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BACK COUNTRY AIRGUN HUNT

On Friday November 4th Marley and I left the house at 3:00am to make our way North where we would be spending the next three days. We ventured down the long dirt road that seems to head into nowhere for miles. As we arrived to the area in darkness I parked on top of a mountain where I planned to hunt for several hours while waiting for the other members of our group.

The sun was slowly coming up as Marley and I hiked our way high up onto a mountain hoping to have some good views of the fields below. The area was quite dry with very little green vegetation to be seen, yet still very sustainable to Jackrabbit populations. We sat for awhile and didn’t see any movement besides a few birds and the occasional chatter of a ground squirrel. As it was becoming lighter out I could see a dust cloud from a vehicle moving down the road from miles away, It was SteveO making his way right on time. We got up and made our way down the mountain to join him and too ended up making a failed shot on a Jackrabbit on the way down. As soon as SteveO arrived Terry was soon behind with us deciding to move down into an occupied camping area to relax for a bit and also get our gear ready for the few days of hunting.

After several minutes of setting up camp and getting our guns aired up we set out on foot back up into a nearby canyon that is usually loaded with Jackrabbits. We all went off to separate areas throughout the valley with my preferred area working the brush filled hillsides.

As I’m looking down the hill I can see Terry stalking a Jackrabbit just over the other side of the hill from me, I see him waiving me over as I think he thought the Jackrabbit may come my direction. He ended up tagging the Jackrabbit while making full sprint up the hill, not sure of the yardage but still a great shot.

After another hour of marching around I was able to spot two Jackrabbits moving through the brush, the larger one made a much better target and was taken down at 60 yards with Marley making a swift retrieval. I was using the new American Air Arms EVOL .30 carbine tuned to 85 fpe and too the perfect tool for Jackrabbit hunting. The gun is regulated, lightweight and has a shot-count capable of keeping me in the field all day long. This is my dream gun and one I have been waiting for Tom to build for over two years, I’m in LOVE. ;D

After a few more minutes of hiking back to camp we took a much needed break and to have some lunch before heading back out into the remote hills. After lunch SteveO and I headed back out several miles working the rocky hillsides with Marley finding several Jacks and even a Cottontail that was hidden in the dense brush.

The Cottontails out in this area are quite large and unlike in other areas don’t stop at all once flushed. I think this is because of all the pressure they have due to predators such as birds of prey, Coyotes and Foxes. As we were hiking we spotted quite a few small Ground Squirrels that proved to be very difficult targets as they don’t stay still for very long. SteveO spotted a few and was able to take several of them moving around the rocky hillsides at around 45 yards with his .25 Marauder.

We had made several more attempts at finding some Jackrabbits before heading back to camp before dark. The Jackrabbits I think were feeling the pressure of Marley being able to find them even in the most secluded hiding spots. Watching that little dog work is purely magical as she really is amazing at what she does, sometimes its a little unfair.

As the evening met darkness it became quite chilly out with the distant chatter of Coyotes echoing through the canyon. Marley and I slept soundly in the Jeep and awoke early to greet Tom and his son Nicholas to our camp where they would spend the next two days. Tom and Nicholas had hunted here before so they both were very familiar with the area and too the potentially huge Jackrabbits that find home here. After getting they’re gear ready and guns filled with air we set out again, this time 6 of us.

Tom had brought the New EVOL TAC .30 model rifle to test out, what a sharp looking gun it is. Nicholas was using a regulated bottle fed 22xx platform that was shooting at 30 fpe and has enough air for all day hunting. We ended up all meeting in this canyon where we were shooting at 100+ yards at this white rock, amazing what these modern PCPs are capable of.

After some playing around with the guns we headed back to camp where Terry was sighting in his old .20 Sheridan that he just had steroided. He had mounted a scout scope and planned to do some hunting with it that rest of the day. What a workout it was pumping that old fashioned vintage gun, 6 pumps was giving him 630 fps I believe.

Tom had made his way several miles from camp in a close direction from where I was hunting, I had mentioned I had taken 10 ground Squirrels so he made his way to find a few. Tom had managed to find quite a few of them along with bringing back several wild gourds that later would prove good targets.

Very old tree, one of the only ones seen for many miles.

That afternoon Terry left and the rest of us continued on into the evening by ourselves, I think we were all petty beat from the miles of hiking we all had done. I know Marley was very tired as those little legs had gotten quite the workout mashing through brush and rocky hillsides all day. Poor little thing was pooped ;D

That next morning SteveO had to leave us to get back home before traffic got to bad, was great to have him join us even though it was a quick two days. This morning was quite foggy and really didn’t seem like a very good morning for Jackrabbits, figured we would give it a try before heading out ourselves. Tom,Nicholas and myself headed out for a short hunt, several mile loop that would bring us back just in time for breakfast.

I headed us up into an area I suspected may be full of Jacks and too as a last resort had hoped Tom and Nicholas would have some luck. Here is Tom behind me and Nicholas way in back as we ventured up the steep hillsides.

Many of the times when working areas like this you can spot them moving through the brush in the lower areas, I have good success in hunting this way. I would rather shoot down on them than up as usually they make it over a hill leaving them lost from sight. It didn’t take long for all of us to get some shots on running Jacks, Nicholas came very close to hitting one on the run.

Tom was higher up the side of the mountain and Nicholas and I were lower, we were watching Tom shoot at several of them with Marley hot on the trail. For a few minutes we were all shooting as they were getting sprung from all directions. I’m really glad we checked out this area as I will definitely be back in Springtime when the population is higher and they are more active. We went back to camp and did a little bit of shooting with the EVOLs and even brought out the .357 Slayer for some fun.

This sport has given me so much joy over the years, Its great to see young men like Nicholas getting involved early. These kids are the future of our sport, setting examples and passing it on is the most important thing we can do.

Hope you all can enjoy until our next adventure.

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THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY

On Thursday July 14th Lindsey,Marley and I set out for the Eastern Sierra Mountain range where we had planned to go camping, fish and hunt for close to a week. Our first stop for a rest was Red Rock Canyon,one of the most desolate places in the desert. The temperature in my truck read a scorching 114 degrees,much to hot for us to camp in with no real adequate shade.

 

 

 

 

 

Mojave Desert

Red Rock Canyon

We had a nice snack and some cold drinks and set back out on the road where we headed further into the desert, couldn’t help but to look for Jackrabbit ears in the shade of the Joshua trees. The next major town we came to was Lone Pine where we made a stop for some lunch at a nearby fish hatchery,very beautiful place with nice views of the mountains. The scenery was starting to get less desert and more lush green countryside with even a few streams flowing through the fields on both sides of the highway. We continued for what seemed to be another hour until we came to a town called Big Pine where we pulled into a rest stop before heading up the steep narrow road into the Ancient Bristlecone forest. This area is quite a far drive up the mountain but is home to the “Methuselah” that is known to be the oldest living tree with the germination date being placed at 2832 BC. The area where these ancient trees grow is close to 9,800 ft and has quite the view with several nice foot paths,some being several miles long.

 

Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

The views from the top of this mountain were unlike anything I have seen before,simply breathtaking in every way. We had thought about camping here but had decided to travel back down the mountain and find a location that was closer to some water and shade. It was so nice to not be in a hurry and to be able to drive slow and look at all the interesting things along the way. I did notice that the area did not have many animals as I’m guessing it was just to dry. Lindsey and I reached the bottom of the mountain taking a little time looking at Google Earth where we hoped to find a good out of the way place to camp for the night. By this time it was 4:00 and I was getting a bit tired of driving, anxious to settle in and possibly find a spot to fish. The area we drove to was very near the town of Bishop and nestled 16 miles into a nearby canyon.

Bishop CA

I had found a little dirt road turnoff that went for quite a ways paralleling the river,too had plenty of shade and room for a tent. Lindsey and I pulled into the perfect spot to camp and Marley couldn’t wait to get out to explore. We set up our tent and unloaded a few of our things to make the night a bit more like home. Marley couldn’t wait to explore and I couldn’t wait to set up my fishing reel and see if I could get us some dinner.We headed down to the river that was flowing pretty good for this time of year, runoff from the nearby glacier. After a few minutes finding a good pool to fish in I was able to pull out a small Trout,first one in a good many years for me. Being in places like this is the most relaxing thing I can do and always brings good memories of my father and I.

fishing

By this time it was well into the evening so Lindsey and I set up our chairs and enjoyed the spectacular sunset that almost set the sky on fire.

Sunset in Bishop

We all slept very well with the peaceful roar of the river in the background and the cool night breeze that swept through the canyon. The next morning we awoke and decided we would go for a little hike before it got to hot. The spot we were camping had a few trails that looked very inviting that climbed steep up into a rocky gorge. Lindsey loves geology and as a hobby enjoys looking for rocks and excavating them,this place was full of all sorts.

Found what looked to me to be an old well that someone turned into a plinking target,neat bunch of parts hanging from it.The sun was starting to come down on us pretty hard so we decided to head back to camp and hang by the river before we packed up and left.

Dana Webb Airgunner

Lindsey and I loaded up the truck and headed back down the long mountain road where we met the main highway continuing North up to Lake Crowley. This area gives a very wild west feel to it as far as the trees and rock outcroppings that are scattered throughout this magnificent land. We both were rubbernecking some spots that looked promising but we still ventured further to the lake that my friend had claimed to be a spectacular place to fish.As we got closer to the lakes entrance I could see that the water level had gone down a bit but still looked plentiful for some fishing. The man we encountered at the guard house greeted us and was most helpful with finding us  a good location to camp. I had stated that I was in need of a place as far away from people as possible as I have a phobia of camping next to strangers. He sent us to a really nice spot that overlooked the rivers inlet into the lake.

 

Crowley Lake

Crowley Lake

Lindsey and I set up our camp and soon headed down to the lake where I did a bit more fishing accompanied by Marley. Well Marley loves the water so I soon realized that fishing may be out of the question as she was having a good old time swimming around. We cooked a few steaks and potatoes that filled our stomachs as we enjoyed the crystal clear night sky. I knew that we were going to have to pack up early the next morning because the place we were camping had no shade and was going to be into the 100s again. The next morning we woke up at 8:00am  and slowly started packing the truck up with all our supplies to move on to our next spot. The lake was beautiful but honestly just to hot for us to really enjoy with no shade to shelter us. I had decided to backtrack and head back down near Big Pine area near a glacier where I had been told was beautiful and much cooler camping weather. As we drove another 45min back I noticed my truck was starting to have some vibration,was hoping to get into Bishop to check out the problem. Well not to long after that my transmission was gone,like it had gone into neutral. I ended up coasting onto the shoulder right next to a highway patrolman who was kind enough to call me a tow into Bishop. Today was Sunday and like most small towns everything was closed,we were stuck until Monday morning and most likely longer. :-  The towtruck driver gave us a recommendation to a motel we could stay at that would have no problem with us having a dog and too was very reasonable. We walked a few blocks carrying a few of our bags and some important things I didn’t want to leave in a strange place. I was a bit worried and somewhat embarrassed as this was the first big vacation I had taken my girlfriend on and now this happened. Lindsey was most supportive and handling the whole thing way better than I had anticipated. The next morning I talked to the automotive mechanic and he said indeed I needed a new transmission that would take 4 or 5 days to get to as he was busy. I decided to rent a car and get Lindsey and Marley home as we had already enjoyed a few good days of camping. We drove 300miles home and immediately put my truck on Craigslist and started looking for something new and more accommodating to camping and off-road driving. I spent a few days at home before returning the rental car to Bishop where SteveO was kind enough to pick me up with all the rest of my camping stuff. SteveO arrived and we loaded all my things into his new AWD Subaru where we had planned to finish off the trip with some hunting over the following day. The area we had chosen to camp was about 20 minutes out of town several miles down a rugged dirt road.