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Axis Deer and Hogs with New .45 Rattler and Friends

I have been on the road for some time and one of those stops was to visit my friends ranch at Talbot lake just outside Fort McKavett Texas. My friend Matt was gracious enough to let us stay on his ranch for a solid three days where we were able to hunt a variety of animals such as Wild Pigs, Axis Deer, Fox, Raccoons and Jackrabbits. Matt Hodges is no stranger to Airguns and in fact is the owner of Pitbull Airguns, an outfit that specializes in aftermarket modifications and tuning to the Benjaman Bulldog line of Airrifles. Matt has hundreds of acers that nestle right beside Talbot lake, a beautiful location that has been in his family since 1910. I was joined by Terry, Marley, Robert and Tom along with Matt and his dog Daisy.

I brought a variety of guns such as the American Air Arms EVOL HPS as well as two .357 Western Airguns Rattlers and was specifically doing some testing with the New .45 caliber carbine version of the Rattler that produces 350 fpe. My goal over the three days was to use these Airguns out in the field and document my experience using them to the best of my ability. Matt gave us a great place to camp next to the lake with plenty of shade trees and a nice flat area that I could setup my 5M Outbacker Tent.

This ranch has a huge problem with feral hogs, and this was a good opportunity to learn from Matt and try to help him out with this big problem. Part of ranch life is clearing the property of these invasive animals that have caused problems with the Turkey population as well as destroying fences and some of the feeders. After getting a basic tour of the property, Matt took us over to where he had captured one of the smaller hogs in a trap earlier that morning.

I have a bunch of experience with the .357 caliber version of the Rattler and can say from seeing this kill firsthand the .45 version is on a whole different level of badass. We had the .45 loaded with the 230gr High Arc Hunter slugs, with the 28″ TJ enterprises barrel this gun produces a consistent full magazine (12 Shots) at 350 FPE.

To me the gun sounds surprisingly quieter than my .357 version but produces much more energy, perfect for larger game. We did attempt to find the bullet but it was buried deep in the skull that would be a very messy job to remove in a field setting. Matt took us all into town where we had lunch and got a very informative tour of the nearby Fort McKavett State historical site.

Fort McKavett is one of the best preserved and most intact examples of a Texas Indian Wars military post that was fully active around 1852. This iconic castle-like structure was just one of the many buildings that housed military personnel and the families. After getting to explore this amazing site and having a fantastic lunch we headed back to the ranch where we spent the rest of the afternoon setting up the guns for our evening of hunting. I outfitted everyone with PARD optics such as the DS35’s and Nightstalker models, I outfitted my .357 with the New Sphinx compact thermal unit that I have been using in past few months. Matt set everyone up in a few choice locations throughout the property and I paired up with Robert who was using the .30 BRK Ghost that was tuned to 100 fpe. Robert and I set off on foot carrying our gear where we were to setup next to a road that had several active trails heading through a few holes in the fence-line.

Not long after the sun went down did it take me to spot our first creature of the night, a Fox that was trotting back and forth at approximately 50 yards. Robert, Marley and I sat for a while as this Fox moved back and forth through the brush, leaving little opportunity for a clear shot. I finally was presented with a clear shot sending the 174gr NSA right into its spine at just under 50 yards…it made a loud THWACK! This was the first Fox I have ever taken with an Airgun and the .357 Rattler made light work of it that you can check out in the enclosed video.

Being limited to the amount of photographs I can share here I will skip forward to later in the evening where we went back to meet up with Tom who had some luck on a small feral pig at 15 yards using his American Air Arms EVOL HPS in .30 caliber pushing about 90fpe. Tom was setup in a blind that wasn’t far from a feeder, the pig picked the wrong night to have a feeding frenzy. Tom was saying how this he felt was the perfect size pig for the application of gun he was using, I tend to agree but what do you think?

After hanging out at camp we got to sleep as my plan was to get up early and head out on foot to hunt for Axis Deer that roam throughout this property during the day.

Much of this property is inaccessible to vehicles due to the fact the brush and trees are so thick. Marley, Terry and I woke up around 5:30am and proceeded to hike away from camp into some of the thick brush where the Axis Deer and hogs like to bed down.

Terry, Marley and I hiked for a while and finally decided to settle on a nice spot under a huge Pecan tree that must have been well over 200 years old.

We did spot a large amount of Whitetails as well as a few Axis that wandered through the brush well out of range. After several hours of waiting, I finally spotted a good size buck come in around 40 yards, by that time I had already been setup pretty good for a shot.

I did have a very small window of opportunity through the brush, something I have become used to over the many years of doing this sort of thing. I took the shot and it made that solid THWACK that is so distinct, especially with putting down a 230gr HP slug into a 300lb animal. I was sure it was a good shot and sent Marley off to locate the beast in this thick jungle of an environment. It didn’t take her long to start howling as he only made it about 50 or so yards before his lungs collapsed.

This was no doubt a good size 7pt buck that came in at 300lbs, now was the fun part of dragging it out. I was not entirely sure how far we were from the nearest road but did imagine it would be a good drag out. Terry called Matt and after pinning my location hiked out to meet up with him to bring the truck as close as possible. Terry helped me grab the antlers and drag this beast several hundred yards to a clearing where Matt was able to park the truck.

We cleaned and processed the Deer and I was able to recover the bullet that made it about 99% through, quite impressive and more than I had expected. Anything less and I’m not sure I could have made this happen, thankfully he went down quick, and we didn’t have very far to track.

I have much more to share of this adventure and a few more videos to produce, it just takes time. My focus was to get out with the New .45 Western Airguns Rattler, use it and provide valuable feedback to the manufacturer. These guns will be available in two options, the short carbine version and a longer barreled 450fpe model. These are as far as I know available through pre-order from Airguns Of Arizona and set to be ready to rock in about three weeks. I really want to thank Matt Hodges for being such a gracious host to us over the three days of camping on his property. If you are interested in learning more about Matt you can check out his “Pitbull Airguns” Youtube channel as well as his other channel that showcases ranch life at the “Talbot Lake Inheritance” Youtube channel. My experience using the Western Airguns .357 caliber and .45 caliber Airguns has been fantastic, they both provided great performance and worked flawlessly in the field. I think if you are looking for a serious semi-auto big bore either of these are ones to look at. I think for medium size game the .357 is more than capable, a great longer range Coyote gun. I think if you are wanting to take large game such as Deer the .45 is the way to go, the carbine length was nice for hiking through thick brush and I felt had more than enough power and accuracy to be successful out to within 100 yards. The carbine length version will have the ability to swap to the longer barrel that will bring the power up to 450fpe for those of you who need it. Enclosed is the full video of two of the days with more videos coming in a week or so, hope you enjoy! Cheers~Dana



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