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My Theory of Airgun Hunting

An Afternoon at the Dairy Farm

Squirrel Hunting from a Boat

Auggh! Skunk!

Starling Control

Backyard Possum Safari

Groundhog Man

Idaho Rock Chuck Hunt

Hunting with the Crosman 2240

How to Kill an Air Conditioner

Mojave Desert Jackrabbit Hunt by Echochap

Deer Hunt 2005

Hunting with Classic Airguns - Crosman 101

Hunting with the XS B-50 by Jim Chapman

Oh! The Stench - Skunk Consortium Hunt

Squirrel Hunting with a New Friend

Red Ryder Christmas Turkey Shoot

Texas Wild Hog Hunt

My Son's First Squirrel

Whitetail Deer Hunt

Rock Chuck Safari by Timothy Ihle

Airgunning for Turkeys

Whitetail Deer Hunt 2006


The South African countryside

Africa. Every hunter who dreams of traveling in their pursuit of game will at one time or another think of this continent. There is a mystery about Africa that is hard to explain. Blame it on Hollywood, books, Edgar Rice Burroughs......whatever excuse you use, it still remains a goal in the mind of those of us who cherish the thought of hunting exotic game abroad.

Now couple that goal of hunting abroad with the aspirations of an airgun hunter, and you've got a brand new, almost untried, way of hunting appearing on the horizon. To my knowledge, and according to the South African government, there are only three people in the entire world who have attempted to hunt big game in South Africa with an airgun.....the first being Jim Chapman, and then Eric Henderson and myself, who accompanied Jim on his second trip to Hounslow Safaris on the Eastern Cape. And what a trip it proved to be! And there is no better airgun that I can think of to use than the Quackenbush line of airguns.

The entrance to Hounslow Safaris

Hounslow Safaris is a well-run, very pleasant place to spend your time in South Africa. Professional Hunter Robert Dell and his family run a working sheep farm of Dorper sheep, and have around 10,000 acres of excellent hunting range on their immediate farm. They also have access to many thousands more acres through arrangements with other land owners. And right next door to their farm is a game preserve with the kinds of animals most individuals think about when you say "Africa"......elephants, giraffes, lions...as well as many others. The main house is the family house where Robert's father and mother live. They also operate it as a Bed and Breakfast for visitors who come to ride through the game preserve next door.

The building is filled with history, once housing British officers during the heyday of the British Empire. Well-furnished rooms await the weary traveler or hunter at the end of the day, complete with larger rooms in which to gather to discuss the events of the day, or to plan for the morrow. And come meal time, you are in for a treat! I don't believe I've ever eaten so well on a vacation, much less a hunting trip!

The main house as viewed from the front

Picnic tables out back

A wall of native stone with kudu skulls from years past

Warning sign at entrance to game preserve

If you go to South Africa in July and August, you are arriving during their winter. And this year proved to be one of the coldest they've seen in 30 years. Since it is almost always warmer than the temperature we experienced, the water pipes are on the outside of the house. It is a rare occasion when they freeze. Of course, our being there happened to coincide with that rare occasion, and we experienced frozen pipes for the first time in almost 3 decades at Hounslow. It actually got down to 30 degrees a few evenings, which caught us off-guard in regards to what we brought to wear. I had but one jacket, and it saw quite a bit of use during my stay there.

On the way to South Africa, we had to abide by the rules of our host country in regards to our armament. Armed with letters of permission from the government, we checked our guns in at each checkpoint during our trip. On several occasions we had the pleasure of discussing our Quackenbush airguns with other hunters, invariably drawing the looks of disbelief and amazement from several of them . Eyebrows go up when you drop a .457 caliber, 425 grain lead slug in another hunter's hand and tell him that is what your bb gun shoots!

A .457 caliber, 425 gr lead slug near the breech of my Quackenbush Long Action Outlaw .457 air rifle

Our luggage and gun cases being watched over by attentive porters

The gun-check procedures in South Africa are somewhat more tedious than the stateside process, but they aren't all that bothersome. It is just something you do in order to hunt in South Africa. There were many other hunters present, and most were accustomed to the wait and procedures. It was all new to me, but I got use to it and enjoyed the time taken to chat with other hunters.

Since we arrived late, due to a missed flight, we weren't able to get out our first evening. So the next morning we spent some time sighting in our guns to make sure the trip over hadn't moved our scope settings too much. After sighting in, Eric and I headed out with the PH's Rob and Andrew, while Jim headed to one of the stands. In very short order, both Eric and I got our first stalks in on springbok. Eric was able to take a shot, but missed his first opportunity. I got within 80 meters of a nice springbok ram, but couldn't move in closer due to an older, less desirable ram taking a nap between us and our target. Eventually, the wind shifted, another group of ewes smelled us, and off they all went. But for a first stalk, I was very happy to get within shooting distance.

The evening of the first day's hunt found us out in the countryside, lamping for springhare, rabbits, and duiker. My first kill on the African continent was a familiar prey.....a large hare. Bigger than the cottontails I am used to in Kentucky, it was roughly the size of a Texas jackrabbit. I took it on the second shot with my DAQ .308 from the back of the pickup. And I got to see my first springhares in motion.....an odd hopping, almost slithering style of moving. Very unusual for someone who has never seen one before.

My DAQ .308, an African hare, and Diesel the terrier

Eric was also able to use my .308 on this trip, bagging a nice duiker with a single shot to the neck. It was a useful gun, one that I imagine I will take again when I next get an opportunity to come to South Africa.

On our second day out, Robert and I spent some more time pursuing the springbok herd on the property. We tried a different approach, coming over a hill on the backside of the range, and were immediately rewarded with a couple of springbok feeding right towards us. We stalked from cover to cover, and were within ideal range, no more than 45 meters. As we waited for the springbok ram we were after to step from behind the clump of bushes, a swirling wind once again took our scent to them, and off they went!

As we pondered over our next move, we noticed a troop of baboons in the distance, perhaps 700 meters or more away. Robert told me about their fantastic eyesight, saying that if we stepped out of the shadow of the bush we were resting in, they would see us almost immediately. To my eyes, they were just dots on the horizon. Even with 10x binoculars, they were still tiny. But sure enough, within 15 meters of our stepping out from the shade, the entire troop was in a dead run for cover. Amazing eyesight!

The springbok were feeling their oats, pronging around the meadow, making fantastic leaps that were fantastic to watch. Robert planned our next stalk, and we began making our way towards the group we had selected. Luckily, we had the heard ram and a would-be rival facing off, and the herd ram chased the interloper straight to us. Robert quickly set up the shooting sticks and began calling out ranges as the two animals came closer. At 50 meters, the ram being chased stopped, sensing our presence. He was facing me, and if I chose to shoot, I would be aiming at his right front shoulder. He turned slightly, and I squeezed off my shot just as he took another step forward.

Now the truth in hunting is that you are going to make a bad shot from time to time. This time was my moment. The shot took the ram low in the belly, going through both sides of his belly and puncturing all the way through the left hind leg. I didn't know this until later, believing I had made a better shot than that. For the next hour-and-a-half, Robert and I followed that ram, trying to get into range for a finishing shot with the air rifle. But though I had mortally wounded the ram, he still had lots of energy left, and simply wouldn't let us within range. I was relieved when Robert, being a professional guide and doing his job, suggested we finish him with the .30-06. When the chance arose, we ended the pursuit with a single well-placed shot. There is no sense in prolonging an animal's suffering when it can be avoided.

Springbok taken with DAQ .457

Later in the week, we dined on the backstrap of this animal. It had to be some of the best wild meat I've ever tasted. Robert mixed up a sauce he used on it while on the grill, and it was very tasty. I would be hard put to come up with a memory of better tasting meat than the springbok we ate that night.

Notice the hair on the springbok's back standing up....it only lasts about 5 minutes
One unusual item about taking a springbok was pointed out to me by Robert. In the pic above, you notice the hair on the back standing up. This is a reaction only seen in death, and only for a few minutes. If you stick your nose down into the hair and sniff, you'll smell a sweet honey-mustard smell.....not at all unpleasant. A little African trivia for those who plan to hunt one in the future.

The pub at Hounslow is where we spent a good bit of our time before and after hunts. It is fully stocked with several different beverages, one of which you are bound to enjoy. Trophies are located around the room, including a very impressive kudu bull. We spent many enjoyable moments reliving the day's hunt and kidding each other over missed opportunities in that room. I'm now convinced every hunting lodge needs such a room.

Jim, Andrew, and Robert in the pub

On the third and fourth day of our hunt, I spent a good bit of time stalking, a few moments shooting, and a lot of bitter disappointment in myself for missing shots that simply should have been no-brainers. Robert did a fantastic job getting me within range, sometimes closer than I thought possible to wild game. And invariably, I would shoot over or under the animal in question. With great patience, Robert worked with me on getting a handle on how I was shooting my .457. Rocks, sticks, and termite mounds had no chance when I shot at them.....but I couldn't hit the game animals for some reason! Aughh! How frustrating!

By the end of the third day, my knees were beginning to talk seriously to me about just how much out of shape I really was! So when hunting plans were discussed, I opted for an evening in the stand shooting at some small game. My knees needed the rest, and I needed a confidence boost in my shooting ability.

Using Jim's Prairie Falcon, I spent an enjoyable evening shooting dove, pigeon, guinea fowl, and vervet monkeys......never missing a single shot! Go figure!

Vervet monkeys are interesting creatures. They are a pest animal around farms and ranches, getting into everything edible, and pretty much making a nuisance of themselves. A close example of how they act is the Eastern grey squirrel in the United States.....everywhere, and into everything! The troop that I was shooting at climbed up the trees surrounding my stand. I have a picture of one looking in at me from a distance of about 3 or 4 feet, but it didn't turn out well enough to use in this story. They are very wary little critters, and a powerful .22 airgun is enough to take them with a precise shot to the head. I used Jim's Prairie Falcon on a couple, and an Evanix AR6 on some others.

Vervet monkey snatching food from a feeder

After the shot.....he just slumped forward!

A closer view of two vervet monkeys

A pigeon and ring-neck dove taken with the Prairie Falcon in .22

Guinea fowl flock coming to water

This guinea fowl came home with me!

One of the most enjoyable moments on the trip for me was when a kudu bull, the same one Eric would take a day later, came into the waterhole where I was sitting in a stand. About 45 minutes before sundown, this kudu bull you see below came in and began munching on some hay. I was close enough to hear him chew, and I was really enjoying watching him as other animals came and went around the waterhole. What amazed me was that he eventually bedded down right in front of the stand! Took a nap! He didn't get up until the truck came to get me, and he simply faded into the brush as the truck rounded the corner approaching the waterhole. When I shared that info with Robert and Eric, the decision was made to let Eric take him since previous stalks on kudu bulls weren't getting quite close enough for airgun use. So the next evening, Eric took this bull you see below with a single shot. What a beautiful animal!

Kudu bull that came into the waterhole to eat some hay. Notice the dead monkey at the bottom of the picture?

Right before the kudu bedded down, I dropped something, and he looked my way for a few minutes.

Here's the kudu the next night after Eric took him with a single shot. Eric was using a tuned Quackenbush Long Action Outlaw .457 with 510 gr slugs. Around 650 fpe!

The evening hours were once again taken up by going out in the truck spotlighting after dark. Springhares are nocturnal animals, and very unique in their method of locomotion....a bobbing, fluid-like hopping that makes them a challenging target when moving. I was able to take mine at 50 yards using Jim's .50 caliber Dragonslayer. What an accurate gun! Jim also took one that evening, using the same gun, while Eric made a fantastic shot at over 70 yards with the Evanix AR6. Below is a picture of our springhares that we took the next morning.

3 springhares with Randy, Jim, and Eric

An unusual animal that you don't see often is the African porcupine. Jim took a magnificent specimen the same evening we shot our springhares. Jim is planning to use the pictures of it in an article, so I won't post his animal. However, a few nights later, I was able to take one of my own, though not quite as large. Below is a pictures of the one I shot which will give you an idea of how they look. Jim's was about a third larger than the one I shot, a true monster of a porcupine.

African porcupine taken with DAQ .457

When mortally wounded, the porcupine begins to shake. As the quills rattle together against each other, it resembles the sound of our American rattlesnake. Sort of catches your attention, you know?

The following morning, I opted for the blind again. This time I took my .457 and the AR6 in .22 for pests. I was hoping for a cow kudu to come in for a drink, but was disappointed in that regard. However, I did shoot a couple of more vervet monkeys with the AR6. With the heavy Korean pellets, it did a fine job of anchoring the monkeys in place.

The Evanix AR-6 in .22 caliber and two vervet monkeys

The afternoon hours I spent on a stalk with Jim Chapman as he and Rob pursued a bushbuck on the side of a hill. Watching through my binoculars, I could see the slug hit the dirt between the ram's legs, just underneath him. There simply wasn't enough cover for Jim to get within optimum range, and after the shot, the ram simply faded into the bush.

Our fifth day was a day to remember! We drove about an hour north to the Kingsdale Farm in pursuit of impala. This particular ranch has a wonderful trophy room, some of which you will see on subsequent pages of this story. The owner and his sons have taken just about every big game animal available on the African continent, and he owns a beautiful farm.

I was fretting a little bit due to my having missed some very easy shots earlier in our trip. It was my fervent hope that an impala would break my unlucky streak and allow me a boost of self-confidence. Our first stalk on a group of impala didn't bring us the shot we wanted, though there were some magnificent rams in the group. Our second stalk got us within extreme range for my comfort zone, and my shot passed underneath the belly of a very nice ram. So I aired my gun back up and we set out again.

As we were driving along, three rams were walking near the road. We eased up to them in the truck and they began walking away. Picking our the best of the three, I began following him with the scope. They were walking straight away from us, and I was waiting on them to turn to see if we were following them. Though it seemed an eternity, I'm sure it was only seconds before the one on the far left began to walk to his right, giving me a quartering shot. I quickly lined up on him, imagining his front left shoulder on the far side, and shot him in his right hindquarter. The 425 gr slug hit just above the right hip, traveled the length of the spine, and lodged underneath the front left shoulder blade. It was the best shot I made the entire trip, and the young ram flipped over on his back with all four legs in the air. He didn't take a single step after the shot! I was thrilled, and very relieved.

My impala was a young two-year old, and was the first kill of the day. Jim and Eric spent a good bit more time getting their animals, but they bagged some truly nice trophies. Eric's ram took him on an hour-and-a-half stalk that I watched from about 600 meters away. But what a nice animal.....well worth the effort of the stalk.

Our impala hunting grounds.....not so much brush here

My young impala.....a trophy for me!

Andrew and myself with my impala, taken with the DAQ .457 using 425 gr slug

Eric and Andrew load my impala while I relive the moment in my mind

Impala and DAQ .457

Great shot placement......right on the hip

After an hour-and-a-half stalk, Eric bagged this beautiful ram using a DAQ .457 shooting 510 gr slugs
It was an absolutely perfect day for all three of us. We each bagged our impala, and saw some very fine specimens of South Africa's abundant game. This day was perhaps my favorite day of the entire trip. But the day wasn't over yet!

We headed back to Hounslow, ate supper, and headed out for an evening hunt. On this hunt I bagged the second porcupine of the trip, which you saw on the previous page. And much later, around 1 a.m., I bagged my duiker, a small antelope about the size of a german shepherd dog

Duiker, a small antelope, and DAQ .457

On our last day, Andrew and I attempted to find a warthog, but to no avail. We did climb up on a high point and enjoyed a magnificent view of the countryside. On one side of the point, the wind chilled you to the bone......and 12 steps away to the sunny side, you roasted in the sun! A troop of baboons came out about 600 meters away, and we kept hoping they would come our way, but it wasn't to be. They wandered around and eventually went the other way.

Andrew and I glassing the countryside

The waterhole below our position

On the afternoon of our last day, Eric and I went after hyrax, or dassies, as they are called locally. The hyrax is one of the closest living relatives of the elephant, but is only the size of a groundhog. They have huge teeth and eat a good bit of forage. I wasn't able to bag one, but Eric got a couple that you can see below.

Hyrax enjoy rough, rocky terrain

Eric and a hyrax with DAQ Lightsporter in .22

Hyrax teeth

Waiting on a hyrax to show himself

We all have favorite memories....perhaps of a vacation, a childhood event, or something special that happens to us. This trip will be one of my favorite memories. The sights, sounds, smells, and experiences of hunting in South Africa will bring a smile to my face and a fond remembrance to my mind each time I see these pictures. On the last day, as we were finishing the last hunt, I was standing on the cliff looking over the terrain, trying to fix it in my mind so I wouldn't forget it. Robert took a few photos, and snapped this last picture of the sun setting behind me. I thought it would make a good closing to this brief story of our hunt.

One of the last moments I held a gun while hunting in South Africa

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My Theory of Airgun Hunting

by Randy Mitchell  

I am not an expert.......quite to the contrary, I am a rank amateur in the world of airguns. However, what I do possess is a love of the hunt that goes unequaled in my family. If I were to describe to you my vision of retirement, it would be getting up each morning and going hunting.....for something! Game animals, pests, vermin, whatever.....it is the hunt I enjoy.

Having started my third hunting season without firearms, I have come to the conclusion that I could hunt all of the relevant game that I pursue using airguns exclusively. There isn't a small game animal I can think of that can't be pursued with an airgun where the law allows. Granted, you may need to adjust the "method" of your hunt, but it can be done. I can even pursue larger game such as hogs and deer with an airgun under the correct conditions. Will I ever give up my firearms? Not likely! But the greater challenge of using an airgun appeals greatly to me.

As more and more people discover my love of airguns, I sometimes run across the attitude of "why use a BB gun instead of a real gun?" It is really quite simple......the challenge. You see, my first memories of hunting involve following my uncles around, trying to keep both ends of the 20-gauge shotgun off the ground while we followed the dogs through the pine forests of Louisiana. The method of hunting they used was to allow the dogs to tree, then shake the limbs to make the squirrel move. Once the squirrel was located, the shotguns were brought into play, often tracking a swift-moving squirrel through the treetops. It is a wonderful way to hunt, especially with a group of people.

However, most of my hunting these days is done solitaire. I "still-hunt", either sitting or slowly moving through the forest in search of game. By far the majority of shots are at stationary game, not fast-moving animals running for cover. I spent my teenage years and young adulthood hunting in such a manner, using a shotgun of some sort. Eventually, it became too easy. So on occasion I switched to using a handgun, usually in .22 rimfire for small game. Much more challenging! This was more like it! But now I have another problem.

Rimfire cartridges, though relatively low in power compared to their centerfire cousins, can still present a problem that I call "backstop" issues. All responsible sportsmen know of the requirement of being sure of where your shot will go in the event you miss your intended target. Rimfire cartridges can travel quite a distance under certain conditions, and safety is an issue that is the responsibility of us all.  Since I hunt the outskirts of the small town I live in, or on active agricultural grounds such as dairy farms and other working farms, I care immensely where my shot goes.

So....I now use airguns. The manner in which I got involved in using "adult airguns" is described elsewhere on my site, if you are interested in it. But suffice it to say that it was important to me that I not disturb my neighbors. And where my shot went was of even greater importance. So I entered the world of airguns with utter amazement at their capabilities. Squirrels and rabbits fell with accurately placed shots as surely as if I had used a shotgun! Starlings and sparrows became less of a problem around my habitat due to my emerging skills with airguns.  Even larger pests such as the possum fell beneath the onslaught of my air arsenal. My birdfeeders became far safer from the predations of squirrels and unwanted sparrows. And in the spring of 2004 I harvested a 120 lb. wild feral hog on a hunt in Texas!

So just why would someone hunt with an airgun? Here are some suggestions:
     1.  Airguns are for the marksman. It is a matter of pride that I can place a small lead pellet with enough precision to harvest game and dispose of pests.......all with a puff of air!
     2.  Airguns require better stalking skills. In most cases you have to get closer to your prey, which translates into more "hunting" and less "shooting".
     3.  Airguns broaden your hunting possibilites.  Quite often you will find land owners willing to let you hunt with an airgun where using a firearm is out of the question.
     4.  Airguns are safer.  Airguns have a much-reduced range than firearms, which greatly reduces the problem of "backstop issues" I mentioned earlier.  And in the event of an accidental discharge, your chance of injury is much less. Not gone, just less.

These are just a few thoughts that helped me decide to concentrate on airgun hunting as opposed to using firearms. I whole-heartedly support the right to bear arms, and in no way condone the disarming of law-abiding citizens. But airguns have opened up a far more challenging and satisfying form of recreation for me that I had never considered until recently.

I hope my meager ramblings along this corridor of thought make sense to you. They are only my humble opinions on this matter, and don't represent any particular group. If it did, I'd be charging a fee for this theory! In any event, enjoy your airgun hunting. If you have any questions, I'll answer as best I can. Just e-mail me.

Rev. Randy Mitchell

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An Afternoon at the Dairy Farm

The lousy spring weather finally gave way to a rather decent day after all. As soon as work was over, I loaded up my BSA Spitfire, pump, and a supply of Crosman Premiere 14.3 gr domes. At the end of a short drive was the dairy farm of one of my church members. Feral pigeons, starlings, and English sparrows were everywhere! And they are in season all year long!  
 As you can see, I had a productive afternoon. In less than two hours I managed to bag these 12 pests, six starlings and six sparrows. When I pulled up to the dairy barn, the hired hand stepped out and asked me to shoot some of the birds around his rent house on the property that he lived in. It was an older house that was suffering around the eaves quite badly. Sparrows and starlings were flying in and out of the attic through large holes under the eaves.

I settled in by the dog house and chatted with the tenant and his son for a minute before taking my first shot. I actually had to make up my mind which bird to shoot since there were so many in the trees around the house. Finally, I chose a female English sparrow who was supervising the building of a rather untidy nest that her mate kept messing up. Placing the crosshairs on her shoulder joint (she was facing broadside to me) I stroked the trigger. Thwack! A perfect shot with a .22 pellet at less than 25 yards from the Spitfire left a puff of feathers and a limp figure on the ground.

I retrieved my kill and took my place again as the sparrows began discussing what had happened to one of their number. The next 3 sparrows were all males who had more fight in them than sense. They just kept fussing until I harvested all 3 of the little chatterboxes. Then came a period of quiet as the birds began to realize something wasn't quite normal this afternoon. Every time they heard a click and a very quiet hand-clap sound, one of them would fall. So they began avoiding the house for a short time (which was just what the tenant wanted!)

I relocated, but didn't have any luck around the barns. The owner was working on his tractors, and milking time was about to begin, so the birds were being disturbed by loud noises and shifting cattle. After about hald-an-hour I went back to the house to see if anything had changed.

To my delight the starlings were beginning to wing their way in, landing in the trees around the house. I watched them for a few minutes, then eased my gun up as one of them landed on the outside branch of the tree where no intervening branches would deflect my shot. POP! One down!

The other starlings headed for places unknown once they realized that I was there. I maintained my position for the next hour and was rewarded by 5 more starlings which would glide in, land in the tree I was sitting under, and then tumble to the ground after I went through the process of placing the crosshairs on their bodies and lightly stroking the trigger. The Spitfire almost makes it too easy, sometimes!

I kept hoping for the pigeons to make an appearance within range, but I was out of luck today on that account. They were the big game of today's hunt at the dairy farm, but I had to settle for the small fry this time.

I added 2 more sparrows to the mix before I decided that I had better head home for the evening. Elapsed time was roughly 2 hours. I placed my kills in my bucket, using an old pair of tongs so as not to handle them any more than necessary. I cased my BSA Spitfire and enjoyed a leisurely drive home while listening to a rather nice orchestra from Prague on the local classical channel. What a nice afternoon!

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Squirrel Hunting from a Boat

In the state of Kentucky it is legal to hunt small game from a boat. You are also allowed to use airguns as long as you use lead pellets and not steel bb's. And, during boating season, it is quite neighborly to keep your hunting as quiet as possible. So airguns are ideal for this experience.

Kentucky has a two week spring squirrel season, immediately following the first breeding season, around the first of June. This is a great time to hunt from a boat since there are many young squirrels who have never been hunted, and they are not the least cautious of a boat cruising up and down the shore.

My first experience of squirrel hunting from a boat was during the 2002 Spring squirrel season. I came back totally empty handed. However, the second trip was great! I took my 18-ft. Bass Tracker to Rough River and put in on a beautiful spring day. The dock was in a bend of the river, and I had barely gotten around the bend using my trolling motor when squirrel #1 came prancing down to the water's edge. I coasted up to him with Spitfire in hand, and when he raised up from drinking to see just how close I was going to come, I nailed him with a quick shot to the ear. He jumped straight out into the lake and disappeared under the water. I trolled up and fished him out of the shallows. Total time on the lake so far was under 10 minutes.

Now, shooting from a boat takes some getting use to if you've never done it before. The boat is moving both up and down as well as drifting with the current. You may want to try popping a few pieces of debris along the bank before trying to bag a small game animal.

Over the course of the next few hours, I alternated between fishing for large-mouth bass and hunting for squirrels. The second squirrel was cutting fresh buds from a tree near the edge of the water when I silently coasted up to him. He never even paused as I lined up for the shot. The pellet tumbled him from his perch to land about six inches into the water.

Before the day was over, I had managed to bag the state limit of six squirrels and also land 3 bass! However, I didn't emerge totally unscathed. One of the squirrels I bagged got his revenge as he was harvested. This squirrel was a large, adult fox squirrel, the largest of Kentucky's squirrels. He was feasting on a branch that hung out over the water. I just couldn't resist trying to shoot one and have it fall in the boat. So, I cruised up to him, and shot him at a ridiculous range of six feet. I even had to hold over with the scope in order to hit him. Well, I hit him....hard!  He collapsed, lodged in the fork of a branch. And he was literally pouring blood out of his head. My boat continued drifting up under him, and my boat, hat shirt, pants, open gun case, fishing tackle, and 50-hp Mercury engine all received a bath in squirrel blood! To get him down, I had to circle around again and shoot him in the body. This time he landed literally in my lap. But not until he had drenched everything he could in blood! What a mess!

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Auggh! Skunk!

 by Mark Bolson 

Career Carbine w/camo


My dog woke me up tonight barking at a skunk in the backyard.  It's 2 a.m. and I was ready to kick her butt and I look over the fence and there it is. I bolted back through the house and out to the truck to the waiting instrument of death.  I could get to the back yard right by my truck. I eased the gate open, dog still barking and growling, with my wife at the back door watching. I clicked on the Logun lamp, and of course I'm zeroed for this exact spot.  I let one fly into his head....clang! I heard the pellet hit the fence. Now surely I hit it cause it wasn't moving! I shot again, same spot....clang again! My wife says "Did you get it, yet?" I yell back "Beats me, I keep hitting the fence, I think."
Well, after 4 shots, I was sure I had gotten it, even though I kept hearing the pellet hit the fence. I went and reloaded and went to look closer.

Sure enough....3 head shots and one behind the shoulder, complete pass throughs on each shot!

I've been waiting for this skunk for a good while. Enjoy the pics!
                                        -  Mark Bolson  
Mark Bolson and Eric Henderson enjoy hunting with their airguns. They enjoy hunting varmints with their bigbore airguns and disposing of pests with their smaller calibers as well. Folks, airgun hunting is FUN! It is also a somewhat more challenging endeavor than using powder burners, and you will enjoy pitting your skills and know-how against the myriad number of prey that are suitable for hunting with an airgun. Here are a few more pics from Mark. Enjoy! 

Raccoon at 125 yrds with Career!        Crows with a Tarantula
Ringtail at 155 yards with a Career!      A pair of rabbits

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Starling Control

These starlings were brought into range with leftover popcorn  
Starlings are considered a pest species in the state of Kentucky. There is a year-round, no limit season on them. These birds are definately the bullies of the bird feeder. You can learn more about the Vikings of the Bird World at Starlingkillers home page. He has some excellent information concerning the imported disaster that is the European starling.  
Starlings taken with the BSA Spitfire .22 pellet gun  
Starling Control story from CBS news  

Michigan Dairy farmers and starling control  
How ethical is the control of pests with a pellet gun? Well, consider the following. I use to work for Orkin pest control. I know the cost of avian pest control using Avitrol and other poisons. It is expensive! And then there's the fact that poisons as a rule are not target specific. Yes, there are some poisons that work on only certain species, but again, you are talking significant capital to use such poisons, not to mention trained personnel and quite often, state environmental agency involvement. And, if you use a poison that is not target specific, you run the risk of affecting desireable species, such as songbirds, etc.  Then there is the time involved. First you have to train the birds to come to the decoy feed, then slip the poison in the food after you have them coming on a regular basis. This can take a week or more!

I simply keep an airgun by the window and harvest the specific offending pest. His friends promptly leave the area when they see their comrade fall, and I am quite often done with them for the rest of the day. Oh, they'll be back, certainly. But there is no poison on the ground, and the harvested pest is disposed of in a safe manner, rather than left to fly off and die wherever it happens to drop.

A few things to keep in mind about using pellet guns for pest control:

1.  The most important thing to know is when NOT to shoot!
2.  Keep your shots within your personal effective range. You want to kill the pest, not injure it.
3.  Practice and know the ranges at which you will be shooting.
4.  Use the appropriate airgun for the job. Pigeons are harder to kill than starlings, and fur-bearing varmints often require a little more power than your lower-range airguns      provide.
5.  Be considerate of your neighbors. They make better friends than enemies. 

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Backyard Possum Safari

 It was early. Six-thirty a.m. with a slow moving fog blanketing the streets and yards of the neighborhood. I had stepped out the back door into the wilderness called my back yard to walk the dog. Having finished that chore, I glanced up from fastening the chain on the handle of the dog kennel to see a disembodied head looking my way, floating at ground level about 15 yards away. Possum! He was enjoying the scraps of bread that the birds had left unfinished from the day before. As he turned away, he eerily disappeared, the colors of his coat blending perfectly into the darkness and fog. Only his white face showed when he turned my way occasionally to check on my whereabouts.

I eased into the house and snatched up the BSA Spitfire, a PCP air rifle in .22, shrouded to dull the firing report. Armed with a handful of Crosman 14.3 gr Premier pellets and the Spitfire, I eased out the back door again. The fog was beginning to dissipate, making my quarry more visible. He was a medium sized specimen, enjoying a last-minute snack before heading back to his den. I focused the AO on my scope down to 15 yards and placed the crosshairs behind the left ear of the possum as he headed away. Smack! The possum flinched as my less-than-perfect shot brought about a more lively run than his previous meandering walk through my yard. Not wanting a wounded animal to suffer, I charged off in pursuit.

My quarry rounded to face me, cornered against a chain link fence he had neither the time to climb or to find a way under. My second shot came at a range of 10 feet, not yards, and the pellet did its intended job this time with dispatch. The possum rolled and breathed his last, his days of being a neighborhood pest who invades houses and garages, trash cans and pet food containers coming to an end. 
 The next day, I was gathering fallen limbs in the backyard from the previous week's storm when I heard two loud shots, obviously from a firearm. I eased up to the fence separating my yard from a neighbor's. Not knowing if there were a domestic disturbance or a legitimate reason for someone firing a gun in the middle of town, I had my cell phone cued to the local police station, only one block away.  
 I peeked over the fence just as a third shot went off. There stood a police officer with his sidearm pointing at the ground in front of him. "Everything okay?" I asked. He turned to explain that he was just taking care of another possum that the homeowner had complained about. Geez! With a .45?

I went back to my stick gathering, musing over the fact that I could dispatch possums without bothering even the nieghborhood dogs, much less people, in near perfect silence, whereas the local police department used the much louder and potentially frightening manner of hurling bullets at a creature about the size of a beagle or smaller. Oh, well!

Now I began to realize that the neighborhood must be plagued with possums. I had even seen them in daylight hours walking through the backyard immediately behind mine, seemingly oblivious to cars, dogs, and people who inhabit the daylight hours of our small town. So I decided to see how many possums I would see in a month from my back window.

I continued feeding the songbirds and other desirable avian species with crumbs and birdfeeders. The less-than-desirable starlings and English sparrows met with a decidedly less-than-friendly greeting, courtesy of which ever airgun was closest upon sighting them. Each night I would check the backyard before going to bed. Going to the extra bedroom, I would douse the lights and close my eyes to accustom them to the darkness. I would then open them and peer out beneath the slightly raised shade to check the yard. The dog would invariably be doing less than nothing, no threat to either wild animal or burglar. To him, only bicycles were worth barking at.

In less than two weeks from the first possum slaying, another meandering marsupial showed his presence in my backyard. My shot at this one resulted in the possum disappearing into the convenient drain pipe, not to appear for at least the next half hour. Tiring of the wait, I went on to bed.

The next night following the last sighting, I took my station at the back window. I spent only ten minutes gazing in the direction that the last two possums had come from, only to be startled by a large specimen appearing less than 10 yards away, practically at my feet. And from the other direction! He had to have walked right by the dog pen! Stupid dog!

My window was still closed so that I could cock and load the BSA Supersport in .22 without alerting my prey. It wasn't already loaded because it is a springer, and I didn't want to compress the spring until I was sure I was going to need it. Now that I was properly armed, I eased the window open slowly, but apparently not quiet enough. The possum stopped his feasting on left-over bread to face the window, showing that eery grin that only the possum can do. I sighted my crosshairs on a spot directly behind the eye. There was just enough light from another window to provide a good sight picture.

 Smack! This pellet went precisely where I intended, and the possum began his death roll. I sprinted outside with another pellet loaded and ready to find the possum still gasping his last, unable to move from the concussion of a .22 pellet going 680 fps colliding with his brain. I administered the coup-de-grace, marveling at the size of this particular possum.

That makes 3 possums in the neighborhood within one month's time, two dispatched by myself, the other by the local police department. I believe I will petition the Kentucky State Department of Wildlife and nominate the possum as the state quadruped, since there seems to be so many of them!  
Final Note: 
 I hope you enjoyed this little story of possum hunting. I include this paragraph to again caution airgun users to be responsible in their hunting. Had I been in the woods, I would not have dispatched any of the possums. In the woods, they are not a pest. In town, it is another matter. Your particular area's opinion of wildlife going through their garages, dumpsters, etc. may differ from mine. Be considerate of others in your airgun use and hunting practices.

Possum and BSA Supersport in .22

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Groundhog Man

 "Thumper" is perhaps a groundhog's worst nightmare! He was kind enough to share these great pics of his groundhog hunts as well as a few others, including a red fox, squirrels, and a few pics of his wonderful airguns. Enjoy!    (all photos courtesy of Thumper) 

Groundhog with RX-2 in .22 shooting FTS @ 798 fps

21 lb groundhog taken with an AAS410 carbine at 42 yards using JSB pellets in .22 at 884 fps. Thumper's largest to date.

Groundhog with the RA800

RA800 and another groundhog

Red fox taken with RA800 at 38 yards

Squirrel posing post-mortem

6 squirrels with R-9 Goldfinger
in .20

Rabbit taken with  12" Falcon in .22 with JSB's at 790 fps at a range of 35 yards

Custom stocked AAS410C using birds-eye maple

 Falcon with brass and gold-plated furniture in .22.  Stock by DaveG.

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Idaho Rock Chuck Hunt

by Blackpaw  

  Rock Chuck sitting in the sun
(Courtesy of Blackpaw)  

The hunt for a rock chuck yesterday was a success. I left my mom's house in Pocatello, Idaho and headed to an area where I hunt rock chucks. It is a gorgeous and not too rugged area. If you want to hunt monster mule deer, it is a tough place to beat.

Venom Viper and Rock Chuck with .22 JSB Exacts
(Courtesy of Blackpaw)

The chucks in the area I was hunting usually hang out on the lava rock outcrops, mixed with dirt and vegetation. The rifle I took with me was a Webley Scott Venom Viper, a .22 pre-charge pneumatic air rifle, using JSB Exact pellets. It is a beautiful rifle that is as accurate as anything I have ever shot. The scope is a 4 x 16 Sightron with a Mil-Dot reticule.

I suited up in a greenish multi-tone camo that I got from a Danish military outfit with whom I worked the previous year and went exploring for chucks. The area is a mixture of plowed fields, aspens and lava outcrops. I wandered around about midday in several locations, starting about 1 pm and didn't see any chucks for almost the first two hours. So after about 3 to 4 miles of hiking, the clouds came over and I guess the chucks were just waiting for things to cool down.

I went from a low area to a higher area that led back to where my truck was parked. I followed some lava outcrops and lo and behold, I spotted a chuck through my binoculars as I was scanning ahead just in case.

Well the first two chucks busted me and they didn't come back out after I waited for 20 minutes, hiding in the bushes.  I gave up on those two and tried for another one I saw about 300 yards away. I stalked my way to the chuck, who did run into his burrow, but didn't chirp in alarm. There was a high clump of sagebrush parallel to the chuck's rock about 25 to 35 yards away. With this terrain set-up, I waited for another 15 to 20 minutes. The chuck eventually appeared on my left. I slowly lifted the Viper, put the cross-hairs between his left eye and ear, pulled the trigger, and Viper unleashed its venom!  

Danish Military camo used in the hunt by Blackpaw

 All photos courtesy of Blackpaw

Closeup of Rockchuck

Venom Viper in .22


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Hunting with the Crosman 2240

by Echochap 
 Hunting with an Air Pistol
Some time back I started hunting big game such as deer and wild boar with a handgun. Over the last few years I have gotten back into hunting with air rifles, a sport that I became involved with while living in Europe. More recently I decided that I'd like to hunt with an air pistol as well. There are several reasons why an air pistol would be attractive. There is of course the added challenge of having to get in closer to one's game, and the fact that pistols are not as easy to shoot accurately as rifles are. A practical note for me is that I travel quite a bit for my work, and it is much easier to throw a pistol into my checked luggage than it is to haul around a rifle. However, the power of most air pistols is just not adequate for this application. A handgun for hunting must generate sufficient power to kill cleanly and humanely, and a .177 shooting at 450 fps will only generate 3-4 fpe, which is far too weak for any serious hunting application. While thinking about this I stumbled first across the Crosman 2240 air pistol, then across a number of forums discussing modifications for this gun and websites offering after-market parts.

Why the Crosman 2240
Even without extensive modification the 2240 has the power and accuracy to take up to rabbit size game inside of 20 yards. Firing a 14.3 grain projectile at 500 fps results in 8 fpe, which is reasonable for hunting. I build my hunting handguns on this platform because there are several sources for obtaining parts to improve accuracy, increase power, and optimize the gun for hunting applications. It is possible to modify these guns for bulk fill, use modified springs, replace the receiver and bolt with high quality precision components, modify the valves, tune the trigger and replace the barrel with different lengths and calibers. There are various ways to mount optics for use with a scope or a red dot, and a selection of grips, and even stocks to make a carbine.

The guns I typically hunt with are shown below, and include three variations on the theme. The first is a standard gun with barrel clamp scope mounts and a 2x Tasco scope. It has received a valve job, heavy duty springs, and the trigger has been lightened to about two pounds. The target style grips were made of a nicely figured red oak.
The next gun wears iron sites and has also received a valve job, heavy duty springs, and the trigger has been lightened to about three pounds. The barrel has been cut down and re-crowned which necessitated that the front sight was reshaped to allow clearance for the CO2 cartridge to be inserted. I also cut the grips down and fabricated a set of round butt grips in walnut. The third gun has also received the obligatory valve job, heavy duty springs, and the trigger has been lightened to about two pounds. The single screw scope mount was fabricated from a portion of a Remington shotgun mount and some reshaping of the breach, to which a red dot was affixed. I made a moderator out of a used CO2 cartridge that I filed down and attached with three small screws. The target style grips have been made out of a nice walnut. As amatter of fact, making grips for my 2240's has become ahobby in and of itself.

The Hunt
The types of game I hunt with an air pistol includes "feather": (sparrows, starlings, pigeons;) and "fur": (squirrels, cottontails, and jackrabbits.)  I keep my shooting range to within 25 yards and try to make head shots, which usually means either a clean kill or a clean miss. One of the things that I really enjoy when hunting with an air pistol is the need to stalk within close range, which can make for a challenging hunt.  The hunter using an air pistol must pass up many shots which a rifle shooter would not think twice about, and the bag limits are lower as a result. But as I am not a sustenance hunter, this is an easily accepted trade off for me.

The first live target I tried with these guns was bird pests; sparrows, starling and pigeons. There are a few scattered industrial areas surrounded by fields and farmland close to where I live. Hiking these areas in the early evenings and weekends when there are no workers provides me ample opportunity to get in quick varminting sessions. A 2240 can easily be used to take sparrows and starlings even without modification. When shooting these light-bodied birds, we typically use either wad cutters or hollowpoint pellets to prevent over-penetration, and go for chest shots as those little heads move around way too much.  
On one trip out to the desert, our game was to be jackrabbit. But we did not see a rabbit in two days of hiking the high desert; I still don't know what was up with that. Some days things fall into place, others they don't, but anyway we eventually walked right into a flock of starlings feeding along the railway tracks. My brother and I put away our rifles and pulled our pistols out of our packs, loaded up, and started working the area. Hunting the ridges, gullies, washes, and hillsides along the tracks, we each took a few of these colorful despoilers of the bird world. When they spooked they would only move short distances. We kept picking up singles and small groups for a couple of hours. We had great fun, and it did soften the blow of striking out on the rabbits.

More recently, my son and I went after jackrabbits one day while on a multi-day trip with nothing but our tuned 2240's. We were using a 2240 topped with a red dot and a cut down 2240 with iron sights, both having undergone the modifications mentioned above. Because we were going to keep our range within 20 yards or so, I decided to use heavy round-nose pellets. I figured the trajectory would not be a problem at this distance, the added pellet weight would impact more forcefully, and over-penetration would not be an issue on these relatively thick-bodied animals. Working our way along the washes and sparse desert brush, we took a number of these desert hares, and with one exception, were able to achieve clean kills.  
The power and accuracy is available with these pistols for short range hunting. The ethical issue that the hunter must resolve for themselves is, are their shooting skills up to the task? If so, this is a great method of hunting I would highly recommend.

All photos appear courtesy of Echochap

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How to Kill an Air Conditioner

Somehow, I managed to kill my house's air conditioner with a blowgun.  Really.

Once the squirrels invaded the attic, their favorite way in was to simply follow the coolant line out of the attic and up or down the outside wall. My house has bedford stone sides, so the squirrels have no problem whatsoever climbing the side of the house like it was a tree.  
Squirrel entrance to my attic (all taped up now!)  
There is a window right next to the refrigerant line going up into the attic of the house. I stationed myself there with my trusty blowgun and waited for a squirrel to show his face. Well, one finally did, sticking his head out of the attic about 4 feet from my station at the window. I aimed (sort of) and fired a 4" dart at the eye of the squirrel. The dart hit the line the squirrel was holding on to, puncturing it and letting out one of the loudest "hisssssss" I have ever heard. I half expected the squirrel to die of a heart attack, since I nearly had one myself. He disappeared back into the attic while I gazed helplessly at my punctured coolant line. Now who would have thought that a simple blowgun dart could puncture a copper or brass line like that? Warning! It can.

After confessing to my wife that I had taken away her cool air at the start of the warm spring we were experiencing, I decided to wait until the squirrels were out in the yard before I shot at them anymore. My wife mumbled a few words about some "great white hunter" who may wish to camp outside (read "doghouse") and resigned herself to my peculiarities.

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Mojave Desert Jackrabbit Hunt by Echochap

Last week my kids and I went jackrabbit hunting on the California/Nevada border in the deep Mojave Desert. After getting up and having a big breakfast, we headed out along a dirt road we'd spotted earlier in the week while out on a scouting trip. It led back into a very hot, very rugged area dotted with desert brush. This part of the Mojave is different than what I usually hunt, more barren, fewer succulents, and no Joshua trees. The spot we decided to try first was sparsely vegetated with a number of washes, and I suspected that it would be a hot spot for jacks based on the spore we found.

My son was carrying a Beeman R1 in .177, my daughter carried my Beeman C1 .177 carbine, and I carried a modified Crosman 2240 pistol in .22, though we swapped guns throughout the day. It was already close to 100 degrees as we drove along, and just minutes into the drive we spotted a large blacktail jackrabbit bounding across the road up ahead. As we stopped the car and quietly piled out, my son spotted another jack laying in a scrape about 50 yards away. He slowly stalked to about 30 yards with his sister and me trailing behind. We watched as he raised his rifle, clicking open the scope cover and off the safety, he let the hollowpoint pellet fly. We saw the pellet hit, a solid thud and a fluff of fur flying off the chest of the rabbit as it leaped up into the air and took a couple steps behind a bush. My daughter had been working her way around from the opposite side and signaled that she saw the rabbit. I gave her the nod to take the shot as her brother was cut off by heavy brush. She sat down and braced the rifle on her knee. She later told me that she'd been able to see the big old jack between the branches of the shrub. Taking aim she braced herself and slowly squeezed the trigger and on impact the rabbit lunged. As the three of us slowly stepped around the brush, we were surprised to find two nice jackrabbits anchored.

As the kids hiked back to the car to get some water, I decided to work my way around a wash dotted with brush and a few cactus. Moving very slowly behind cover of the rather sparse bush I spotted a rabbit scrape and could make out a little bit of the rabbit's head. Raising my pistol and looking through the scope, I found that I had a clear, thoug small, shooting lane. I squeezed the trigger, but nothing happened. After clicking off the safety and lining up my shot again, I let fly a .22 round nose pellet. There was a satisfying thud as the projectile hit the rabbit right behind the eye. The rabbit dropped and I carried it back to the other two taken by the kids. We hunted the washes for about three hours and took a total of six big jackrabbits before calling a pool break.

We took a short rest and let it cool down a bit before heading back. As we reached the area of our earlier hunt and parked, we immediately saw a rabbit bolt. We followed him about a quarter mile before he held up next to one of the few Joshua trees growing here. I took a kneeling position and aimed the R1, setting the scope at 9x. I went for the chest, and as I squeezed off the shot the jack just rolled over, dead by the time we got to him. I paced off the distance and it was 50 yards. All in all, it was a great hunt -- we nailed nine jack rabbits in the two hunts. We made shots between 25 to 50 yards, sometimes in a fairly stiff breeze. The Beeman R1 and C1 are two of my favorite rifles for jackrabbit hunting. They are highly accurate and very powerful air guns. The heavy round nose pellets fed to both of these rifles worked better than the hollowpoints. They did not over penetrate, had better knock down power, and were more accurate at the 35+ yard shots.

The 2240 is an inherently accurate pistol, and topped with a good scope it was very accurate out to almost 25 yards. The gun I used has been modified with a valve job and 10" barrel and generates about 12 fpe. I have taken a number of cottontails and squirrels with this gun; however, on these big hares the knock down power was not really optimal. Using heavy round nose pellets I shot one rabbit at about 30 yards, and then spent the next half hour chasing him through the brush to get inside of 20 yards for a killing shot to finish the job. In the future I'll try a large bore pistol in .32 or 9mm to see if I can get better results. If not, I'll stick to rifles for this quarry.

But the really great thing was spending the day with my two kids. They grow up fast, and the chance to spend a day in the field doing something we all enjoy is special to me. Both my kids did very well with their gun handling, and I think that the next step is to take them with me for big game. These airgun hunts have been an excellent training ground. The only down side was that even though we were using sunscreen factor 30, we all got a burn from the brutally hot desert sun to carry with us over the next few days!

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Deer Hunt 2005

This year's deer season came upon us here in KY with extremely warm weather. The first day of the season was a chance for me and my oldest son, Bryan (age 10) to go on our first deer hunt together where he was allowed to carry a gun. We had a great day, with Bryan getting a shot at his first deer. Unfortunately, he missed, but the memories we created on that hunt will hopefully last a lifetime. I know it will for me!

On Monday, November 14, I returned to the stand Bryan and I had used the previous Saturday. I was a little late getting to the stand since my wife was at work and I was in charge of getting the boys on the school bus and dropping our daughter off at daycare. However, I logged in at the clubhouse for the area I was hunting and made it to the stand by 8:00 am. It was an overcast day, and as I pulled up to the parking area, a doe headed off into the woods. I was hoping that was a good omen. On the walk down to the stand, another deer blew its alarm as it headed for thicker cover. At least the deer were in the area!

Once in the stand, I fastened my safety belts and loaded up my .50 caliber airgun. Dennis Quackenbush makes a thoroughly enjoyable airgun, one whose potential I am still exploring. Having killed a doe last year with it at 50 yards, I had no doubt it was sufficient for the job, especially since the longest shot from my stand would be about the same range. And in its muzzleloader configuration, I am able to meet the legal requirements of hunting deer in KY with an airgun.

At 8:35, I heard a crashing in the underbrush. To the right of my stand I watched a doe make her way down the hill towards my position. She was unalarmed, and I was thankful I had done my scent-free ritual this morning as the wind was blowing her way. She continued making her way towards me, and I eased my gun into position for what was going to prove to be a very close shot indeed.....15 yards! As she continued walking the trail towards me, I chose a spot free of branches where I would take my shot.

Step by step, cautious as deer are, she advanced until she stopped directly in the place I had chosen for my shot. I centered the scope on her right front shoulder, eased it back an inch or so, and touched off my shot. BLAM! The shot was unusually loud in the ravine I was set up in, and the .495 roundball punched all the way through the doe, hitting both lungs on the way through. She took a short hop, and stopped. She looked around for about 5 seconds as if wondering what had made that sound, and then staggered 8 yards before collapsing. In seconds it was all over.

Knowing that she might be followed by a buck, I reloaded and sat back down. Within 2 minutes, another doe stepped out of the underbrush and began to follow the same route. And 3 minutes after her came the buck I was expecting! I glassed him over, counting points as our club has a 6-point or better rule.

Sigh! Only 5-points! Here I had an opportunity to set history with a double kill taken with an airgun....probably the first ever in KY! But it wasn't to be. I must have inspected that little buck's rack a dozen times. searching for even the smallest suggestion of a 6th point, but to no avail.

Now, the funny part of this story is the attitude of the buck. He was definately trailing the doe I shot since he made his way over to her, cautiously checking the area about every two or three steps. He eventually got right up on her and began taking her tail in his mouth, lifting it up and checking her scent. This little guy was on the prod, his hormones taking away his common sense! After about 5 minutes of encouraging her to get up (which wasn't going to happen!), he walked about 15 yards off and bedded down! Good grief!

Here you can see the little 5-pointer inspecting the doe I shot
Sometimes one of the most enjoyable things about hunting is the time you spend watching wildlife and their habits. I must have watched this little buck for 45 minutes, before and after he bedded down. I spent the time eating an apple and hoping for a larger buck to be on the same trail following my doe. But that didn't happen, and I finally decided I needed to get my doe out of the woods and back to the clubhouse.

I stood up, took off my safety belt, packed up my belongings, and was halfway down the ladder before the little buck realized I was even around! As he took off down the ravine, I wished him luck....as stupid as he was today, he may not last long unless he pays better attention!

I took a few more pictures and then hiked out of the ravine to get my ATV. After loading her up, I drove out the long way since I wasn't going to try going back up the hill with her on the back....I just knew I would tip over! Back at camp, I took another pic or two that you see below. It was a great hunt, and the DAQ .50 Bandit performed wonderfully, making the kill with authority. Now, if I can just get a larger buck before the season ends.........


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Hunting with Classic Airguns - Crosman 101

A 1939 Crosman Model 101 "Silent" in .22 caliber - with decal still on the pump arm!

Since getting into airguns a few years ago, I've always had a soft spot for the great airguns of yesteryear. Though I really enjoy my modern bigbores and pre-charged guns, there is something of the kid still in this 40-year old man that longs for the carefree days of youth, roaming the woods with nothing more than a pump-up airgun. I remember well my teenage years, taking rabbits and rattlesnakes with nothing more than an old Crosman 760 smoothbore. Ah, those were the days!

Once I revived my interest in airguns a few years ago, I started keeping an eye out for certain models. As luck would have it, I chanced across a gun shop that had several older Crosman airguns hanging from the rafters and shoved into corners. Apparently, no one knew their value or the fun that could be had with the workhorses of yesterday's airgunning world. Imagine picking up a Crosman 600, in need of repair, for $19.00!

Along with that Model 600, I found this Model 101 in almost perfect physical condition, with a few scratches in the paint covering the brass barrel, and of course the dried out seals that would not hold air. Taking it home, I contacted Dave Gunter who agreed to put it back together in working order for me, and a few months later, I had in my hand a working Model 101, all original parts except for what Dave replaced, and a desire to take it to the woods for squirrel. (Dave let me know that this one was only made for 1 year, from 1938-39. The forearm is a hard rubber, for quieter pumping, therefore called the "silent" model).

My opportunity for hunting with this classic came a few days after the end of the 2005 deer season here in Kentucky. I headed out back of my house into a little patch of woods on the edge of town. With 8 pumps in the reservoir, I felt confident of my ability to take a squirrel if the right shot presented itself. After sitting in a spot for 30 minutes and noticing nothing moving, I headed to the far side of the spot I was hunting, hoping to find a squirrel sunning on one of the big dead trees that bordered a cultivated field.

Easing my way through the cedar thicket, I would occasionally bend down to look as far as I could through the canopy. Cedars tend to choke out undergrowth once you are in their midst, and before long, I found what I was looking for. If squirrels could communicate with their own kind, one of their definate notes to each other would be to control their tails in the wind. A movement of the tail has got to be the most common giveaway of a squirrel's presence, and what I saw 25 yards away was a long, fluffy squirrel tail swinging in the wind, 12 feet off the ground in a huge old skeleton of a tree.

Using the carpet of cedar needles on the ground, I eased my way towards a selected spot from which to shoot, only 15 yards away. The squirrel was busy doing nothing, just sunning itself, and occasionally scratching an ear or other itchy spot. I reached my position and raised my 101 after cocking it, and settled in for the shot. The squirrel fidgeted, turned around on the branch to face me, and froze in place. If I had been looking through a scope, I might have seen a surprised look that said "Where did you come from?!" But through the peep sight, all I could see was the head. I squeezed off my shot and was rewarded with a loud "pop" as the pellet connected with the head, right between the right ear and eye. Tumbling from the tree, the big fox squirrel thrashed around until deciding it wasn't worth it, and gave up on life. I reloaded, and picking up my quarry, silently continued my hunt through the cedar thicket.

I walked the fence line back towards my house and was rewarded by the sound of squirrels chattering at each other. I bent down, placing my first kill on the ground to free up my hands. I was rewarded with the sight of two young grey squirrels playing chase on the ground about 30 yards away. They kept moving, so I held still in the hopes they would eventually come my way. In minutes, their game of chase brought them right over my head.

The first grey squirrel stopped right over my head, less than 10 yards away, and looked down at the strange sight of a man kneeling in the forest with a dead squirrel next to him. My old pump-up fixed itself on the curious squirrel and I touched off my shot. Another head shot sent squirrel #2 plunging down right at my feet. There was no thrashing around this time, only a good hard "thump" as he hit the ground. The second squirrel, the one who was "it" in their game of chase, froze as I began slowly pumping up for a second shot, trying not to spook him. But alas, being the wiser of the two greys, he took off in a hurry. I did get a shot at him when he paused to see if I was following, but the cedars were simply too thick to let my shot connect, and he left to be hunted another day.

The results of my brief afternoon hunt

After arriving back at my house, I placed the squirrels and my 101 on my deck for a few pictures. I dressed them out, and added another squirrel or two from the freezer, and had a wonderful meal that my kids and I enjoyed.

Frying, not flying, squirrels! Once browned, just add a cup of water and simmer on low for about an hour.

Cover and simmer for an hour or until tender

Take those old guns out of the closet and let them live again! This 66-year old gun did a great job on this squirrel hunt!

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Hunting with the XS B-50 by Jim Chapman

I was surfing the airgun sites when I stumbled across the bestairguns.com site on which they were announcing that the first Chinese PCP rifles were available for pre-ordering, at a very competitive price. The first run was available only in .177, but as Ihave always liked this caliber that did not present a problem for me. I placed the order and impatiently waited to hear when they would ship. During this time I was kept informed of the status by the company, and they were good at responding to my impatient requests for more information. One day about a week after I'd been notified the guns were on the way from China, I was sitting in my office when an e-mail came through which said the guns had arrived, and that there were two thumbhole stocks in the shipment. These were up for grabs for the first two people that asked (and sent in a $20.00 premium), so I immediately shot off a request. I was getting ready to head out to California on a hunt, and hoped that the gun would arrive in time.

It did arrive in time, but had a couple of problems which precluded me from using it on the hunt. After speaking with bestairguns, I was able to resolve the problem by making a couple of adjustments and swapping out the hammer spring, which was too weak. You never know what to expect with the Chinese airguns, I've seen some really pitiful examples of springers that exhibited poor materials and poor workmanship, but I've also seen some quite nice guns that were very good value for the money. The B-21 springer and the QB-78 CO2 rifles come to mind, especially the QB-78 which is the clone of the venerable Crosman 160. When I ordered the XS-B50, I did so with a healthy skepticism, but hoping for the best. When the gun arrived I opened the box and pulled it out of the foam packing that cradled the rifle.....it was a pleasant surprise. The fit and finish of this gun is simply the best I've ever seen on a Chinese product. There are no machining marks, the bluing is rich and deep, components are solid and everything has a precise, solid fit. As stated, I was lucky and received one of the thumbhole stocks for a pittance more - it is sized for a western adult and suits my 6'1" frame well. The wood is finely figured with no flaws or filler noted anywhere. The cocking bolt is somewhat stiff, but seems to be loosening up as I shoot the gun.  
 Jackrabbit with XS-B50
from standing position using telephone pole in background as a brace

Shortly after my failed trip, I had the opportunity to bring the gun out for another jackrabbit hunt in Southern California. Because I was flying to my destination I didn't have room or the inclination to take tanks along, so I'd ordered a pump to take with me on the trip, selecting a Hill Pump from Airhog. Thanks to their efforts to expedite the shipment, I received it the evening before my departure. I charged the gun for a preliminary shoot and to site in the Burris 3-9x scope that I'd topped it with. The gun is an exact clone of the earlier Daystae MkII, and it uses the same standard connectors. The gun leaked a bit on filling, but this was corrected by tightening the parker fitting. After sighting in, I hurried a couple of fast ten-shot groups at 25 yards that could be covered by a fifty cent piece without really working at it. The trigger is crisp with no creep, and the pellet hit the target with authority. Unfortunately I didn't have time to chrono it before heading out on this trip, but I could tell by the way it ripped out the back of my pellet trap (which handles my R1 without problem) that this gun was smoking.

Arriving in Southern California, my brother picked me up at the airport and we headed off for the Mojave. When I got out to the desert and reached one of my bunny hotspots, I started pumping up the rifle and got my workout for the day. A hundred and fifty pumps in a 100 plus temperature is truly an indication of how much I wanted to hunt! But about halfway through, my trusty old Beeman C1 springer started to look pretty good! Finally getting the gun charged, I started working my way through the washes and around the brush and cactus. I had not put a sling on the gun before leaving, but found that it was not too much of a burden to carry. I hiked a couple of miles and picked up four rabbits, taking one of these at a range I paced off at fifty-eight yards. I was shooting from a sitting position or a standing offhand position under calm windless conditions. I found this to be an accurate rifle, with a nice feel, and hard hitting at the business end. I normally keep a laminated trajectory chart in the case for each of my rifles to tell me point of impact at various ranges, but hadn't had a chance to produce one for this gun. I spotted a rabbit slowly walking through the brush sneaking away from us at about 60 yards, and estimating the elevation and windage, missed him! This was my only missed shot of the day. Well, you can't make every shot. By this time it was 11:00 a.m. and the temperature had already climbed up to 103 degrees, so I decided to head back to the hotel and grab some breakfast and pool time before starting off for the afternoon hunt.  
 Jackrabbits with the XS-B50 in .177  
  Can you see the jackrabbit behind the bush?

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Oh! The Stench - Skunk Consortium Hunt

My neighbor Bill and I live in a fairly densely populated bedroom community adjacent to New York City....Well, fairly densely is putting things mildly....I mean people are now subdividing their back yards and putting houses up wherever there is a bit of dirt washed into a firm spot from the last good storm.

Anyhow, we've had a perennial problem with our neighbors, the Stinker family (AKA skunks). It is a good thing that I introduced Bill to airgunning about 6 months ago because the stench kept getting worse and worse--becoming almost a nightly affair. When I first proposed that we set up an airgunning ambush for the Stinkers, my plans were met with skepticism because of the "post mortem leak factor". But after three or so consecutive nights of direct blasts to his air conditioning system, Bill was ready to entertain the idea IF we had a good post-kill stink control plan in place.

So we thought about it for a while, and the solution was to do an advance dig on a gravesite and place bait right in front of the grave so we could simply shoot the Stinkers, drop them into graves, and cover them with dirt. Triangulation was in our plan from the very beginning with Bill on his deck handling spotting duties, and me between the houses with my FX Cyclone .22. The original plan called for me to take the 1st shot at 20 yards with a quick follow-up by Bill with his TX .177.  
 FX Cyclone in .22  
 After baiting the area with fresh eggs (Grade AAA) it occurred to me thatlighting would be an issue on an "after-hours" shoot. A quick trip to Home Depot confirmed that the adventure, which Bill and I were about to take, was with divine guidance because I found a MagLight and attachment that fit the Cyclone stock as though it was made for it!

Finally, after what seemed to be an eternity, nightfall arrived. Both Bill and I thought this hunt would be a cakewalk and we joked about making ear-muffs for the missus.  Well, after three hours of waiting, and with no activity in the intended kilkling fields, we decided that a second night's hunt would be in order.

On the next day, again we baited the area and settled into our positions to await nightfall. On this night, Mr. Stinker arrived, but not taking the path that we thought he would. Turned out that he appeared right under the deck upon which Bill was positioned--too close for a safe shot to be taken. As the skunk moved down through the yard, he finally came into my field of view but way out of the intended killing zone next to the gravesite. So, we gave Stinky a one-night reprieve.  
 Again, on the third night we baited the killing fields, but this night was so different than any hunt I have ever done that the memory of it will stay with me forever. First, we had to deal with a raccoon that kept climbing down out of the trees and stealling our eggs (Grade AAA). Personally, I would have shot the thing, but Bill has this affinity for raccoons because they clean up the squirrels he is constantly wacking in his back yard. So, the raccoon pretty much had the run of the place. Then we had to deal with a couple of egg-sucking cats. Not knowing if they were some neighbors' pets, we also gave the felines a pass. Then things started getting really weird, for over an hour we were treated to a constant parade of deer through the killing fields. Not just your normal everyday white tails, mind you, but one fantastic 8 point and another 6 point buck! Finally, Mr. Stinky made another brief appearance, and I really thought I had him. The Cyclone smoothly came up into position, MagLight went on, and I squeezed off a single shot aimed right behind the ear. Wouldn't you know it, just as I squeezed off the shot, the skunk turned around to look straight at me, and the pellet went whizzing right past his ear. Needless to say, the shot was such a close call, the skunk bolted, and that was the last we saw of him for two more nights.  
 The Killing Fields   
On the last night of the hunt, Bill and I had pretty much settled into a routine...so much of a routine that some might call it a bit ritualistic. Having abandoned my side of the house position several nights earlier for the comfort of the lawn chairs on Bill's deck, I would promptly report deckside at 20:00 hours. Bill would get out his incense-like bug repellant sticks, light them and we'd settle into a cool drink and compare notes over the highlights of our days, solving the world's problems along the way. We also made it a routine of informing Bill's wife, Peggy, on her role in the expedition which was to be one of picking up the animal after we dispatched him.   (Page 2)

  The Baited Grave   
 At this point we were on the sixth night of the hunt and really feeling a bit discouraged at not having better luck with our egg (Grade AAA) invitations to the Stinkers. But then, just as we were about to give it up, things started to happen. Out of nowhere, ole Mr. Stinker made a beeline straight for the bait egg (Grade AAA). To the best of my recollection, the following recounts the events as they unfolded.

Bill -  "There he is - that stinking b*st*rd.....Get ready Dave."

Dave - "Bill--I can't see a #@!! thing through my scope -- it's so #@11@# dark out here!"

Bill - "He's right there at egg (Grade AAA) coordinate 3 south - 23 east. Shoot him now, shoot him now.....no wait a minute, cease fire.....his tail is aimed right at us....he's gonna blow!!!"

Dave - "I can't see a #@!! thing -- I fogged up my scope lens by breathing on it too much!"

Bill - "Take that you stinking b*st*rd!"  (Bill shoots apparently hitting the skunk because he stops to shake his head.)

Dave - "Got him in my sights!"  (Dave shoots -- a good clean head shot. But instead of dropping, the skunk turns around and heads for the ivy cover and all of a sudden, he's gone from Dave's line of sight.)

Dave -- "%&#!"

Bill -- "He's down! I can see him.....Stinker is down."  (Then Bill shoots again just to make sure we got him. The skunk is no longer moving, but fearing a sneak spray attack upon our approach to pick him up, we decide the prudent thing to do would be to lay a few more pellets into his head before pickup and burial.)

With the last shots expended to their target, we cease-fire and rush down from the deck having rehearsed the burial plan. After a hasty "proof of kill" photo, Bill grabs the shovel and I grab the double-lined hefty bag and in one swift and seamless motion we have Mr. Stinky bagged and are moving rapidly to the grave. With a quick heave -- Stinky is 3 feet down, and Bill is madly shoveling dirt on top of the bag.

The elapsed time from last shot to final burial was 1 minute 10 seconds. The good news is that there was no stink due to near perfect execution of our plan. The bad news is that it took us 10 seconds longer to complete the burial than we had planned. So it's back to the drawing board. It's 20:00 hours now and the egg (Grade AAA) bait is out. Bill is lighting the incense mosquito repellant and we're determined to get this drill down to less than 1 minute.

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Squirrel Hunting with a New Friend

  One of the most enjoyable past times of airgunners is to introduce new members into the sport. This year (2003) I had the opportunity to take a new friend airgun hunting for squirrels. Nathan is the trumpet player at my church and a fellow hunting enthusiast. However, he has never used an airgun for that pursuit.

It was a very warm November day. It was actually in the 70's, so I decided to bring one of my CO2 guns which do quite well in warm weather. So I grabbed my QB-78, a bolt-action .177 caliber gun made in China. This one has been "tuned", or optimized to increase power and useability over the standard gun straight from the factory. It has had the ports opened wider for better gas flow, the valve capacity enlarged as well, and a trigger tune to smooth out the firing process. An extended probe was installed on the bolt to place the pellet snugly into the rifling and to increase the gas flow behind the pellet. And last but not least, a wonderfully shrouded barrel that reduces the firing report to a quiet sneeze. A wonderful little gun, one of my favorites.

Nathan and I pulled up to the hunt site and piled out of the truck. As I was showing the gun to Nathan, I glanced up to see three squirrels playing in the trees not 40 yards away. We quickly finished the introduction to CO2 guns and began our hunt.  
 A patch of woods we hunted located across a corn field  
 I picked a path for Nathan to approach the squirrels and then circled around the other side to try and confuse the squirrels into staying put while we approached. I settled down at the base of a big oak and quickly lost site of Nathan as he sank to the ground near some cover. I watched the squirrels continue to play, and within minutes, I heard the QB-78 "sneeze". A second or two later I heard the familiar sound of a small body falling from a tree and going "thud" on the ground. I waited another ten minutes or so to see if anything else would move. After no activity, I slowly made my way towards Nathan. Upon my approach, he stood up and walked over to the base of a tree about 15 yards in front of him to retrieve the young grey squirrel he had shot. AS he bent over to retrieve the squirrel, another young, very dumb squirrel came running along a horizontal branch towards him to see what was going on. I whistled to alert Nathan. The squirrel froze, I pointed, and Nathan looked up. Up came the QB-78 and after another "sneeze", squirrel number two hit the ground. Fifteen minutes into the hunt and we already had two in the bag!

We left that patch of trees where we parked and walked across the field to my original destination for this hunt. It was a 300 yard long stretch that measured about 75 yards across. Recent logging had concentrated the squirrels until you were almost literally run over by them as you walked along. At one time I was watching seven different squirrels, all of whom were quite aggravating in their ability to stay just out of range. That is one of the aspects of airgun hunting that makes it so much more challenging...you have to get close!

Nathan entered the strip on one end and I started on the opposite end. Another benefit of airgun hunting is the much-reduced hazard of injuring a fellow hunter. It can still happen, but airgun pellets lose power much more quickly than even .22 rimfire bullets, and the chances of injury are much slimmer.

I sat for awhile taking the occasional shot at sitting squirrels who were just inside the extreme range of my airgun. I was using the BSA Supersport in .22, a very lethal airgun for squirrels. Since I aim for a very small kill-zone (the head), I almost always connect solidly or miss completely. This morning I was doing the latter far too often. So I began to stalk a few of the less wary bushytails.

Easing along as quietly as possible, I managed to move into an area with more than one squirrel playing and feeding on the ground and in the lower branches of the trees. Eventually, a fat female fox squirrel decided to do some sunbathing on a lower branch and presented a nice shot for me at about 25 yards. I eased the Supersport up and fired. Wouldn't you know.....missed again! (I'm sure it was the gun, not me!)  So I carrefully loaded up again, expecting her to bolt. But she settled down, and my next shot brought that satisfying "thwack!" sound so indicative of a solid hit. The .22 pellet lifted her off the branch and deposited her on the ground. A twitch or two later and she was in the bag.

My retrieval of my first squirrel caused a general disappearing act among the other squirrels, and I decided to check on Nathan and see how things were going on his end. He had gathered in another squirrel, giving us four so far. We headed back to the truck and placed our kills in the bed. A quick drink of water and we headed back into the little stand of trees where we had bagged the first two squirrels.

Now my luck changed. I sat down on a stump and had to let dumb squirrel #1 go by without taking a shot. He stayed in the thick top of a fallen tree just 5 yards away. One thing about airgun hunting, if you don't have a good shot......pass on it. Pellets don't make their way through debris near as well as shotgun blasts do, and you really need a clear shot to make it count.

Dumb squirrel #2 paused a second too long on the trunk of a nearby tree just one foot off the ground. He didn't have far to fall when the pellet from my Supersport connected with his noggin. I retrieved him and began the walk around the far edge of the stand of trees. Dumb squirrel #3 saw me coming, but she was cornered against a fence line with an open field behind her and me in front of her. She had to run at an angle towards me to reach an escape route, and like her brethren before her, she paused an instant too long. She joined the growing bag of squirrels I was carrying around with me.

As I approached the truck, Nathan stood up. He had been watching a squirrel in a tree but had lost it among the tops somewhere. He was convinced it was still in the tree, so we began the old game of one hunter standing still while the other circled the tree, trying to make the squirrel move and give himself away. I held still while Nathan circled the other side. Sure enough, the squirrel twitched. So did my trigger finger, and squirrel #7 for the day hit the ground.

In a little over three hours we had harvested seven squirrels. I was very pleased with the outing, convinced that Nathan had enjoyed himself on his first airgun hunt. Spending time with friends in God's great outdoors has got to be near the top of my list of things I enjoy.  
 Nathan, the QB-78, and seven squirrels  
 Me, my BSA Supersport, and the same seven squirrels  

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Red Ryder Christmas Turkey Shoot

One can just imagine the Bumpus dogs simply refusing to go outside on a day like today. Even the aroma of an over-baked turkey would have failed to stir them on a day as cold as December 21, 2003. But for those of us here in Connecticut who are inclined to heft an airgun to the shoulder, even the most frigid arctic winds would not deter us from our mission of competing in the "You'll Shoot Your Eye Out" Red Ryder turkey shoot.

The morning was a typical winter day in Connecticut - so cold and clear along the Long Island Sound that you could almost hear the railroad cars clacking down the Long Island Railroad some 12 miles away. And knowing that inland temperatures typically run a good 10 degrees below that of the coastal regions, one could easily imagine how bone chilling cold it had to be in Wolcott, Connecticut - home of the "You'll Shoot Your Eye Out" Red Ryder Christmas Turkey Shoot. Naturally, the big question on everyone's mind was how the Red Ryder would perform at such low temperatures.

At about 8:30 AM, event participants began to show up at Wolcott. First Mike and his son Sal from New Jersey, then Tommy from upstate New York. George, Eve, Pratt, Peter, Flick and Sev - the loyal Red Ryder Shooters were all slowly turning out for the shoot like a mass of snow slowly sliding off a steeply pitched rooftop after a good winter storm.

Although organization of the shoot seemed to be unfolding smoothly, the event was not without its issues. Just days before the shoot, there was a rule challenge to allow BB guns other than the venerable Red Ryder to be used in competition. However, faithfulness to Ralphie's vision of shooting bliss prevailed, and ONLY unmodified Red Ryder's would be allowed in the competition.

Questions also occurred as to the timing of the shoot by the Mid-Atlantic States Red Ryder Owners Group (MASRROG). This group voiced a strong opinion that ALL Red Ryder shooters should wait until the day after Christmas to shoot so that new BB gun owners could be included in the festivities. But the decision to defend a pre-Christmas shoot date was successful based on the logic that the Northeast Red Ryders Owner Group (NERROG) could shoot their event, celebrate Christmas, and then travel south to compete in the MASRROG event (hopefully with some of those new Daisy Zinc-coated BBs delivered by the old man in red).

The rules for the event were a simple modification of traditional Christmas turkey shoot rules adapted to the attributes and nuances of the Red Ryder. Each participant was allowed three shots at a 10-inch bullseye with an X in the center from a distance of 20 yards. At the end of shooting, the person with a hit closest to the X would be declared winner and receive top honors of a 12 pound frozen turkey. Of course, in keeping with what would have truly been Ralphie's vision for the shoot had he been given the opportunity to write the rules, only factory Production Red Ryders were allowed.

At 9 AM sharp, a brief shooter's meeting was held for all participants to clarify any ambiguities in the rules. A challenge was made to one shooter who showed up at the event with a Red Ryder that was missing its rawhide drawstring on the lanyard. However, the judging committee felt that such modification did not violate the intent of the "factory production" rule and the BB gun was allowed. Daisy Manufacturing has been contacted to determine the true function of the drawstring.

The first shooter to the line was little Jacqueline Blass, the youngest shooter at 10 years old. Although most people believe that Jackie was given the starting position because of her age, whispers were heard among the more seasoned shooters that they wanted to see how the Red Ryder would perform under extremely cold temperatures as well as gauge the effect of a moderate and intermittent left to right breeze on the BB's trajectory before placing their reputations on the line. This was understandable given the fact that a number of the NERROG competitors plan to participate in the upcoming MASRROG event and do not want to let the MASRROG shooters feel they have an upper hand going into the match.

As Jackie drew her trusty "OLD BLUE" for the first shot, a hush fell over the participants with nobody quite knowing what would happen. Upon release of the trigger, faces grinned as ears were greeted with the familiar "pockkk" of the Red Ryder's report. After what seemed like an eternity, cheers arose from the spectators when Jackie's first BB made that familiar down-range target penetrating sound that only a BB from a Red Ryder can make.

 After two more carefully placed shots, Jackie and her mom, Eve, proceeded forward with the range officer to score the results. A NINE! Yes, that's right -- the first contestant scored a nine and in the process, set a significantly higher competition standard than any of the adult participants had expected. Smiles were gone from all faces but those of Jackie and her mom as a quiet, contemplative seriousness returned to the remaining shooters' faces.

One by one, the participants tried their hand at mastery of cold steel triggers and smoothbore barrels. First Peter, then Pratt, and finally Flick. Although some very good shooting displays were witnessed, none could quite match the score of little Jackie. In the end, it was the young unlikely heroine who prevailed.

All in all, it was a fantastic day of shooting for all at the "You'll Shoot Your Eye Out" Red Ryder Christmas Turkey Shoot. And now it's back home for all shooters with a bit of down time to reflect on successes of the day and to begin preparations for the long drive to next week's MASRROG shoot.

Now for those of you who have never had the pleasure of shooting in a "You'll Shoot Your Eye Out" Red Ryder Christmas Turkey Shoot, the game is not over when the last BB has been embedded in the target. The awards ceremony, in and of itself, is worthy of travel across several states to witness. Recognizing that a lot of skill and effort goes into hitting a target with a gun that typically does a 10 inch, 10 shot group at 20 yards, special awards are provided to the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place winners.

In this year's event, the fourth place winner was Peter Morris with a hit in the outer edge of the 7 ring. For his efforts, Peter won a can of Turkey Rice Soup. OK -- Peter -- 4th place is good, but not really impressive, so a can of soup that contained a bit of bird meat seemed appropriate.

The third place winner was little Jackie's mom -- Eve. With Eve's impressive hit in the 8 ring, it is easy to understand how Jackie comes by her talent. For her efforts, Eve received the 3rd place award of a baby chicken or Cornish hen. It looks like a turkey, maybe someday could be a turkey, but seems appropriate for a 3rd place score.

Second place went to Michael Flickman, or as we know him in keeping with the movie -- Flick. Nobody even dared to bring the subject up, but Flick is old enough that he could have actually been Flick in the movie. Nobody has ever asked. And even if they did, Flick would not give them a straight answer for fear of being asked to re-enact the triple dog dare ya flagpole stunt. Now second place is pretty good, but not quite first, so Flick received the runner-up prize of a whole chicken. It looks like a turkey, but is not quite a turkey, so Flick was sent home with the "not quite a turkey" prize.

After getting all of the minor honors out of the way, it was time for the MAJOR AWARD. Given that little Jackie showed her stuff and won first place honors, those in the know were breathing a sigh of relief that the major award was not the Old Man's MAJOR AWARD. If you understand what is meant by this -- OK. If not, watch the movie! Anyhow, Jackie was all smiles, and the crowd cheered wildly as Jackie took possession of her 12 pound first place award turkey.  
 Participants of the "You'll Shoot Your Eye Out" Red Ryder
Christmas Turkey Shoot  
 George was all business!  
  Tommy - it's all in the preparation  

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Texas Wild Hog Hunt

  "Randy, wake up....wake up."

I popped upright in the bed, trying to remember exactly where I was. Then it dawned on me that I was 1000 miles from home, and the voice I was hearing belonged to Eric Henderson, my host for this hunt. He was standing in the doorway of the guest room trying to wake me up. The reason I was so befuddled is that it is 3:30 in the morning.

The weekend has just completed the Little Rock Airgun Show, and immediately following the show, I drove on down to Texas to visit my parents. Eric and I had been making plans for the last several months to go hog hunting after the show, and the time had finally arrived. I scrambled out of bed, got my bearings, and dressed for the hunt.

We drove a couple of hours to the hunt site, and arrived around 7:00 a.m.  Cody, our guide for the hunt, had us fill out the requisite paperwork and then loaded us up in the truck to drive to a likely spot.

Lone Star Hunts is a controlled hunting environment just outside Wichita Falls, with animals stocked by the owner, but ranging wild within a 250 acre area. The hogs in this hunt are all wild animals that were trapped and then re-released, with no domestic animals that tamely walk out and pose for you. Quite to the contrary, you have to chase them!  In addition to the hogs, some exotics are present, such as mouflon and other wild goats. It is a beautiful place to hunt, with quail sounding off as you listen in the early morning quiet. Here and there a jackrabbit would run away from the approaching truck as we drew near the drop off point.
 The creekbeds are lined with thick brush, mesquite, and other thorny plants that provide excellent cover for the hogs. Their skin seems impervious to all the stickers, but mine sure isn't! I'll tell you more about that later.

As we approached the drop-off site, a band of pigs showed up in the headlights. They immediately thundered off into the brush on our approach. As this seemed like a good place to start, we quickly unloaded and bid the guide goodbye after making arrangements to contact him once we had finished our hunt.  Eric unloaded his camera gear as we were going to attempt to film the hunt for an upcoming video he is compiling on airgun hunting. I addressed the camera, quickly explaining what we were doing, and headed for the spot where the pigs disappeared, hoping to follow them.

As I rounded the corner of brush, the pigs started coming back out! Apparently they considered the sound of the truck leaving the area as an "all clear" signal, and I was greeted with about 30-40 hogs, from piglets to full-grown adults, thundering back my way. I frantically waved Eric down as I bellied down in the damp grass. I quickly cocked my DAQ .50 Bandit, loaded with .495 round ball, and desperately tried to make sense of the wave of pigs coming our way.

The piglets were the most anxious to resume feeding, and they galloped up to within 15-20 yards from us. The adults were more cautious, sniffing the air and holding back. Eric was on his knees in order to film the shot, and the largest hog in the pack abruptly stopped. I had already sighted in on her, waiting for a shot to present itself. The pig stared directly at me from a range of 32 yards. I fleetingly considered a straight shot between the eyes, but decided to wait an instant or two longer. Not sure of what we were, the pig began sniffing the air, snout quivering as she turned her head to test the breeze.

THAT was the shot I was waiting on. A perfect view of the side of the head! I placed the crosshairs on a spot midway between the left eye and left ear, and touched off the .50 Bandit. POW!

The sow dropped, never taking a step, while the rest of the herd made a hasty exit back into the brush. I watched her through the scope for just an instant, wondering if I needed another shot as she was quivering. Eric assured me she wasn't going anywhere, and in moments she had stopped moving.

Elapsed time from start of the hunt to finish?  7 MINUTES!  I couldn't believe it! In my wildest dreams I never thought I would be able to finish off a wild pig with an airgun in such a short time! I was amazed and thrilled at my luck, catching the pigs so early and in a feeding mood. 

After a few pics and a moment or two to savor the experience, we began to walk back to where we could contact Cody, our guide. Upon his arrival, we loaded up the pig on his truck, then switched roles. I took up the camera while Eric readied his airgun, a 20mm prototype owned by Robert Dean.

Now this gun is made from an actual 20mm cannon barrel. It fires a 1005 grain 20mm round that is about 6 times the weight of my .495 round ball that I was using in the Bandit. Approximately 3 good shots can be had from a fill, so I was carrying a .44 magnum revolver as backup just in case. After checking our gear, we headed off into the brush with the sun beginning to climb into the morning sky.

The next 3 1/2 hours were spent searching, and finding, wild pigs in the thick mesquite and thorn-infested brush. Several opportunities presented themselves for a kill, but we were determined to get the shot on film. At one point, we had walked out into a stream and actually snuck to within 5 yards of three hogs feeding on the far bank. The problem was, I couldn't get behind Eric quick enough for a camera shot. The hogs decided my efforts to get closer were the final straw, and they thundered off into the thicker brush.

So we waded more streams, eased through the brush, and quietly made our way through the terrain until at last we heard hogs fussing with each other in the incredibly thick underbrush. We quietly waded into the overgrown creekside and crossed over into knee-to waist high bushes. The pigs were going through the brush on trails they had made, almost like little tunnels through the thorns. As we got closer, I began to envision a hog coming out in a hurry and finding me in the way.....not a pleasant thought!

A step....then a long pause. Tops of bushes were moving, but we couldn't see the actual prey. A few more steps, and finally a brief scuffle in the brush resulted in one hog stepping out into a tiny clearing, apparently the loser in the scuffle. He was only 7 yards away!  We could see the back and the neck area, but not the entire head. Eric quickly checked to see if I was filming and in line with the shot. Up came his 20mm.......BOOM!

Eric is fond of signing off on the forum with the expression "It was like a pork freight train coming through the trees!"  Now I understand what he means! Our intended prey dived into the bushes, and between 20 and 30 hogs burst out of the bushes in all directions! They were everywhere, and we were standing in the middle of them!  I tried my best to get as many on film as possible, but I was shaking!  Eventually, the commotion died down and we were faced with the problem of finding our hog in the thicket.  We walked around the thicket several times, looking for the pig we knew just had to be there. Thrashings in the brush kept us headed one way, thinking that was our prey. But we simply couldn't find it. So there was only one thing to do.

Now, Eric is 6'4" and I'm only 5'10". So the task of following the blood spoor was mine. Remember my telling you earlier in this story about the thorns? I got a first-hand, down and dirty education in them as I knelt down and crawled down the tunnel in the brush, handgun in one hand, following the blood trail from the initial shot site.  Cody, our guide, was contacted to bring out his dog to help. While Eric and Cody made circles around the thicket, I crawled through its depths, giving reports on the direction of the blood trail as best I could while lying on my belly.  Junior, Cody's dog, began nosing through the brush as well. I eventually lost the trail and decided to stand up. It was the closest thing to hatching as I'm ever likely to experience, forcing my way up through a tangle of thorns.

Once I was up, we discussed what to do next. Junior, the dog, began growling 3 feet to my left, acting like he had found something. I crouched back down to investigate and found Junior tugging on the pig, which was only 3 feet from me! That's how thick the bushes and thorns were. 3 feet away and I would have missed it but for the dog!

Upon checking the effectiveness of the 20mm airgun, we discovered the shot had entered the pig on his right side and exited completely through the other side at the left shoulder. A tremendous amount of knockdown power! The pig had actually traveled less than 30 yards total, but it was all in the thickest part of the brush. What a great hunt! Flushed with victory, we headed back in the jeep to where our hogs would be dressed out.

 Texas Hog Hunt
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 A different view of my 120 lb. pig  
 Pig compared to my Bandit .50 to show length. Eric's pig is in the background, approximately 90 lbs.  
 Eric (left) and I with our wild hogs.

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My Son's First Squirrel

  I enjoy hunting a lot and want to pass on the wonderful experiences to my kids. It makes me feel like I've done something right when my son comes to me and says "Dad, will you take me hunting with you?" What father could say no?

So off we went this morning. October 2, 2004 is a day that will live in my memory, for that is the day my son Bryan bagged his first squirrel. I still remember my first squirrel, and I'm sure Bryan will remember his.

A lady in our church has a chestnut tree or two in her back yard and asked me to come out and weed a few of the squirrels out so she'll have some chestnuts left. Right next to the chestnut trees is an old barn she keeps her lawnmower and other stuff in. It was an ideal setup for hunting with kids, because we could sit in the barn and not worry about holding still. My son Bryan, and his little brother Kyle, accompanied me to the site, eager to test their hunting skills. I made a big deal out of explaining to them that it is important to see the squirrel first before he sees you, and sure enough, they both spotted different squirrels before their Dad.

Bryan was using the BSA Supersport in .22, which is really too big for him at his size. So we moved a fertilizer spreader over to the opening of the barn door so he could prop his airgun over the top of it.  
 Bryan aiming at a squirrel  
 The barn sits in a corner of an "L" shaped line of trees, and the squirrels were coming in from both sides of the barn. I was sitting with Kyle, my 6-year old, on one end, and Bryan was on the other end. I told him to keep an eye out for squirrels heading for the chestnut tree. Kyle and I were on the other end of the barn when I heard Bryan's first shot. I hustled to the other end of the barn to see a squirrel retreating the other way. Since Bryan can't cock the BSA Supersport yet, I reloaded it for him, reset the safety, and gave it back to him, encouraging him that the squirrel would probably return.

Truer words could not have been said. We had the most accommodating squirrel I've ever seen! Bryan shot 9 times at that squirrel, dusting him with dry dirt and twigs, but never seeming to come close enough to scare him off. Sitting in the recessed opening of the barn helped quite a bit since the squirrel couldn't tell where we were. After every shot he would scamper into the tree for a minute or two, then come back down to the ground to retrieve a chestnut.  It was almost comical......the squirrel would climb down out of the tree....Bryan would shoot.....I'd run from the other end of the barn to see if he had hit him....and then reload the gun and set up again! This went on for about 15 minutes, then I decided to stay there and see if I could get a shot at the squirrel, too.

  The squirrel finally overstayed his welcome, and made the fatal mistake of letting my son take just one more shot at him. The squirrel had climbed down out of the second chestnut tree in the picture above and was just to the right of the trunk. Bryan propped his Supersport on the fertilizer spreader and let fly his .22 caliber pellet. POP! No doubt this time! The squirrel took three hops towards the tree line in the background, and his steam ran out. He just sank into the grass and didn't move again. I don't know who was more excited, Bryan or myself. We reloaded, then stepped out to approach Bryan's trophy! You would have thought we were approaching an African lion, we were that careful. I even poked it with a gun barrel to confirm it was dead!  A hug or two later, and my son was strutting around the yard with his trophy in hand, eager to show it to his little brother.
 Bryan and his first squirrel! Good shot, son!  
 We strolled over to the house of our friend to show her how we were doing. She "ooh-ed" and "ahh-ed" appropriately over the squirrel, taking a picture with her camera and ours. She is a great friend who made this first squirrel special for my son. While my boys went inside with her to brag on their hunting exploits, I strolled around the backyard again, taking one more squirrel.  But........this story isn't about me.....it's about my son, Bryan, and his special day!

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Whitetail Deer Hunt

Ever since I began my sojourn in airgun hunting, I've wanted to take a whitetail deer with a weapon powered by nothing but air. I began airgun hunting out of need.....eliminating some squirrels that had moved into my attic. I progressed up the airgun hunting ladder by taking more squirrels, rabbits, and pest animals such as pigeons and starlings. In the spring of 2004, I moved up to big game by taking a 120 lb. wild hog on a hunt with Eric Henderson in Texas. Convinced of the .50 caliber Bandit's power, I set out to take a whitetail deer.

I checked with the Kentucky Wildlife officials, who were very helpful in making sure I met the legal requirements for taking game with an airgun. Apparently, I was the first in Kentucky to ask them about it, and we all had to take a look at the rule book concerning such an endeavor. We finally arrived at a mutual agreement that if I were using the .50 Bandit as a muzzleloader, I would fall within the guidelines of the law and would have no legal issues concerning the weapon used. So I converted the Bandit into a muzzleloader with the aid of an extra part provided by Dennis Quackenbush, the gun's maker, and sat out to hunt deer with an airgun.

If you are new to airgunning, and haven't heard of this particular gun, let me introduce you to it. This gun fires a .495 roundball or other size-appropriate projectile by using high pressure air contained in a reservoir on the gun. A charge of 3000 psi from a scuba tank or appropriate hand pump is all you need to take on game larger than you ever thought possible with an airgun. In Texas, this gun killed a 120 lb. wild hog with one shot to the head. At 32 yards, the hog simply folded up once I squeezed the trigger. That particular hunt is on video if you wish to see it. Check out Bigboreairguns.com and ask Eric Henderson if he still has any left.

I joined a hunting club in Hardin county last year, and the abandoned farmhouse you see below is one of the places that is available for hunters in my club. It lies along a small pasture adjacent to the woods, providing an excellent place from which to hunt. On November 19, I woke up to a rainy day, and this location was the first to come to mind. Notice the cut out window on the second floor of the house? It is from that window that I was able to shoot a whitetail deer at 50 yards.

 A view from inside the farmhouse  
 As you can see, I have all the comforts of home! A chair, that if you have good balance, even reclines! But the view from the window is ideal for remaining unnoticed by your intended prey as they see the house every day and are use to it. Being inside also helps keep your scent from giving you away. And on a rainy day......? It's the only way to hunt!

The actual hunt went something like this. I arrived at the house about 6:30 that morning. It was cloudy and raining, so dawn took a little longer to arrive than normal. I amused myself watching squirrels and the resident groundhog who lives under the house go about their morning routine in the rain. Occasionally, I would lean back in the chair and peer out the windows to the left of where I was sitting. About 9:30, I did just that, and was startled to see a deer standing out in the middle of the harvested soybean field, well within range of the .50 Bandit.

Now I will confess to being quite nervous. In fact, I vastly over-estimated the range to the deer.....not for one shot, but for two! Yes, my first two shots sailed well over the deer, for I was shooting using my 100 yard range dot in my mil-dot scope. Blame it on nervousness, buck fever, what have you, but I was nowhere near the mark. The deer actually ran toward me after each shot. I was shooting out the side windows of the house that you can't see in the picture above. After two misses, the deer trotted nervously around the corner of the house in the direction of the shooting window you see above. Beginning to think I was going to miss my chance, I hastily loaded my gun, shoving the ball down the barrel with the ball starter and then the ramrod. Meanwhile, the deer began walking along the creek 50 yards away. I ran to the other window, laid the gun hastily on the window sill, and fired another shot. I over-estimated the range again, thinking it was 75 yards, but luck was with me. The .495 round ball hit exactly on the spine, breaking the deer's back with one shot. It collapsed in place, not running one step. I quickly placed another round down the muzzle, and placed a more-carefully taken shot through both lungs to end the ordeal. Then I sat back and just looked out the window for a minute. I had done it.....the first whitetail deer taken in modern times by an airgun in the state of Kentucky.....or at least as far as I know.  
 A re-enactment of my shot

A view of my deer down at the edge of the field   
 The picture above is the scene I watched for a moment after I sat back from shooting the deer. I remember thinking to myself how important it was to capture this moment on film, and I rummaged through my backpack for my camera.

After snapping a few pics from this vantage point, I headed back to my truck, re-charged my air rifle with more air, and walked down to the deer. By this time my hunting mentor had been contacted, and he arrived to help me with the field dressing and subsequent skinning, and was able to take the remaining photos for me.  
 My approach to the deer  
 Once I turned the deer over, I could see the two roundballs just under the skin on the opposite side from which I shot. During skinning, I retrieved both of them. The first shot had a deep groove in it with spinal bone embedded in the groove. The second shot, a lung shot, simply passed all the way through the deer at 50 yards and came to rest on the opposite shoulder under the skin. This gun can really shoot, folks!

When I first posted the results of my hunt on the airgun forum, Eric Henderson gave me a call, wanting details. When I told him I missed the first two shots, his only comment was "Does somebody need a range finder?" Ha! No truer words have been said concerning this hunt, and I have officially placed that item on my "soon to purchase list"! It is by far the better course of action to be sure of your prey's range from you in order to make a humane shot. I got lucky in that my first shot rendered the deer incapable of a wounded flight. So my word of caution, based on this experience, is to be sure of your range, and make the first shot a good one.

Randy Mitchell and his whitetail deer taken Nov. 19, 2004 with a muzzleloading .50 caliber air rifle made by Dennis Quackenbush   
 Just a quick note about airgun hunting......it isn't anything new. But since the advent of modern firearms, it has become a lost part of our hunting heritage. European nobles, for years, would take game with air rifles on the European continent. Our own Lewis and Clark carried an air rifle on their voyage of discovery at the turn of the 19th century. There is a rich history and heritage to hunting with airguns, a tradition that I am quite glad to be a part of.

If you want a greater challenge than regular firearm hunting, give airgun hunting a try. Check the rules of your location and strive to be ethical in your approach to harvesting game. You will be surprised at what can be done with today's breed of airguns.

Be safe, be careful, and enjoy God's great outdoors.

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Rock Chuck Safari by Timothy Ihle

Rockchuck taken with BSA Hornet in .22 caliber and JSB pellets   
 I had been planning this hunt since last December and the day had finally come for me to load up and head out to central Oregon, home of the Rock Chuck, the largest member of the squirrel family. My wife was elated too, an end to the boring obsession as she saw it. It was mid-May and the weather had taken a turn for the best, sunny and warm! The kind of weather that brings out the chucks.....and, unfortunately for them, the BSA Hornet (with a massive sting in the tail!)

I had a couple of places lined up, privately owned land mostly that provided for some good chuck hunting. These massive beasts tend to favor the piles and walls of rocks left over from farmers clearing their fields, hence the name "rock chuck". These types of areas are perfect structure for lazily living out their lives, basking in the sun and grazing in the fresh grass and alfalfa.....and irritating the farmer.

The first place I went to I glassed the area with my binoculars. Yep, sure enough, the rock chucks were out. I spotted about 6 chucks scurrying around on the rocks. Many were small by chuck standards, this year's pups I suspect, but many were what I call "breeders". I even spotted a massive "bull" basking high atop a large rock. The alpha male, no doubt, and about 10 lbs.  I snuck up under a large juniper and played the waiting game with this obese "pig" for about 40 minutes, but to no avail. He did not come out of his hole. So, I decided to take some shots at the smaller ones. I set up at about 50 yards and waited once again and sure enough, they began to materialize. I took a couple at this particular spot, but could not retrieve them all. They seem to fall between the rocks and all that is left is a bit of a crimson stain.  
 Setting up for the shot!

  Later on I went to the spot "in the back 40" where the farmer said I had to be sure to hunt because the were "crawling all over the place". Well, I went to where he said and sure enough these "crop killers" were everywhere. So, I found my way into the shade under a big old juniper at about 40 yards, set my shooting styx in place and loaded yet another .22 caliber JSB into the Hornet.  All the while these crazy critters didn't move an inch. They just sat basking in the sun and casually observed my movements. The first shot I had was at a big one, so I dialed up my scope to 18X, put the first mil-dot on his temple and unleashed the Hornet's sting. It hit square in the big breeder's temple and dropped that chuck like a sack of potatoes. There were many more to follow, and in the aftermath I had downed 6 massive rock chucks and created one happy farmer. Curiously, I hear they are good eating if served in a southern rock chuck burgoo.   
 Two more chucks that fell to the BSA Hornet  
 The second spot I went to I really hit the jackpot. The farmer was very happy that I had showed up to take care of his varmint "problem". He said that they had gotten very aggressive and had come after his wife on occasion. Unbelievable! He pointed me in the direction where these "lady lashers" were most prevalent and I wasted no time. I found myself a spot in the nice green grass and hunkered down for some shooting. As you can see in these pics, rock chuck hunting is truly the awesome adventure for the air gunner. The scenery is spectacular, the central Oregon air is pure and clean, and the quarry is arguably considered (within reason) the "big game" of air gun hunting.

The rock chuck structure on this farm was endless. There were rock piles and rock walls all over this 300-acre ranch. I didn't even come close to hunting even one-tenth of what was available and still had unreal hunting. I hunted for about an hour and a half and at the end of it all, the body count in this one location was 22 beasts and 2 pigeons! Needless to say, I will be going back (at the farmers request) to finish some "unfinished" business.

For those interested in the tech stuff, I was shooting my BSA hornet with .22 caliber JSB's. It is billed to be a 28 ft. lb. gun, but shoots these pellets at 850 fps, roughly 26 ft. lbs.  This is more than adequate for these critters. Most of my shots were in the range of 30-50 yards. I did take a couple at about 65 yards. Camo was not necessary that day.  

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Airgunning for Turkeys

This turkey hunting story is a reprint of a thread on the Airgun Forum. It has been reprinted here with permission of the author in order to share it with other airgun enthusiasts so that this achievement isn't forgotten.

Well guys, as you know, I got the opportunity for my first turkey hunt with Mountain Lyon after talking and trying to organize it for a year. Equipment issues and timing issues thwarted our turkey hunting efforts to say the least!

I picked up ML around 8:00 a.m. on April 17th and made the trek to the hills and it was beautiful and absolutely peaceful. After getting out of the van, we looked out from the driveway, across the creek and heard gobbling and saw turkey crossing across the clearing in the photo below.  
 After getting our gear loaded, we made our way down the hill, across the creek and up into the trees in the photo above. ML started calling and getting responses from several gobblers but to no avail, so we moved our gear slowly uphill and to the right to peer down into the brush and clearing behind the brush. While waiting for ML, I noticed a red head through the brush and let him know that I had a visual.

ML stalked quietly about 30 feet uphill past me and I saw him turn, raise the Timberwolf, and "Spooot", "click" "Spooot".....and saw a turkey appear to flop over or turn in the brush downhill. Apparently there were several turkeys but after combing the hillside and brush, the shots definitely missed the targets, so we headed downhill to take a break under an oak tree.

ML made a few more calls and got responses that sounded very close on the slope above us. Very quickly I saw 2 redheads making their way through the brush on the slope, but there was too much foliage in the way for me to take a shot.  I remember thinking "Should I try and move to find a clear line of sight and risk spooking 'em?" I figured the brush was thick enough and if I scooted on my back in the grass, it should be okay....so I moved a few feet, sat up, found an unobstructed line of sight and lo and behold, a nice fat turkey chest and neck appeared perfectly in my crosshairs. It could only have been a better shot if his head hadn't been obstructed. My mind raced, thinking this is as perfect a shot as you could ask for on your first turkey hunt. With the safety off, I sqeezed the trigger and "Spoooot".......nothing! For whatever reason, the pellet did not feed and I dry fired. The turkey didn't move, so I cocked the gun again, attempted to load another pellet and......dang, he moved.

So we took another break, both of us being frustrated, and walked the hillside to see if there was any evidence of the turkeys ML had shot at earlier and to grab my sunglasses from where I had left them at the original stand.

We got back to the oak tree where our gear and guns were, and ML started calling again and the gobblers are back on the slope above us again. So I moved to the right of where I originally sat, under a low lying branch, and shouldered the BSA Hornet as two Tom turkeys slowly panned to the left again. I adjusted my position slightly to get a better shot and found the two facing me about 25 yards uphill. The smaller of the two was the one that I had a clear shot at, so I chose not to be picky and aimed at his neck (there wasn't a head shot available) and squeezed the trigger as smoothly as I could.

"Spooot, SMACK, FLOP, tumble....tumble....tumble...."

He really did stop tumbling within 10 feet of me, which was very convenient of him. I'm one proud airgunner that's a hunting newbie!!!  

  Anthony Innocentes and a wild turkey, taken with a BSA Hornet in .22 caliber using JSB pellets at 870 fps   
 BSA Hornet in .22 caliber and wild turkey

Turkey on ice!   
 After taking the photos, we called it a day so we could get back to Mountain Lyon's and gut the bird and get him on ice so I could get him home. I finished cleaning and plucking all the feathers, and my brother in law from Pennsylvania came over to walk me through the process and got everyone from back home on the phone to talk to me since it was my fist turkey, and to make it clear to them that I took him with an air rifle, which absolutely amazed them. Back on the farm, they envision low powered Daisy and Crosman multi-pumpers, and Red Ryders when airguns are mentioned.......but they know otherwise now!!

As always, thanks to Mountain Lyon and his family for providing another excellent airgunning experience. I look forward to going at it again soon, with the emphasis on ML baggin' his first bird.  -  Tony  
 Tony's turkey......tasty!

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Whitetail Deer Hunt 2006

I love to hunt, and hunting with airguns simply increases the challenge. This year, I set my stand up just 50 yards from where Jim Chapman and I bagged his buck from last year (see website for story). It's early enough in the year that there is still significant foliage on the trees, and the placement of the stand was based on last year's observations of deer movement.

I arrived at my stand at about 6:45, about 30 minutes before shooting light. Once in the stand, I fastened my safety belt and settled in for the waiting game that is deer hunting. It's nice being out in the woods as the day begins. There is a peacefulness that doesn't come across quite the same as being out in the middle of the day.

I was tired, so I closed my eyes several times, not quite going to sleep, but sort of drifting in that half-way area between being awake and asleep. You can hear what is going on around you, but your body is relaxed and restful. Once the birds began their morning vocal warm-up, I opened my eyes and began my hunt.

Nothing happened for two hours, but at 9:00, a fawn and her mother pranced out of the brush and walked right by the stand. I sighted in on the doe, took a good look at her, and let her go. Her fawn was still pretty small, about the size of a large german shepherd. And she was a smaller doe with several more years of good breeding in her. The fawn actually took a drink about 10 yards from the stand. It was a cute little thing, prancing around and being young.

For about 15 minutes the two deer walked around and browsed the surrounding vegetation. Then the doe brought her head up, snorted, and they took off. I'm not sure if they smelled me, or were disturbed by something else, but their alarm made another doe off in the brush jerk her head up, giving her presence away. I hadn't seen her yet, but when I took a better look at her through the scope, I made up my mind I was going to take her. She was a mature doe, with a large body. There was no fawn with her, so I sighted in on her left shoulder blade and squeezed the trigger.

My gun of choice today was the Quackenbush .457 LA Outlaw, the same gun I took to Africa this past summer. I really like the power and accuracy of this gun, and today was no exception. However, I was using a new round that I had not used before on live game, a 180 gr all-lead hollow point sabot that I had found at Bass Pro shops a few weeks earlier. Last night I had performed some basic accuracy tests with it to make sure I could hit my target within a certain range, and was pleased with the results.

The sabot round worked well, and my deer, 40 yards off, dropped in its tracks. I am constantly amazed at the effectiveness of slow-moving chunks of lead as opposed to the higher velocity centerfire rounds, and this deer proved no different. I'll say it again, it is accuracy that counts in airgun hunting.....in all hunting!

As I watched my doe on the ground to make sure she was down for good, I reloaded, relishing the fact that I didn't need any powder or patch to mess with. I simply placed the sabot in the muzzle, started it down with the flat side of my closed pocketknife, and rammed it home with my ramrod. Done deal!

I sat in the stand for another 45 minutes, hoping that a buck would be on the same trail. Another doe came by and skirted around the dead doe, and I finally decided that it was time to start the messy part of deer hunting. I got down from my stand and checked on my kill. She was a very large doe, and I headed up the hill to retrieve my ATV for the trip out. Once I got back with the ATV, 5 more deer scrambled for cover at my approach. Nine does, and not a buck to be seen. Two more weeks and the rut will be going stronger, increasing the odds of drawing in a good buck for the wall.

I finished field-dressing the doe, loaded her up on the ATV, and made my way out of the woods. Back at camp, I hung her up to drain a little more and swapped stories with the other hunters, showing one of them the .457 since he hadn't had a chance to see it yet. I finished loading up all my gear, and headed for the house, realizing I had just finished an excellent week. Last Saturday my son killed his first doe, and I had taken this one today......it has been a good week!

Now if I can just get a good buck for the wall......

The end of a great hunt!

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