Airguns for Today

002Air gunning, that sport looked at askance by many in the hunting and shooting community is now and has been for years, one of my favorite hobbies. I talked about all of this in another post, Momma’s Got a Gun, if you would like to check it out. Now I want to talk about the advancement in airguns and the differences between them and powder burners. There are many people that still think of airguns as the BB guns we grew up shooting, these folks have never looked into the guns meant for field work and hunting. From springers to nitro pistons, CO2 to PCP, single shot to semi auto the sheer numbers of guns and what they can do is amazing.

Not many years ago the idea of paying over a thousand dollars for an airgun was unthinkable to many in the States. The thought of a springer, break barrel or under lever, costing more than many deer rifles was beyond most people. People in the UK have been shooting high end airguns for years and most at less than 12 ft/lbs of energy because of their gun laws. They take already good guns and tune them to be incredibly accurate for taking pests and small game out to distances most here would never try. Here in the States we can use guns that are shooting far faster and delivering far more energy but many here still do not understand why bigger, faster isn’t always better. Let’s take a look at some of the differences between air and powder. I will say I am far from the most expert on this but I want to pass along the fundamentals to help show what you should look for when considering an airgun.

First in air rifles speed kills…..your accuracy. Unlike powder burners with more energy and bullet shapes creating good ballistic coefficients, the air rifle is limited and pellets just aren’t as aerodynamic. While a bullet traveling at 3400 fps stabilized by the lands and grooves of the barrel stays stable in flight, a pellet that starts getting over the 1000 fps mark will begin to move. There are exceptions but this is just the basic principle. Many air gunners are shooting smaller calibers in the 800 to 950 fps range to maximize accuracy. At these speeds the kinetic energy is still high enough for hunting without losing the accuracy needed for precise shots. The problem in the U.S. people see these high speed magnum guns and think that is the way to go. It usually isn’t. Two main reasons, one, those speeds are using super light alloy pellets that aren’t stable and B, lead hunting pellets will not generate those speeds. It is all marketing in this bigger, faster, stronger is better world. Also those high speed springers are not fun to shoot many times as they have a lot of recoil and are just harsh to shoot which causes more loss of accuracy.

If you own one of the faster guns offered by companies like Gamo, there is a simple way to slow it down, use heavier pellets. Those guns shooting super light alloy jobs blowing out at 1300+ fps will slow down to a much more manageable level with heavier pellets. Whether for hunting, field target or plinking, the accuracy gained by simply changing pellets may surprise you. Many of these guns are capable of ½” groups at 30-40 yards and some PCP guns 1” at 100 yards!

Another tip that is just wrong to powder guys is that you don’t need to clean your gun as much as you do other guns. The main propellant being air the residue left behind consists mostly of lead from your pellets. This can help the barrel stabilize the pellets and a clean barrel will often take a few shots to settle into the groups it is capable of shooting.

PCP or springer? Wow there is a question. I love both and both have their place in shooting. If you like big bore, .30 to .50 caliber, then PCP is going to be where you go. If you like .177, .22 or .25 then the reasons between the two becomes more a personal preference and budget constraints. Both guns can deliver amazing shots with the PCP holding up at longer ranges better but out to 50 yards or so both can deliver super tight groups. The need for a way to fill PCP guns rather than just cocking a springer might make the difference for many. The ability to shoot 20 to 60 consistent shots between fills might be just what you want.

Entry level prices for decent to good guns are similar from many of the top makers. Gamo is probably the best known because it is in every box store out there. Along with them you will see Ruger, Beeman, Crosman and several others in the lower price range. Step up to a store that carries better brands and models or online and you will see Hatsan, Daystate, Air Arms, Evanix and on and on in prices ranging from $500.00 to several thousand. These prices include good to great versions of springer and PCP guns in any caliber you could want. Add in good optics from companies like Hawke Optics and you will be able to put together a combo that suits your needs and hopefully your budget.

The ability to shoot or hunt in many places firearms aren’t allowed is a major reason many are getting into airguns. The low cost of ammo along with it being readily available is a big plus. The fact that children and new shooters can take an airgun out and have a ball with it without being intimidated while they learn shooting and gun safety is great.

Many states have opened game seasons to airguns, some for small game only, some for all game with the right caliber. This is a great time to check out what you can do in your area and then take a look into airguns to expand you fun. Take a look at bench rest and field target competitions for more chances to get out and enjoy this great sport of airgunning.

Florida in November

 

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My buddy Kris dropped by and said he was headed to Florida and asked me to go down with him for some bay fishing. After getting things ready we hitched up the boat for the 8  hour trip down to the Panama City area where he goes several times a year.

We got checked in at the Dixie Bell motel on St. Joe bay on Wednesday night grabbed a few things from the Half Hitch sporting goods store so we could head out the next morning. That evening we drove across the bridge to throw a few casts and found some speckled trout willing to hit. With that we figured we had a good chance the next day. After checking with Dan who guides in the area we got some live shrimp the next morning then hit the water.

Well, things didn’t start fast and didn’t get faster. We hooked up on a small shark at our first spot then went all over the bay trying to find fish. The water was crystal clear and there was no bait to be seen. Add to that the tides were exactly the opposite for what we needed, it made for a long tough day. I think we finished that day with about 6 fish and only a couple of keepers. Time to regroup.

Day two started out a little better when we found some fish holding on docks but after a decent start catching some reds and black drum they shut down again. We decided to load the boat and head over to Apalachicola bay and put in at Indian Pass. The water there had good color but before we could get to the area we wanted to fish the wind came up pushing the water off the oyster beds, churning up the mud and making the whole bay too rough to fish. We managed to hook a lonesome gar before we had to make a run for the ramp to get out of there. Strike two.

We drove all the way to Panama City putting in at the state park ramp then heading out to the jetties to try for whatever was hanging around the rocks. While the wind was blowing it wasn’t terrible but we were in maybe 2 foot rollers and a lot of boat wakes. We caught a few mangrove snappers, a black sea bass, a really cool fish called a look down before it got late and we had to quit for the day. Overall day two was better but we really worked for what we caught and day three had a front forecast for late in the day or that night. We were hoping to get ahead of the wind to get a half day in before the wind got bad. Once we got back to St. Joe we spent the last hour of daylight casting for trout at the bridge but they weren’t really hitting until after dark, I managed one fish before we called it a day.

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Saturday morning we picked up another friend who had drive down. We checked in again with Dan, while he told us where some fish were he said he didn’t think we could get to them. It seems the front picked up speed arriving 8 to 10 hours earlier than expected. The wind was out of the east blowing right into the jetties to the point we couldn’t even fish them from the bank. The pass was rolling waves none of us wanted to try with a bay boat. The waves were several feet high and white capping but we had a backup plan.

We drove a couple of miles to a ramp near the bridge in Panama City. After putting in we anchored in the lee side of the piers to try for whatever was using the structure. Between the wind and current it was tough to control the baits but we still managed to catch a variety of smaller fish and one decent black drum. Several of the fish no one knew what species they were but all we cool looking and put up a fight and that was what mattered.

By noon the rain moved in and all the other boats except one had left so we packed it up for the 8 hour trip home while Paul stayed for a week of kayak fishing or casting from the beaches. In fact he caught a nice slot red and a pompano off the beach just after we left.

It was a tough three days and we spent more time looking for fish or fighting the water than we wanted to but we did catch fish under very hard conditions. We fished using the boat along with late afternoons spent fishing from the bank under the bridge at St. Joe. We ended up with a wide variety of fish from reds to reef fish but never found to good fish we were hoping for.

Another trip down might not be far off and this one may be all beach and jetty fishing, we’ll see.

I hope everyone is having a safe hunting season, wear that harness, if you are still fishing be sure to wear those life jackets and good luck.

November Cats

 

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Here it is November and well past what most people believe is catfishing time which is usually relegated to the balmy months of summer. With a nice day forecast I got with a friend of mine, Kris, for a trip down to the river below Nickajack dam in southeast Tennessee to show him some new water. This spot is one of my favorites but this was the first time I had fished it this late in the year. Not knowing the fall pattern of the cats I was hoping to find them in the usual spots, hiding in the rock piles waiting on a meal to drift by.

We loaded up Kris’ boat and headed for the ramp in South Pittsburgh. Some of my best spots are within a couple of hundred yards of the ramp and these produce good cats all summer. Once we were in we made a short run upstream to begin a drift through the rock piles. The river was in the best shape I had seen it all year, good water color, plenty of current and temperatures still near 60 degrees. After two or three drifts I had managed to lose a couple of good fish but other than that there was no bite happening. Time for a move.

We ran upstream to another spot where some big blue cats are taken but like downstream after four passes we hadn’t even had a good bite. We watched a couple of other boats and they were having the same luck we were, none. I told Kris that we could try below the dam which was a short run upstream but that I had never fished that area and we would just have to see what happened. Off we go again to try our third spot of the morning.

Once we got to the dam and decided what the plan was we eased the boat into position,, dropped our baits and started the drift. In seconds we had hits. In a few minutes we were putting fish in the boat. Things changed for the better with every drift we made. The blues and channels were feeding and we were loading up the live well with some decent fish.

Just as we figured out what was going on the folks at the dam decided to add a bit of excitement to the day. Nickajack has a lock and of course the area we were drifting was near the water discharge, when the horn blew we both jumped and quickly got the boat moved. This was no big deal we waited out the boiling water then went back to chasing fish but when the horn on the dam itself sounded we didn’t know what to expect. By the time we reeled in they cracked one of the flood gates releasing water that was blowing 20 feet into the air. This caused waves to hit the dam and wing wall creating even higher waves that started rolling into the boat. Good times.

We managed to get far enough away from the rough water to sit it out. When the horn sounded and the gate closed it took maybe 20 minutes for the water to calm back down but it had changed the bite. The fish were still hitting but nothing like they had been. We put more in the live well and soon looked down to see the last of our four pounds of bait was gone.

With that we called it a day with a total of 26 blues and channels. I was a little disappointed that I hadn’t put Kris on some big fish although he hooked one that simply swam off, he never slowed it down. I had lost two that would have been double digit fish but we had fish up to six pounds so still a good day.

Folks, catfishing, especially blue cats, doesn’t end when the fall temperatures cool the water. You can still go out and fill a live well and enjoy a lot of waters with no other fishermen in sight. Blue cats love cold water, big blues are caught year round here with water down into the thirties. Go out and give these great fish a try after most folks have given up until the next spring.

Be safe, wear you PFD and take a kid fishing.

House of Jerky Ghost Pepper Beef Jerky

ghost-beef500Janie over at House of Jerky asked if I liked hot, I said sure. She asked if I had seen the new Ghost Pepper Beef Jerky, why yes I have. She asked if I would try it if she sent some, well yes I will.

I went to the mailbox and found a package waiting and when I opened it I found a 1/4 pound of her new flavor just waiting to be tried. Now if you look closely the package warns that the ghost peppers have a rating of 1,000,000 Scoville Units which is the second hottest pepper in the world. It makes you wonder reading that if this was a good idea, now I do like hot but there is an upward limit but I said I was in so here we go. For a change I filmed the taste test of this and it will be up on my youTube channel soon.

When I opened the package you can smell the peppers but they really weren’t as strong as I was expecting. Fortified by the aroma of good jerky I removed a piece and took my first rather smallish bite, yeah I was a little scared. Just like every flavor of jerky I have tried this one was just as good and I could feel a little heat so I thought this isn’t too bad. Then it got a bit hotter and hotter, still not unbearable but hotter than Janie’s other hot flavors.

Just as I thought that it wasn’t that hot I decided to take a couple of more bites. This is where the tears started and all of the rest you expect from HOT. In my head I had expected all the heat to be up front as soon as you eat it and it isn’t, it is on the back end after you swallow a bite. After the second or third it starts to build up and then you find out how the Ghost Peppers work. Good times.

Let me say here this is not one of those foods people are producing just for the thrill factor to say you ate it this actually has flavor. I talked to Janie after I tried it and she didn’t want it too hot to enjoy and it is right where it needs to be for that. You get all of the flavor of the beef and still get the thrill of the heat. If you are like me and wondered about the ghost chili and what it tasted like this is a great way to try it. With enough to satisfy the heat lover without ruining the taste or your taste buds this is one I will be telling folks to try.

Thanks again to Janie for letting me review another of the amazing products from House of Jerky. If you have never eaten good jerky, not that stuff at the local gas station, you really need to pick something up from House of Jerky. Either online or from one of the local stores if you are lucky enough to have one nearby. From beef to pork to alligator or wild boar, domestic or exotic there is plenty to enjoy for the folks that want the best jerky out there.

Revisiting the Hawke Optics Crossbow Scope

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Before the archery season opener last year I got a new scope from Hawke Optics that has some pretty cool bells and whistles. First let me same that I am a firm believer that there is an upward limit on how much “tech” is actually useful and how much is just selling points. I took that attitude with me when I mounted this scope onto my Ten Point crossbow, replacing the stock three dot scope which had served me well.

After mounting the scope and getting it sighted in there was one feature that I could not use because of the speed (or lack thereof) of my bow. Let me explain one of the big features of this series of scopes, it has a speed magnification/calibration ring. Like any scope you sight it in at a measured 20 yards, using the top and side turrets with the scope set at the lowest speed setting. Once you are happy with your 20 yard groups you move back to a measured 30 yards and shoot again to see if you are hitting high or low. Now most bows these days shoot faster than mine so you should be hitting high, to adjust you turn the calibration ring NOT THE TURRET RING to move your shot up and down. This ring acts as a calibration adjustment for the speed of your bow to fine tune shots to your bow and bolt weight. Once you have the bow hitting at 30 yards you simply leave everything alone, meaning you DO NOT turn the calibration ring while you are hunting to a higher magnification, you do not turn it at all. This is the part many people can’t seem to get past, the calibration ring is only turned to adjust your point of impact while you sight in, once that is done the bow is ready just point and shoot. It should be calibrated out to 100 yards and has crosshairs and posts for those shots.

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Here was my problem; my bow set up was shooting too slowly to take advantage of the calibration settings of the scope. This was partly my fault because I was shooting bolts that were heavier (longer) than I needed but it was hunting season so I just left it alone. It worked fine and I took a nice 7 pointer with it but I wanted more out of the bow and scope. The fix was simple I dropped back from a 22” bolt to a 20” bolt and sighted everything in again. Now if you are wondering how much difference the change makes in point of impact, it was 4” higher at 20 yards. Yep and you could hear the difference in the time it took between pulling the trigger and the bolt hitting. The shorter bolts were moving much faster. I followed the steps above to get the bow driving tacks again and I hope to get it out this weekend to see if I can take my first deer of the year.

Let me say something about my favorite feature on this scope, it has lighted reticles which many other scopes have but when not lit you still have regular crosshairs. For someone that is used to hunting with a 3 dot scope or holo sight you know if you run out of battery you aren’t going to be using your sights but with the Hawke you are still in business even if you can’t light the sights up.

Now back to the too much tech thoughts I have, I will say for what is packed into this scope I was glad each feature was there. Yes you could use a scope without the extra calibration but that is a cool feature especially with fine tuning a bow to really be a tack driver with today’s fast bows. The lighted reticles are something I personally love and these go from black to red to green with the turn of a side mounted dial. The scope also comes with flip up lens covers which are another nice touch since if they were just slip on see thru I would have long since gotten rid of them.

After a year of shooting this scope I am still more than happy with it and it will be going to the woods with me for a long time. Hawke Optics simply does it right, folks, and at price points that other companies can’t meet for the quality. Thanks again to everyone at Hawke for the chance to share some of their great products with my friends.

Good luck and be safe, wear your harness.

The Proper Knife

 

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Knives have to be one of the most purchased items for the outdoors. From the pocket knife like our Grandpa carried to something that could have taken on Xerxes at Thermopylae I have seen just about everything used or at least bought and carried as a hunting knife. Most I have to say were far from ideal for doing the job the carrier intended and I know this because I did the same thing myself when I started in the outdoors.

Let me back up just a bit on that statement, my first knife was when I was in the Scouts and one of the things we bought was the official Scout knife. I carried that around for no telling how long until it was lost as so many are by youngsters out doing stuff. As I started to hunt I was reading all of the hunting magazines and Buck knives were featured in many and of course the black handled, silver bladed Buck fixed blade was the thing to have in all of the ads. So of course me and my buddy Joey bought those and several knives of similar size and shape. Yes you could skin a squirrel with one with only about an 80% chance of lopping off a digit or removing a large tract of skin but they weren’t ideal for the job. That is what I want to talk about here, right tool for the right job.

I see so many knives posted online or talked about by folks I know and the reality is just like I did once upon a time folks buy the wrong knife. Let’s be honest here the coolness of some knives drives our purchase. I have more than my share of military knives in the safe but they never see the light of day. I have regular pocket knives that sit right beside them because I found I don’t like carrying a knife in my front pocket. I have a lot of “tactical” folders that are my everyday carry but even those have differences that make them practical or not.

If you are a deer hunter there is no real need for a knife with a 9 inch blade to gut one. The truth is that blade can make it harder to do the job. If you are camping and need to split some small limbs for kindling that three blade sow belly isn’t going to help a lot. If you use your tactical folder like I did on the job you will likely find those cool serrations on the blade are a complete waste, but they do look good. They are usually in the exact sweet spot on the blade where you just need a good straight sharp edge.

2014-06-27_16-37-50_477Just like anything knife designers put out a lot of things that catch our eye and pull us into a purchase that isn’t always the best tool for that job. The cool factor has gotten us all.
Just as an example the knife I carry for hunting is a little custom drop point that has a blade just over 2 inches long. It has cleaned more deer and other critters than I can remember plus it fits in my pack where I can keep track of it. I don’t worry about a big knife in the field since I hunt close to home; I’m not camping, nor is the chance of meeting a grizz in our woods a factor. If I was in the real back country you can bet there would be a much larger blade in my kit along with my usual little custom job.

The simple message here is be realistic about your needs for that new knife. If it is for self defense as a daily carry test a few to be sure what fits your needs and training background. If you need a knife to gut a deer pick one that will efficiently do the job without the macho factor coming into play. My brother used a disposable box cutter and could clean a deer faster than I could get my knife out of my pack.

The sheer variety we have today makes buying knives just plain fun to be honest and the cool factor still gets me at times. Having said that, I have noticed over the years that even my “cool” purchases now favor the practical side as I found out what my real needs for a blade were. Just because a knife fills a need does not mean there isn’t an updated, spiffy version out there.

I hope everyone has a safe season. Get out there and enjoy the woods and be sure to wear your harness.

New eBook is Live

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I am asked quite often about cooking in the south. It seems a big mystery to folks in other parts of the country and I think partly because of the misrepresentation on television. The cooking shows are pretty laughable to people here when they give these elaborate recipes and long winded techniques that you will never see in a real southern kitchen.

So I decided to write a very basic how to for cooking southern. I started learning to cook at around 3 to 4 years of age and over 50 years later I have learned a lot from family and friends. If you want to see how we really cook here is a good way to get a start.

Amazon Kindle Store

Etsy Ghost Originals for PDF

 

Scouting Fall Turkeys

 

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If you are lucky enough, as we are here in Tennessee, to have a fall turkey season now is the time to get out there and do some scouting. This time of year is usually taken up by getting the finishing touches on deer stands, food plots and checking all those trail cams to see what is hanging around. Since I rarely scout for deer I take the time to find my fall flocks then get them patterned so I can have a good chance of filling some fall tags.

In the fall I don’t worry too much about the toms, ok I don’t worry about them at all but here is why. Our fall season is either sex, I use the wing bones from hens to make calls, there are a lot of color phase hens here which I go after and the hens are easier to locate. Yep I can see flocks of over 100 in some fields here but the big flocks where I can hunt are usually around 50-60 birds. If I can find them I have a good chance.

Food and roosts are the main things I focus on for fall hunting. These birds are not being bothered, they have a pretty set routine and you job is to figure it out. Like deer they follow the same general trails day in and day out moving along feeding. I have one farm that I can just about guarantee the birds will be in one of two places every afternoon between 1 and just before they go to roost. Now this is true unless something upsets their pattern such as farmers working the fields or in the case of a spot I just checked it has been allowed to grow up in weeds this year. This field normally has cattle in it and the turkeys would come in every day to feed in a circuit that ended with them going to roost in the same area. This year I have to figure out how that is going to change where they will be using until the beans are cut. One the beans and corn are cut the flocks will use those fields when they have nowhere else to go.

Fall birds can be fun to hunt but for me it tends to be run and gun rather than set out a decoy and call. One good trick is to bust the flock up then wait a bit to start using a kee kee run to call the scattered birds into you. The first time I did this it was by accident but it works like a charm I had a bird down in less than five minutes.

So while you are out checking stands or shooting some of those pesky tree rats take the time to sit and glass the fields for those fall flocks. Note the time and location of each flock then in a few days check the area again to see if that is their routine. Get the birds patterned so you can enjoy some great fall turkey fun.

And just so you know I have two white hens with black trimmed feathers located on two different farms. Guess who I will be looking for soon.

Stix & Stones Apparel

 

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Meeting folks online, in my case on Twitter, sometimes lets me have the chance to share things with visitors to my site. Not long ago I was talking with a new follower from the wilds of Canada and they asked if I would be interested in reviewing a shirt from their product line. I was happy to help and stopped by their site Stixnstones.ca to pick out a shirt to review.

I took some time looking at not only their apparel line for folks that hunt and fish but the site itself. Nice clean layout and easy to find what you want they have the right idea of how to showcase their products.

I picked a design featuring their logo, their crest design, printed on an all white short sleeve t-shirt then waited a few days for it to makes its way south. Once here I gave it a once over to see the quality of the shirt and the printing. Once again it is topnotch, the print is done in a slightly distressed look with a large logo on the front and a smaller one on the back  near the bottom edge. A neat and different touch.

The shirt itself is well made from 100% cotton and I will admit it is a bit lighter in weight than I normally buy but that is just a personal preference the quality of the shirt is great. Not being sure of the sizing, I am a big guy, I had picked a XXL hoping it would be close. As it turns out it is fine very close to what I buy here in the States and if washed in cold water and hung to dry rather than scorching in a dryer it will not shrink.

The folks at Stixnstones have a good line of clothing for the hunter or angler from t-shirts to hoodies and now caps are available in their shop. So if you are looking for something different to wear afield rather than the same big name company take a look at what they have to offer. I hope you  do what I always try to do and support the smaller companies that produce quality products like my friends at Stix & Stones.

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