Mick Gar­vey

Mick Gar­vey goes to Amer­ica and back to bring us the third phase of his night-hunt­ing hard­ware se­ries

Airgun World - - Contents -

Mick’s in the USA with his brother and a Pul­sar XQ50F - night hunt­ing.

This fi­nal part of the night shoot­ing se­ries sees me look­ing both for­ward and back. It all started back in the sum­mer af­ter chat­ting with Scott Coun­try In­ter­na­tional about the sub­ject, and that led to a phone con­ver­sa­tion with an American com­pany, Sell­mark, who are in close con­tact with Scott Coun­try In­ter­na­tional. Sell­mark were keen to hear what we had planned, and even more so when they found out that I was to be trav­el­ling to the States with a view to thin­ning down the grey squir­rel pop­u­la­tion in Vir­ginia. I had been talk­ing with James, Kevin and Blake, from Sell­mark, and they ever so kindly of­fered me the loan of a Pul­sar XQ50F He­lion ther­mal spot­ter, which I used in con­junc­tion with the Air Arms .25 Gala­had that I bought with my brother Richard, with whom I was shoot­ing.

Richard has never forgotten his roots and he was adamant that he’d like to buy a Bri­tish-made air­gun, so with my pref­er­ence for bullpups, the Gala­had was an easy choice. The order was placed with the lovely Claire, at Air Arms, and the Sir G, as it was to be­come known, was dis­patched from Pyra­mid Air in the States, to Richard. The Gala­had was ob­vi­ously going to be full power, be­ing sup­plied in the States, which fit­ted in nicely with my FAC shoot­ing here in the UK, and the ‘pup was going to be topped off with a Hawke Air­max 3-12 x 50SF which made a great com­bi­na­tion.


I have to say what a plea­sure it was deal­ing with the guys from Sell­mark. They were avail­able to chat and an­swer any ques­tions we had, and they were very in­ter­ested in what we had planned. I have kept in touch with them all and I am al­ready look­ing for­ward to meet­ing up with them in Las Ve­gas for the SHOT Show early next year.

We’d planned the trip to co­in­cide with the start of the squir­rel season in Vir­ginia, and once ev­ery­thing was with in place, in­clud­ing

the prom­ise of 200 acres of prime shoot­ing land, I was more than just ex­cited – I was ecstatic. The squir­rel season also has an­other twist, a two-squir­rel bag limit! Now, you have to re­alise that hunt­ing in the USA is dif­fer­ent to here in the UK, and there’s an out­ra­geous num­ber of hun­ters, so if there was no bag limit there would soon be no squir­rels – and pos­si­bly noth­ing else – so in a way, it is un­der­stand­able.


At the first op­por­tu­nity, Richard and I were out ze­ro­ing the Gala­had, and once happy it was time to check out the land for our cho­sen tar­get. There were plenty of signs of the grey men­ace, but no ac­tual sight­ings even with the ther­mal. We did spot quite a large head of deer on the land, which had been caus­ing havoc with the crops, and Ken, the landowner even of­fered me an in­vi­ta­tion to re­turn, to help him out in thin­ning them down a bit.

So, with no sign of the greys, we de­cided upon an early morn­ing at­tack and I man­aged to buy a pur­pose-made squir­rel feeder from one of the many hard­ware stores over there. I have to say, right here and now, that this XQ50F takes ther­mal imag­ing to an­other level. My Quan­tum XQ38 is good, very good, but this is a to­tally dif­fer­ent an­i­mal with much bet­ter imag­ing, and the record/photo fa­cil­ity is an ex­cel­lent ad­di­tion. The week I had with the XQ50F made me re­alise that I needed my own ther­mal scope to com­ple­ment my ther­mal spot­ter, and I’d be giv­ing it some se­ri­ous thought over the com­ing weeks.

We man­aged to get out and in po­si­tion,

“this XQ50F takes ther­mal imag­ing to an­other level”

“laugh­ing to my­self at the thought of the best part of £5000 be­ing used for rats”

over­look­ing the feeder I had po­si­tioned a cou­ple of days ear­lier, and hoped that had been long enough for the greys to lo­cate the feed sta­tion. The wildlife at this time of day was some­thing to be­hold. The tem­per­a­ture rises to the high 90s dur­ing the day, so the ac­tiv­ity is high at the start and the end of the day, with noth­ing in be­tween. Richard was be­side me when I spot­ted a fox through the Pul­sar. I called it in to within 25 yards and I was lucky enough to cap­ture the whole thing. Af­ter star­ing at us for a minute or so, it trot­ted off into the un­der­growth, leav­ing us to con­tinue with our pur­suit of the na­tive grey squir­rels.


Richard was on the gun, so I was on spot­ting du­ties and it wasn’t long be­fore the first tree rat showed it­self, quite a way out, but def­i­nitely look­ing like it was head­ing our way. With the feeder full of peanuts, I was con­fi­dent that they wouldn’t be able to re­sist, and true enough, a minute or so later we had the squir­rel in front of us un­der the feeder. Richard made sure the first shot in anger from the Gala­had dropped our first squir­rel – high fives all round. We man­aged an­other be­fore the tem­per­a­ture got too much, and we’d reached our bag limit, so I de­cided to take as many images as pos­si­ble with the XQ50F.

On a trip to Wash­ing­ton DC, there were thou­sands of squir­rels run­ning riot around the memo­rial grounds. I took hun­dreds of images of them, but all the time I was think­ing of the huge bags you could achieve, if you were al­lowed. I also got some in­ter­est­ing images from Ar­ling­ton ceme­tery, in­clud­ing the chang­ing of the guard at the tomb of the Un­known Sol­dier, and from the JFK memo­rial flame. Rain set in for a large part of the hol­i­day so our shoot­ing was cut short, and be­fore I knew it, it was time to head back to the UK, but I had plans. Once again, I was ex­cited about the forth­com­ing shoot­ing, and this time it would be at night.


Back home, I emailed the guys at Sell­mark to thank them again for ev­ery­thing, and made ar­range­ments for Ve­gas. Paul, at Scott Coun­try, who was re­spon­si­ble for set­ting me up with Sell­mark, was keen to find out how we had fared on the other side of the pond, and it was only a mat­ter of min­utes be­fore the con­ver­sa­tion turned to the loan ther­mal that he had of­fered. I’d had my ap­petite whet­ted and I was ready for more. Paul told me that the Pul­sar Apex LRF would soon be head­ing my way, but only for a short pe­riod be­cause the de­mand from other field testers/jour­nal­ists is very high, so I had to get my fin­ger out and get some shoot­ing done.

My first out­ing was on the rats and with the Apex fixed on top of the FX Im­pact, I found my­self laugh­ing to my­self at the thought of the best part of £5000 be­ing used for rat shoot­ing. As usual, I ar­rived in plenty of time to set up and check the lie of the land, and be­fore it got any­where near dark I had taken two pi­geons and a mag­pie, all eas­ily spot­ted with the Apex and with­out a chance of mis­tak­ing them for any­thing else such as black­birds, or the like. I have heard peo­ple say that there’s not enough def­i­ni­tion to iden­tify cer­tain quarry safely, but the only time I would strug­gle would be be­tween red and grey squir­rels. For­tu­nately – or not – there are no reds in my neck of the woods. Know­ing your tar­get, and know­ing how it moves and its shape, is es­sen­tial for ther­mal hunt­ing and most of us have that abil­ity, but those who don’t should think twice be­fore pulling that trig­ger – then de­cline the shot if they’re not sure.


The rats started to show, but not in big num­bers and I found my­self mov­ing be­tween rat­ting and check­ing for rab­bits. Now, this is when an­other rea­son came along to help me to de­cide on which ther­mal to go for – in the shape of foxes. Yes, foxes – six of them to be ex­act. The Apex picked them out from over 400 yards away and, once again, I man­aged to call one to within 30 yards be­fore it got sus­pi­cious and legged it. This also high­lighted the only down­side of the Apex; there is no di­rect record­ing, only to an MPR, but I guess the built-in laser rangefinder com­pen­sates for it, al­though I pre­fer to know my dis­tances.

I headed home with only four rats, two pi­geons and a mag­pie. No rab­bits showed on this area, but I stopped off to check out an­other field with the Quan­tum Spot­ter, and was taken aback by the num­ber of conies in the field. I’d be back later in the week to knock a few of these off, but not too many be­cause they’re only just mak­ing a come­back af­ter be­ing hit hard with myxi over the last few years.


Time was run­ning out for the Apex, so I was out the very next day and pulled up on a pri­vate road, in a lay-by over­look­ing the field where I’d seen the feed­ing rab­bits. I flicked the Quan­tum Spot­ter on and started to scan. I’d only cov­ered the area straight in front of me, and clear as day, there sat a good-sized rab­bit, com­pletely obliv­i­ous to my pres­ence – that’s the beauty of the ther­mal im­agers. In a sin­gle, swift mo­tion I had the Im­pact shoul­dered. The Apex fired up once the ‘wel­come’ screen had dis­ap­peared and the rab­bit was placed square in the cross hairs. I es­ti­mated it to be around 50 yards, a straight headshot and the coney fell for­ward with­out the slight­est of kicks.

I made my way round to the gate and back to where I’d shot from and then paced the shot at 49 paces – happy, happy, happy! I did a sin­gle tour of the field, and took an­other three, but my ela­tion was short-lived be­cause the last rab­bit had myxi, and I was gut­ted; three for the freezer and one for the fire. I did no­tice that the rape­seed field op­po­site was full of rab­bits, and a call to the farmer the fol­low­ing day got me per­mis­sion to start clear­ing them be­cause they were caus­ing huge dam­age to the fringes of the field.

This mini-se­ries is now com­plete, so all that’s left to do is give you my fi­nal thoughts and anal­y­sis of the three dis­ci­plines, and maybe some sur­pris­ing thoughts. See you next month.

Here they come. Get ready. It took time, but my plan worked.

In the dark; Im­pact, Apex, and me.

Ar­ling­ton, my favourite place in the USA.

This beauty dis­ap­peared into the brush, but the ther­mal got him.

The fox whis­perer at work. The video was much bet­ter.

Two for the Apex be­fore dusk.

A very com­pre­hen­sive kit, com­plete with bat­tery pack.

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