Jim Chap­man shows us the gear that he knows works

Air Gunner - - Contents -

Jim ex­plains his State­side kit and tells us what he can­not do with­out

This month, I’d like talk about some of the gear I use when hunt­ing. This list could get very long be­cause I hunt a va­ri­ety of species, in di­verse ter­rains, un­der a wide range of weather con­di­tions.

When it comes to small- game ri­fles, the Bro­cock Com­patto is a great ex­am­ple of the fea­tures and at­tributes that I look for; the first two re­quire­ments are ac­cu­racy and power, of which ac­cu­racy is the most im­por­tant. If I can shoot a ¾” 50-yard groups off sticks, but start to see out­liers at 60 yards, then 50 yards is my max­i­mum hunt­ing range for that gun/pel­let com­bi­na­tion.

Shoot­ing in the States gives a some­what dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive on the ques­tion of power. In the UK where you must deal with power re­stric­tions and ob­tain­ing an FAC, the merit of FAC vs le­gal limit power is a valid dis­cus­sion. In the ab­sence of reg­u­la­tory hur­dles, we look for the best com­bi­na­tion of ac­cu­racy and power. Out­side of some spe­cialty ap­pli­ca­tions, such as shoot­ing in­side of build­ings, there isn’t re­ally an­other com­pelling rea­son to limit power.

What I want

Other fea­tures I pre­fer in my hunt­ing ri­fles are; multi-shot mag­a­zines, side-lever ac­tion, a crisp (ad­justable) trig­ger set at about 3lbs, a com­pact and light­weight de­sign, and a sling sys­tem that is com­fort­able and makes the gun quickly ac­ces­si­ble. I’ll pack a re­place­able air cylin­der or a small tank when I think a re­fill might be needed, I like to carry a cou­ple of loaded mag­a­zines, and ex­tra pel­lets are car­ried in a small alu­minum box that pro­tects and makes them ac­ces­si­ble.

I gen­er­ally opt for scopes with mod­er­ate mag­ni­fi­ca­tion; a 3-9 x 40 scope built on a 1” tube has worked well for me. I don’t need more mag­ni­fi­ca­tion than 9x when shoot­ing small game at 50-100 yards, and of­ten carry my ri­fles over very long dis­tances in some harsh ter­rain. Why carry the ex­tra weight when it’s not go­ing to be used? The other point for me is psy­cho­log­i­cal; at higher mag­ni­fi­ca­tions, the ap­par­ent mo­tion/jit­ter is a detri­ment for me.

With re­spect to cloth­ing, I have reached the con­clu­sion that for many hunt­ing ap­pli­ca­tions cam­ou­flage is ex­ceed­ingly use­ful, and at the very least I’d sug­gest earth-toned trousers, camo shirt, hat, with face mask and gloves. When wear­ing camo, I try to match the en­vi­ron­ment, which sounds

ob­vi­ous, but presents some chal­lenges when you hunt as many places as I do. One solution I’ve found are light­weight camo cov­er­alls in a va­ri­ety of pat­terns, from desert, to for­est, to snow. I can pack sev­eral sets in a very small space, and pull them over my jeans once I get on­site, al­low­ing me to match the lo­cal colour.


A cou­ple of years back, I started pack­ing a 3D Leafy Pon­cho, which I’ve used all over the coun­try, as well as Africa. This is as close to a wear­able blind as you’ll find, and I’ve also used it to con­struct a makeshift blind on more than one oc­ca­sion. For hot weather cloth­ing, I use my fish­ing and back­pack­ing tech­ni­cal cloth­ing in nat­u­ral col­ors. The ad­van­tage of th­ese for desert and plains hunt­ing is that they have built in UV sun pro­tec­tion, they are vented, which per­mits op­ti­mised air­flow, and they breathe and dry out quickly.

Boots can make or break a trip with re­spect to com­fort, too heavy or too light, too much or too lit­tle in­su­la­tion, not the right amount of sup­port for the con­di­tions, can have a big im­pact on your well-be­ing in the field. In the cold, north­ern forests with lots of snow on the ground, my heav­ily in­su­lated, high-profile boots will keep my feet warm and dry. In the arid scrub of Texas, I want some­thing light and breath­able, but I also need sup­port for my an­kles whilst climb­ing through rock for­ma­tions, as well as pro­tec­tion from cac­tus thorns and rat­tlesnakes. For this en­vi­ron­ment, I will of­ten opt for an­kle-high boots cou­pled with knee-high snake guards.

Packs are an es­sen­tial gear com­po­nent that I care­fully match to the ex­pected con­di­tions. I make it a rule not to carry more weight than nec­es­sary, so if the plan is for a long hike and all my gear fits into a small pack, that’s what I’ll use, but with the same amount of gear where long- dis­tance hik­ing isn’t re­quired, my pref­er­ence is for an over-the-shoul­der mes­sen­ger bag. Mes­sen­ger bags are not as com­fort­able over the long haul, but they al­low easy ac­cess to packed gear with­out hav­ing to dis­mount the bag or un­sling my ri­fle. A more sub­stan­tial pack comes out when I need space for larger vol­umes of hunt­ing gear.

What can you see?

Op­tics are an­other item of­ten over­looked by airgun hunters. Many think that since we are hunt­ing at closer ranges, we don’t need binoc­u­lars, but I find them use­ful for spot­ting quarry from a long way off, which al­lows me to plan a stealthy ap­proach. Ad­di­tion­ally, no mat­ter how great your eye­sight is, you will pick up more par­tially hid­den quarry whilst ‘glass­ing’ than you will with the naked eye.

An­other item of gear of­ten over­looked is a rangefinder. No mat­ter how good you be­lieve your nat­u­ral range es­ti­mat­ing abil­i­ties to be, they are not as good as you think! The dif­fi­culty is greater at longer ranges, and when shoot­ing prairie dogs at 40-100 yards it is a must-have item of gear. The tra­jec­to­ries we air­gun­ners deal with, cou­pled with the dif­fi­culty of mak­ing ac­cu­rate range es­ti­ma­tion over small in­cre­ments in dis­tance, would ar­gue for this de­vice be in­cluded in your pack.

The most im­por­tant as­pect of field­shoot­ing is ac­cu­racy. Once you’ve es­tab­lished the ri­fle has the in­trin­sic ac­cu­racy to do what is re­quired, you must en­sure that you can keep up your end. I am a de­cent off-hand shot, but to hit the kill zone of a small game an­i­mal con­sis­tently at 50 or more yards, some man­ner of rest is re­quired. For this rea­son, shoot­ing sticks are an­other es­sen­tial com­po­nent of my hunt­ing kit. I cur­rently

favour the Pri­mos Pole Cat shoot­ing sticks, which work well when sit­ting or kneel­ing, are very fast to de­ploy, and ex­tremely com­pact and light­weight to carry.

Call ‘em in

I use calls when hunt­ing crows, turkey, and preda­tors; the sim­plest and least ex­pen­sive be­ing mouth calls. Th­ese can be ef­fec­tive and some, such as dis­tress calls, are easy to use, but others, such as crow and rac­coon fights or preda­tor vo­cal­i­sa­tions, are dif­fi­cult to repli­cate and bet­ter pro­duced with elec­tronic calls. The other ad­van­tage is that elec­tronic calls can be po­si­tioned away from the hunter so that at­ten­tion is not to called to your hid­ing spot. I will of­ten carry a mini- elec­tronic call in my pack, when and where ap­pro­pri­ate.

A head­lamp and a small flash­light are al­ways in my pack be­cause I am of­ten out well be­fore day­break and af­ter sun­set. Th­ese lights can be fit­ted with red fil­ters to avoid spook­ing game as I move in the field. Ad­di­tion­ally, in ju­ris­dic­tions where it is le­gal to hunt at night with lights, I will pack a high-power light that mounts to my scope, or to an ac­ces­sory mount on my ri­fle. Re­cently, I have been us­ing a ther­mal monoc­u­lar for night hunt­ing, and add them to my pack when I’ll be out af­ter the sun sets.

For a long time I looked for a good way to carry small game af­ter har­vest­ing it. When I slipped rab­bits or squir­rels into my game bag or pack, I ended up with a real mess and the solution I fi­nally ar­rived at was us­ing a game car­rier of the type em­ployed by wa­ter­fowl hunters. Sev­eral lengths of web­bing with a ring af­fixed at ei­ther end, and joined at the mid-point, can be formed into a loop and slipped over the heads of vir­tu­ally any small game an­i­mal you’d like to haul back to camp.

To process small game I pack a dress­ing kit that con­tains a small nar­row blade knife, a larger skin­ning knife, sharp­en­ing stone, plas­tic bags, and some cleans­ing wipes. Th­ese are the ba­sics, although I’ll add a camp­ing knife, a hatchet, a gut hook, and spread­ers and a hoist for big­ger game.

Of course, the gear you se­lect to pack for your hunts will be dic­tated by the game and en­vi­ron­ment. Whilst it is com­pletely pos­si­ble to grab your favourite air ri­fle and a hand­ful of pel­lets for a great day of hunt­ing, hav­ing the gear you need when its needed will im­prove re­sults and make you more ef­fi­cient, ef­fec­tive, and com­fort­able in the field.

Above: The Com­patto meets al­most ev­ery one of my cri­te­ria for a small- game, hunt­ing ri­fle. In­set: A small, 4500 psi, car­bon-fi­bre air tank is light­weight and will per­mit sev­eral re­fills, even for air- hun­gry ri­fles

Be­low Left: On an overnight hunt, the ad­di­tion of a tent, sleep­ing bag, food, stove and other gear, in ad­di­tion to hunt equip­ment, re­quires a larger bag. Top Right: There are other spe­cialised bits of gear that I’ll pack for par­tic­u­lar hunts, such as...

Above: This small tac­ti­cal mes­sen­ger carry- pack holds all my gear for shorter hunts, and is fast and easy to ac­cess

Above: Tucked at the base of a tree, the leafy 3D pon­cho pro­vides good cover. My ri­fle is up on Go­rilla Sticks

Be­low: High- qual­ity binoc­u­lars and a rangefinder will im­prove your re­sults, es­pe­cially on longer shots

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