Big Game Hunting with Airguns
Last week I had the opportunity to visit a premier hunting ranch, one that’s been on my bucket list for many years. With the help of Airguns Of Arizona I was able to make this trip possible and spend a solid three days on this beautiful mountainous ranch. This large ranch has an abundant species of exotic animals such as Sheep, Goats and several types of pigs including Russian boar up to 1000lbs. For this trip due to the danger I unfortunately had to leave my hunting partner Marley at home, tough but not worth the risk of her getting hurt. I left the house Monday afternoon with the Motorhome where I made way to pick up Tom Costan from American Air Arms who would be accompanying me for this adventure. We arrived to the hunting Ranch late that evening where we had a long, steep, rugged drive to the top of the mountain to a secluded cabin. This ranch was in fact enormous and far better terrain than I had imagined it to be. Tom and I arrived to the cabin where we were met by Robert Buchanan and Kip Perow who had arrived just a few hours prior.
After spending some time around a beautiful campfire we got to sleep as we would be up by 6:30am to start our first full day of adventure. The following morning was a bit cold and overcast with a slight chance of showers throughout the day. This ranch was absolutely stunning with the large rolling hills and tall green grass with scattered yellow flowers, a true poster for Springtime.
For this trip we had brought a few different brands of Airrifles with mine being the Daystate Safari in .30 caliber putting out roughly over 83fpe using the 43gr NSA slugs. This is a rifle that I have used extensively over the past year and have had a ton of experience shooting it. I have hunted lots of big game throughout my life but this would be my first time ever using an Airrifle on large game animals. Before this hunt I did lots of prior ammo testing with the Safari and decided that I wanted to go with a lighter weight for more penetration considering the FPE I was working with. All this is only my opinion and may not apply to every scenario, it’s just what I felt was best for me. Before each hunt, especially when traveling I always like to check my zero and make sure the gun is performing correctly. After some time on the range all four of us set out on foot to this extremely vast property to scout and pursue what was moving about. Being both a hunter and a cameraman the guys asked if I would go first as so this would free me up to be able to film for the rest of the three days. We headed West along a steep narrow goat trail that followed a ridgeline overlooking most of the property, amazing views.
We stopped on a few of the overlooks to glass the hillsides where we spotted a few goats as well as a large pig that was well over 500 yards away.
This property was very rugged and it seemed most of the animals were in areas that were simply inaccessible with sheer drop offs and rocky cliffs. As we moved along this narrow trail I spotted many signs of pigs that had been digging for roots along with many tracks. This area looked like it was recently active with some enormous size animals, you could tell by the size of the tracks and the marks left where they had bed down. I had my eyes peeled for one to come sprinting out of the brush as we moved along….
Moving further down this ridgeline I spotted a large Hawaiian Black Ram that caught my eye at just over 300 yards. I had initially planned to try for a good size pig but after seeing the Ram I decided to focus my hunt in that direction, it was almost calling me if that makes any sense. The Ram was out in a very thick area so my thought was to circle around above it on high ground and to try getting one of the other guys to flush it out. I didn’t want to try taking it in the thick brush where I may encounter a bullet deflection and I was trying to keep my range within 50 yards as that felt to be a good effective range.
I slowly circled around and got myself into a position on the side of this steep embankment where I hoped either Robert or Kip would be able to spook the Ram near my direction.
After about 20 minutes of sitting on this hill I finally spotted a few of these sheep moving towards me finally stopping just near a large dead bush. I had both my big camera as well as the Tactacam running where I was able to capture the shot at just over 30 yards.
The large Balck Ram was facing me so I placed the shot dead center of the chest making a perfect heart shot. After the shot he stood for about 5 seconds where I could see blood starting to come out his mouth, the two others moved away and he flopped over and rolled down the hill onto a trail.
I know this only happened in a few seconds but in my mind it seemed as though it took forever as I kept replaying the whole thing in my head. For me this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I felt so lucky to be able to experience it with and Airgun. This was a beautiful animal and had to weigh just under 200lbs, pretty good size animal for that 43gr NSA. The Safari performed beautifully and I felt good about my kill and the placement of my shot, I think the key was how close I was. Tom, Robert, Kip and I all sat for awhile and took a much needed break after a long morning of hiking.
Being able to share this time with some good friend was well worth the trip all by itself and I truly felt blessed to have this experience as a whole. After taking a break we loaded up the Ram and headed back to the cabin for a late breakfast and to clean and process the meat.
After a fantastic breakfast that Kip made I headed over to get a closer look at the Ram and to try recovering the NSA slug.
Getting inside we discovered the shot had in fact made way “perfectly” through the center of the heart and ricochet off the ribcage.
Put a dent in the slug but saw no real expansion that was a bit surprising.
I think if I would have taken the shot from the side of the animal it would have no doubt passed through, a head on shot with maximum penetration and damage did the trick. For me this was a good experience to learn from to apply to future hunts. I’ve learned that with hunting we never have any guarantees and about all we can do is hope for the best and do our part.
I’m having a nice euro mount done that should be nice to hold the memory of this awesome hunting trip. By this time it was around 2:30pm and it was time for me to put the gun away and pick up the camera to accompany Tom on his hunt. Tom as I took some time to check his zero and sight his American Air Arms .30 EVOL HPS in for 65 yards using the 54.5gr NSA slugs. This rifle puts out well over 110+fpe and gets I believe over 25 shots, I’m sure he will chime in and give some more details on this awesome build. This was Toms first time hunting large game with an Airrifle as well so I was excited to tag along as closely as possible to document his hunt through video. We set off on foot down the long rugged trail in search of a large heard of Angora Goats we had spotted earlier that morning. This was no doubt some of the most rugged terrain I had ever hiked and Toms decision to pursue these goats would prove to be no easy task. We hiked down into this really steep canyon that ultimately lead us into some really thick brush, very hard to maneuver through as well as having very little visibility. We stopped for a bit where out of the corner of my eye I spotted several of these goats bed down against a cliff at just over 150 yards above us. I followed Tom back up the hill where we planned to move diagonally along this flat grassy area, hopefully within a good range. We managed to get within 100 yards before spotting one that was lower, hidden behind some thick brush. Tom slowly moved his way lower to where he could possibly get a better view of this large goat, was not easy considering how steep the terrain was. Finally the larger of the goats started moving diagonally up the side of the cliff and would frequently stop offering some opportunities for a shot. Tom took his first shot that went far to the left, I think it got deflected off a branch or something as the area had a ton of thick brush. The goat moved a bit higher up the side of this cliff, stopping on top of a shelf where Tom placed his shot directly through the chest at 75 yards. The goat stood for a few seconds before turning where Tom put another shot that went in just above the shoulder and completely passed through making a poof of dust just behind. The goat turned and took a few steps before collapsing down into a shelf, unfortunately one of the worst spots to recover it. These large goats are incredibly tough animals and this one was a true brute to take such a massive hit to the chest. Tom and I navigated our way closer only to realize we had a huge impassible crevice that required us to climb up and come down from the top. It took us about 15 minutes to hike up 75 yards, for a moment I thought I was going to lose Tom off the side of the cliff…very dangerous hiking. Once we got to the expired goat we figured we had two options, one was to drag down and the other was to get a rope and drag up. Ended up running a cable down and winching the goat up onto a trail about 50 yards above us. This goat definitely made Tom work hard, by far the most difficult area I’ve ever witnessed someone hunt. By this time it was getting into evening and we were all fairly exhausted from a long full day of hiking throughout these steep mountains. We had a great day and I was excited to get to head out again the following morning to film Kip and Robert. We had a great dinner followed by our usual fireside chat to give the full effect of the most amazing adventure. This was a great first day that I tried to document the best I could through photographs and video. Enclosed are the two videos that document our full adventure over the three days spent at this awesome location. I really want to thank Airguns Of Arizona for sponsoring this trip and providing all the gear we needed to be successful.
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