Both of these guns are quiet and let us slip in and out of the woods without creating a disturbance!

We dressed the squirrels, both well pleased with our respective guns’ performance and got ready for our deer hunt. Both of these guns are quiet and let us slip in and out of the woods without creating a disturbance!

 

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Categories: Airguns of Arizona, Brocock, compact guns, Daystate, offhand shooting, Rabbits, Small Game Hunting, Small game in winter, Squirrels, Uncategorized | Tags: | 1 Comment

Not allowed to check my air rifles!

Hi All! I’ve been out hunting for about a week, so my posting is a bit late…. Sorry. Was visiting and hunting with friends in Virginia, we went after deer and bear. Had only moderate success, shot a couple doe for the freezer but only saw small no-shooter bucks before the season ended. Was rained out 2-3 days on bear hunt (last two days were a wash), though did see some bear a sow with cub and another sow on her own.

I was using a .40 caliber and am quite impressed with this caliber after having taken deer, hogs, and javalina with it. Flat shooting but delivers energy on target effectively and opens a good wound channel. Have the holidays at home, then off to Texas on an exotic/ram/hog/predator hunt! Afterwards will be at SHOT Show, then have to get caught up on my office work for the next couple months, so will be short predator hunts thereafter.

Have some very cool night vision gear that I’ve been using, and will be writing to tell you more about that soon. This is opening up some opportunities for urban predator control, I’ve shot a couple very large yotes right around our neighborhood this month, where sitting out with high power lights would creat problems.

ON A FINAL NOTE – RANT WARNING: Also wanted to tell you about a recent problem I encountered when flying to Texas for a hunt, and if you intend to travel with your air rifle I wanted to give you a heads up. I had managed to open up a couple days to test two new rifles, and having spent some range time wanted to use them to take down a few hogs. This is a busy time of year and I rearranged my schedule and called a friend in Texas that did the same, so we could meet up and hunt his ranch. I was pushing it, having just gotten home from another trip. Pulling my gear together I drove to the airport, checked in, and brought my rifle to TSA…. as I’ve done at this very airport many dozen times in the four years I’ve lived in the Minneapolis area. TSA asked for the keys to open my gun case, which is not uncommon, but then asked me to detach the air bottle so they could do a visual inspection. I explained that the bottles were not removable, to which they replied they could not/would not allow the bag to go on the plane. They said it was the airlines final call, and requested the manager from Delta Airlines to join us. The acting manager from Delta came over, listened, and told me I could not check my rifles. She acted like the airline was doing me a favor refunding my fare.

As a traveling hunter this creates a big problem for me. Finding out at check-in that an airline representative has decided to interpret the regulations differently than what has been previously stated and in opposition to all precedent, means it’s too late to make alternative plans.

Because of the uncertainty of flying with my air rifles, even though this has only happened to me twice in the last 10 years (both times on Delta), I’m taking two actions: whenever possible I will ship my rifles ahead. This is not always possible because of the short lead time I sometimes have when new rifles are sent to me. Secondly; I am following this up with both TSA and Delta and will post more in furture..

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Daylight Raccoon – FX Wildcat Scores

I had gotten up before daybreak and driven to a local farm where I have permission to hunt for predators and small game. My intention was to spend two hours, then go home shower before heading to my office for a busy day. I arrived at a friends farm after a 20 minute drive, parked the car, shouldered my pack, grabbed my rifle and started off to a 5 acre stand of woods in the back 40. Daylight was breaking as I got into the woods, but it was filtered into a shadowy haze as I got further into the trees. Most of the leaves were off the branches, but there were still enough branches and twigs to provide cover. I slowly walked a couple hundred yards in, but hadn’t seen any squirrels. As I stood sweeping my eyes tree to tree, inspecting each one in turn, I saw a telltale tuft of hair being gently blown on the breeze. The light was getting better, but I still couldn’t make out color in the shadows, was it a red or a gray squirrel the fur belonged to? I moved in closer, straining to see more than the one patch of fur, it looked gray but then I spotted a bit of the striped tail …. a coon! I sat and watched until picking out an approach to get into a shooting position, then got up and started moving around to obtain a better alignment. This actually moved me further away before turning to close the distance, using tree trunks to shield my approach.

When light came up a bit more, I could see my quarry partially hidden up in the trees.

When light came up a bit more, I could see my quarry partially hidden up in the trees.

The FX Wildcat is a compact and lightweight bullpup, that I found very easy to carry and to move with. I have been shooting and hunting with it a lot; having taken many prairie dogs, rabbits, and other small game with it over the last couple years. I was shooting JSB 25 grain Exacts, which is my default pellet in most guns. I moved in behind a tree at about 35 yards and could see the coon up the tree, but its body and head were shielded by some heavy branches.

I did a kissing squeak that I’ll often use on larger predators when they come in close…. a lot of people don’t realize that raccoons are an aggressive predator of smaller prey, and when this one heard the mouse in distress its head came straight up, providing me with a perfect shot opportunity. Pulling the trigger, and I am always surprised how good the trigger is on this bullpup design, I heard the pellet impact and after a couple seconds the dead coon slid of the branch hitting the ground and moving no more.

This was a big coon, with a very nice pelt.

This was a big coon, with a very nice pelt.

The thing I like about a solid hitting .25 caliber PCP is that while it’s perfect for small game such as squirrel, it is also a very solid performer for something as large as this raccoon with a well placed headshot. And the Wildcat is a great platform for the caliber; very accurate, generating an honest 45 fpe, a compact LOA of 35″ with a 23.6″ barrel and weighing about 6.5 lb it offers full sized rifle performance in a package you can carry all day long. It is one of the few bullpups I’ve ever shot that lets me forget that its a bullpup. With respect to shootability I compare it with the best handling rifles I’ve used, not limiting its praise as simply the best shooting bullpup.

I’ll be kicking into full swing on predator hunting this month, and I always do a lot of calling for raccoons. Think I’ll work a bit more with the Wildcat, especially in some of the more noise sensitive areas I shoot in. Hope you’re all getting in a lot of hunting and having a good season thus far. Catch up with you all again next week!

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Categories: airgun ammo, Airguns of Arizona, bullpup, cold weather hunting, compact guns, FX, mouth calls, Pellets, Predator hunting, raccoon, shot placement, Small Game Hunting, Squirrels, Uncategorized, Wildcat | 1 Comment

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!

huntsman_2

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.         https://youtu.be/qaA7H6xrhSY

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

iguana

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.

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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!

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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

Airguns of Arizona Home Page

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