August 12, 2013
This is pretty cool! In a recent press release from Crosman, I saw the exciting news that Alabama and Arizona have opened the doors for airgun hunters on multiple new species.
According to the piece, Alabama will now allow hunters using airguns .30 caliber or larger for predators, hogs, and whitetail deer. This is pretty cool news, especially in a state where much of the hunting is done at reasonably close range from stands or blinds. I’ve always thought whitetail would be the perfect game for airgun hunting, just as they are for bow hunters.
In AZ, the regulations are a little more diverse, but the news is still good for the big bore airgun enthusiast. Here’s how it breaks down, according to the Crosman article:
- Allow the take of big game animals including pronghorn, deer (mule deer and Coues whitetail), black bear, mountain lion, bighorn sheep (desert and Rocky Mountain) and javelina, but excluding bison and elk, with “big-bore” PCP air rifles .35 caliber and larger, during general (rifle) seasons.
- Allow the take of predators, including coyotes, foxes and skunks and fur-bearing animals, including bobcats, raccoons, weasels, badgers and ringtail cats withPCP air rifles .22 caliber and larger, during general (rifle) seasons.
- Small game (rabbits and squirrels), other animals including coati and Gunnison’s prairie dogs, and birds including Eurasian collared-doves, crows and upland birds (quail, grouse, partridge and pheasant) will continue to be legal for harvest during general seasons with a variety of pneumatic weapons includingPCP’s, the popular break-barrels powered by springs or gas pistons, and the venerable variable pump and CO2 charged air rifles.”
While I’m certain that controversy will continue regarding the ability of air rifles to humanely kill game animals, there’s no question that this genie is out of the bottle. Many states allow the use of airguns for nuisance species and small game, and with AZ and AL added, there are seven states which now permit the use of airguns (with specific qualifications) to hunt whitetail deer. Here in Texas, you still can’t hunt whitetails with an air rifle, but they are permitted for all non-native species and several small game animals as well.
Crosman offers a chart on their website for anyone interested in learning more about their state’s regulations on airgun hunting. It’s an interesting look at the regs across all of the states, and it is updated as of June of 2013. However, as always, I recommend verifying the regulations in your own state through the appropriate fish and game regulatory agency. Measure twice, cut once… ignorance of the law will not get you out of a hefty fine.
July 12, 2013
So, in keeping with the conversations about the big-bore air rifles (and because I don’t really have anything else particularly interesting to write about), I figured I’d share the followingvideo . These guys have been all over the place with the Benjamin Rogue .357, and have shot a lot of animals with it.
I’m still not completely sold on the approach (“well, let’s see what it will do to this critter”), but it is illuminating. At almost 60 yards, he achieves near pass-through on a red hartebeest, which is a lot bigger than a whitetail. From my slight experience with the African and Eurasian plains animals (oryx, axis, blackbuck, and fallow), these things are also pretty tough, and can tote a whack with aplomb. That says an awful lot about the capabilities of this rifle.
Of course, it also shows the value of precise shot placement. In these videos, the shots you see are damned near perfect. The use of a good bullet, such as the 145gr Nosler used in these hunts is also pretty critical. Even so, if you watch through the post-mortem in this vid, you’ll see that there’s not a heck of a lot of expansion. That bullet better hit something important.
Anyway, there’s a lot more on the Team Wild TV YouTube channel if you’re interested. It looks like they use the Rogue in several episodes, including hunts for Barbado sheep, Jacobs (4-horned) sheep, and wild hogs… as well as some smaller game.
Overall, it’s intriguing, to say the least.
July 10, 2013
So there’s a New York Times piece floating throughout the Blogosphere right now, about the tiny, New York town of Hastings-on-Hudson and their battle with the overwhelming deer population. With multiple deer/vehicle collisions, destruction of the understory of parks and woodlands, an upsurge of lyme disease, and complaints from homeowners, the small-town mayor had to make a decision. The choice… to partner with Tufts University and explore a new immunocontraception drug.
The problem of suburban deer isn’t a new one, particularly in the east. Whitetail deer are particularly adaptable to the proximity of human habitation, especially when there is no threat from the human “neighbors”. Without hunting or any other type of predation to control their numbers, the deer capitalize on prime browsing of backyard (and front) gardens and the availability of suburban parklands. I recently reviewed Jim Sterba’s book, Nature Wars, which provides some intriguing insight into this issue.
Solutions to the issue vary widely, and are often driven by the demographic of the area in question. The most successful approach so far has been the use of professional sharpshooters to cull overgrown herds. However, in more politically liberal areas, lethal options always seem to be a very last resort. Hastings-on-Hudson fits this profile, hence the decision to try contraception instead of killing. The approach is not particularly novel. Several municipalities have tried it, although the only apparent success to date has been in island habitats where the populations are geographically isolated. Nevertheless, the researchers at Tufts have continued to develop their solution and there’s hope that the new immunocontraceptive will be effective.
Besides the public relations perspective, though, lethal means of control in suburban areas definitely have their drawbacks.
First, and most problematic is the suggestion that the deer be trapped (netted) and despatched by means of a captive bolt gun. While there’s a certain efficiency in this approach, the sheer (apparent) cold-bloodedness of some guy walking through a net of flailing deer and quietly bolting each animal will simply not fly with the general public… and the outcry by animal welfare organizations will make the whole thing quite unappealing to municipal officials whose careers rely on the good will of voters.
Managed shooting is also a challenging option in the suburban/urban areas. While some municipalities have enlisted the assistance of sharpshooters (volunteer and professional), the use of firearms in a heavily populated environment is fraught with problems… from the noise of gunfire to the risk of stray bullets. There’s simply too much fear of guns among the general populace… again, this is most pronounced in politically liberal areas… but even folks who tolerate guns and hunting often have issues when the shooting is taking place right outside their bedroom windows.
Archery is a good alternative to firearms. Bows are quiet. Arrows tend to travel a relatively short distance after release, especially when the shooting is done from an elevated position. The problem with archery, though, is that it doesn’t usually result in an instant fatality. Even well-hit deer can travel a significant distance before expiring. This means there’s a risk that some suburbanite will wake in the morning with a deer bleeding out in his driveway, or the kids will run out to play and find “Bambi” stretched out under the swingset. As you might imagine, a couple of these incidents can quickly turn public opinion against the archery solution.
But I think there’s another option that I think is missing here… air guns.
I’m not talking about the kid stuff here… Red Ryders and Crossman Powerlines. But there are a variety of air rifles on the market that would prove more than capable of close-range deer culling. They’re quiet. They’re accurate. They have limited range, as air gun projectiles tend to shed energy rapidly. In all respects, they seem perfectly suited for this job.
One example, possibly on the lower end of the spectrum, is the Benjamin Marauder in .25 caliber. At 25 yards or so, this rifle delivers a solid thump with a hunting pellet. The shrouded, baffled barrel makes this rifle extremely quiet, and it’s capable of very precise accuracy. A skilled sharpshooter could easily make headshots on deer-sized targets which would result in instant kills (and no deer thrashing out their last in some homeowner’s flower bed).
If the .25 is considered too small, there’s also the Benjamin Rogue, which comes in .357 caliber. This rifle is definitely powerful enough at 20 to 40 yards to cleanly kill whitetail deer, and accurate enough to do so with headshots. It is also designed to be relatively quiet, so it can be used in proximity to homes.
There are any number of other air guns out there that would do fine work on deer-sized game, ranging from .38 to .54 caliber. Some of them are pretty loud, but they are still safer in the suburban/urban environment than firearms.
So why aren’t air rifles being proposed as a valid option in suburban/urban deer control situations? I’d love to hear any insight from folks who’ve been involved in these discussions.
January 3, 2013
So, after a couple of years of waiting, yesterday finally brought my first opportunity to take a turkey with my Benjamin Marauder, .25 caliber air rifle. On my cameras, I saw where the birds had been passing through the past few days, and yesterday when I looked out, I could see a few in the barn pasture. I quickly aired up the rifle and dove into the woods to circle around.
About halfway to where I’d seen the three birds, I heard a rustling in the brush ahead. I froze and squatted down. On a well-worn deer trail, about 25 yards away, I spotted a feathery breast. The bird came right up the trail, and as she did, I realized there were several more in line behind her. I quickly took a sitting rest, leveled the scope on an opening in the branches, and waited for a shot. I decided I’d aim for the base of the neck, which should make a killing shot with this rifle. A head shot was out of the question due to the movement of the birds and the level of the brush that kept obscuring them when they’d stop and look around.
The first two birds slipped through without stopping, but then a big hen stepped into the opening and stopped. The two-stage trigger seemed to take forever to engage, but then the pellet was away! Unfortunately, the bird had started to walk again at almost the same instant. I heard the “thwack”, and realized I’d managed to hit the bird flat on the wing… about two inches from where I’d been aiming. The bird flapped and ran over a little rise, while about 15 other turkeys suddenly started racing around in chaos. When all was quiet, I went to see the damage.
Turkey wings are pretty damned tough. I’ve heard more than one story of .22 magnums bouncing off without any damage. I know, first hand, that a shotgun won’t penetrate. And after yesterday, I now know that a .25 caliber pellet, fired from my Marauder won’t penetrate a turkey’s wings either.
I’ll have another go with the air rifle, as soon as I get the chance. But I will definitely have to be a lot more careful about my shot selection.
February 29, 2012
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about Jim Shockey hunting hogs with the new Rogue air rifle. It got some good discussion, and a lot of you folks were sort of down on the idea. Personally, I can see a place for it, but there are an awful lot of qualifiers that go into that. The common thread, though, was that, “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”
There’s a lot of wisdom in that aphorism.
Well, I just got a note from the PR company that represents Barnett crossbows. Crossbow hunting is something that’s interested me for quite some time, and something I intend to try (sooner or later). Mostly, I just think they’re pretty cool weapons with a really interesting history. The ones I’ve shot were accurate and powerful… impressively so. As a hunting tool under the right conditions, they’re deadly as can be. I’ve seen, up close and personal, what they’ll do to hogs and whitetail deer.
I know there’s a ton of politics behind their use as “archery tackle”, and don’t really want to go down that road right now. I’m more interested in their application as hunting tools, and whether you want to classify them as archery or gun or something else doesn’t much concern me.
But like all hunting weapons, they have their limitations. The question we often ask is, how far should those limitations be pushed. For example, the following clip:
Please share your thoughts. Mine will follow.
February 3, 2012
I have a feeling we’re going to start hearing more and more about air rifle hunting… not only the hunting stories, but discussions about the ethics of using these “low-powered” rifles to kill game animals. It’s an area of firearms and hunting in which I’m only slightly immersed, but it is an area that holds a lot of interest to me. Hunting is the primary purpose for my Marauder (even though it hasn’t really had a chance yet).
Anyway, Jim Shockey is really on the forefront of celebrity hunters who are embracing the airgun technology. He’s become a regular spokesman for Crosman and Benjamin airguns, and he’s on video now hunting everything from grouse and rabbits to wild hogs.
Yes. Wild hogs. With an airgun.
Of course these aren’t ordinary airguns. Lately, he’s been doing a lot of hunts with the Benjamin Rogue, .357. I had the opportunity to shoot the prototype of this rifle last year, and they’ve done a lot of work to get it into production. It’s an incredibly accurate gun, and delivers some pretty significant impact on target. With the Nosler hunting bullets, I have no doubt this is plenty of gun for stuff like coyotes and bobcats. Hogs, though, are a different question. Shockey answers the question, though, in a series of videos on YouTube,including the one below. A well-placed shot at close range is definitely enough to bring down a pig.
But is it a good idea? What do you guys think?
January 26, 2012
Some of you may be sick to death of my posts about the Benjamin Marauder, and to you I apologize. I really hadn’t intended to write about it again so soon, but then I read this great article on RealGuns.com. The write-up covers a level of detail that I simply didn’t (and won’t) get to, and it is really good stuff for the more technically minded. It’s also some good stuff for anyone thinking about hunting with one of these rifles, as he gets into kinetic energy at various ranges.
If you don’t want to actually read the article, here’s how he sums it all up. It’s not too different from my own summation, except he gets here with a much more detailed examination.
The Benjamin Marauder is interesting. It isn’t a firearm and it wouldn’t be fair to compare it to one. Compared to other air rifles I have worked with, the Marauder is well made, nicely finished and a good performer. As marketed by Crosman, the gun is lethal on lawn and garden pests, small game and some smaller predators. As is the case with other quality PCP guns, owning and shooting one is an investment, into the rifle and in the support systems required to make it a daily shooter. For situation where neighbors are relatively close in, noise is a problem, as are bullets that carry a long distances, the .25 Caliber Marauder may be one of the best solutions.