Airgun Tour of the West
About a year ago I started doing some searching for a scope camera to incorporate into my videos to capture some of the action on my hunts. Through some research I discovered a company called Tactacam, they build high quality cameras and film through scope mounts. I ended up reaching out to them through email and soon got a response from Rudy Nunez. Rudy from Tactacam was kind enough to send me a full kit that I have been using in many of my videos throughout this past year. As time went on with emails and phone calls Rudy and I became good friends and eventually made plans to hunt together in South East Arizona. Recently Pyramydair started carrying the Tactacam product so I reached out to them for some sponsorship to make this trip happen. Pyramydair was kind enough to sponsor a trip that helped us with the cost of getting to Arizona and document our adventure through both this article and video enclosed at the bottom. Rudy and I had planned to hunt a variety of animals, but specifically Coatimundi, a raccoon like animal with a slimmer body and a longer tail and a snout. Rare in the Southwest, coatimundis are more common in Central and South America. In Arizona, coatimundis inhabit the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts, with ranges including the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix and the Huachuca Mountains southeast of Tucson. Coatimundis sleep in trees and prefer elevations of 4,500 to 7,500 feet, but they occasionally travel to lower deserts in winter. These are some of the most elusive species to hunt and are to be considered exotic game animals.
My plan was to rent a vehicle and drive the 12 hours into South East Arizona with Terry and Marley where we would spend four days with Rudy. The goal of this trip was to document our experience with not only the hunting, but our visits to the many historical areas along the way. Terry, Marley and I packed the rental truck and headed out early Thursday morning at 3:00am to beat traffic and get into Hearford AZ by 5:00pm. The drive was very scenic and will say it was nice to be a passenger for once, as I’m usually always traveling solo with just Marley and I.
We made several stops along the way for the bathroom as well as a visit to the local sporting goods store to purchase our three day Arizona hunting licences. We soon arrived to Rudy’s beautiful home in South East Arizona, very small town feel that is less than ten miles from the Mexico border. As we arrived we were greeted by Rudy’s beautiful wife Missy and 5 yo daughter Avery, they made us feel so welcome as we waited for Rudy to arrive just behind us. Rudy and his family have deep roots in this part of the country and it shows through the small town kindness that you just don’t find often in the big cities. She had made up two separate rooms for the each of us and opened her home to three complete strangers, pretty nice of her. (Thank You Missy) After Rudy arrived to the house we set up the shooting bench in his backyard to setup the Tactacam and assure that the Eagle Claw .25 was properly zeroed at 50 yards.
Several months ago I did a review of the Seneca Eagle Claw, a .25 lever action rifle that produces around 60fpe. The Eagle Claw is an excellent budget minded PCP that’s capable of taking down Coyote size game animals. We filmed a few segments with the rife and then Rudy showed how to install the Tactacam 5.0 camera with the FTS (film through scope) mount. We mounted the FTS to the Hawke Vantage 3-12×44 scope. The camera can wifi directly to your smart phone and gives us real time interaction with the camera to make adjustments and playback.
This is a unique scope camera that comes in at just 12oz, making it lightweight without interrupting form when shouldering the rifle. Over the past few months I have had a great time using the Tacticam 5.0 throughout many hunting adventures. Rudy is very knowledgeable of this camera system and offered me some helpful tips on getting the most from it.
After setting up the rifle we fired up the BBQ and cooked some Chicken, Carne Asada and some over-sized Green Onions. What a treat on our first night in South East Arizona. That evening we got to sleep early as we would be leaving for our first day of hunting early the next morning at 5:00am.
The following morning we woke up early to pack Rudy’s truck and to head an hour or so into the higher elevations near the Coronado National Monument.
This picturesque mountainous terrain is rich with history and commemorates the first organized expedition into the Southwest by conquistador Francisco Vásquez de Coronado. The memorial is located in a natural setting on the international border on the southeast flank of the Huachuca Mountains south of Sierra Vista, Arizona.
After spending some time filming and studying the written information on the kiosk we headed further down the rugged dirt road to our hunting location. This area looks very similar to the terrain you may find in South Africa, lots of rocks and wide assortment of trees.
We arrived to our first location where we planned to hike a quarter mile or so up a dry creek-bed to call for Fox and Coyotes. This area was beautiful and offered plenty of cover for us to set up in.
As we were hiking up the trail Rudy told us about the fact we may encounter some border patrol agents. He talks about how difficult the terrain is to travel by foot and how you can sometimes encounter people who may have illegally crossed the border. This area is very rough and it’s hard to imagine a family with women and children trying to make it through these areas at night. As we moved along the trail we came into a thick area of trees where we set up our first call stand.
Rudy used a Cottontail in distress for attempting to get some interaction from either Fox or Coyotes. After some intervals of calling we took a break and decided to move areas.
The next area was 1.5 miles away and required a good hike to get into the higher elevations of the mountains. At this point Rudy was the primary shooter with Terry second while I manned the camera. This was so nice to be out with my friends and enjoy the beautiful new scenery, very different from what I’m used to.
Marley was extremely excited to be out with the boys, she was not exactly sure what we were hunting, but as usual ready for anything. As we made our way up above the treeline we decided to stop in some tall grass that gave a great view of the large rock outcropping ahead.
Terry, Rudy, Marley and I all kept close watch on the rock outcroppings thinking we may catch glimpse of the elusive Coatimundi moving about.
These animals travel through areas with as many as 30 in a troop, feeding off Juniper berries, fruits, tarantulas, small reptiles and rodents. These animals hold up in thick tree covered areas and can be very difficult to spot from far away. On our hike we did find plenty of scat that unfortunately didn’t look fresh at all. We began to suspect that they may be in the lower areas so we decided to make our way back down the mountain to a different location.
About a month prior Rudy had set out some cameras to capture the activity near a popular water hole. Through images and video this area seemed to be a popular stop for the Coatimundi as the area had plenty of sustainable habitat.
We decided to park it here for about three hours waiting patiently for some to come down out of the treeline to water in the creek. After some time we all actually fell asleep, kind of hard not to in such a quiet peaceful spot. I figured Marley would alert us to the slightest movement as she kept careful watch in all directions. Marley is in fact the ultimate hunting dog, pretty much a do it all kind of companion. Through the next few hours the only activity we encountered was that of a few birds and some cattle moving through for water. We headed back to the truck for a break before heading back down and out of the mountains. This was a great full day of hiking, a little frustrating not spotting much of any animal activity but still an amazing experience.
That evening Rudy made a nice dinner, our legs were pretty sore from a full day of hiking in the outback. I slept great that night with my alarm set for 5:30am.
The following morning we headed out to a private ranch where we had hoped to call in some Coyotes as well as to have some luck on Cottontail and Jackrabbits.
This was a very large property that had a few watering holes that can be sometimes a good place to spot Coyotes. Rudy was the primary shooter for this first part of the morning while I ran the caller and filmed.
After spending about 20 minutes running the caller in this spot we decided to move on to a different location. I took the Eagle Claw as I had hoped to encounter an open shot on one of the large Antelope Jackrabbits. Marley was certainly ready for some action and on full alert the entire morning.
These Jackrabbits are a bit larger than those we have in California, a species I was anxious to try for. We worked our way towards the sun hoping to spot the distinct Amber color shining through their ears.
I was spotting these large hares in the distance and did my best to stay low and slow through the sagebrush and brier patches. When hunting rabbits and hares it’s always important to find areas that have a large amount of droppings.
In this photograph we can see the size difference between the Cottontail and hare droppings. This particular area was loaded with fresh droppings that can be distinguished by a dark color. We moved along where I was able to spot one crouched down at just about 50 yards.
I took the shot that went right into the shoulder, the Jackrabbit made it about 10 yards before Marley clobbered it. That little dog can move and hits them like a freight train at full speed. From a distance it looked like she was dragging a kangaroo in her mouth, haha
The Eagle Claw performed very well with the 33.95gr JSB’s , the lever action makes follow up shots go really quickly as well as having that “western” styling to it. Marley and I were pretty happy with our first Antelope Jackrabbit kill, been wanting to get one for many years. This was a good size one that had some serious weight behind it. It was kind of funny because the Jackrabbit was only about 80 yards from the truck after we had hiked in a several mile loop. We bagged the Jackrabbit and did a quick cleaning of it before throwing it into the cooler for the crock pot. By this time it was close to 11:30 so we packed up the truck and headed out to the town of Bisbee for a lunch break and some sightseeing.
The town of Bisbee was founded as a copper, gold, and silver mining town in 1880, and named in honor of Judge DeWitt Bisbee, one of the financial backers of the adjacent Copper Queen Mine. Among the many guests at the Copper Queen hotel have been celebrities from nearby California. Actor John Wayne was a frequent visitor to Bisbee and the Copper Queen. The town has preserved and restored most all of the original buildings that are visited by the many tourist that come through daily.
After finding a place to park we headed for a stroll down the streets visiting the many nick nack type shops. Lots of antiques, memorabilia and assortment of places to eat.
Beyond being such a beautiful town we found that most all of the places we visited were dog friendly, definitely a plus for Marley. We had a nice lunch and then went to take a look at the Copper Queen Hotel where Rudy gave us a little history on this very old establishment.
The Copper Queen Hotel is holding the distinction of being Arizona’s longest continuously operated hotel, the Copper Queen was constructed from 1898 to 1902 by the Phelps Dodge Corporation to serve as lodging for investors and dignitaries visiting its nearby copper mine. Now it’s visited by thousands of people a year and thought to be one of the most haunted locations in the great state of Arizona. The popular TV show Ghost Hunters has visited and filmed at the Copper Queen and the hotel even offers some Ghost Tours. Unfortunately our short stay kept us from doing much more than taking a few photographs and some video segments.
Terry was a bit familiar with the town of Bisbee as he had passed through on his motorcycle in his early years. He was happy to have had the opportunity to visit the town in more depth and take in the amazing 100+ year old architecture on this trip. Both Terry and I were blessed to have such a knowledgeable host as Rudy. After our nice exploration of the town we made way back to the truck to head into the nearby mountains to try again for the elusive Coatimundi.
This area was close to 7500 ft elevation with thick brush and extremely rocky terrain. Rudy had seen many Coatimundi in this area from previous hunts and was feeling confident we may encounter some.
Our plan was to hike down the steep rocky hillsides and try spotting them from across the canyon. Some of the areas we actually had to rock climb our way down, some of the areas were quite dangerous. Being in the higher elevations the wind was pretty extreme with gust near knocking us off our feet. We each scanned different areas with the binoculars to try and spot any movement across the canyon.
We did spot several deer as well as some heavy javalina activity on our hike. Some of the hiking was through some thick brush that made it difficult to get through with all our gear and camera equipment.
Marley had the advantage being low enough to make it through some of the thick areas. We spent about a good hour looking for the Coatimundi, ultimately heading back to the truck as it was by this time late afternoon.
We had such a great day getting to visit so many beautiful locations as well as getting to take down a good sized Antelope Jackrabbit. We headed back to Rudy’s where he cooked up some chili dogs, a great way to end such a wonderful adventure filled day. That night Marley and I slept wonderfully, the alarm was set for 6:30am where we planned to head back to try for some more rabbits before visiting our final destination of the trip.
That next morning we headed back to the ranch to try for some more Cottontail and Jackrabbits. We spent about an hour at the ranch seeing only two Jackrabbits with no decent shots presented to us. Due to time we packed up and headed into the nearby town of Tombstone. The town of Tombstone is a historic city in Cochise County, Arizona, United States, founded in 1879 by prospector Ed Schieffelin in what was then Pima County, Arizona Territory. It became one of the last boom-towns in the American frontier. The town grew significantly into the mid-1880s as the local mines produced $40 to $85 million in silver bullion, the largest productive silver district in Arizona. Its population grew from 100 to around 14,000 in less than seven years. It is best known as the site of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and presently draws most of its revenue from tourism.
As soon as you get into the town of Tombstone it’s like heading back in time, the buildings are near perfectly preserved to original state. Most of the local patrons all wear authentic 1800’s style clothing that furthers the charm of this iconic town. The streets are busy with tourist, wagons and the bustle of a truly classic western town. We made our first stop at the Birdcage Theater where we spent a fe minutes listening to some history.
The Bird Cage Theater opened on December 26, 1881. It was owned by Lottie and William “Billy” Hutchinson. Hutchison, a variety performer, originally intended to present respectable family shows like he’d seen in San Francisco that were thronged by large crowds. After the Theater opened, they hosted a Ladies Night for the respectable women of Tombstone, who could attend for free. But the economics of Tombstone didn’t support their aspirations. They soon canceled the Ladies Night and began offering baser entertainment that appealed to the rough mining crowd. The bar was a place for entertainment and has had many shootings over the many years it was open. Many of the bullet holes are still found throughout the building with the most distinct one found just below the bar.
The theater is reported to be haunted. It was featured in the paranormal investigation shows such as Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures, Ghost Lab, and Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files. The Bird Cage has a ton of history and you can definitely feel it as soon as you walk into the place. After our short visit we headed over to the courthouse where Rudy gave us a brief history of the place.
The two-story building, constructed in 1882 in the Victorian style, is laid out in the shape of a cross and once contained various county offices, including those of the sheriff, recorder, treasurer, and the Board of Supervisors as well as courtrooms and a jail. Inside, the courthouse contains a museum with numerous artifacts from the town’s history while outside, a replica gallows has been constructed in the courtyard to mark the spot where seven men were hanged for various crimes. The park was one of the first to be designated as a state park and in 1959 was the first to open following the 1957 establishment of the Arizona State Parks Board.
Rudy and his family have deep roots in the Town of Tombstone, in fact his Grandmother, Aunt and Uncle both still reside here. His uncle is Ben Traywick the town historian and has literally written the book on legends such as Wyatt Earp.
Rudy took us to visit his uncle Ben and wow what a treat it was to get to talk with him as well as to visit his amazing private collection of memorabilia. Ben Traywick has spent near his entire life documenting the true Wild West and in a way lived it for himself. Ben moved himself and his family to Tombstone in 1968 and worked for the Apache Powder Company, which manufactured explosives. During this time many movies were made in the Town of Tombstone. Ben knew John Wayne during the height of his career as the iconic western character we all know from the big screen. Beyond his writing Ben established many of the re-enactments of the shootout at the O.K Corral. After a long many years as the town historian Ben retired on the 129th anniversary of the Gunfight at the OK corral. Ben has by no means retired and still writes and enjoys sharing his stories and knowledge with others. His wife Mary Traywick has written a cookbook “Fiery Foods from Tombstone” that she was kind enough to sign and send home with Terry and I. It was a honor and a privilege to meet them both and am sure I will make another visit sometime soon.
After our visit with Rudys family we headed over to Big Nose Kate’s Saloon for some lunch in a real Wild West Saloon. This popular saloon of today first got its start as the Grand Hotel in September, 1880.
Declared as one of the finest hotels in the state, the hotel was luxuriously furnished, provided thick carpeting, and its walls were adorned with costly oil paintings. Providing 16 bedrooms, each with a “view,” they were fitted with solid walnut furnishings, toilet stands, fine fixtures, and wallpaper. The lobby was equipped with three elegant chandeliers and more luxurious furnishings, while the kitchen boasted hot and cold running water and facilities to serve some 500 people in the span of a couple of hours. The hotel opened with an invitation only ball on September 9, 1880. During its first few years, the hotel often housed some of Tombstone’s most famous residents including Wyatt and Virgil Earp, Doc Holliday, and the Clanton Gang when they came into town. In fact, Ike Clanton and the two McLaury brothers were registered guests the night before the famous OK Corral gunfight.
I got myself a nice burger and Coke and enjoyed the entertainment provided by the singing piano player. The waitresses dress in period authentic clothing and the place was packed with people. Rudy took us for a tour of the basement that has been turned into a gift shop and said to be active to the paranormal.
Not only does this historic saloon continue to be popular among its new patrons, but is also said to remain home to a couple of spectral ones as well. The most evident is that of the “Swamper”, who allegedly has never left the building.
Staff, locals and tourists alike have had experiences with this old miner, ranging from photos where he has appeared to a number of fleeting appearances as he roams the halls, stairways, and especially the basement. Part of the legend claims that the “Swamper” hid his silver somewhere in the building and returns to protect it. We had a nice time discussing some of the stories with the lady that worked in the gift shop, she offered a few of her own experiences. I did not get a creepy vibe from the place at all but then again at night alone in a basement may be a different story.
Our last stop of the day was to a local photography shop where we had decided to take a few vintage photographs of us to remember our time together. We actually brought in our own Airguns and was surprised how open and willing the photographers were to help us with our back in time photograph.
Rudy was the most amazing host to us and am so grateful to have made such a good friend out of this whole adventure. This is what Airgunning is all about, sharing with others and growing from every experience. We plan to do future hunts together and look forward to getting out more with the Tactacam. I really want to thank Pyramydair for making this trip possible and hope that you will use the links provided throughout this article. Enclosed below is our full adventure in video form I hope some may find enjoyable. Please help us out by subscribing to our YouTube Channel.
Excellent article Dana. Really makes you feel like you were there as a reader experiencing and enjoying everything you guys saw and did.
Thank you Brad
Fantastic write up. Really captures the essence of the trip and will captivate any reader. There is more to hunting than just the kill. It’s the experience and being able to relive and share those memories. Bravo!
Thank you Rudy for being such a good friend and host to this trip.