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AIRGUN HUNTING IN PATAGONIA

by Mountainsport Airgun Magazine & Claudio Flores


Patagonia is a sparsely populated region located at the southern end of South America, shared by Argentina and Chile. The region comprises the southern section of the Andes mountains, as well as the deserts, steppes and grasslands East of this Southern portion of the Andes. The weather in the Patagonia is very extreme and unpredictable with generally lots of wind and very cold temperatures. The Patagonian landscape is breathtaking with its vast rolling hills that head into the more rugged mountain peaks.

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Patagonia is one of the most extreme places to hunt in the world and offers a wide variety of game such as llama, Fox, Hare, Rabbit and Beaver to name a few. The best time to go hunting here is in summer, the wind is not so strong, the temperature is not as extreme and they have daylight until about 12:00 at night unlike the winter, when it gets dark at 4:00 pm. For the people that live in Patagonia, hunting is life and becoming very popular for Airgunners such as Claudio Flores.

Claudio Flores

Claudio is a 35 year old native to Chile that has enjoyed hunting with Airguns for over 15 years. He is what you may call an extreme hunter and one that doesn’t let a cold, windy day keep him from the thrill of the hunt. Claudio hunts a variety of animals, one of which is the giant Beaver that can reach weights up over 60 pounds.

Claudio Flores hunting

 In 1946, the Argentinian government imported fifty beavers from Canada, which were to be released in several lakes with the intention of creating a commercial fur trading industry. Though a viable industry ultimately failed to materialize, the introduction of the beavers into the region has had far-reaching consequences. Tierra del Fuego National Park in Argentina is especially threatened, as the beavers are destroying long-protected trees. The animals have spread beyond Tierra del Fuego itself into the Brunswick Peninsula of Chile, and the government fears further penetration into continental South America. The beavers already threaten around sixteen million hectares of indigenous forest. Unlike many trees in North America, trees in South America often do not regenerate, ultimately destroying the forest. As well as falling trees, beavers create dams that flood certain areas and thus drown other trees and vegetation. Flooding from beaver dams also damages roads and cattle-grazing pastures.

patagonia roads

Claudio hunts all year long but generally hunts Beavers during the warmer months as it makes reaching these areas much easier. As you can see (below) the areas are vast and offer many places that offer great habitat.

beaver hunting

These Beavers can be very difficult to hunt due to the fact they are very skittish animals and sometimes are very hard to spot, sometimes having to wait hours for one to show itself. Claudio has taken quite a few of them over the years and has found the Airrifle is a great tool for hunting them. Here is one that was taken with a .25 FX Impact at 76 yards(below)

beaver hunt

Patagonia has many other animals to hunt and some of Claudios favorites include rabbits and hares. This landscape offers excellent habitat to sustain very large populations and too make for some great eating. Over the past several months I have become very close to Claudio as more than just a team member, but a good friend. When Claudio was asked to become a team member of American Air Arms it was truly a blessing for us both. American Air Arms went a step above and sent Claudio a very special gun for him to use on his hunting adventures and to document them through video and photographs. Claudio and his son Dan make some great videos along with mind blowing photographs that I hope the world can enjoy. Here is his .357 Slayer

.357 Slayer

Generally Claudio does a review of all his rifles and makes it public on his YouTube channel “Chile Patagonia Airguns” where he gets to let the world know what he does with these guns in Patagonia.  Hunting is his passion in life as well as working hard as he can to enjoy it.  Weekends are always reserved to go practice with his 13 year old son Dan and to show him a little about extreme hunting.

patagonia hunting

Claudio and his son hunt together often as well as Dan helping with the excellent film and photographic footage they have achieved in the past. The American Air Arms .357 Slayer arrived to Claudio after a long 15 day hold in customs, from there it made it’s way to his home where it was fitted with a Schmidt&Bender scope and Accu-Tac SR-5 bipod.

claudio .357 slayer

After spending a day with the gun and getting it zeroed in, he was ready to take the .357 Slayer on its first adventure into the Patagonia wilderness. Claudio and Dan spent some time driving around until they found a good location that had a good population of rabbits, hares and Fox. Most of these are far within reach of a gun such as the .357 Slayer that was slinging 129 grain Aeromagnum hollowpoints at near 960 fps. Claudio was sad for the night before his cousin had a Fox kill two of his beautiful cats and 12 chickens, so he set out in trying to finding it. In Patagonia the foxes are very harmful, the problem is when they get into the village and start being a threat to the integrity of the family you have to make the decision and control them. Dan was the first to spot a rabbit at 202 yards, this was correctly measured with the Bushnell Elite rangefinder. Claudio had the slayer zeroed at 50 yards and had to correct the turret 8.5 mills according to his table of measures, while Dan was looking through his Steiner binoculars telling his dad to stay focused. After several moments Claudio took a deep breath and fired. They looked at each other for a span of 4 seconds and then it was a scream that you could imagine was heard throughout the city. 

.357 slayer jackrabbit kill

Claudio has had many of the best high end Airguns Airguns and is now a firm believer in the true power of a big bore Airrifle when it comes to long range. He has stated that when you shoot a big-bore, everything else seems small such as the .22 and .25 as he’s used to hunting with.
Over the rest of the day Claudio was able to bag several rabbits at 75,95,125 and 202 yards.

rabbit kills with .357 slayer

Patagonia is one of the most beautiful and unforgiving locations in the world that does too offer many unique hunting opportunities for Airgunners. I hope to visit very soon and to meet up with Claudio and Dan, joining them on one of their many adventures that at the least can be brought to you here.

 

 

 

 

 

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2016 EXTREME BENCHREST

On Wednesday October 5th 2016 Doug Noble, myself and Tom Costan left the American Air Arms facility in Acton California to head out 7 hours into the Arizona desert. Our trip had not started as soon as we would have liked as our rifles had literally been just finished that morning setting us back more than 6 hours. I was very excited as this was my first widely followed Airgun event where I was sure to meet some very familiar faces. My goal was to do well in the Big Bore event and to hopefully place well in the small bore 75yard benchrest that was to be very challenging. We arrived in Arizona early that evening where we settled in and made sure we had all necessary components to compete the following morning. The next morning we piled into the van and made our way for some coffee before our arrival to the 2016 Extreme Benchrest event.

We pulled into the beautiful  Rio Salado Sportsman’s Club by 7:30 am where we were greeted by banners and an army of Airguns Of Arizona staff diligently getting the event ready.

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We made our way into the registration area where we were kindly greeted and given our time schedule that included a small bag of goodies along with an 2016 Extreme Benchrest T-shirt. Tom, Doug and I were excited to get some practice in before our 1st afternoon Big Bore event. We unloaded our guns, tanks and pounds of other shooting equipment to the nicely shaded shooting benches.

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We were greeted by AoA’s own Kip Perow who later I found to be quite a great shooter in the Big Bore event. The man sitting was Ron from High Arc Hunting shooting the new Bushbuck .45 monster Big Bore rifle. Doug Noble set up his custom built .338 that he has spent many months preparing to shoot here.

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Other well known names such as Rossi Morreale (below) from the show American Airgunner were practicing for the event. Tom and myself had a great talk with Rossi and were impressed with his love for the sport and his sincerity in trying to make it grow.

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As Tom and I set up our new guns for testing we had Micheal Wendt (below) the new owner of Airgun Nation forum come by to say hello and to check out our new guns. Micheal is a very friendly guy that had some very positive energy behind him and one I was glad to meet.

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I was having a great time trying out my new wood stock EVOL .30 while Tom was using the .30 TAC version. We were practicing with both of the American Air Arms .357 Slayers as well. For me it was quite the adjustment to switch between two completely different power levels. I was sighting in my .30 for the 75 yard event and my .357 Slayer for 200 yards.

img_6924-copy-copyimg_6908-copy-copyMy first event was the Big Bore 200 yard event where we were shooting at 4 military style targets, we had to make 5 shots onto each target. I was shooting horrible not only due to the wind but I had chosen the wrong scope for the application being a fixed parallax. After that disastrous event I headed over to have my Airtank filled where I was kindly greeted by Todd DeOrio (below) Airguns Of Arizona’s fill station expert. He was most helpful and very on his game as I had to visit him quite often over the next few days,never had to wait more than 5 minutes for a fill. Thank you

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The rest of the day we practiced some more and walked around in between checking out some cool guns and even spotting a few more well known shooters such as my friend Tim McMurray of Mac1 Airguns and former winner of the EBR.

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Food and refreshments were available all day long with a great shaded area with plenty of room to sit and chat. Precision Airgun was on hand with its mobile repair center as well as the onsite gunsmith.

img_6964  Day two for us was to practice till about 3:00 where we were to shoot our first 75 yard card.

img_6925-copy-2 I had still been dialing in my gun and practicing the best I could in the wind that didn’t seem too bad as of yet. Tom was shooting the best out of the three of us with his gun, ending with him doing fairly well on his card. I had made the mistake of not using my sighters as often as I should of, ending with me doing very poorly. (no need to post pic)

Day 3 we had or 2nd 75 yard card to shoot, all three of us were in the 3rd relay so we had a good portion of the day to practice. As I walked up to practice I saw another more familiar face such as Ted Bier.

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As the time approached I was feeling confident in my gun and my ability to shoot it well. We all headed down to our lanes to set our bench and to start the 75 yard event. I thankfully used a rear lead bag that proved to work much better for me, good to learn for future competitions. The wind was not as bad as the previous day but was still a bit unpredictable for me. This time I used my sights as needed and filled my gun along with using sorted pellets. For me this was my personal best and was very pleased regardless of how I placed.

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img_6983As you can see, these are very small targets and very humbling when missed. Unfortunately as good as I had done this day my previous card had killed my chance to qualify for the 3rd card at 100 yards.

Day 4 started early for us as our Big Bore event started at around 8:00 where we would be shooting at 85 yards and 200 yards. I was pretty confident with shooting 200 yards but was a bit nervous of the 85 yards as I’m not used to having to hold under. Doug, Kip, Ron and Tom were all shooting great. That Bushbuck is a pretty amazing gun, Doug’s .338 is just plain radical.

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I had a bit of confusion with my 85 yard targets but in the end was very happy with a 2nd.

After the event we had nothing more to do till the banquet so we spent our time plinking with our guns and visiting friends. I was having fun offhand shooting the 200 yard silhouette while Doug was visiting the 550 yard silhouette with his custom .338. My good friend Jim Walton (below) from “Fun Birds Hunting” came by to visit and to do a bit of shooting with us.

img_6947-copyHad some more visitors from Chile “Patagonia Airguns” So nice to see people from all over the world, bringing some very nice airguns to compete with.

img_6958 img_6957My friend Steve Marsh (above) who lives in Arizona and came to keep us company and to show us some killer places to eat throughout the area. I cant wait to come back and do some hunting when time allows. The day was just about to and end with a few Thunderheads in the distance.

img_6991We headed down the road several minutes to a very upscale banquet hall that was overlooking a beautiful golf coarse. This is where we would have dinner, announce the winners and to draw for the raffle prizes.

img_7006Some very nice raffle prizes this year.

ham-raffleThe dinner was excellent along with coffee and dessert, and followed by the awards.

img_7007 Big Congrats to Ted for winning the $5000

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This year had so many amazing competitors,some that traveled from far away places. I see this event only growing stronger and I will say the future is in the young shooters. We all as airgunners need to focus on the progression and to try sharing this wonderful pastime. I want to especially thank the AOA crew for doing such a wonderful job and being so welcoming to me as this was my first year competing. I feel it was well worth the trip and can only help to do better next year. The 2016 Extreme Benchrest has many events that can fit just about any shooters needs. Next year I plan to compete in the American Field Target and Big Bore events. Anyone that’s wanting a fun,family friendly event,this is a winner. Thanks to all who participated. Results can be found here: 2016 Extreme Benchrest

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