Author Topic: Notes On Hunting  (Read 272 times)

Alan

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Notes On Hunting
« on: September 27, 2018, 04:31:49 PM »
At seventy-eight years of age, I consider myself rather lucky. I grew up, literally, in a sporting goods store, and thus learned to hunt at a very early age. Although I have hunted most of North America’s big game, I have always returned to varmint hunting. There are many reasons why this is so.

One of those reasons is the skill required to shoot varmints at great distances. Oh sure, you can hunt them out to 150 yards with a simple 22LR, or perhaps a bit further with a 17 HMR or similar cartridge. However, when distances exceed 500 yards, even a 22-250 is in rare territory. This is the main reason I had a 22-250AI built, with a 1:12 twist, 31 inch barrel. Read that as an extra dose of velocity. But even it had a hard time at 1,000 yards. Yes, I killed a prairie dog at just over 1,700 yards with the gun, but it was more fluke than art.

I once owned a 338/378 which could easily shoot out to 2,000 yards,. However, civilization encroachment becomes the limiting factor when using such a monster! Along with growing older, when recoil from powerful weapons becomes more painful, and lasting!

Then one of my long-term hunting partners moved away, and another one died unexpectedly (R.I.P. Bill Calloway). Fact is, I’ve outlived most of my high school class! Adding even more injury, my favorite prairie dog hunting area here in New Mexico, was closed to hunting! What was a guy to do?

One thing I did do, was fully-equip my nephew, a few months after my brother (his dad) passed away from melanoma. I still have a few long guns, a shotgun, and a couple of concealed carry weapons. The reloading hardware, however, has been recycled to more desirous hands. I just hope he stores the 250 pounds of powder I gave him in a safe place!

Then out of the blue, while looking for something quite different, and ad popped up on Amazon for a Benjamin 397, for just $137. It sure brought back memories from my childhood (more on that at another time). Well, we all know what happened next, don’t we?

I have never left any weapon I ever bought in stock condition. So into and on to the 397 went a decent, action-mounted scope adapter and scope, a SuperSear from AoA, a TKO22 suppressor mounted with an Alchemy AirWorks adapter, a small mod to the valve, and wallah! Say what you will, the 397 is exceedingly accurate out to at least 30 yards, when shooting Gamo RedFire pellets. Let me put it this way; We no longer have squirrels in our trees!

Then things got out of hand. I could bore you to tears with the details, but suffice to say, my retirement account was hit a bit hard! In addition to the 397, I now have a bottled and regulated, .25 caliber Marauder (tuned for JBS Heavies), a Korean 9 mm which was given to me (a decent pig gun), and my .25 caliber W.A.R. Cobra tuned for JSB 25.39 grainers. Two portable tanks (of course), an Omega Air Charger, and about one hundred pounds of pellets! Enough, I trust, to last me for awhile… maybe!

I say maybe, because I try to hunt every day! My average usage hovers around 25 rounds a day, Of late, however, the number of shots per day has diminished. Pigeons (the prime target at both of my permissions), and Eurasian (collared) Doves are smart birds. They can recognize vehicles, and people well enough, that they take flight as soon as you show up at the hunting area. And too, dove season (and squirrel season) started the first of September, when game birds start roosting in trees where they are very hard to spot. By the first week of December, things will be more or less back to normal. However, there are noticeably less pigeons and doves this year than last, at both of my permissions, so my efforts are paying off. The land owners should be very pleased!

Digressing for a moment. My “hunts” are more of an attempt on mental stability, and a means of keeping in physical shape, than a real hunt. My average daily walking distance is about 2 miles. Not too bad for an almost octogenarian! It is a bit unfortunate for the pigeons and collared doves who just happen to get in my way during my walks!

It should be apparent that airguns have found a place in my home, in my heart, and in the field. Most everyone who visits these pages has a similar story to tell, about their love of pressurized air weaponry. As a result, there shouldn’t be any jealousy, save for a few pangs because I get to hunt more than anyone else I know!

And as my friend Ken Muggli often says… In any case… I have a few suggestions for those who find themselves in the same, late-life scenario.

First, buy a decent pair of shooting sticks. They come in one, two, and three leg varieties, but I find the two legged ones work best for me. They’re light weight, and inexpensive. They’re sort of like those folding canes with bungie cord inside.

Gusty breezes are a bane to air gunners, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn to shoot in the wind. You just have to learn to dope the wind correctly. To facilitate that, buy yourself an anemometer (wind meter), but don’t spend a lot of money. Even the $18 ones via Amazon work well enough for any air gunner.

The same goes for a pair of binoculars. I paid $34 for a pair of Bushnell 10X50s, and they work well enough for any airgun use. Remember, we’re not trying to spot a Dahl Ram at 1,500 yards, and in dim light!

The same basic information applies to rifle scopes. Almost every air gunner I know, has purchased too much magnification. Unless you’re into Field Target shooting, anything over 9X is too much! Remember, exit pupil size is very important. My Barska 1.5X6X44 is set at just over 4X, so the exit pupil is about 10 mm. This allows both eyes to be kept open, with one on the external, Picatinny-mounted scope level when necessary. Incidentally, the ≈4 magnification setting is the exact spot where the distance between the reticle’s hashmarks are 4 inches at 100 yards. A chart giving me the holdover data, is stuck to the side of the action. It just can’t get any simpler.

Every hunter needs a laser rangefinder. The one I bought from a fellow Air Gun Guild member, a Nikon Aculon AL11, fits the bill nicely. Help steady enough, in not too bright sunlight, it can range a dove-sized target out to about 160 yards.

Digressing again. Remembering that we’re air gunners, laser rangefinders with a detection range much past 400 yards, are overkill.  The reason is simple this. The longer the detection range, the longer the minimum detection range. Further, any eyepiece power over 6X often proves to be too much.

While you’re at your local sporting goods store, buy a cheap, light-weight hunting vest with lots of pockets. The one I have was a $20 special from Amazon, in blaze orange. Everything I need, including pellets, fit into the pockets, expect my binoculars. By the way, I single load my pellets, so they’re dumped (about 25 at a time) into the most advantageous pocket.

I just have to comment on videoing hunting kills. The ATN X-Sight II I once owned, did a credible job if all you were doing was videoing. I also bought a Sony, HD Handycam, with a tripod, and BlueTooth remote control. Not so “handy” unless you have a videographer tagging along. Hajimoto’s scope mounted method is perhaps the best overall solution I’ve seen. In fact, Hajimoto, Matt Drubber, and dozens of others, are almost making a living videoing all manner of hunting kills. It isn’t that I disagree with the idea—I don’t. What I don’t like, is the time it takes to do the editing. I’d rather be out isn the field, doing what I like best—hunting!!

My blessing to each and every one…

May the Sun never set, nor the moon never rise, during your time in the field.


  • Roswell, New Mexico
Alan

I have an Omega compressor. If you're a fellow Guild member, and you pass through Roswell, NM, I'll fill your portable tank as a courtesy.

Monkeydad1969

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Re: Notes On Hunting
« Reply #1 on: October 01, 2018, 03:03:01 PM »
Nice.
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Christopher

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Re: Notes On Hunting
« Reply #2 on: October 01, 2018, 06:40:16 PM »
Wow Alan, just read this today. Really nice read and good, sound advice for any airgunner newb or experienced.

Thanks for taking the time to write this up,
Chris
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Steelhead

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Re: Notes On Hunting
« Reply #3 on: October 01, 2018, 07:28:53 PM »
One thing you point out Alan is the scope. When I got into airguns I was a little shocked by how they were used. I found that it was much easier as you said to find a 'happy zone' of magnification and learn it, practice it, and commit the ranges to memory. Or like you AND me have it taped on the gun afield.

I'll admit that I've spent a little on scopes (two Hawke lower-end models in the $220.00 range) but I don't crank up the mag on either. I seem to like 6X on both the Texan and the Streamline. On the Texan that keeps me on the mildots out to around 250 yards while being zeroed at 125. On the streamline being zeroed at 50 yards I'm still on my reticle system at 175 yards with more to go.

I think beginners (and a lot of veterans) in the hobby play with the magnification too much. Keep it on the medium/low side and learn to use the holdovers. There's an argument/opinion in there for advocating FFP, but you need to crawl before you can walk IMO.
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Hajimoto

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Re: Notes On Hunting
« Reply #4 on: October 03, 2018, 02:21:44 AM »
I was not expecting that this morning! What an excellent read. Thank you for sharing it Alan.

I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catchers mitt on both hands.  You need to be able to throw something back.

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butchb

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Re: Notes On Hunting
« Reply #5 on: October 03, 2018, 09:14:07 PM »
Good read for sure. The short time I've been air gunning this forum and you and John have advanced my knowledge rapidly and for that I'm thankful. I know I ask too many simple questions and probably shouldn't post this much but I'm 79 and I don't have time to figure it out by just trial and error anymore. Thank you, Art
  • Marion Illinois

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Re: Notes On Hunting
« Reply #6 on: October 21, 2018, 08:03:12 PM »
Thank you Alan for a great article. As an ex jarhead, I've shot almost everything shootable, but just "discovered" airguns. Really into them, but still learning. Love the fact that the shooting range is now aka my backyard!
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Gerard

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Re: Notes On Hunting
« Reply #7 on: October 24, 2018, 02:25:56 PM »
Nice bit of storytelling there Alan, with a good overview of one fellow's ways with airguns. A lot of forum topics become very specific, so it's good seeing a broader, bigger picture of how one goes about this stuff. So hey, why not...

I was an ace shooter with break-barrel .22" pellet rifles as a kid. Loved spending the summer and fall plinking and doing a bit of bird hunting - ate a partridge and a pigeon thanks to the old Czech .22" and Crosman wadcutters from Woolworth's, often carried 2 or 3 at a time under the tongue for faster reloading in case of a missed shot (though I rarely missed) - this being a piece of 'wisdom' handed down by my stepfather. I might have been 1 or 2 points higher in IQ if not for that habit! Or not. Who knows?

One fall day at age 14 I was standing in the driveway with my rifle open (actually a rather new-to-me Czech .177", a model 630 I think, with a blonde beechwood stock) and unloaded, wondering what to do, plinking-wise. My younger brother was nearby with his rifle. We both looked up at the top of the pine tree about 30 feet across the yard when a yellow finch started singing right on the top-most needles, about 40 feet up. That pine tree blew down that winter in a windstorm, half-crushing a car behind our fence, so I know how tall it was from walking along it once it was down. I turned to my brother as I loaded a pellet and said "Hey, watch this!" and swivelled the barrel up as I spoke, shooting from the hip, Rifleman style. That poor little finch stopped singing and tumbled down the branches. Between the time I pulled the trigger and the time the bird hit the ground, I decided to call my best friend who hunted orchard starlings for the 10 cent bounty and sell him my rifle. He dearly wanted that gun as it was the most accurate any of us had ever seen. I didn't have the guts to go over to where the dead bird lay, just went inside and called my friend. He came over that hour and gave me $13 for it. And I didn't pull a trigger for another 38 years.

But the squirrels brought me back to shooting. In every garden at every house I've lived in for the past 30 years, squirrels have wrought havoc, taking bites out of everything and moving on, sometimes biting right through small trunks and stems just to watch plants fall but without much interest in the produce. A half dozen years ago their population was obviously escalating in the extreme, with sometimes 3 or 4 appearing the same morning outside my kitchen, sometimes coming right up to the porch and killing my potted plants as if the garden and nut tree weren't enough. I tried live trapping and relocation back in the 1990's, but had to stop when a cop told me there would be a $500 fine if he caught me doing that again. Something about risking the health of other squirrels if the ones I was relocating were diseased... my goodness, he was actually threatening me over an introduced, invasive species' health concerns! Police often puzzle me. As do lawyers and politicians. And to an increasing degree, animal rights activists. I was a vegetarian for almost 39 years, primarily out of concern for the planet's well-being, but as we're probably all doomed in the next few decades due to industrial and other pollutants, I've decided lately to eat meat again, preferring the energy and better mental clarity it seems to bring. So yeah, here's these squirrels... and one day one of them decided to take several bites out of each of the three kabocha squash I was admiring at one end of my little garden. Just enough to make them less perfect and to make me a lot more angry than usual at grey squirrels. I watched him do it. Shouted at him. Threw a stick. To no avail. He looked at me as if to say 'Yeah? and what are you going to do about it?'

So I went to Canadian Tire and bought a pellet gun. Cheap thing, just $70. It broke while I was trying to learn to shoot it. Horrible Chinese-made worst-grade garbage thing. China can make some amazing things, but this wasn't that. Thus started my re-introduction to airguns. I've joined a bunch of forums. Learned a lot about rebuilding them, custom tweaking, all manner of fun hobby stuff. Competed in 10 metre Olympic style air pistol for three years and earned a handful of medals at the provincial level including a couple of golds in 'Expert' category, finally stopping when scoring consistently at 553/600 due to a shoulder injury got in weight training. Went to HFT after that as a rifle doesn't need any shoulder stability, and I continue shooting casual HFT matches once in a while.

My Pardini K12 pistol does duty as a night vision equipped ratter now, but it'll probably go back to 10 metre target shooting eventually. Loved that sport, but while my shoulder slowly recovers and the weight training gradually gets back on track, the Pardini provides an absurd level of precision for rat sniping out to about 20 metres. It's like a laser. Air Pistol competition is very meditative, better than yoga. Have to get back to that...

My primary air rifle is what's left of a second hand QB78D, which wears a 13 cubic inch regulated Ninja bottle, a Lothar Walther barrel in .22", and a tubular stock for takedown and backpack transport. Up top is a Burris Droptine 2x-7x rimfire scope. I've made an SSG to drive the lightened striker (38 grams - down from 65 grams stock) to the heavily modified valve and deliver 19.6fpe of energy with JSB 18.13gr pellets. Just carved up the LW barrel the other day after becoming unsatisfied with the original cut-down barrel, so I can't wait to get out and do some really long range (100 metres anyway) shooting soon and see what German steel can do. The QB does the business on squirrels if they're further out than 10 metres, but the Pardini's just fine for those in the daytime (the IR monocular with compact 3x scope in front of it works great in the daytime as well as night) if they're closer, a tree rat being no match for a well-placed wadcutter to the brain even at just 5fpe.

I can't see myself stopping shooting again. It's just too addictive. And my childhood stupidity, shooting birds for no reason, that's long gone. The only living targets are the pests I can't tolerate around the house and yard. 6 rats so far this month and 8 squirrels. Starlings aren't a real problem around here so they get left alone. Same for raccoons and skunks, who just poke around looking for grubs mostly and leave my garden alone. I've had a skunk walk almost close enough to feel it on my leg, and so long as I talk a bit while they go by there's no stress. They're a bit blind I think, so don't like surprises, a chatty human providing them some comfort apparently. I'll probably have an Edgun Leshiy in .22" eventually. Love that little thing. Got to shoot one an acquaintance had last month at the range, and DANG, that thing's build like a hammer! For the few shots I had with it, set up for very different eyesight and with a mushy trigger setup, I couldn't miss a 3" steel plate at 50 metres from a standing, unsupported position. It's like a guided weapon. Freakishly good little piece of kit. It'll wait a while as I'm pretty satisfied with the stuff I'm shooting (got a handful of old Webley pistols, a Walther LP53 I rebuilt, a 2260, and a Brocock Atomic set up as a carbine), but yes, one day a Leshiy will be mine, along with the Dedal Stalker 6x scope designed specifically for it.
  • Vancouver, Canada

Alan

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Re: Notes On Hunting
« Reply #8 on: October 24, 2018, 03:09:31 PM »
Wonderful story. You and Bob Sterne should get together sharing airguns and a Canadian birthright.

As I have always said, age has done more for me than religion every could have! I don't do big game any more, and really haven't for a number of years. I leave that facet up to the younger crowd. But pigeons, that is a whole new scenario. Eurasian dove, squirrels, skunks, coyotes, fox, and a few others are fair game too. The places I hunt on, are all exurban areas, close to civilization, but far enough away to have all manner of domestic cattle, horses, chickens, ducks, etc. I get my exercise, they get their pest problem addressed, so we all win.

Thanks for sharing your experience.
  • Roswell, New Mexico
Alan

I have an Omega compressor. If you're a fellow Guild member, and you pass through Roswell, NM, I'll fill your portable tank as a courtesy.

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Re: Notes On Hunting
« Reply #9 on: October 24, 2018, 03:17:26 PM »
Well Bob is a considerable distance from me, a good day's drive. And I don't drive, so talking my wife into that trip would have to revolve around his lovely business, the inn he maintains up in those snowy mountains. My wife's more an ocean addict (we're going down the coast for a couple of weeks soon so she can look at ocean from various beaches) so that'll be a difficult conversation... but it could happen. Been meaning to have her visit the Okanagan where part of my childhood was spent and that's halfway to Bob's house.

Speaking of coyotes; there's a new principal at my son's elementary school, and he's obviously out to impress some parents with his diligence. Ordered a 'level yellow lockdown' for a couple of hours this morning because a solitary coyote was observed in the neighbouring park. Good grief.
  • Vancouver, Canada