Clayton: Try something new in the outdoors

Staff Writer
Stephenville Empire-Tribune
Deer season will be here before you know it. Luke photographed these two fine bucks on Mike Ford's Rio Rojo Rancho in Red River County.

By Luke Clayton

A few years ago, I was attending an outdoor show in Waco when I noticed a little shooting range for air guns set up in a room off to the side of the main floor. I could hear the report of air rifles being shot and my interest was perked.

I was introduced to John McCaslin, owner of Airforce Airguns, who, with some of his crew, were allowing folks to test the .22-caliber PCP air guns offered by his company. After a few test shots, it was obvious the power generated by 3,000 pounds of compressed air was way more powerful than the “pump up” pellet guns of my youth.

John invited me to his factory in Fort Worth, where I was given a tour of the facility and learned a little about the manufacturing process. I took delivery of my first modern-day air rifle, a .25-caliber Condor. At the range there I learned that the little rifle was not only powerful but extremely accurate. My learning curve shooting modern day air rifles had begun!

My new rifle was as accurate as any .22 I had ever owned and I found it to be the perfect small game rifle. Shortly thereafter, it became legal in Texas to hunt squirrels with an air rifle and I used my rifle to harvest the makings several tasty smothered squirrel and rice dinners.

A couple of years later, I got word from AIrforce Airguns that they were coming out with a .45-caliber “big bore” airgun, the first production big bore on the market and my interest was really sparked. I enjoy hunting small game but having an air rifle capable of cleanly taking wild hogs and exotics was right up my alley!

I was honored to shoot and hunt with one of the first 10 prototype Texans. I promptly zeroed it at 75 yards and went to work on wild hogs and exotics. Zipping a heavy bullet along at over 800 fps., I discovered my Texas was a real game getter. On paper, it was shooting groups that rivaled the accuracy of my best centerfire rifles. I’m still shooting that Texan and to date have harvested dozens of wild hogs, exotics and the largest free range whitetail buck of my career up on the Dale River Ranch last season.

From the beginning, many of my friends ask me what it was about shooting these modern-day air rifles that had me so fired up. Usually, when I was able to allow them to go through the process of “charging” the rifles with air and then spending time shooting them, they were instant converts to the world of airgunning.

Through the years, many of we veteran hunters have enjoyed learning to shoot and hunt with various weapons. I remember how excited I was years ago to begin shooting muzzleloaders and then compound bows and crossbows. Each sporting arm was completely new to me when I first began and I enjoyed the learning curve, all the way from understanding the intricate workings to developing shooting skills and finally putting my new weapon to work in the woods actually hunting.

I still enjoy shooting and hunting with my bows, centerfires and occasionally enjoy dusting off my muzzleloader for a deer or hog hunt when a special season dictates, but more often than not, I find myself spending time at the range and in the woods with my Texan big bore air rifle.

You’re probably aware that big bore air rifles are now legal in Texas for hunting big game, including whitetail deer. You might find yourself contemplating purchasing your first big bore air rifle and taking to the deer woods this fall. If so, chances are pretty good you might just have a few questions so let’s address few things an beginner airgunner needs to know.

HOW DO I SUPPLY AIR TO THE RIFLE?

A PCP (pre-charged pneumatic) air gun is filled via an air tank or high-pressure compressor, one that develops at least 3,000 psi. SCUBA tanks are probably the least expensive, but carbon fiber tanks hold a lot more air, are a lot lighter and are probably a better investment. You will need a method of supplying air to your tank. SCUBA shops or paintball ranges are good spots to get filled and some local fire departments are equipped to fill high pressure tanks but at some point you will probably wish to purchase a compressor of your own.

There are many portable compressors available that operate on AC house current and most run on DC as well. I always carry my portable compressor along on hunts but seldom need to use it. The .45-caliber Texan I now shoot pressures up to just more than 3,600 psi. and I can get multiple heavy shots from one charge, more than enough for a day of hunting.

HOW FAR DO I SHOOT

While it’s fun to shoot big bore air rifles at extended yardages, I keep my shots on game at around 75 yards or less. With the 75 yard zero that I use, I can hold center of shoulder on deer or hogs from point blank out to 100 yards and put the bullet where it needs to go. I do know guys that shoot big game out to 150 yards and beyond but I set up and hunt from positions that afford closer shots.

So, if you think the challenge of learning to shoot and possibly hunt with a PCP air gun, either big bore or a smaller caliber, might be for you, check out the websites below. YouTube is also another great tool for learning. www.airforceairguns.com or www.pyramydair.com

To contact outdoors writer Luke Clayton, visit www.catfishradio.org

Luke Clayton