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Three day Adventure Airgun/Bow hunt

Thursday evening I came home from work and started packing the Jeep for a three day long hunt in the high desert of California. The plan was for me to meet with Jon, a gentleman I had met on the popular SCHOUTDOORS forum and who had volunteered to help me with some filming. The next morning Marley and I left the house bright and early for the several hour drive into the desert where we would meet Jon and have him follow us up through the rugged terrain to our hunting spot. Thankfully when we arrived it wasn’t as windy as I had anticipated as well as being much cooler than planned. As we drove into the camping area Marley and I had already spotted several Cottontails as well as some Jackrabbits and Ground Squirrels. This area is very unique as it offers a wide variety of animals to hunt, all within walking distance. We unpacked our gear, relaxed for a bit and then started setting up the camera equipment, guns etc, for a short hunt where I would show Jon the lay of the land. Jon had never used an Airgun before and was primarily used to firearms as well as a compound bow. I offered him to use my custom MK1 .22 carbine pistol that was near perfect for this type of hunting and accurate enough to make shots out past 60 yards. Jon was excited and within several minutes from camp we decided to sit down under one of the many Oak trees that nestles among the large valley with many rock outcroppings and fallen trees, the best natural habitat for the California Ground Squirrel.

hunting cottontail

Within several minutes of sitting I had spotted a good size adult Ground Squirrel sunning himself atop a large boulder at 63 yards. I took aim while Jon maneuvered the camera that we had mounted on a tripod to film the action.

ground squirrel

ground squirrel kill

63 Yard headshot

After I had made the kill on the Ground Squirrel Jon spotted a Cottontail grazing in some grass just under another Oak tree at 45 yards, Jon was able to make a nice head-shot making it his first rabbit kill and his first time using an Airgun. As we moved our locations we spotted another Cottontail that was grazing further up the hill at 40 yards where I was able to dispatch with authority using the .30 American Air Arms EVOL. After a short trip back to camp where Jon decided to pick up his compound bow and some more water for our walk down the hill we set out again.

cottontail hunting

Over the next 20 minutes Jon, Marley and I walked down through the valley that followed a small creek with embankments that many Cottontails like to graze at. The grass near the creek is a bit greener as well as having a bit more cover for them to scurry into in the event they are attacked by predators. As we walked slowly down through a wooded area following a game trail I soon spotted a Cottontail at about 25 yards, perfect range for Jon’s bow.

cottontail bow hunt

cottontail kill with arrow

The arrows he was using were fitted with a large blunt tip that in turn is suppose to simply knock out the rabbit and not penetrate, this one passed through the entire rabbit. As Jon was collecting his kill we spotted another Cottontail that was heading up a hillside towards a large rock outcropping. I was able to make a nice kill at 64 yards that dropped the rabbit just before it disappeared under some rocks, Marley was fast to assist in the recovery.

cottontail kill

As we continued down the creek-side into an area that was a bit more open, almost like a field we spotted another Cottontail grazing. The position of the sun gave Jon a great silhouette to make sight on at what looked to be near 45 yards, impressive with a bow.

bowhunting

bowhunting cottontail

Jon and I continued a giant loop that lead us back onto a road that headed North up a hill and back to camp, by this time it was getting very hot. We made our return to camp where we were happily greeted by Nick, his wife Jessica and three boys. Nick was busy sighting in a few of his rifles and putting the final test on several lines of ammo he has produced.

The one thing I really admire about Nick is his drive for perfection in producing a quality product, he spends hours testing his ammo and is always open to suggestion. Over the next few hours we all relaxed at camp and enjoyed the shade and luxuries such as ice cold water, food and snacks. Jessica his wife was amazing and pretty much fed us all the entire weekend!

 

It was a great fellowship we had and I much enjoyed hanging with Nicks youngest son Josh who did join us on several hunts throughout the weekend.

After several hours of relaxing in the shade I suggested that we take two vehicles and head down the hill several miles to the Jackrabbit hunting area.

This area is huge and offers a wide variety of terrain to hunt in, flat areas, rolling hills and steep mountains. When Airgun hunting where we are trying to keep our ranges fairly close, similar as to what a bowhunter needs. After witnessing Jon’s several kills with a bow I was was excited to see what he was capable of in a more open environment. After parking our vehicles and unpacking our gear we headed East towards the mountains, I usually do this in late afternoon where I walk several miles away from the sun and then turn back into it. By doing this I can usually spot the amber ears of the Jackrabbits that are brightly back-lite by the sun.

As we all made our way East spread about 100 yards apart I was able to spot several Jackrabbits moving through the thicker bushes and tall luminous Joshua trees. As I looked over I could occasionally spot the other guys taking shots on the many Jackrabbits that call this area home.

As I walked I much enjoyed being here, this area is absolutely beautiful and in ways I almost felt like I had been transported back in time to the wild west. The look and feel of this location is unlike any other desert I have visited, amazing how the plants and animals can sustain such a dry climate. As Marley and I continued our slow walk, stopping every few steps to glass for movement I spotted several Jackrabbits at 75 yards in front of us between two Joshua trees. These two had frozen like statues and were near invisible with the perfect camouflage they wore. I had the EVOL .30 loaded with the 44gr Predator International Polymags that I have concluded are just about the best ammo for this type of hunting. They feature a polymer tip in the head of the pellet which implodes into the rest of the pellet, making for a devastating impact. This pellet is also lighter due to its polymer tip that in turn shoots a bit faster, these are not as great for super long range but out to 120+ yards they work very well.

Jon and I continued our walk where we eventually turned around to head into the sun hoping to spot the illusive amber ears, the evening was just breathtakingly beautiful.

As we walked a bit more Jon had suggested that I stay put and he would continue in a short half circle direction hoping to flush several Jackrabbits my direction.

Several minutes went by and sure enough I had a smaller Jackrabbit moving its way casually right towards Marley and I by about 65 yards. I was able to make a nice clean chest shot that sent the Jackrabbit into a back-flip where Marley was quick to make her retrieval.

As we made our way back to the Jeep we had noticed that our second party had left us, figured it may have been to hot or they simply had gotten to many or not enough.

 

I was very pleased with our short little hunt that turned out to be very action packed and successful, too the footage I had gotten of Jon stalking a Jackrabbit was spectacular. As we packed up the truck I took several more photographs and we headed back to camp excited to hear how the others did. The evening was nice and cool and offered some spectacular views of the stars, Nick, Jon and I stayed up late and talked for a bit with Jon and I deciding to call it a night as we planned to get up early and hunt.


This morning we awoke just after sunup and decided to follow the creek down through camp and cross the road where I had previously scouted for Cottontail the day before. We had been expecting Tom Costan from American Air Arms to arrive that morning so had planned to stay fairly close to the road so that we could hear his arrival. As we made way down the creek Jon and I had spotted several Cottontail that disappeared into the treeline and out of sight into the thicker bushes. This area was loaded with rabbits, no doubt one of the best habitats I have ever seen.

We continued down the creek-side path that led us into a giant open field that gave opportunities for much longer shots. As we took a break from our hike we stopped just near the creeks embankment where I soon spotted a Cottontail moving around next to a large bush at 115 yards. I set up the rifles bi-pod and took my shot that sent the rabbit into a backwards flip leaving a loud crack that echoed through the canyon.

 

cottontail hunt

After this photograph was taken we heard the distant crack of a Big Bore Airgun in the distance, figured it was Tom Costan from American Air Arms making his way into the field with his .357 Slayer. Soon enough Tom made his way down through the tall dry grass and across the creek to where we were posting up.

hunting

Tom was excited when we told him of the success we had that morning and was eager to accompany us on our hunt further out into the hills. We now headed Eastward where a large many Conifer trees were, Cottontails usually frequent the base of these areas and offer good opportunities. Tom was able to make a shot on one Cottontail at close to 75 yards that came in a bit low sending the rabbit on the run and into the thicker areas of bushes where we lost sight of it.

This area made way past several of these large trees and then into a more open area with Oak trees and scattered rocks. Jon spotted a Cottontail moving through the grass and up into the many nearby rock outcroppings, this was a great habitat for them.

bowhunting

After Tom had taken several shots getting after some rabbits he made a quick refill with his buddy bottle with a little help from Marley. As he was refilling I had noticed Jon stalking a rabbit so Tom and I decided to quietly continue down the path where we split up a ways so I could photograph.

Tom headed up into the mountains that offered him further shots and was soon to spot several ground squirrels sunning themselves on the many rocks that scattered the area. As he made his way through the rocks he made a beautiful 85 yard head-shot on a ground squirrel that left quite the mess on the rocks using 120gr  Nielsen Specialty Ammo Swaged slug.

slayer headshot

As we hiked further into the mountains we took a rest under a large Oak tree that offered shad and a great location to spot animals moving in the distance.

By this time it was late morning and the heat of the sun was starting to beat down on us pretty hard, especially Marley. We rested for about 20 minutes while glassing the vast valley for any visible movement, very little mount of activity other than birds as it was simply by this time to hot. We all stuck fairly close together on the way back as we headed down the other side of the mountain where we followed a trail that ultimately would return us to camp. As we made our way back I could see several rabbits in the distance scurrying in several directions, one made its way right in front of Tom at 40 yards where he was able to take it out even considering a small bush was in his way.

After lunch we headed down the hill where we had planned to do some long range shooting with the Slayer as well as some photography work I was doing with several other products. The area we drove to was only several miles down the road and offered a nice shaded area to park as well as ranges out to several hundred yards.

We had set up a soda can at 100 yards, eggs at 175 yards and a 3″ spinner at 250 yards that offered all of us some good challenges, especially in the wind. Tom was first to make some shots and make it look easy with the .357 Slayer, well he should have considering he built the entire gun from the ground up. The eggs were by no means easy in the wind, luckily Jon had brought his high end spotting scope that helped very much in identifying the shots.

After annihilating a bunch of eggs Tom turned his sights on a very challenging 3″ spinner that was set out at 250 yards, pretty hard to see at that distance.

Both Tom and I took turns with the gun and with some practice were able to consistently make hits, even in the wind that was swirling at times. His Valdada IOR Recon 4-28X50 scope is a beast and one of the nicest long range scopes I have used, perfect match for the Slayer.

We all had a great time shooting, John even had brought his .22 rifle that he had a great time shooting.

As the guys continued shooting I decided to set up the Kalibr Cricket .25 bullpup with the new Side-Shot phone mount that’s a great new product that allows you to shoulder the rifle like normal and look through scope while still recording. The kit comes with 1 complete Side-Shot, 1 Scope clamp of your choice (3 scope clamps are in the picture to show different sizes, comes with 1 clamp) in 1 inch (25mm), 30mm or 34mm size (to fit scope tube size) and 1 stabilizer bar (plastic piece that snaps onto your scope and dampens vibrations) Side-Shot is a universal phone adapter that holds your smart phone securely and adjusts to different phone sizes and brands so you don’t have to keep buying more holders each time you get a new phone. Its quick change system lets you switch from one gun to the next in seconds.

This  Kalibr Cricket .25 bullpup is set up to shoot .25 38gr NSA slugs at near 880 fps making this gun quite the hammer. I was setting up this gun to use for my hunt that afternoon and evening, hoping to capture some action on video. This is the first time I had really ever used any type of scope-cam and was very pleased with how easily everything went together. After I set the gun up I set out into the nearby field and immediately spotted several Jackrabbits. The cant was a bit off adjustment but I can see with a bit more time in fine tuning this may be the ultimate setup for recording.

I spotted several Jackrabbits and most were on the run after they spotted Marley, she chased a few after I had taken several shots. These Jackrabbits are amazingly fast, especially out in the open as they were here. I much enjoyed playing back the action on my phone and can see I will be using much more of the Side-Shot on future hunts. I think its really good for me because I can easily record and send to email, Facebook or even directly to YouTube. After making some very unsuccessful shots in the extreme heat of the day Marley and I made way back to the Jeep for some water and to join the other guys for our continued long range activities.

We all had a great time and felt a little more confident with our shooting skills after the several hours spent practicing, the 250 yard spinner was a ton of fun and really shows what Airguns are really capable of. The footage we got was impressive! We loaded up the vehicles and headed back to camp where we really just sat and relaxed until about 5:00pm when it started cooling down a bit, the high for the day was 112 degrees, much to hot to be out hunting. As we drove down the hill the plan was to follow a small Jeep trail that headed East up into a very remote part of this desert. I had previously found the area on Google Earth and had noticed it being a little greener that may have indicated some sort of water source.

Tom took off up into the valley a bit ahead of us where he soon made a beautiful 105 yard shot on a good size Jackrabbit, you can see in the photo just how close the Jackrabbits fur matches the ground cover.

Jon, Marley and I continued several hundred yards next to Tom following the many animal trails that were covered in tracks, this area was very active. We made our way into a field that seemed much greener just as I had seen on Google Earth and almost immediately spotted several Jackrabbits. I set my sights on one at 75 yards that had froze like a statue next to several bushes just long enough to make a great shoulder shot.

The .25 Cricket is a great bullpup for offhand shooting and has a ton of power to push the NSA 38gr slugs nice and flat for longer range shots.

As we continued our hike through the desert Tom continued his own busy hunt and even managed to get a very large Jackrabbit at 90 yards with a spine shot that dropped that jack on the spot.

 

.357 Slayer Jackrabbit kill using 120gr  Nielsen Specialty Ammo Swaged slug

Jon and I moved a bit further away from each other and I moved towards a strange area that had some sandstone hills with more open terrain with very little vegetation. I saw something out of the corner of my eye like a flash of something big moving, as I looked again I noticed it was a very large Coyote, unlike others I had seen this one almost had more of a winter coat. I tried getting my scope on it and was able to capture some on film but unfortunately it was moving way to fast to take any successful shots. I was caught a bit off guard by the sighting and was a bit disappointing that I had not had a better chance. As the sun moved down a bit more I was starting to see more and more Jackrabbits moving about through the bushes and sandy washes. Marley and I continued to follow the sunset in a slow walk down the sandy wash that led us to an opening where I spotted a good size Jackrabbit sitting next to a Cholla Cactus. I had a nice clear shot at 87 yards that I placed right in the head that sent the Jackrabbit flipping backwards where Marley was able to make a quick retrieval.

Over the rest of the evening we continued to see several large Jackrabbits but I think between all the foot-traffic they had become very aware of our presence in the desert. As we continued back and made our way to the vehicles Marley had spotted a Jackrabbit and gave it a pretty good chase, amazing how fast that little dog is when she is motivated. Over just the past two days she had gotten more action than any other hunting trip I can remember, near 20 rabbits between all of us. We took a break by the Jeep soon accompanied by Tom who had to say his goodbyes and head back home, what a great day we all had. That evening back at camp Nick BBQ some burgers and we had a great time hanging out and reminiscing the great day we had.


It was 4:15am and Marley, Jon and I awoke very early to head into an area I call “The Hills Have Eyes” a very desolate location that offers extreme long range shots. I had hunted here several times before with Tom and we had both always had great luck finding Jackrabbits and Cottontails. The area we parked was near a trail that wrapped around the base of a mountain that overlooked several miles onto the desert floor. It was barley light out by the time we started our long hike that’s terrain can be very unforgiving and rocky. As we made way over the first rise I spotted a Cottontail at 83 yards in the open that gave me opportunity to make an excellent head-shot.

Jon set up his GoPro camera to capture some time-lapse video that we planned to use in the video of this adventure. The morning was fairly quiet other than the distant chatter of a Coyote caller that someone had set out several miles down on the desert floor followed by several large caliber shots followed by silence.

As the sun started to come up over the mountains Jon and I were starting to spot several Jackrabbits moving about, most way beyond 200 yards. I knew most of the shots here may beyond what the Cricket was capable of but still was excited to see what Jon could do with his .22 rim-fire as I knew he had much practice with it the day before. Jon set up his rifle into his tripod that would assist him in making some shots that were out to 300 yards, amazing for almost any type of rifle.

We had spotted several Jackrabbits moving, some were simply lost due to the extreme distance and difficulty to track through the scope with so many bushes, trees etc,. After some patience Jon finally settled in on a Jackrabbit that I believe was just beyond 300 yards sitting next to a bush offering not much more than a sharp black silhouette as a target.

As you can see from the photograph this is an extreme long range shot and very similar as to what we were doing with the Slayer in a previous video we did. I manned the camera and even with a tripod and the friction head cinched down it was still difficult to keep still at these ranges.

After a few minutes of setting everything up Jon took the shot that through a video review took several seconds for it to reach out the 300 yards where it fell just short and to the left by about 8″, still impressive shooting as far as he was.

As it was now approaching 9:30am it was time for us to make our way back to the Jeep and make our way back to camp to start packing for the trip home. As we made way through the mountains and more nearing the vehicle we spotted several Cottontail, one of which we both took shots at with no luck of recovery, even by Marley. As we made out of the mountains and back to the Jeep Jon had spotted several Ground Squirrels that were sitting upon a huge boulder high above us.

With very little energy left to sit and wait for the Ground Squirrels to come back up we decided to call it a day and make our way back to pack up all our camping stuff and head back home. Over the three days we had taken many Cottontails, Jackrabbits, Ground Squirrels and even had a short encounter with a Coyote. For me this one simply just one of the best hunting trips I had had in a great many years and was so happy that everyone had such a great time. I learned a few new things and got to make a new friend out of the whole adventure. Marley and I said our goodbyes and headed down the long desert road left with the exhaustion and memories of another great adventure together. I want to thank Jon for his amazing photography and video work, Nick for his great company and allowing me to use his Cricket coupled with his NSA ammo that worked flawlessly throughout the hunt. I want to thank Tom for coming out and hunting with us and allowing us to do some long range shooting with his .357 Slayer. Over the next few months we plan on doing some more trips and as usual will try our best to bring all the action through video and photos. Enclosed is a video link of our three day hunt I hope you can enjoy

 

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Fun and Gun weekend/hunting and shooting

Late Thursday evening I headed out with Marley several hours North into the secluded NF where I had previously scouted a good area to not only hunt, but shoot. My goal was to spend several days hunting and testing some ammo for not only the EVOL .30 but the .308 and .357 Slayers. After arriving close to dark I found a good place where I was meeting my friend Brent and his 20 year old son who were shortly behind me. After a short wait they had arrived and started making camp in our usual fashion along with a nice campfire to take the chill off our bones through the night.


The plan for us to get up early and to each scout several different areas for Cottontail, Jackrabbits and Ground Squirrels where we would meet up later in the day. I started out about a mile down the road where the foliage was just a bit greener along with a bit of water in the nearby creek. By this time it was about 7:00 am so I still had several hours until my friend Nick and his family arrived to a previously scouted area where we would camp, shoot and hunt for a solid 3 days. I decided to park the Jeep in a nice shady spot and take a long hike into the mountains with Marley and the EVOL .30



After a short hike across a creek and up a steep ravine Marley and I decided to take a break in the shade as it was getting fairly hot, we could hear the many birds such as Woodpeckers and Blue jays staying very active. After several minutes I was able to spot several ground squirrels moving about across a huge fallen tree.


I shot at several coming within inches, even close enough to blow one off the log with the shrapnel of splinters from the impact of the 44gr Polymag. After making some wind adjustments I spotted a good size Ground Squirrel poking his head up from behind the fallen log and just to the left of a small nubby branch.


When the wind had that moment of calmness I was able to make a beautiful 130 yard head-shot that blew that squirrel right off his rocker.


It always amazes me how far a shot really is when I have to walk it, was not easy making our way down the steep embankment and up the other side where we made our way to the giant fallen tree. The tree was massive and for some odd reason had what looked to be several doors someone had cut into it.??


Marley and I made our way around the other side and saw several more Ground Squirrel scrambling away through the broken mess of branches. We headed up from the other side and hiked up a hill where we sat in the shade at 90 yards looking down.


After about 10 minutes of patiently waiting Marley and I spotted several more Ground Squirrels moving about, one even stopped right on top.

The 90 yard shot was fairly easy for the .30 monster I was using so I was able to plug him pretty good as he made his way down off the log.



Marley and I made our way down to document our kills and to move to another spot where we would make way back to the tuck.



We continued down into the ravine and followed the creek back towards the Jeep when I spotted several more Ground Squirrels running up a steep embankment.


The Ground Squirrels seemed to all be invading a large tree that had roots that were protruding the ground from erosion. I sat in the shade while Marley played in the creek, trying to cool off from the Summer heat. I was having a difficult time positioning myself for a shot as the area was very off camber and too was forcing me to shoot near vertically. I finally spotted several and ended up killing the larger one on the right offering a bit larger target at 45 yards.



Marley and I headed a short distance back to the Jeep where we were soon met by Nick and his family. We set up a nice camp along with some EZups that would take the sun off and too offered a cool place for a shooting lane.


Nick was kind enough to set up his chronograph and Lab Radar

We set up several targets, spinners and later on my two friends even brought some heavy steel we set up at 130 yards through the trees.


After a full day of shooting we had a nice campfire followed by dinner, laughs and a few mosquito bites. The night was so peaceful and quiet other than a few Owls and the distant chatter of Coyotes.


Saturday morning came about and I woke up a bit late, being now after 8:00 am where we had expected Tom and several others to arrive throughout the day. Nicks wife was kind enough to make a nice pot of caffeine that I much needed to start my day of adventuring. Marley was so happy just to be outside and able to play stick with Nicks two boys.


Sometime around 11:00am Tom arrived with a .308 and .357 Slayer where him and Nick planned to test several different weights of Big Bore ammo. We had acquired a heavy steel quadrant target that I dragged 250 yards up through the trees, a great challenging target considering the small window it left to shoot through the thick branches.


Tom was using the nielsenspecialtyammo.com swaged 98.9gr .308 going 970 fps, gets out pretty quick and by the end of the day proved to be very accurate.


Later after lunch my friend Brent and his son Brian came to visit us and to tell us about the scouting they had done for Cottontail. My friend Brent is not an Airgunner but him and his son both showed great interest in the Big Bores we had on the table, heck who wouldn’t? Tom eagerly invited them to try them out and they both surly did.




After a bit more fun we took a break and relaxed in the shade talking about hunting, shooting and just having a few great conversations!
Tom sadly had to leave the fun and head back to his desert home so Nick, Marley and I loaded into the Jeep to do some scouting and to meet Craig down the road where he would follow us back to camp. By this time it was near 5:30 when we finally met up with Craig, was happy to see another friendly face join us in the reindeer games. Marley and I went out on another short hunt not far from camp where she was able to tackle herself some dinner down near the creek, a small Cottontail to be exact. That little dog is as amazing as they come and has brought so much joy into my life having such a good little companion as her. That evening we had more laughter along with some tasty chicken cabobs Nicks wife provided.


The next morning I woke up fairly early and headed up the hill to visit Brent and his son Brian and see how they faired with the opening day of cottontail season. They ended up getting one Cottontail not far from our camp using a shotgun at 30 yards on the run. I wish I had taken my camera but unfortunately did not. We all made way back to camp and enjoyed the shade from the EZup along with plenty of water that is so important on such hot days, especially when hiking around. I had suggested going on a Ground Squirrel hunt and Nick and Craig were both eager to attend. We packed our gear and brought plenty of water where I had planned to set them up near where I had gone the day before.

                                                                    Nick with his .25 Cricket
I set them both up about 50 yards apart where they both had some good view of the adjacent hillside.

                                                 Craig with his .25 Vulcan 

After several minutes Craig and I could hear the solid crack of Nicks .25 Cricket smacking a Ground-squirrel as it made its way up a fallen log. Nice shot at what looked to be about 35 yards or so. I sat with Craig for about 20 minutes before Marley and I decided to take a hike and circle back around to camp, I had hoped to find more active areas but the heat was taking its toll on us both. Craig had left not to long before Marley and I arrived back at camp, was hoping everyone would have better luck with hunting but it really was very hot. That evening Nick and I set out again where his son was able to spot a good size Cottontail at 35 yards sitting under a bush, hidden very well I might add. Nick took a great shot that put that bunny down with authority. Marley was happy to retrieve and was even allowed in the photograph.  ;D


Nick and his boy headed back to camp and Marley and I continued along the creek-bed when just before dark I was able to spot a small Cottontail at 45 yards just at the edge of the embankment.

                                                 American Air Arms EVOL .30
Marley and I had a great finish to a long weekend and were both super tired, we slept great that night. The following morning we got up a bit late and started packing up the camp for our long venture home, where we both needed a long hot shower. I thank everyone who attended and am embarrassed because I forgot some names and was not as organized as I usually am with photos. I have been doing a great deal of filming lately and have not been writing as much as I should, this is what I enjoy and can’t forget the importance of it. Through my writing I hope to not only entertain but to bring the spark of our sport to the newcomers. As some may know I started this online magazine along with my video series that can be found on YouTube, I have put much work into both and really appreciate all the support I have been given.

“The best gun’s the one you’re shooting”

Check our video page for more action and please subscribe!

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Summer Parasites – A reminder for Health and Safety

by Ron Stephen
Well, to be honest, my original intention for this article, was to write a simple tutorial on how to properly field dress a Rabbit.
That changed while I was in the process of dressing this Rabbit, to an even more important subject,… that I will share with you all here. I have always heard that it is not a good idea to eat Wild Rabbit during the warmer months of late Spring through early Winter.
 I have heard it described as :
 “Never eat Wild Rabbit in months that are not spelled with an “R”
 (May, June, July, August). But depending on your location and typical weather, (especially in warmer climates such as we have here in southern California), we should also toss in September, and possibly October too. The idea behind this, is that most Parasites are either dormant or die off in the cold winter months, and in area’s that have snow, it is believed the Parasites do not survive “After the first Good Freeze”. (Here in  Southern California, we rarely get snow below 4000′ elevation) I suppose these old sayings of “Months without an R”, or “After the first Good Freeze” are not really hard line RULES,…but it brings us to the point of this article. That point is, ALWAYS thoroughly inspect your kills, and Be Mindful of any Unhealthy Game. We are now in the warmer months, and all the bugs, creepy crawlers, parasites are most active now. So it is important to keep in mind, pay attention, and closely inspect any kills you intend to eat. I took this rabbit yesterday in San Bernadino County on one of my permissions. I was dressing it out, and taking pics with the intention of presenting a “How To  Dress Out a Rabbit”.  I was going to include step by step instruction with each pic, but we’ll do that some other time, with a healthy and safe to eat game animal.
The priority for this article changed when I noticed this on the cutting board of my dressing table. What the heck is that thing ? and Why is it moving ?
EWwww… it’s a Bot Fly Larvae ! YUCK ! these are sometimes called “Wolves” , Warble flies, Heel flies, Gadflies,
So Yeah,….
 I wont be making any Rabbit Stew with this weeks bunny, and we can just toss it out for the Coyotes to feed on. (haven’t seen many of those on the permission lately), but we Did have one walk right out in front of us at only 50 yds a couple of weeks ago. Wouldn’t you know it, I hadn’t even taken my rifle out of the truck yet, and the Coyote seemed to know that, since he was in no hurry, and just slowly trotted away, straight down our target shooting lane. GRrrrrrrr ! This also warrants a mention to those of you hunting Coyotes, … as they are fraught full of Fleas, Ticks, Deer-flies, and who knows what else right now. These critters can infect both your game, and/or You too. So BE CAREFUL,… and use proper protection, if you plan on handling any kills during this time of year. They can carry a whole list of diseases one of which is Tularemia. So do your homework, and be properly prepared. Check your clothing often, check yourself and or your kids, pets, etc, after being in the field.
Here is some additional info/reading from the web on the subjects…

        Bot Fly Infestation

The Bot Fly or Cuterebra (Cute-a Ree-bra) is the larval form of a small fly like insect. The Bot Fly larva forms a pocket under the hosts skin, that grows as the larvae matures, called a “warble”. These warbles are most commonly found at the mouth, neck or flanks of the rabbit. Parasitic in nature, the Bot fly will deposit its eggs on a host such as a rabbit, or on an intermediate host such as a house fly or mosquito, transferring its eggs when the fly or mosquito lands on the hosts body. Bot fly’s may also lay their eggs on plants and surfaces near animal burrows/homes where they are then transferred to the host as it passes by. These eggs then hatch and enter the host animals body by way of a wound or by burrowing into the hosts body. The Bot Fly may also be ingested through plant material and migrate its way to the dermal layer where the same process then occurs. Once under the skin the maturing larva forms a growing lump called a warble where it will live until ready for its next
stage of development. The warble is typically oblong. The larva will cut a hole in the top of the warble forming a darker spot (warble pore) to breathe through, then uses it’s mouth hooks to secure itself. The Bot Fly larvae uses its warble much like other insects would use a cocoon to develop. It does not in fact digest the hosts live tissue, but digests the tissue exudate (secretions) of the host. As the warble grows with the maturing larvae the warble may occasionally be mistaken for an abscess. While unnerving and disgusting, it is rarely fatal, and once mature the larvae will crawl from its warble, fall from the host and develop into its pupae form in the soil.  It causes no more than mild irritation to the host. More than one warble may form at a time. The danger in Bot Fly infestation is the likely-hood of infection at the warble site. We don’t recommend trying to remove Bot Fly larvae on your own and recommend the bunn be brought to a veterinarian.

If the larvae is crushed in the removal process it can cause an anaphalactic (severe allergic) reaction leading to the death of the bunn. A vet is better equipped to fascilitate its removal.

Stages of Bot Fly Infestation:

Week 1:

  • swelling
  • abscess
  • redness
  • a lump with missing fur from animal scratching at site.

Week 2:

  • the warble protrudes prominantly from the animals body.
  • the tip of the warble, the spiracle through which the larvae breathes is visible.
  • discharge, blood, pus or a browish material.

By week 3-4, the larvae matures and drops to the ground to pupate.
The animal is left with a hole where the larvae was living.  Most of the time the wounds will heal requiring no treatment.
However, at times these pockets may become infected and require treatment.
The animal heals and there is little evidence of warble infestation.


Tularemia (Rabbit fever)

What is tularemia?

Tularemia is an illness caused by a bacteria, Francisella tularensis, which can affect both animals and humans. Most cases occur during the summer months when deer-flies and ticks are abundant and the early winter months during rabbit hunting season. During hunting season, illness usually results from skinning infected rabbits.

Who gets tularemia?

Anyone can get tularemia if they spend time outdoors in areas where infected animals, deer-flies or ticks, can be found. Rabbit hunters, trappers, and laboratory workers exposed to the bacteria are at higher risk.
How is tularemia spread?
The most common way tularemia is spread is by the bite of an infected blood sucking insect such as a deer-fly or tick. Another way people get tularemia is by getting blood or tissue from infected animals (especially rabbits) in their eyes, mouth, or in cuts or scratches on the skin. Tularemia can also be spread by handling or eating rabbit meat that is not cooked well. Drinking contaminated water or breathing dust containing the bacteria can also spread tularemia. Person to person spread does not occur.
What are the symptoms of tularemia?
The usual symptoms of tularemia are fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, chest pain, and coughing. If tularemia is caused by the bite of an infected insect or from bacteria entering a cut or scratch, it usually causes a skin ulcer and swollen glands. Eating or drinking food or water containing the bacteria may produce a throat infection, stomach pain, diarrhea, and vomiting. Breathing dust containing the bacteria may cause a pneumonia-like illness.
How soon do symptoms appear?
Symptoms may appear between two and ten days, most often within three to five days.
What is the treatment for tularemia?
Antibiotics such as streptomycin and gentamicin are used to treat tularemia.
What can be done to prevent the spread of tularemia?

1. Persons at risk should reduce chances for insect bites by wearing protective clothing, and by searching for ticks often and removing attached ticks immediately. Tick/insect repellents containing “DEET” provide additional protection. Permethrin is also helpful when sprayed onto clothing.
2. Children should be discouraged from handling sick or dead rabbits, or other possibly infected animals.
3. Gloves should be worn when skinning or handling animals, especially wild rabbits.
4. Wild rabbit meat should be thoroughly cooked.
5. Face masks, gowns, and rubber gloves should be worn by those working with cultures or infective material in a laboratory.

Where can I get more information?

* Your personal doctor
* Your local health department, listed in the telephone directory


With regard to Tularemia. For those who hunt predators, particularly predators that (can) prey on rodents (as most do), bears, foxes, coyotes, lynx/bobcat, etc., those predators are potential for contracting tularemia.

OK everyone, I hope you find this informative and a good reminder to Pay Attention out there.

THINK about what you are doing…. Watch what you are preparing for your dinner table,….. and don’t get lazy, .

(unless of course, you enjoy eating gross bugs and getting sick) haha

Take care, Have fun, and Shoot safely.

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Afternoon with an old friend

by Ron Stephen

So I decided to pull out an old friend and spend a little time together. Sporting some very nice borrowed glass and a new bi-pod, we did a bit of bench work to get zeroed and reacquainted. It wasn’t very long before we were both getting pretty comfortable at 100 yards, and any rock smaller than a golf-ball was easy game.


I grabbed up my Bog-pod and cool little backpack/stool combo and we went for a little walk around the chicken farm. We strolled through some brush and was keeping an eye out for any Dirt Rats that may be in the area. The new spring pups have been starting to come out in droves on a few of our other permissions, so I figured I should do a little scouting for them on this permission. I did see several off in the distance, but they were moving too fast and would drop into there hole at the slightest sense of danger. I guess they had been watching me and my friend while we were zeroing in on the small rocks, hahaha. We headed towards the spot where the farmer piles up the dead chickens, to see what kind of activity might be going on over there, and to just do a little “Recon” for any possible Coyote action, (for a later hunt).


Yep,… there was definitely some evidence of recent Coyote activity.
They will go pull dead chickens off of the pile, and carry them into the brush for some cover to eat their meal.
This is obviously a favorite spot for them to feed on.


I decide to sit for a little while as the sun was getting low and hang out to see what might wander in.
No,… I wasn’t planning on using a .22 Marauder for Coyote, (as it really doesn’t have the power that I would prefer to use on them), but was just more interested in sitting for a bit to see what might come around for a photo op.
While sitting there, I noticed something strange on the trail a few feet from me.
I thought it kind of odd to find this laying in the middle of the trail, (and not really anywhere near any of our previous Coyote kills),
and it made me wonder if Coyotes would feed on their own dead? I dunno, but maybe they might ?


While sitting there and thinking about it, I noticed some movement a ways down the trail from me. I grab my rangefinder and I see two Cottontails doing a little sparring with each other. So I slowly get up from my seat, figuring they are not paying attention to me, and are more interested in “winning the battle” between themselves, to run each other off. From a standing position, I set my old friend into the Bog-pod yoke and steady myself. I adjust the side focus, and the Hawke Sidewinder is crystal clear, The magazine is filled with JSB 18’s, and I quickly chamber a round. The Rabbits a still challenging each other, constantly moving in and out of the edge of the brush line, jumping and running around each other. I’ve got to wait for the shot, and my friend is telling me to have patience and confidence in it’s ability to accurately deliver. After maybe 30 seconds, one of the rabbits gives up the fight and heads out into the bushes. He’s lost the battle, and is gone. The “Victor of the battle” claims his territory, and settles for a moment to munch on some grass. He’s calm and not moving now, but I can’t see most of him due to a bush and a rock. I still have to wait. Finger goes into trigger guard and makes ready. The rabbit makes a single small hop into a perfect profile view, giving me the view I’ve been waiting for. I squeeze of 2nd stage, and the JSB flies straight and true. I heard that satisfying “catchers mitt ” sound, and the rabbit rolls to his side with little more than a twitch.

He may have “won the battle”,… but he certainly “lost the war” !

Entry … (not too bad of placement I’d say  ???  ;) )

Exit …  (I’m pretty darn sure the fuse-box experienced a “direct short” with this  shot :o  :P  8) )

Satisfied with my friends loyal performance, the sun getting low and darkness coming soon, I decide to head on back to the truck.
I’ve still got to clean up camp, and drive about 50 miles home. As we approach the truck and are no more than 10 feet from it, I see some movement at about 30-35 yards to my right.  I quickly turn to see a very large Skunk just as he is heading into the bushes. All for the better, as I don’t really feel like dealing with that stinky mess , (and probably having to smell it all the way home),… so he gets a pass.
As I’m taking off my backpack and at that same moment I see another movement on another little trail at about 60-65 yards.  I raise the rangefinder to see another rabbit and “Mr. Simmons” says it’s at 67 yards. Good enough for me. The Bog-pod is quickly deployed, and my friend goes back into action, This will be my last possible shot for the day, as I can BARELY see through the scope in the near darkness.  My friend does not disappoint. The JSB leaves at around 850 fps and finds it mark to make Quite the mess !
Wow !, do you think it hit something major ? ? ?


OK, so time for a quickie Group Photo,
set up a cleaning table,
and get to work….


Cottontails dress out so clean and easily,
and they are both done in about 15-20 minutes.


As I’m closing up camp, and can barely see in the dark, I look down to see this coming up the toe of my boot, and heading towards my pant leg. Whoa !, don’t think I want to be getting THAT friendly with this Creepy Crawler ! A couple of good STOMPS and the size 10 takes care of it. Whew ! I’m REALLY GLAD I saw that dude before feeling him up my pant leg. now THAT would have freaked me out !



Ok,
Bunnies on ice, and everything loaded into the truck. Time to go home and get the Crock Pot warmed up.
Rabbit Stew tomorrow is sounding pretty darn good right about now. So it took me a couple of days to get the Rabbits cooked up into a stew, but I did get them into the crock pot yesterday.


2 rabbits on bottom covered with 2 chopped potato’s, 1 onion, and of course a few strips of Bacon.
sprinkle in one scoop of H&H Dry Salsa mix, (I Love that stuff ). Makes the BEST salsa I’ve ever had, so why not spice up the stew a bit with it ?  ;DTop that with one more rabbit from a previous hunt, and I had in the freezer. 

,

Top that with a can of green beans and a can of sliced carrots,

let it sit on low for about 9 hours, and let it cool in the pot.
This morning I pulled all the veggies and rabbits, de-boned the meat, separated the broth, add a couple of beef bullion cubes to the broth and I am about to reduce the broth to a nice gravy now.
I hope it turns out yummy !

Thank you my “Old Friend”,…. I had a good time.
We’ll do it again soon.
Cheers !

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TRAPMASTER 1100 COTTONTAIL HUNT

I had a great day getting out yesterday trying my hand at Cottontail hunting with John. We headed out late afternoon and arrived to our location around 5:30 pm, just in time for it to cool down as it’s been very hot. I had brought my trusty .22 Marauder and John brought his vintage “Crosman Trapmaster 1100” loaded with custom swaged .375 pellets.

John with Trapmaster 1100

I was excited to say the least to try this gun as I had never really seen an air powered shotgun before, this little gun is a blast to shoot and had decent power for being a CO2 gun. Soon after a bit of plinking I had spotted a small Cottontail moving off into the distance so John and I moved as quietly as possible towards it trying to keep several yards between us. These Cottontail’s are elusive creatures and even with my good eyes are very difficult to spot among the thick gray brush and thickets. John and I walked in big giant circle and finally decided to head down into a big open flat area with dense bushes about waist high.

John hunting

We saw little activity other than a few birds and too at this point the sun was just beginning to set over the mountaintop, so light was getting less by the minute. Soon out of the corner of my eye I saw John stop, he raised his gun and fired with that distinctive THWAAAP sound. I asked John if he had gotten it and he said “Yes” excitedly, from 30 yards away too. What a great shot considering the light conditions and the fact he was using open sights with no buttstock. The .375 pellets work much better for this application than the standard load of shot that the gun was originally designed to use.

Trapmaster 1100

Trapmaster 1100 pellet

John and I both were very excited as we now felt that long drive had been worth our while, so many trips with nothing to bring home. Over the years I have learned just to enjoy being out hunting with friends and not to expect to bag anything. After a short hike back to the vehicle we were on our way home with the memories of yet another adventure.

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Airgun Hunting With A Dog

A few people have asked about the dog I use for Jackrabbit hunting, a 3 year old Dachshund/Lab mix named Marley. I have used dogs growing up for hunting rabbits, hares and birds quite often over the years. Marley is very unique as some may consider her breed a house dog, she is simply not the case at all. The standard size dachshund was developed to scent, chase, and flush out badgers and other burrow-dwelling animals, while the miniature dachshund was bred to hunt smaller prey such as rabbits. In the United States, they have also been used to track wounded deer and hunt prairie dogs. Marley is a Lab mix that adds to her hunting ability being fairly larger and too very good at retrieving and swimming if need be. This mixed breed has more of the temperament and strength of a Lab but obviously being so short she has a much easier time getting in under cover more easily and too being so small can stalk better. The downfall of her size as a hunting dog is I need to sometimes keep her close as shes susceptible to birds of prey and other predators. In some areas I will even leash her for these reasons as I have had birds stoop on her in the open plains.

Marley and Dana hunting with the .357 Slayer

I first started Airgun hunting with her about a year ago and found that she was very natural at it, needing very little work making her safe around a gun. She quickly learned what a gun was and too what it was capable of, seeing me take several Cottontails and Jackrabbits excited her. After taking her on several hunts she began to learn that when I aimed the gun and fired it she could hear the “hit” and go that direction finding a kill. I would let her get familiar with the scent of the animal and too familiarize her with the areas they are found. Before I knew it she was spotting them before me and getting really good at it.

Marley with a Cottontail kill

We had spent several months hunting by ourselves before I felt comfortable bringing another hunter along with us. I wanted to make sure that she was 100% safe and followed all commands such as STAY, HERE and GO AHEAD. The first word is STAY and that means I want her to stay where she is and wait for me. The second word is HERE and that means I want her to stay by my side within several feet and sometimes be on a leash if I feel predators may be in the vicinity. The third word is GO AHEAD and that means I want her to seek out animals by scent, sight or by flushing them. After working with her and giving rewards when she follows a command it became much more natural for us both and became almost automatic and in some cases she would just know what to do. We sometimes would just sit and wait with both of us watching the hillsides for activity.

I remember our first successful hunt together and how excited and happy she was to finally get a kill on a very large Jackrabbit that we took down at 85 yards. We were hiking across a dry river bed up into a thick brush-line where we spotted a Jackrabbit running up an embankment. I took my shot leaving a very loud THWACK that was very identifiable sending Marley at full speed up the hill to make sure it was expired and to retrieve.

After several more hunts I ended up feeling comfortable enough to invite Terry to join us and too for Marley to get familiar with being around other hunters. Her safety was my number one concern so I kept her close to my side for the first few minutes just to let her see that we now had “two” guns in use. Pretty soon I was comfortable letting her GO AHEAD and to now be able to assist us both in locating some Jackrabbits. Marley and Terry became friends very quickly and sometimes she would walk with him for awhile.

Marley was soon getting very good at what she does.

 

After awhile she was joining us on several hunts where we ventured deep into the back-country for days at a time camping in some very unforgiving terrain.

One of our hunting trips took us miles from camp where her and I killed several Jackrabbits from over several hundred yards away, some of the retrievals she made were from rocky hillsides and thick brush.

Using an Airgun to hunt with is difficult enough so having some help from a well trained dog like Marley makes hunting a whole lot more enjoyable. The nice part about using an Airgun is the noise levels are much lower than with a traditional firearm, this makes it enjoyable for both me and the dog. Here is a kill we made using a .357 Slayer Big Bore Airgun, she loves this gun as much as I do.

I hope my writing may open some eyes to look towards a dog as a valuable hunting tool, I know Marley has really brought some light into my hunting adventures. She has become a valuable companion and the best hunting buddy I’ve ever known.

 

 

 

 

 

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GROUND SQUIRREL & COTTONTAIL HUNT

 The area we choose for the hunt was in the foothills of the Sequoia forest and offered a very secluded private hunting location with target rich Ground Squirrel and Cottontail habitat. We left to hunt very early Friday morning and arrived in the forest by 7:00 am with the forecast calling for a very hot weekend.

 

The spot we camped was in a huge valley with Oak trees, rocks and rivers flowing on several sides offering a large abundance of animal and plant life. SteveO and I did a big hunt here in the beginning of Spring so we were both very familiar with the hotspots and the lay of the land that stretches for several thousand acres. Most of the area is untouched by hunting pressure as the location is hidden in very rough terrain and during winter almost impossible to reach. After showing Terry, Jessi and Ray a few of the spots we all set out to hunt throughout the area. By this time it was approaching the high 80’s and only getting hotter up over 100 degrees by 1:00 pm.

Within several minutes of hunting I had already killed several Ground Squirrels and too could hear the catcher mit sound in the distance of others having some luck as well. After several hours of hunting we all eventually ended back at camp where we were sheltered from the heat with the canopy of pine trees our campsite was nestled under.

We sat around talking about our shots, drinking loads of water and having our lunch. The hunting was a bit slow and it was much to hot to be wandering around so Terry set up some targets at various ranges for us all to shoot and plink at.

Ray and Jessi had brought several very cool guns for us all to shoot and have some fun with. I was perfectly content sitting in the shade with a nice cold soda and shooting at a bottle I had placed at 137 yards. Was nice to have the time to just have fun with some very cool group of Airgunners.

Around 5:00 pm we decided to head out again and were pleasantly surprised by how many Ground Squirrels were out and about, I managed to get 13 by the days end with the total between all of us being in the high 30’s.

Ray and his WAR tuned .25 Marauder (below)

Around 6:30 pm we all headed back to set up our tents and to place out our chairs to just relax and enjoy each others company, still hot around 88 degrees. Into the evening it became cooler and too being so far from any light pollution offered an amazing view of the stars. The heat had exhausted me just enough that day to make sleeping in it easier than I thought it would be, by 3:30 am it was a low of 77 degrees. We all got up fairly early and set out to hunt where within minutes Ray made a nice Cottontail kill at around 35 yards.

Everyone by this time was having great luck, Jessi (below) got 4 Ground Squirrels and a Cottontail as well.

We hiked around and each seemed to be finding more and more active areas, Ray and I hiked around and found a very active area where I was able to take 5 of them. Terry was doing well too with a nice kill on several Ground Squirrels and Cottontail with his double tube Prod.

By this time it was getting hot again so we all decided to pack up and make the long journey back up and out of the valley. This was one of the most memorable trips of my life and will never forget the great time we all shared together. Thanks for reading and hope to have some more trips very soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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EARLY MORNING COTTONTAIL HUNT

Left the house early at 3:30 am to meet up with John Cripe from pelletgarden.com for some rabbit (jackrabbits & cottontail) hunting at a new spot we found. The weather was cool at around 38 degrees at 5:30 am, had cold weather gear and snow cap that I haven’t worn in quite some time here in SoCal. We pumped up our rifles and proceeded to the area where we waited till our legal shooting time.

As we approached that time we spotted two Jackrabbits at 60 yards away, still a bit dark and hard to see. We both took our shots and missed as we watched them scurry away in literally a flash.  John worked the area up high along a ridge as I stayed low working close to the brush-line. Spotted several off in the distance only to have them run as I approach from 100+yards away, very discouraging. I soon spotted a small cottontail foraging under a nearby sagebrush at around 45 yards, took the shot with a solid hit.

We soon decided to go have breakfast at a nearby grocery store before heading to the next area that was now around 9:30. This next area I spotted a cottontail within the first few minutes and with John’s help was able to corner it to where I could make a shot at about 15 yards.

We zig-zagged our way through and sprung a few jacks from under the brush but they are so dang fast that they are gone before you can even shoulder your gun. Again very frustrating and difficult hunting without a shotgun. I just love rabbit hunting with an Airgun and find it to be very rewarding when something is finally bagged.

Again I am just pleased to be out in the wilderness with a friend and blessed to have gotten at least one. Thanks again John for going and helping me to get some, had a great time.