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Memoirs of a first time Airgun hunter

Several weeks ago I received an email from a gentleman named Mike who had read several of my writings and had become interested in hunting with an Airgun. Over a brief discussion through email he had made the decision to purchase a .25 Marauder from Mac1 Airgun distributor in Gardena CA. That following week I had invited Mike to join me on a 3 day hunt in a remote area of the Mojave desert that offers not only some great Jackrabbit hunting but plenty of Ground Squirrels.


The following Thursday afternoon Mike and I met in Mojave and headed another 30 miles into the deep outback of the desert that gave both our Jeeps quite the workout. We made it to an area where I had made camp on several previous occasions, good amount of shade and plenty of wood to feed a campfire. Upon arrival it was fairly windy but seemed as though it was settling down as the evening went on. I was happy to have Mike join me as I usually make many of these trips on the solo as most have to work during the week. The following morning Mike and I awoke early to mount his scope and sight the .25 Marauder in at 50 yards.

Mike with his new .25 Marauder

After sighting in the Marauder we loaded up the Jeep and headed down the road several miles to a beautiful area that has an excellent habitat for Jackrabbits. The morning was calm and clear, thankfully a bit warmer than usual that would mean the Jackrabbits would be a bit more active.

The Cholla Cactus

As we walked towards the sun looking for the amber ears Mike was immediately able to spot some in the distance, some as far as 200 yards away. The plan was to head towards some rolling hills that would give us a better chance to not only spot them but to possibly ambush them from higher ground. We walked very slowly, trying to stay quiet that was not easy as the brush was thick in some spots. Soon upon getting to the top of this little hill Mike set his sights on a good size Jackrabbit at 65 yards, his first Jackrabbit kill, not bad for his first time hunt eh?

After taking a break for a few minutes, taking some pictures and packing the Jackrabbit into my pack we continued on further through the desert. We were now in an area that had some thicker vegetation along with some Joshua trees that offered many hiding spots for Jackrabbits. I came over a hill and spotted a Jackrabbit sitting halfway up the side of a hill on what looked to be a heavily traveled animal trail, at 60 yards I made the shot right through its chest.

American Air Arms EVOL .30


By this time it was around 10:30 am so we headed back to our camp and packed up our things to move to a different campsite where we would spend the next few days. This area had tall grass, a fire pit along with plenty of shade to sit under and target shoot. The following morning we were expecting Terry, my girlfriend Lindsey and the dog Marley to arrive to join us.

After setting up camp Mike and I headed up into the rocks to hopefully find some Ground Squirrels moving about. The area has some large populations of California Ground Squirrels, the burrows are scattered about under fallen trees and in the many rocks that are just about everywhere you look. A short hike from camp set us up on top of a large flat-rock that overlooks the whole valley with several rock outcroppings just below us at near 65 yards. Mike was using a fallen log to use as a rest to steady his rifle for a shot on a Ground Squirrel that kept moving about on the rocks below us.

Mike took his time and thankfully was able to keep things steady for a near perfect head-shot that put the Ground Squirrel down with authority.

His new .25 Marauder shoots like a laser and is near the perfect budget rifle for this type of hunting. Through the rest of the morning and into the afternoon we made quite a few kills, the wind was picking up by this time. As Mike and I moved up into this canyon we could hear the distant bark of the Ground Squirrels echoing through the valley.

I ended up spotting one at over 125 yards away that proved a difficult shot in the strong winds but nevertheless the perfect job for the EVOL .30 rifle. The new HAWKE Frontier 2.5-15×50 scope has really made long range shots much easier as the glass and TMX recticle are super clear. I took my time and was able to make a head-shot that entered right through the very top of the skull, dropping the Ground Squirrel instantly.


After a few hours of hiking around the Oak Tree covered valley Mike and I headed back to our campsite to set up for the evening and to gather some firewood to get us through the night. The wind was picking up again, gusting as high at 35/40 mph, no fun when trying to set up camp.

That evening we made a great campfire and were able to relax under the stars and enjoy some good conversation. Mike and I had cleaned and processed our Jackrabbit kills earlier that day and had planned to have them for dinner, although we thought we would wait till the next evening to share with the others. Mike made us some Top Ramen that tasted excellent, and too being a great way to get warmed up as it was by now a bit cold out.

Both Mike and I were quite tired and sore from a full day of hiking, must have put in near 8 miles up and down through the valley. Getting to sleep was no problem at all so we called it a night and planned to get up early to wait for Terry, Lindsey and Marley to arrive by 8:30 am.


The morning was quite calm with a slight breeze that we had hoped would stay that way for the rest of the day, at least long enough to get some hunting in. At about 8:45 as I sat with my rifle looking up into the nearby rocks that towered above our campsite, I could hear the distant sound of a vehicle breaking traction coming up the rugged rutted out road that lead to our spot. My favorite little companion Marley immediately came to greet me and was very surprised to see me being she wasn’t to sure where she was going at 4:30 am. This was Lindsey’s first time in the area and had came along to do a bit of Rockhounding (video link) , a hobby that we both share. This area had a large abundance of quartz that she had hoped to find plenty of that evening when we headed back down to hunt Jackrabbits. Terry set up a nice little range with several targets between 50 and 77 yards for us to use and fine tune our guns, he even brought a chronograph.

After about an hour of so of shooting our rifles we decided to head out up a trail that headed out of camp and into the nearby rock outcroppings.

We each set ourselves up in different areas about 50 yards apart each facing towards the rocks that had many Ground Squirrels that would frequently venture out to sun themselves.

Terry with his .22 Tapian Mutant Bullpup

Terry set himself up against a rock that offered good cover along with shots between 45/75 yards. Soon we could hear the distant THWACK of the obvious lead therapy that Terry was giving a nearby Ground Squirrel at 75 yards.

I had sat under a large Oak Tree where I spotted several Ground Squirrels moving about through the crevices of some large boulders. I was waiting for one of them to climb higher on the rocks making for a more clear shot. After about 20 minutes of waiting I finally spotted one that climbed up and was sitting still trying to get some sun. This shot was at 115 yards and would not be easy due to the pretty strong cross wind that I was sure would carry the pellet way to the right. With a guess in calculation I moved my shot 1.5 mil to the left, not as much as I needed but still enough to make a bone crunching gut shot.

After some time hiking around we all headed back to camp where we had lunch and relaxed for a bit, frequently shooting at several Ground Squirrels that were in the nearby rocks. After a few more hours of goofing off in camp we all had decided to head down the road and make the long hike across the desert to an area I had spotted a good amount of quartz crystals and a super great area to hunt Jackrabbits. I figured by the time we made it out to the area it would be the perfect time to pick a spot to sit and wait for some Jackrabbits to come by.

The sun was coming down pretty hard on us and we still had a ways to go before we would be near any type of shade. Lindsey was happy just to be out doing some rock hounding in such a beautiful location. As we walked we soon spotted several Jackrabbits that were well out of range, but they all looked to be very near where we were headed.

Terry stalking a Jackrabbit  

After another 20 minutes of hiking Lindsey, Marley and I arrived to the spot that I had described with many quartz crystals and great habitat for Jackrabbits. After a short break in the shade Lindsey got to work and headed out to explore the grounds for the many assortments of rocks the place had.

Terry and Mike headed further out past where Lindsey, Marley and I were and I could hear the distant shots they were making as pellets were tearing through the thick brush. After several minutes of sitting I spotted a Jackrabbit at 80+ yards across a ravine that was partially obscured from a Cholla CactusI took a head-shot and ended up shooting a bit to high sending the pellet right through the side of one ear that dazed it just long enough for Marley to get close enough to flip the Jackrabbit in the air. I ran across the ravine and watched Marley chase the Jackrabbit, she nearly got it too just as they both ran by Terry. That little dog is simply the best hunting dog I have ever seen, a pure natural hunter. After all the excitement I headed back over to check out what Lindsey was up to, she was doing a bit of rock stacking with the few larger pieces of quartz.

For those of you who don’t know, Lindsey is the real backbone of the online magazine mountainsportairguns.com and does many things for the Airgun community behind the scenes. She is responsible for many of the popular Airgun industry websites many of us frequent on a regular basis. Anyone reading this who may need some serious website work, mygirlfriday805  is the best in the business and truly an amazing part of my life. After several hours with no luck getting many shots on Jackrabbits we made the slow journey back to the truck, I say slow because I had about 100 lbs of rocks in my backpack.


We arrived back to camp just in time to watch the sunset and to get a fire started along with the portable BBQ Terry had brought to cook on. Between all of us we had a good amount of food that we had all brought to cook, hotdogs, carne asada, snacks, drinks and even hot chocolate and beer. We were all very hungry from the long day of marching through the desert, even Marley was ready for anything she could get her paws on.

After stuffing ourselves with mass quantities of food we were all near comatose and ready to just go to sleep. The plan was for us guys to get up super early and head down the hill again to try for some Jackrabbits for a few hours. We all slept pretty good that night, I felt pretty refreshed the next morning at 6:30 am and was ready for some more hunting. We headed down the hill and excitedly made our way back into the same area we hunted the evening before.

It was a beautiful morning that thankfully wasn’t windy at all, wish the last few days had been that calm. After about 30 minutes I finally spotted a Jackrabbit at 45 yards that was sitting under a bush taking in the warm morning sunshine.

Notice in the photograph I was wearing jeans, well the day before I had gotten a small tear in my hunting pants that ultimately worked into a larger tear that ripped the whole pant leg off. Happy I had brought some extra pants, otherwise I would be chasing Jackrabbits in my underwear. Not a pleasant sight I can assure you! As the morning moved on I spent some time stalking Terry hoping to get some shots captured on camera, he was quite hard to spot among the dense desert foliage.

As all four of us hiked towards the nearby mountains the plan was to circle around and cross over a road into a new area I had never hunted before. Marley and I set out ahead and crossed the road almost immediately seeing several very large Jackrabbits moving through the brush on the hillsides. This area was near perfect terrain for Airgun hunting as it offered good opportunities to get close having so many trees to hide behind as we moved closer. I could hear Terry and Mike both making shots on running Jackrabbits, Marley was getting supper riled up as she listened for that distinctive THWAP!!  As Marley and I moved around a bush I attempted making a shot on this Jack that was sitting facing us at 200+ yards, made a shot that came up short right next to its feet sending it into a full sprint out of sight.

Over the next hour all four of us tried stalking several Jackrabbits, the one I was after went up a hill and over a rise down into some more open area. Marley and I slowly made our way up the hill with the hopes to ambush the Jackrabbit from above, when hunting them I always have good luck hunting down on them when possible. As we made our way over the crest of the hill I immediately spotted the Jackrabbit sitting under a large bush with its back facing me, perfect shoulder shot at 95 yards. The .30 EVOL is in my opinion the perfect all day gun for hunting Jackrabbits, with plenty of power and 40 regulated shots at 85 fpe it packs a mean whallop.


As I made my last kill of the day I packed them neatly into my back and ventured back to the truck where where Terry and Mike soon joined. This few days of hunting was no doubt a good amount of work but well worth the effort to be able to share it with a newcomer to the sport. I commend Mike for reaching out and not being afraid to ask questions and take advice, It was a true privilege to have him join me and to be able to witness his first Jackrabbit kill. It’s very important for us as Airgunners to keep the sport alive and to help it grow in a positive way, Mikes story is a great example. Enclosed is a video documentary of our trip, enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3-Day Back Country Ground Squirrel Hunt

I had a busy week of work and could hardly wait to escape as I ended my day Thursday afternoon. I headed home and packed the Jeep for a 4 day adventure hunt in the very remote area of the desert. I left early Friday morning with my dog Marley where we drove for a good part of the morning to get us to our destination that took us through some very remote areas of the Mojave desert. We made a few stops before we headed up a very steep mountain road that at one time was frequented by miners that traveled the trail with mules, wagons and horses.


Marley and I drove quite a bit further and used our time to explore a few areas that we had planned to hunt the following day when SteveO and Terry arrived. I was too looking for a good area for us to camp and possibly have some shade to camp under. After a bit of searching I was able to find a good location that fit the criteria for not only hunting but camping as well. We parked the Jeep under a nice sized Pine tree and proceeded to unpack the hunting gear, cameras etc, and head out on foot to explore a bit.

Marley was just as excited as I was to be in such a beautiful location, I too could hear the distant bark and chatter of the many Ground Squirrels that have saturated the area. After gearing up we set across a small creek that opened up into a large open field with fallen trees, rock outcroppings and nice green grass. It wasn’t long before I found a nice spot to sit for awhile and try making some longer shots on these Ground Squirrels.

I spotted quite a few at some 100+ yards away sunning themselves high up on the rocks. The wind was actually quite fierce at times but would sometimes let up just enough to make a good shot. I had quite a few misses as I was trying to not only steady the rifle but the movie camera as well, gets frustrating when you miss a shot due to camera set up.


I was using the new American Air Arms EVOL .30 that was loaded with 44gr Predator Polymags that from prior experience work very well in the gun out past 130+ yards.

After a short time I had connected with several Ground Squirrels and will say it was very exciting as the place was simply crawling with them. The Polymags work flawlessly out of the EVOL and I even surprised myself a few times with shots that were simply amazing. Here is one I took from over 130 yards as he was sunning himself on a cliff-face.

After about 45 minutes in the same spot I decided to move locations onto a very large slab rock that overlooked a good part of the valley and offered near panoramic views.

This area was great as I had spotted many Ground Squirrels moving from hole to hole around and under the many Oak Trees that covered the area. I took several from this location with the furthest being out to 90 yards.


After some time hunting and trying the best I could to get some good video footage it was getting late and time for Marley and I to go set up camp. The following morning Terry and SteveO were to meet me in a set location that was quite a distance from where I was. After some thought I decided to pack up my gear and head back down the mountain many miles to the area we were to meet. This area was so remote that getting a cell-phone signal would be near impossible and I simply did not want to take the chance of them not finding me in the morning. Marley and I packed up all the gear and headed down the narrow Jeep trail as by this time the sun was setting.

After quite a bit of driving we came to the area where I was to meet SteveO and Terry in the morning. This area was actually very creepy as it was backed up into a rocky canyon and gave a bit of “The Hills Have Eyes” type of vibe. Thankfully Marley kept me company as I set up camp for the night and made a good size bon-fire to keep the critters away.

We slept quite well that night and awoke to a beautiful clear morning with thankfully no wind that would sure to make a great day of hunting. The guys weren’t expected for another few hours so I had decided to get in a little Jackrabbit hunting before they came.

The morning was just gorgeous as the sun came up and the location looked to be perfect habitat for hunting Jackrabbits. We walked up over a ridge where I hoped to be able to spot some amber ears from the distance.

After about a mile of hiking we came up over a ridge where we could see for several hundred yards ahead of us, perfect place to sit quietly and enjoy the morning. I soon spotted several Jackrabbits that were near a bit beyond 200 yards on the side of a densely vegetated hillside.

I ended up taking the shot on one and came within several inches of hitting it, actually from the looks of the photo I may have connected with its tail.

We spotted several more Jackrabbits as we made our way back to camp as by this time I was expecting SteveO and Terry to arrive to meet us. As we made our way around the ridge I could see that the guys had arrived and were waiting to spot me coming down through the rocks. After a few minutes of saying our hellos we moved the caravan to the location I had hunted the day before, where we would spend the next several days. The guys were most excited about the spot, especially since I had told them how active it was the day before.

Terry had spent some time setting up some targets so they could zero the rifles and warm up for the day of hunting ahead.

After about 20 minutes we were ready to head out across the creek and search out some active Ground Squirrel areas. I showed Terry and SteveO a few of the areas I felt to be active and they settled for a spot that was under several trees and offered a good view of some rock-outcroppings.


SteveO and Terry both almost immediately connected with some Ground Squirrels that were between 45 and 65 yards. The rock had several that were moving about and would sometimes give good opportunity as they climbed the rocks, stopping frequently.


After around 45 minutes SteveO spotted a Ground Squirrel at 80 yards peeking his head up from behind a very large boulder, the only thing you could see was his eye. I spent a little time watching the Ground Squirrel until I felt comfortable to take the shot that was a very tiny target. I made the shot and connected perfectly considering the range and the angle I was at, really only had a tiny black eye for an aiming point.


I took a short little break and then followed the guys around for awhile hoping to capture some good video footage. Terry ended up spotting a Ground Squirrel next to a tree at 85 yards where he connected with a loud distinct THWACK sound.


These Ground Squirrels were literally all over the place, pretty much just needed to pick a spot and go to town. As SteveO and I were walking we heard the distant crack followed by a THWACK, OOOOOOH sounds like he got one. SteveO, Marley and I went to check it out and sure enough Terry made a head-shot that looked to be near 70 yards. The obvious signs of death by lead poisoning were all over the rocks, looked like a murder scene.

After a quick walk back to camp we sat in the shade while enjoying our lunch, followed by a little more target shooting. After a few minutes we headed out again, this time being a little more familiar with the area and where the active spots are. I choose a spot up under a tree that looked down on some fallen logs and large rocks.

This area had a good field of view of several Ground Squirrels that were running around with several that were sunning themselves on the flat-rocks. I ended up shooting one that was over 80 yards as he turned facing away from me, I think everyone heard the THWACK that seemed to echo throughout the canyon.

After a little over an hour I asked the guys if they wanted to take a ride in the Jeep and go further up the mountain to another location that SteveO and I hunted last Summer with great luck.


This area upon arrival was obviously extremely infested with Ground Squirrels and was apparent that we didn’t need to look far to find opportunity.

Within about two minutes we all had at least one kill each with hundreds more in sight, some as far away as 150 yards. I worked my way into the back of a giant field, taking several as far as 130 yards. This area had many beautiful Oak trees to sit under along with nice short green grass that made spotting the Ground Squirrels quite easy.


I could hear the distant sounds of both Terry and SteveO making connections, very loud and could be heard throughout the entire valley. This may have been my favorite area of the day as it had so much great opportunity for long range shots. After following a faint trail down through the valley I came across a spot where I spooked several Ground Squirrels off a rock formation. I figured Marley and I would sit and wait several minutes for one to come back up on top of the rocks.

It didn’t take long before a Ground Squirrel came back up onto the rock to sun himself, I took a devastating shoulder shot at 65 yards that blew him right off the rock.


About this time we met back to the Jeep and headed back down to camp with near 60 kills between us for the day, even the dog was pleased. It was nice to just be among good friends and be able to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature. This area was truly amazing and offered some of the best Ground Squirrel hunting I have ever encountered. We set up a fine camp and even cooked hotdogs, burgers while we enjoyed the company of good friends and the light of the full moon. Later in the night I started a good size fire to take the chill off and add to the rustic backdrop of this beautiful place.

The following morning we were up early and ready to hunt as SteveO would be leaving us around 9:00 am. We crossed the creek and decided to try a few different areas that we had not explored yet, one of which had a huge amount of rocks.


We all had connected with several Ground Squirrels that in some cases were very difficult to see against the endless assortment of rocks. The one I was after was high up on a large boulder, almost acting as though he was king of his castle.

The trouble with hunting Ground Squirrels in this type of habitat is that finding the kill can become a challenge in itself, loosing them in holes, cracks etc, can become very frustrating. All three of us made some incredible shots in this spot but the area was simply near impossible to recover our kills from, even with the dog. SteveO soon had to leave us where it was now just Terry, Marley and I to hunt for the rest of the day. Terry and I decided that we would take the Jeep and venture back up to the other area from the day before. We split up and headed out separate ways where I soon could hear the distant clap of his Tapian Mutant making some heavy Ground Squirrel connections. I on the other hand was content near the Jeep where I spotted several at 150+ yards where I was able to connect with one.



Here is one I took at 110 yards



Terry and I made quite a few kills through the morning putting our total to well up over 90 I believe.

This area was an absolute pleasure to hunt and my choice in company made the trip most memorable. I was able to get a good amount of video footage considering the difficulty of the area. This hunt was a huge learning curve for me and the first time I had really used the camera for an extended period of time, facing challenges with setup and the various angles involved in filming them. I am truly blessed to have such good friends and many others behind the scenes that support my adventures on many levels, thank you. Enclosed is a link to the video in relation to this hunt, hope you enjoy. HUNT VIDEO