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Varmint Hunting In Extreme Heat

By Dana Webb

 

Thursday morning we left the house and drove several hours into the remote mountains of Southern California. Terry and I set up in a location away from our campsite to check zero on our Air Rifles and to scout several new areas for hunting Ground Squirrels. The temperature was in the high 80’s so the new EZ-UP helped immensely in keeping us cool.

Terry and I set up targets out to 100 yards and were happy to have zero wind that is a rarity in this part of the valley floor. We had a great time shooting both the EVOL .30 and the .22 Tapian Mutant Bullpup, both amazingly accurate Air Rifles.

American Air Arms EVOL .30 with DonnyFL Ronin Moderator

After some practice with the rifles we packed up and headed down the road to a spot I had previously seen some Ground Squirrel activity. By this time it was the middle of the day and the temperature was rising into the 90’s making hiking around a bit unpleasant.

Terry making his way back to the Jeep with is Tapian Mutant

After about a half hour of looking for Ground Squirrels we packed the guns up and headed about another 14 miles into the mountains to around 5,300 ft elevation. We had chosen this location as it would be cooler with many Ponderosa Pines that were nestled throughout the vast canyon. The area too had several creeks that are fed by natural springs where Marley could swim and play.

I was quick to set up camp as well as the new EZ-Up canopy, that thing is an absolute necessity on trips like this. The Jeep was loaded with several coolers packed with water, ice and plenty of food for the several days in the wilderness. Ater setting up camp we set out down a nearby trail that followed the creek and gave some shade from the scorching Summer heat.

  The terrain was quite rugged and in some areas was near impossible to cross over the creek due to the steep embankments. I found an area overlooking the creek where I had spotted several Ground Squirrels moving from the many holes and fallen trees.

One of the Ground Squirrel holes at 55 yards

I sat for awhile and spotted several Ground Squirrels going in and out of this hole, made a shot on one of them and missed. After making a poor shot i knew I would have to wait for a while before one would pop back out again. Within about 15 min one decided to show itself again where it was met with a 44gr JSB.

I moved a bit further up the hill as I could hear the distant bark of several more Ground Squirrels moving about around the many fallen trees. I spotted one standing on a fallen log just down the hill overlooking the creeks embankment at 68 yards.

The angle I had to shoot from was a bit awkward to work with as well as having to move my cameras tripod legs to keep upright. The shot was a bit low and made a gut shot sending the Ground Squirrel flying backwards. Almost immediately after I spotted another Ground Squirrel barking high up on a fallen log to my right at 83 yards.

 I took the shot on this one and hit just low sending a chunk of wood right into him, the heat was really getting to me and the sweat in my eyes was making it difficult to see well. I could hear Terry making several shots so went to meet up with him, together we hiked down next to the creek to try and get cool.

Marley and I were perfectly happy staying down by the creek and not moving around much, we sat for awhile and spotted several Ground Squirrels moving around the embankments. We were able to connect with several of them although most were on the run. This was such a beautiful place to hunt despite the brutal Summer heat, was happy to just be able to get out and enjoy. Later that evening the plan was to try finding some Cottontail rabbits that may be moving about and to hopefully cook that evening. We made way back to the camp where we set up some targets along with a steel plate at 125 yards.

Terry’s Tapian Mutant .22

After dragging that heavy steel swing target out to 125 yards I took a break for awhile before shooting again. I watched Terry do some 100 yard practice before getting on it with the EVOL .30, the wind conditions were nice and predictable for late afternoon. After a few shots I was getting amazing groups with my gun at the shorter ranges and finally decided to move out to the 125 yard steel.

I put 3 shots in a nice 1″1/2 cluster and think with better setup such as bags I could have done much better. Shooting like this really makes me appreciate how far modern PCP’s have come. Later that evening after we had rested a bit we took a walk around near the campsite searching for Cottontail rabbits. I had seen plenty of droppings as well as tracks but no movement at all, I think the heat has made them resort to coming out after sundown. After Marley and I took our stroll looking for bunnies we came back to camp and decided to cook up some chicken for an early dinner.

The moon was near full that night and was thankfully much cooler making things much more bearable and relaxing.


That next morning my plan was to wake up early before the sun came up although I slept so well that I didn’t awake till around 6:15am. Terry had already been gone when I woke up so Marley and I ventured away from camp about 3/4 of a mile to a big open field, perfect area to spot both Cottontails and Jackrabbits. 

I decided to hike up the barron hillside and work my way around looking for movement in the large open fields. Hunting this type of terrain on flat ground is difficult and usually never works well without a shotgun. Marley and I spotted several Jackrabbits moving up the hillsides at some 200+ yards away but nothing within reasonable range for and Air Rifle. By this time it was apparent that the day was going to be another scorcher, already had my jacket off by 6:45. Marley and I picked a spot in the small amount of shade next to a bush and waited near 20 minutes before we spotted several large Jackrabbit moving in the field at close to 100 yards. I took a shoulder shot on one that sent it running up the hillside before collapsing, the second one was at 98 yards just next to a bush. The Jackrabbit gave me a nice side profile to line up for a perfect headshot that sent it into a flip. Marley ran to recover as it was wildly flipping all over causing a huge dust cloud. I went and recovered the first and met up with Marley where she had recovered the second large Jackrabbit.

American Air Arms EVOL .30 at 85 fpe

 

Marley and I were both happy our patience had paid off and were able to get two huge Jackrabbits within several seconds of one another. We took a break before throwing them into the pack and heading back to the campsite where Tom from American Air Arms would be showing up to spend the day. As marley and I hiked back we spotted several deer as well as many chipmunks moving about near the creekbed. This area is loaded with larger animals such as Deer, Coyote, Bobcat, Mountain Lion as well as many types of birds.


We made way back to camp where Tom had just arrived just in time for the heat to really become overbearing at 90 degrees by 8:30am. Tom had brought a new Air Rifle he has created that shoots a 27gr .22 slug putting out 60+fpe, he spent some time shooting that against a small 2″ spinner at 125 yards just under the steel plate. Enclosed is a previous photograph of the rifle, we will take a more in depth look at this very advanced Air Rifle in our next article.

American Air Arms EVOL TAC .22 High Power


After our shooting session at camp we all headed back out to seek out some Ground Squirrel action, I headed East following the creek the other direction. Marley and I crossed to the other side of the creek and set up just under the shade of a large Pine tree.

This looked to be a great location and offered a great unobstructed view in near all directions of the large area. To our right as well as in front of us were huge fallen trees that had Ground Squirrel holes all around them. I spotted several Chipmunks running back and forth from one tree to the next as well as the several periodic Ground Squirrel barks. I took a shot at several of the Chipmunks that were sitting on a root from one of the Pine trees next to the creek. These shots were all around 30 yards, close range shots that required some hold-under for once.

After a few minutes I spotted a fairly large Ground Squirrel sticking it’s head up from behind a log at 115 yards.

I made the shot a bit high and it came down right on the back of his head drilling him right into the ground behind the fallen tree.

This area looked to have a large population but I think the heat had kept most of them in the Ground as it was well up to 100 degrees out. I can’t stress enough how important it is to carry a large amount of water, more than you think you need. This environment dehydrates you so quickly that heat exhaustion can happen very easily. When we are out in the wilderness like this, nobody will find you and when they do you just may be dead. With Marley I have to be especially careful about making sure she has enough water as well as keeping my eyes open for Rattlesnakes. Having her bit by a venomous snake is one of my worst nightmares, miles from any type of help. After sitting for about 20 more minutes with no action we looped around back towards camp following the other side of the creek. As we moved through the tall Ponderosa Pines I could see a Ground Squirrel in the distance moving about on a huge fallen tree. I set up the camera the best I could and tried to follow it with the lens while trying to set up the range and gun at the same time, very frustrating. The Ground Squirrel was at 68 yards but moving further up this fallen log.

I made the shot that finally ended at 73 yards sending the 44gr JSB right into his back sending up a cloud of dust as it smacked. The past two days were a great time spent with friends but the heat made moving around quite miserable. Marley and I continued back to camp where it by this time was around 12:30pm, we packed the Jeep and waited for Tom to get back before heading out. This was a slow few days of hunting but was very happy with how well it turned out considering how hot it was. As I’m writing this we are already planning for the next trip, can’t wait to share. Enclosed is the video of our adventures, hope you enjoy and will help us by subscribing.

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2017 SHOT SHOW

We headed out 6 hours to the Sands Expo in Las Vegas Nevada where we would make our visit to the 2017 Shot Show. We were very excited to make the rounds through this very large convention center that had 3 floors of Airgun and Firearm vendors. After a short walk we made our way into the Sands Expo where we checked in and proceeded to try navigating through the mass of foot traffic. The amount of people attending this event was astounding, no doubt making it the most popular gun expo in the world.

2017 Shot Show

Our first stop was at the Airguns Of Arizona booth where we ran into Tony Roman from the popular site Airguns Air Rifles & Pistols as he was checking out  few very cool products they carry.

Tony Roman

Some of the new Daystate models were no doubt in our opinion some of the nicest Airguns of the show as they even attracted some popular faces such as Giles Barry from the Airgun Gear Show. The Daystate rifles are very well made kits that offer quality beyond anything else we had seen. The wood stocks, fit and finish were absolutely top notch.

Barry Giles from Airgun Gear Show

Daystate


Our next stop was over to the Crosman booth where we were kindly greeted by their friendly and knowledgeable staff that were happy to answer questions. I spoke with them about several new rifles such as the Wildfire and the New regulated Marauder field target.

Benjamin Wildfire

The Wildfire is essentially a PCP version of the 10/77 repeater that uses the same trigger and magazine system, but with the addition of a 2000 psi air reservoir. With a low fill up to 2000 psi it is perfect for those looking for a great gun to pair with a hand pump and at a reported 60 shots of .177 caliber pellets. The Wildfire is really going to be a good bridge gun that may bring PCPs into the mainstream market. The SBD system is Crosman’s new silencer design, which allows for an oversize baffle and maximum volume in the chamber without obstructing the shooter’s field of view.

Benjamin SBD system

This will be applied to all of the Gen3 Nitro Piston guns and we think the real reason for the design may have been to solve the cracking issues with the shroud on the older models. We really see no change in the performance of the gun by adding the SBD system other than cosmetics, strength and possibly sound of the break barrel.


Our next stop was to the GAMO booth where we were a bit surprised to not be greeted by anyone, we did spy on the new Swarm Maxxim “repeating” break barrel though.

GAMO Swarm Maxxim

The rifle is a 10 shot repeater that uses a rotary magazine that’s inserted into a slot in the top of the rifle. Each time the rifle is cocked it indexes the magazine and loads the pellet into the breech.

GAMO Swarm magazine loading port

GAMO Swarm rotary magazine

This is a great call by GAMO to create a repeating piston gun but would have loved to see it made as a side-lever design instead of a break barrel. The rifle really isn’t much different than any of the other models as far as overall power or performance, the new barrel design is a bit robust and obviously resembles a large caliber center-fire rifle.

Gamo

The great thing about the Shot Show is to see such a wide variety of Airguns and to find the good and bad in all of them.


The next booth we visited was BEEMAN where we immediately drawn to the new QB-78S synthetic stock rifle.

Beeman QB78S rifle

The QB-78S is an updated synthetic stock version that is designed to allow the use of a bipod, flashlight or laser. The gun is not changed other than the stock and may offer a little more versatility to some of you tinkerers. These QBs are great little guns for the money and no doubt will continue to be top sellers to the entry level and veteran Airgunners both.


After a little more browsing we made out way to the EVANIX booth where we were kindly greeted by Siyoung Lee the managing director of EVANIX. He was happy to show us all of the great guns they had on hand including the new very lightweight semi-auto bullpup.

EVANIX bullpup

The new semi-auto models use recycled blowback to automatically cycle the magazine and load the pellet. Evanix will be the first to incorporate recycled blowback into a modern tactical design.

Evanix bullpup

These new rifles are extremely lightweight and shoulder very well with great fit and finish. The innovation that goes into these guns is very advanced and no doubt is a stepping stone for many other companies in design. The REX pistol was a very neat little gun that looks to offer many features that any small game hunter would be really happy with.

Evanix REX pistol

Overall I have to say that EVANIX has really hit the market this year with some serious innovative products that I think unfortunately were overlooked by a few other hypes. We however will have our eye on them and hope to report some further reviews down the road.


Our next stop was a visit to see the new KRAL ARMS line of rifles that are newly imported from Turkey. These are the Puncher Breaker bullpups that are a bit crude in overall appearance but do offer some good features in .177/.22/.25 calibers.

Kral Arms puncher breaker

Some of the rifles are very sharp looking and the wood looks like fair quality for the price these rifles are going for. The one thing we noticed about the Puncher Pro model was its similar design cross between several guns such as Daystate, Evanix and Hatsan.

Kral Arms Puncher Pro

Kral Arms rifle

The overall fit and finish of these guns is not super and feel like the want of comparing it to a very very nice Hatsan. The Puncher EVO does have some nice bling to it along with some very pretty wood stock designs. I think we will be seeing a ton of these rifles in the next year and can see Kral Arms being a great competitor to the Airgun market.


Our next stop was to check out the Ataman line of rifles that too have been a fairly new import from Russia. They were originally known for building high quality Olympic rifles and have carried the tradition of bringing some new age technology into these rifles. The M2R bullpups and compact rifles are pretty sharp looking and offer some fairly impressive performance. All the models offer built in picitany rails along with good sturdy stocks offered in wood and synthetic.

Ataman M2R

Ataman M2R synthetic stock

The Ataman’s are high end guns but can see some improvement in making some of the edges a little less sharp. The side-levers and magazines are top notch and look as though they have been made to perform and last. These guns are hunters and have a great reputation for being built by the people who use them.


Our next stop was the Hatsan booth where we were very kindly greeted by the ever knowledgeable Cecil Bays from the popular YouTube channel AirGun Scout

Hatsan rifles

Cecil was happy to show us several of the many new models and we were able to get all the information we needed from someone who uses every single model. The newest model is the Bullmaster, a semi-auto bullpup that comes in .177 and .22 and has a 500cc bottle that offers a good amount of shots. The guns semi-auto operation is completely air operated and supposedly is a much more reliable and efficient way in design than some other kits offer.

Hatsan Bullmaster

The gun is very heavy as much all Hatsan’s are, still we can give credit for some creativity in design. The new magazines are surprisingly very well made and all seemed to fit very well.

Hatsan Bullmaster magazine

The Nova may have been a favorite as far as looks but have to say that its very hard to get around the weight of these guns. We think Hatsan needs to lower the overall weight of these guns and spend some more time on the finished metal.

Hatsan Nova

Most of the guns were all very robust and had some design features that are really difficult to make sense of. The fact that Hatsan is putting out so many new affordable models is great in the sense it offers something for almost any application. If Hatsan spent some more time on one rifle and raised the quality of the materials and QC we may see a huge step up because they do have the capability. Will they do it is the question?


The next stop through our massive wave of people was the UMAREX booth where we planned to look at two new models that have really been turning some heads. The first gun we looked at was the Umarex Gauntlet entry level PCP that is planned to retail for $300, a great value for the money.

Umarex Gauntlet

The gun will be offered in .177 and .22 and features a 13-cu regulated Ninja bottle that fills to 3000psi and can easily be filled with a hand pump. They claim 60 shots at 900 fps in .22 and 70 shots in .177 at 1000 fps. The magazine is near identical to the Marauder and self indexes each time its cocked.

Umarex

The comb is adjustable that is a very nice feature along with a shrouded type barrel that is claimed to quiet the gun considerably. The only thing that would have made this gun better would be picitany rail instead of the dovetail. Overall this looks to be a winner of a rifle and tough to beat for the money. The next gun we looked at was the new .50 Hammer that is very boldly claimed to achieve 700 fpe in a 3 shot repeater “pump action”.

Umarex Hammer

This rifle is no doubt very innovative but still very skeptical to being able to achieve the power level claims. ” The Umarex Hammer is a 700 ft. lb. 50 caliber PCP rifle in a compact configuration that will shock airgun hunting enthusiasts with its innovative approach of packing multiple shots with lots of power into a modern and rugged rifle that’s easy to carry and use.” ?? We are definitely shocked. The gun uses a stripper type magazine that moves to the side to load each slug into the chamber.

Umarex hammer magazine

The gun was showcased with a new Umarex ARX ammo that is essentially a sabot type that’s popular in the muzzle-loading world.

Umarex ARX

The Umarex staff was not able to answer many questions such as ammo weight or air capacity for this rifle. The barrel looked to be near 48″ long with some sort of carbon fiber sticker type wrap on it.

Umarex hammer

The thin walled, untensioned barrel may prove to be a serious problem with harmonics when producing 700 fpe. When asked about accuracy the quote was 2″ at 50 yards, good enough for a hunting gun?….The gun looks as though it may be using a large plenum that is housed somewhere near the back of the buttstock that may explain its ease of cocking. A heck of a hammer spring would normally be needed to put out such high numbers. The best guess is this gun may produce high numbers but with only one shot and several using a lightweight conservative slug. The gun does have a curb appeal that includes AR furniture, picitany rails and a fairly lightweight to it. Without seeing more than just a few prototypes we can really only speculate on weather or not the hype is all true or if its just a brilliant way to achieve some much needed publicity. Umarex did bring a good show and does look as though it has created a winner with the Gauntlet model.


Our last visit of the day was to Predator International where we met and talked to Richard Dixon.

Predator International

Richard showed us a few of his new lead free GTO line of pellets that look as though they are a great step in lead free technology. We are a California based company where many of our hunting areas may soon require a lead free alternative due to changing laws. Predator International is on top of the game in providing exceptional products for hunting and target practice.

predator international

We helped ourselves to a few stickers and had a good chat with Randy over at RL Airgun Supply  who seemed like a great guy who enjoyes the sport to its fullest.


The 2017 Shot Show was a great visit and found it as a valuable tool in being able to interact with the companies on a more personal level and to see the faces behind the media that promotes them. The goal for this trip was to make some connections and to try to share some serious truth as to what was seen in the light. All that was mentioned is just our own opinion and applied using the best facts that could be gathered, hopefully it can be taken as helpful.

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