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2017 Extreme Benchrest AZ

On Monday October 9th we left the American Air Arms facility in Valencia CA to drive over seven hours to Mesa Arizona for the annual Extreme Benchrest. We had two vehicles, ours was a small sedan just big enough for me, Lindsey, Claudio Flores and his wife Magda. We had a van as well driven by Doug Noble and Tom Costan that was loaded with guns, gear and a ton of lead. I drove for about 45min before I received a call from Tom asking if I had loaded the brand new .452 Slayer into my car? haha I thought he may have been joking me, no it was not a joke, it was indeed forgotten. I got off the freeway and headed back to the Valencia facility to retrieve the first prototype from the back room where it was sitting in its case behind a chair. By this time of the day traffic was getting quite heavy and it became apparent we wouldn’t be arriving in Mesa AZ till half past midnight. We made only one stop for gas, was nice driving such an efficient car. After hitting a good amount of traffic due to accidents, construction and single lane roads we finally made it to Mesa. Throughout the past year we became friends with Stephen Marsh who lives in Mesa, fairly close to the Rio Salado Sportsmans Club where the Extreme Benchrest is held. Steve and his wife Leslie were kind enough to open their home to us for the entire week. They had a beautiful home along with a large detached workshop that we would be able to use for our daily gun maintenance. After about an hour of visiting and eating some amazing chilli that Steve prepared we got to sleep where we had planned to leave in the morning for some shooting and hunting. The following morning after a great night’s rest from our long drive from California the five of us guys headed about an hour out of town into the open desert. I had been wanting to hunt the famous Antelope Jackrabbit for many years so was very excited to finally have the opportunity to try. Steve took us to a place he has gone many times over the years and was to be a great place to both hunt and shoot. We arrived off the highway onto a long dirt road that we followed for about a mile till we came to a small turnout. We set up a few tables and some targets at ranges out to 200 yards, perfect area to sight in our rifles.

from left, Tom Costan, Stephen Marsh, Doug Noble

 After Several minutes setting everything up we pulled out several guns being used for the Extreme Benchrest such as the American Air Arms EVOL .30, .357 Slayer as well as the .452 Slayer.

Claudio Flores from Patagonia Airguns with the American Air Arms EVOL TAC .30

Doug Noble had several rifles such as his .257 Condor being shot by Steve as well as his .338 Condor that he has invested years of work into, more about that rifle later on at the range.

(Above)Stephen with the .257 Condor

Tom Costan with the American Air Arms .452 Slayer

After a bit of target shooting Tom and I headed out to try our hand at hunting the Antelope Jackrabbit that’s only found throughout the Sonoran Desert.

Tom and I slowly walked a small trail that lead through some very large Saguaro CactusThese cactus can grow up to 40′ tall and live to be over 200 years old.

As we walked through the desert both Tom and I were having a difficult time avoiding the many small cactus that seemed to like jumping onto our pantlegs, hahaha

Me (Dana Webb) with the EVOL .30 Classic

After making a large several mile loop, nearly feeling lost, we headed back up and crossed a road where I soon found some fresh Jackrabbit droppings and some urine. I knew we were in the right area and soon enough I spotted my first Antelope Jack that sprung from behind a knee high bush. The Jackrabbit was moving along pretty good but not into full sprint, I waited to spot him again but lost sight as he made it into a ravine. The terrain here was very difficult to navigate and almost impossible to walk in any sort of straight path, every step was something with sharp spines. I spotted several more and will say it was amazing as to just how huge these species are compared to the Black Tailed Jackrabbit. They at glance can be near mistaken for small dogs, very exciting. After trying to stalk one I finally made a shot as it was moving away at 85 yards near missing the top of it’s head. The Sonoran desert is very hot, especially in the middle of the day when shade is near impossible to find. Tom and I headed back to the vehicles for water and took what shade we could find next to the van. After being in the sun most of the day we packed up and headed back to the house to shower, relax and get something to eat. That evening we spent a good amount of time in Steve’s garage cleaning our rifles and preparing them for the following day’s practice at the Rio Salado Sportsmans Club.


We woke up early to arrive at the range to spend the day practicing with our Big Bore rifles for the following days Extreme Benchrest. The Rio Salado Sportsmans Club allowed us the day to practice on the rifle range, unfortunately we did have to share it with the firearms.

Custom Doug Noble .308 Condor

Stephen Marsh with Doug Noble .257 Condor and Nick Nielsen from NSA

We spent some time here practicing before we were able to move down to the Extreme Benchrest ranges that had been closed during set up for the event. We practiced for several hours before heading out to Airguns Of Arizona for our sign in to the Extreme Benchrest.


The showroom at Airguns Of Arizona was much smaller than I had imagined but still had plenty of Airgun’s, scopes, and misc related items. After signing in and picking up the event schedule we headed out to a nearby restaurant called Los Dos Molinos for dinner and drinks.  This was a great place to eat, so good we actually went back the following night as well, highly recommended.

That evening we spent several more hours in the garage cleaning our rifles and preparing for the following morning’s first card of the Extreme Big Bore part of the event.


We arrived to the range early to find many familiar faces and a good amount of first time competitors.

We had a few minutes to practice before we had our first 200 yard target, I was feeling pretty confident with my Doug Noble built .308 and was excited to compete with it. I was happy to see many more competitors enter the competition this year, it shows growth that will help progress the sport. The targets look big from the below photograph but I can assure you it looks very small at 200 yards out as well as the black center bullseye. My .308 Condor performed very well and was confident that I had done very well.

5 shots each on each of the top targets, bottom two are sighter targets

Right after I finished my 30min card I immediately had to move over to the American Field Target area that was on the other side of the property. After signing in and given my scorecard I proceeded down the beautiful nature path to the first area that had 4 field targets set up at various ranges. Look who’s in front of me, my good friend Thayne Simmons the owner of Side-Shot as well as part of the Utah Airguns team. Thayne is a fabulous shooter and cleared the lane with a standing offhand shot like it was nothing.

Thayne Simmons (Team Utah Airguns)

I was nervous and had never shot American Field Target before at the Extreme Benchrest. I was using my EVOL .30 and really had not set the gun up for this event, I simply was all over the place with my close shots. After making only two hits out of the 8 needed I was feeling quite simply embarrassed with myself. This is they type of event that really requires good offhand skills and knowledge of holdover and under techniques. After making several hits on the far targets and missing most all of the close ones I was finally done with the coarse after about an hour. After my horrible shooting was over I headed back to the car to grab my camera and head back down to spectate some of the more familiar faces and to hopefully learn to better myself.

Above left, Matt Dubber spectating Ted Bier

Steve Scialli AEAC channel filming Ted Bier

After hanging out spectating for a few minutes I headed back over to the range to capture some photographs of the goings ons and say hello to a few friends.

 

Airguns of Arizona’s Kip Perow setting up the 25 meter targets

Paul Capello from Utah Airguns taking a break

I had a chance to check out some pretty cool Airguns as I walked around the event including a glimpse of the new Daystate .308 Big Bore being used by no other than Andrew Huggett known for his moderators. The prototype rifle makes a striking resemblance to a Beaumont, makes me think some of the work was subbed out to them by Daystate. Beautiful rifle indeed, thank you Andrew for the great photographs!

daystate .308

Next Door to Andrew was Doug Noble ringing out his highly custom .338 Condor, this gun really has near to nothing left of the Airforce Airguns platform. This gun started out as a Condor and slowly over several years of hard work made it’s way into a masterpiece of a Big Bore. Doug is one of the nicest guys in the sport and is always willing to share his knowledge with others, I was lucky to be able to use one of his builds to compete with.

 

Stephen Marsh shooting the American Air Arms .452 Slayer

The American Air Arms  Slayer line of rifles have been around for several years now and was exciting to see quite a few this year at the Extreme Benchrest. Tom Costan has spent the past year developing this new .452 Big Bore rifle that is far advanced from anything else. This rifle is a repeater that’s capable of multiple shots at over 500+fpe with a lightweight, short package. The Slayer is a true top down new design that shares absolutely nothing with any existing platform. Tom, myself and Stephen all were hitting silhouette’s out to 560 yards with it, consistently. Here is a short video that shows some of the action.


After lunch I headed over to the 75 yard range to help Steven and Claudio setup for their first card. They were both using the new EVOL .30 TAC manufactured by American Air Arms. These guns are extremely accurate and well built guns, I believe if you put enough of one gun manufacturer into a competition you’re going to get great results. I have noticed a “certain” company has near monopolized the market and can only hope a new American Made gun can change that.

The 75 yard card is a very difficult event as this range is known for having very difficult winds that blow very erratically. The shooter has 30 min to make 1 shot onto each of the 25 small bullseye targets with a small bottom row used for sighters. Points are deducted for more than one shot on a target so it’s critical to count pellets, yes I made this mistake that cost me progression to the main. After the 30 min the Airguns of Arizona staff heads out to change targets for the next relay of competitors. I set up my bench and got to honorably sit next to none other than Kip Perow, one of my favorite members of the AOA staff and one heck of a great hunter.

After my 30 min card all I can say was wow, that wind is pretty hard to deal with. I was thankful to have had the sighter targets, otherwise I would have been all over the place. The wind would push the pellet up, down, left and right. I kept my eyes on some of the wind indicators that were set throughout the range, it helped a bit. After my 30 min card I packed up and headed back up to the other range to do some filming and take some more photographs. A few days before we left California my good friend SteveO started working on some shirts that we could wear to the Extreme Benchrest. He wasn’t able to finish them in time so kindly overnighted them to AZ for us to wear. Anyone interested in some really cool Airgun related shirts can contact SteveO at Dream Graphic Designs.

nielsen specialty ammo

Left Claudio Fores, Nick Nielsen, Tom Costan


 I want to really thank Nick Nielsen from Nielsen Specialty Ammo for coming out and showing his support to all of us. Nick had worked very hard developing precision ammo that worked well for us and drove all the way from California to make sure it performed perfectly. Him and his wife Jessica were more than helpful to us and I just wanted to let them know how it’s been appreciated, thank you!


Our day was near over and will say the Arizona sun can take a lot out of a person while competing, moving things back and forth etc, I was beat to say the least. We headed back to the house for a much needed break, some food and a good cleaning of our rifles to prepare for yet another day of competition. The following day we arrived to the range by about 8:15am for the Big Bore Steel competition at ranges 85 yards and 200 yards. These are swinging flash targets that take a good amount of energy to move, especially at 200 yards.

85 Yard flash targets

For this competition we are only allowed to use 24 shots with only two extra, have to make 12 shots on the 85 yard flash targets before being able to move to the 200 yard ones. I had my holdunder marked in my phone and was confident to be able to hit the 85 yards consistently. Per the rules we were not allowed to tether the rifles and had to make sure to disconnect the fill hose from the rifle after filling. I filled after each shot to 3000 psi and was using the .308 swaged 99gr Nielsen Specialty ammo. My scope was mounted on a Coldshot scope base that has a wheel that adjust the MOA of the scope, this keeps the scope from maxing out adjustments at long range. I fired my first shot with my given spotter behind me, missed and could not tell where it had gone. I knew it wasn’t the wind because it was near same conditions as day before. I really didn’t know what to do other than to shoot a few more, after 12 shots as well as my two extra I finally found that the scope got bumped off to the right by close to 3 mills. After I found my zero I made every shot perfectly, my spotter actually felt really bad and later came up to me to find out what had happened. I think as the gun got moved around the day before, traveling in van etc, just got bumped off a bit. I was certainly frustrated but have done this long enough to know it can happen to anyone. After the competition we walked over to the 25 meter benchrest where Tom and Claudio were both set to compete. Tom had brought his trusted TX200 .22 with a Hawke Airmax scope that unfortunately had problems with the parallax. Stephen loaned Tom his QB78 that had been converted to HPA to use, I gave him credit for trying as I thought he may do fairly well with it. Claudio was using his Edgun Leshiy .25, a beautiful gun and extremely accurate to boot.

After the 25 meter event we took a break to have some lunch followed by card 2 of the 75 yard Extreme Benchrest. We got to spectate a bit as my card wasn’t for another hour, took several pics and sat in the shade tent.

 

From left, Dale Wolcott, me, Tom Costan, Claudio Flores

Michael Wendt from Airgun Nation

After taking a break in the shade I gathered my gear and prepared to set up my bench for card 2 of the Extreme. I was a bit nervous especially as it was now later in the day with the wind picking up a bit more heavily.

Me sporting my new Dream Graphic Designs T Shirt

As I sat at the bench watching the wind flags moving in all directions I took my first sighter shot that showed me the wind was moving my pellet near 1 mil dot high and 1 1/2 to the right. The wind would sometimes quickly change so I found myself taking many test shots before I actually moved up to my target.

Middle target, I shot twice -10 points

I was doing ok I thought considering how bad the wind was, problem was I would plan to take a shot on target and then at last second decide to shoot the sighter. By doing this I would have to replace my pellets into tray used for counted targets. I didn’t trust myself and could not see through the scope that I had made an X, big mistake that ruined my card. The wind was so bad at times that some competitors were actually hitting others targets, I was just happy to make into the red. I knew immediately after I saw this picture my chances of moving on to card 3 were gone. All I could do now was be there for my teammates and try and be of service best I could.

After all of us had competed we headed back to the house to clean guns, eat and get a good nights sleep for the final day of the Extreme Benchrest. 


The next morning we headed out bright and early as Doug had qualified for the final 100 yard event and Claudio had the Speed-Silo event. That morning Tom, Doug, Steve and I set up the guns for some long range fun that seemed to attract at one point a very large crowd. We were shooting the monster Big Bores at the furthest silhouette that was set out at 560 yards. Tom, Steve and myself were consistently hitting targets even beyond that. My girlfriend Lindsey was hitting the 330 yard silhouette with Doug’s .338 Condor like it was no big deal. The new .452 Slayer was attracting a lot of attention and Tom was more than happy to allow people to shoot it.

 

mygirlfriday805.com

Lindsey from mygirlfriday805.com

330 yard silhouette’s

After a few hours of Airgun playtime we headed back down to the tent to watch Doug in the final card of the Extreme where he would be shooting 100 yards.

The wind in the afternoon usually picks up pretty good and can swirl quite erratically moving the shot in all directions. Doug has a good amount of skill with his Big Bore’s that shoot slugs that are not as affected by turbulent winds such as a diabolo pellet is. The 100 yard Extreme really separates the great shooters from the amazing shooters. The 75 yard cards are hard enough but moving out to 100 is really quite insane. To be a winner here will rely on many factors beyond just having an accurate gun, reading the wind, sorting pellets, scope etc, to name a few. Doug had told me that he found it an honor just to make it into the 100 yard extreme. The guys who made it are some of the best shooters in the world that make this competition pretty stiff. After this card was finished the AOA team prepared the range for the Speed-Silo event that has become very popular. This event was one that Claudio was very excited to compete in using his new Edgun Leshiy .25 carbine. This is a very unique Airgun and one I couldn’t wait to watch him shoot.

This is a very difficult event where you are racing to knock down 16 silhouette’s at various ranges.

  • Airgun Rifles or Pistols – Must use lead pellets – NO BBs/Round Balls
  • Airguns can be single shot or magazine fed
  • Any caliber is allowed up to .25 caliber
  • Any type of sight is allowed
  • No Airgun can exceed 50 FPE
  • No semi or fully automatic airguns are allowed – All airguns must have a cocking device or action for each shot fired
  • No magazine loading apparatus allowed (NEW-2017)
  • Each shooter will have 16 targets that must be KNOCKED down or off the TILE.
  • This is a timed event and the object is to knock down all 16 targets in the shortest amount of time.
  • There will be 20 shooting lanes open and rounds will be run every 5 to 10 minutes.
  • The top ten (10) lowest times in each class will qualify for the finals to be held on Sunday after the 75 Yard Extreme Benchrest competition has been completed.
  • All entrants for the 75 Yard Extreme can compete in the Speed Silo.
  • Shooters are allowed to shoot in three qualifying rounds.
  • The targets are all standard metal .22 LR silhouette and include four rams, four pigs, four turkeys and four chickens.
  • Targets are placed from 30 yards to 60 yards.


After the Speed-Silo even we all headed back to the house to clean up for the Banquet dinner and awards ceremony where we would find out the winners of each event. The awards banquet and raffle were held at Las Sendas Club House overlooking a beautiful golf course.

We sat down surrounded by friends, family and highly respected members of the Airgun community, I think we were all pretty tired from the long week so it was nice to be able to relax. One of the first winners to be announced was our very own teammate Stephen Marsh, winner of the pellet challenge.

75 yard pellet challenge won by Stephen Marsh

This years Extreme Benchrest were all amazing shooters, I’m really happy for Thayne Simmons as he is not only a good friend but part of a great team at Utah Airguns. Matt Dubber has been someone I have admired for a long time and have gotten much enjoyment out of watching his YouTube channel found at AirArmsHuntingSA. I spent some time this year talking to him one on one and really appreciated his sincerity and love for the sport of Airgunning. Shane Keller is a wonderful example of an Airgunner and am very excited for his well deserved victory, I’m sure we’ll hear more from him as the year goes on.

extreme benchrest

from left, Shane Keller, Matt Dubber, Thayne Simmons

The next event we were waiting to see was the Big Bore competition as that was the real reason we made it to the Extreme this year. This year I was so proud of Tom Costan as I know how hard he worked on the new .452 Slayer that was literally only finished days before the event. Over the past several months he has been not only running American Air Arms but designing and building these guns that have trumped the Big Bore podium this year. The results in .45 over were Tom Costan, Thayne Simmons and Kip Perow.

left, Dana Webb, Tom Costan, Thayne Simmons, Doug Noble

After the awards we had a chance to say goodbye to several friends and even make plans with some new ones. This event has brought so many together and was a real pleasure to be part of.

from left Thuan Donnyfl Du, Alvaro lopez, Claudio Flores, Torres Gianni


I thank all who attended and especially want to thank Airguns Of Arizona for hosting such a wonderfully planned event. Afterwards we all said our goodbyes and headed down the road back to California loaded with great memories and experience that will last a lifetime. I wrote this in the hopes of getting more people involved in this sport and to show that almost anyone who loves Airguns can enjoy this event. If anyone has any interest in the Extreme Benchrest results or more information, it can be found here.

 

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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