Author Topic: Hunting.  (Read 4076 times)

Offline Novagun

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« on: June 20, 2013, 02:44:40 PM »
Hunting is a wide ranging verb. Maybe it describes a pleasant walk in the paddock on a sunny day with an air rifle tucked in the crook of the elbow and a dozing rabbit happens to be in your path. Air rifle hunting definitely refers to a skilled person with a gun seeking out quarry and sneaking into range of the rifle. It perhaps refers to shooters who disguise and hide themselves and patiently wait for the quarry to appear.  However you interpret the word it has connotations of someone actively seeking  prey with the intention of dispatching it with an air rifle. Maybe the word stalking describes particularly skilful hunting or particular skill in approaching within shooting distance.

The range at which an air rifle can humanely kill game varies with the power of the rifle and more importantly with the marksmanship of the shooter. All hunting and every hunting shot should be taken with consideration of killing the animal quickly and humanely. Sometimes a shooter will fail at that endeavour but all should try their best not to inflict suffering. Maybe even abort the shot and wait for a better chance.
Never try to shoot a sizeable animal with a commonly available air rifle. That is just plain cruelty, no matter what you view on You Tube. The catch phrase is, "Use enough rifle to kill cleanly." Nevertheless you need to have done your apprenticeship and be competent at hitting the target.

There are some big bore air rifles being manufactured that will cleanly take large animals. They are specialty rifles, often hand made and beyond the average air rifle shooter.

Your hunting target sometimes, but not always, will be bigger than your practice target but you do need to consider the power of your rifle and the right spot on the animal to hit.

The game sought by air rifle hunters is small in size and will include pest birds. More on birds later.

This leads on to places to shoot. The law tells us where we can not shoot but not where we can. You can shoot on your own property in certain circumstances, even suburban property. For hunting the shooter really needs a bit more scope than the average back yard. Farms and forests and orchards are good places but you need the permission of the owner. Some owners refuse permission and some grant it. If you do not have permission you commit an offence and could become a trespasser. At the very least you will arouse the consternation of the land owner. Better to ask first and be sure. Remember there are also special conditions applying to shooting on Crown Land.

When you have somewhere to hunt the next thing is the appropriate rifle. A .177 calibre will take a possum or rabbit or small birds. A low to medium powered  one might struggle to penetrate the tough wing feathers of a magpie and you might just break a wing. A .22 would be better because of its greater hitting power especially as range increases. That certainly does not preclude a .177 as a capable weapon.
The energy level needed to hunt is a much debated topic. Some hunters take rabbits with 6 ft lbs but they are very accurate shooters that put the shot in a very vulnerable spot on the animal. They would not be so course as to settle for a chest shot that a good .22 calibre would easily complete. 12 foot pounds is quite sufficient for possums and rabbits and indeed is all that is permitted in England in air guns rated at less than firearms power. A bit more power wouldn't go astray though. So you don't have to buy a special air rifle. The general purpose rifle used for target shooting and Field Target is ideal but specialised rifles tend to be too delicate and too valuable to lump through hunting terrain.

The best people to talk about hunting are those that hunt so let's hear them.

I was out walking this afternoon and I started thinking about what you do when you are out hunting and I ticked a few things off.

* Camouflage, this applies to the three senses: sight; sound; smell.
Camouflaging against being seen can be as simple as wearing dark non-reflective clothing ( hide the jewellery and belt buckles to), moving slowly and generally removing as much of the "human-ness" from you as possible.

*Staying in the shadow of a bush line and not presenting a silhouette against skylines and, ridges; the gentle art of blending in.
*You can up the ante with break up camo patterns or ghillie suits. The hands and face are some of the most recognisable "human" forms, hands can be taken care of with gloves, balaclava can be used for the head, or paint.
*If using paint, you want to break up the shapes that make a face obvious: the eyes are normally shadowed by the eyebrows, while the nose and forehead are brighter because they stand out, so dark paint on the pointy bits, and light paint around he eyes (racoon style) does a good job.

*Camouflaging against sound is harder, particularly when creeping up on wary prey.
Staying down wind helps, and soft soled shoes, not stepping on branches will help you get in closer.
Using sounds in the environment to mask your movement is also effective - trees rustling in the wind provide cover to move, so to does walking next to a babbling stream, though hunting along streams is made harder by animals being more wary when they take water.
*Fleece clothing is excellent and quiet to move in, while crunchy raincoats should be avoided for obvious reasons. again, going slow will help you here.

*The only known disguise for smell is to stay down wind. Some people swear by never washing their hunting undies, others use masking agents, carbon jackets. It will do you no good if an animal gets a whiff of something unfamiliar. (of course, you could live in the bush and you'd eventually become less smelly)

All that you do contributes to minimising your "presence."
The saying "slow is smooth, smooth is fast" applies to hunting. You're unlikely to ever successfully hunt something if you're stomping around in your red bands and crashing through the terrain.
Going slow gives you more time to notice sign, to hear quarry, it increases the acuity of your senses.
It also keeps your temperature and heart rate down, allowing for quicker, steadier shooting when the time comes.

I also practice expanding awareness, foremost, vision. It involves making a mental note of your peripheral vision and using it. The mind here really comes into it. Training isn't easy, but can be done anywhere, even now as you read. Keep most of your focus on what you're reading, but notice what is around you in your peripheral vision, what is beside and beyond you without actually looking at it.

In the bush there are very few distracting noises, but a similar thing can be done with your hearing. Your brain has learned from a young age to focus your hearing on the conversation, instruction, tv etc), you need to learn to un-focus it. Multi-tasking eh, same thing. Just be more conscious of what you're not directly listening to.

Being tooled up with a long-range gun is nice, but I prefer the old snipers adage: "get closer, if you can't get closer, get steadier"

Anyway' that's what was on my mind as I was walking the gun this arvo, so there it is.

The photographs following demonstrate camouflage in the field. Imagine the the shooter if he was kneeling under the trees in the background and how hard he would be to see.

The 5 S's


From a soldiers perspective, all of the five Ss will give will give you away, when hunting animals. To what degree you take this will determine your success.

We'll break each one down and elaborate its meaning.

SHAPE- This is about breaking up the human body shape, this includes the equipment that you wear and carry, your rifle.
A soldier will attach grasses and other vegetation to his helmet and body to disguise himself, a sniper takes it to another level with a ghillie suit.
If I choose to hunt the golf course in the early morning for rabbits and I walk I'll not get close!!. But if I ride in a golf cart I can get to within 20m!!. Maybe that is more about making use of a familiar routine.

SHINE- This is the removal of all things shiny that may reflect the sun's rays and give you away. It also pertains to when you apply camouflage cream to your face; as you sweat your face becomes shiny and can be seen.

SHADOW- From a soldiers point of view this is about working in natural shadows that buildings and trees cast. If you try looking for someone in the shadows and there is bright sunlight, chances are that you wont see them unless they move. From a hunters perspective its the same deal, if you use the shadows to work  in your favour you can get close to your quarry. If you scan the shadows under trees, take your time and be aware that you wont see your quarry until it reveals itself by any of the 5 S's.

SILOUETTE- This is what happens when you place yourself atop a bank or hilltop and reveal yourself with the sun behind you. By doing this you will be showing yourself to your quarry.
To avoid this happening if you have to move over a ridge you should aim for any trees or shrubs that you can hide in. If its a bare arsed thing then crawl on your belly real slow to avoid being detected.

SUDDEN MOVEMENT- This is the one thing that confirms that it is not a piece of the landscape. It is the biggest giveaway at any time of the day or night. When this happens when hunting rabbits you have several choices, each one will depend on your experience.
Stop and stay perfectly still, ask yourself this, 'did I spook it'?
Watch what happens, by moving very slowly and smoothly into a firing position; if in range prepare to take the shot. If out of range then move closer or just watch to see what happens.
Just by watching and not rushing to take a shot you may see behavioural traits that may lead to more successful hunts in the future.

Ok that's the 5S's taken care of. Stalking is about closing in on the quarry to within range to make a clean kill. So do you just wander on up to it in the hope of it still being there? NO is the answer.

Possums need different technique to hunt or as the purists would say, just shoot. They are nocturnal and they spend a lot of time up in trees.

You dont have to be stealthy to hunt possums as they are curious so make some noise and use lights.
Be ready to take a quick shot as when the move they can be very quick.
Always check behind you when you move to a different area as they will be watching you leave. I've gone back on my rounds many times to shoot a nosy tree bear.
Sometimes just be still with no lights or sound and listen for the scratching on branches or barking.
Try imitating the bark, sometimes you'll entice a reply and then the hunt begins.


Sometimes it does pay to be quiet especially if the possums have either been shot at before or are in an area that you hunt regularly as they do get gun shy, I've seen them jump from the top of 20m trees straight on to the ground with a huge belly flop and limp off before getting close enough to take a good shot, you just never know what they're going to do!  Never stand directly under a possum!
Guess why!

Try turning your lights off and listening; be quiet for a few minutes. If you can then FART it sounds like a possum bark and you can get a bark in reply.

I've found in certain types of trees, especially vines, if you can't hear anything then try grabbing vines or a branch that you can move sufficiently to shake the tree tops, shake it hard and then stop and listen for leaves rusting as that's possums leaving the area, once you hear them it's lights on and race in that direction. Sometimes you'll spot them.

On dark, quiet night's I'll sometimes just fire a shot into the bush and then more often than not the possums will start to bark, it doesn't always work but in thick native I've had results by making no noise, not using lights and just firing the shot and listening.

If it's a full moon or very bright night, my experience is the possums wont be out in large numbers but if it's been very bad, wet weather for a week or so the first 3 nights of clear weather they're all out looking for food.
They seem to favour Poplar trees, Macracarpras, or any tree with new growth. If you spot a possum but can't get a clear shot, leave it because that possum will come back to the same tree night after night and keep eating it till it dies.

Always check the trunks of trees for Claw marks, you'll see fresh ones and know when you've found a tree to keep and eye on. Once you've shot an area out give it a few weeks and new possums will move into the area.

You can bait them with half an apple on a nail, aniseed and lots of other goodies and if you find a decent sized branch lean it against a good looking tree and put your bait above it, possums seem to like natural ramps as opposed to climbing up trunks, I know many trappers who always created ramps and then put their leg hold traps at the top of it where it meets the trunk.

Possums don't mind being out in light drizzle but it's not often you'll find them in rain. If it's windy look for a sheltered area and scan the ground as you'll occasionally find them eating grass or crossing open ground to get to a stand of trees.

If you find one possum, there's usually another not to far away, it's my opinion that they're social among themselves.

The land owner of the property I'm currently hunting showed me a photo of a tree on that property with 16 visible possums in one tree.

Occasionally you'll find yourself running after a wounded possum on the ground. They can get feisty and try to fight you, believe it or not. I've found a good method for dealing with that  is to run after them, jump on their tail while they're trying to escape and if they spin around to fight kick them in the face/throat with your other boot good and hard. That will give you time to reload and put the kill shot in. If you try to shoot them while they're escaping at ground level you'll oftenl miss so you might as well chase them and anchor that tail to the ground.

I always prod a runner when I find it with a loaded gun now as I've grabbed their tails to pick them up thinking they're dead but they were playing possum.

Sure the aim is to kill them as humanely as possible but that's not always easy to do so as a back up I aim to kill them as quickly as possible. That is the next best thing. The  one shot one kill is best but not as common as the 4 shots to get the kill so be prepared for quick follow up shots.

One experienced hunter carries a powerful air pistol as his follow up gun.

If you see a possum running along a branch or climbing higher to get out of sight then don't waste time going for the head shot. Shoot it behind the shoulder as you would a large deer that's a heart/lung shot, if facing you take the throat shot, if your shot is low you'll slam it in the chest (heart/lung) if high in the face which wont always kill it but will slow it down for another shot and if your shot is high you'll get the head.

I read that it's better to shoot them in the eyebrow than between the eyes as their brain has two hemispheres like a human, if your shot is low between the eyes you can drop them but if too high if can lead to them escaping and dying slowly.
As a rule if facing straight on to me I try to shoot Throat, Chest, Eyebrow. From behind aim for the Spine.
If side on behind the shoulder, in the neck or between the ear/eye.

A word or two of experience for those starting out possum shooting.

Most importantly, make sure your airgun is sighted in well before hunting and always use enough gun.

Brand new Air rifles very rarely achieve the velocities that are used to market them to the public. Expect most air rifles to honestly shoot about 150 fps slower than the claimed velocity.

I've tested a few different brands, models and calibers and found none of them shot at the speed claimed so be aware of that when you make a purchase. If your buying your first air rifle with intention of hunting rabbits or possums, ask for advice on the forum and experienced members will help you make an informed choice.

A true 650fps in .22 measured over a Chrony will get the job done if it's accurate as you'll probably never shoot possums out past 30m more often than not they'll be within 6-10m from you.

650fps in .177 will only wound a possum so make sure your airgun is powerful enough at 20m before hunting possums with it.

Using a scope is pretty much essential and you only need either 4 or 6 power magnification.

When hunting small game there are areas on the animal on which a hit has a better chance of a quick kill than hits on less sensitive areas where wounding is likely.
 Always aim to hit a "kill zone."

A rabbit is a lightly built animal and can be taken with an air rifle. The red dots on the rabbits show the best place to land a shot for a quick kill. The yellow dots indicate good places to land a shot from a rifle with adequate power. It should be remembered that air rifles, especially the common spring powered and CO2 powered rifles do not have the muzzle energy and consequently the shock power of a .22 long rifle so accurate shooting to put your shot in the right place is important.

A possum is a much tougher animal than a rabbit and harder to kill. Often the only clear point of aim when possum hunting is the pair of red eyes shining in the light of your torch. Note the torch mounted on the rifle scope in the preceding photograph. You will probably be shooting into a tree at a steep angle so remember to aim a little bit low. The eyes give a clear reference for your point of aim for a clean kill.

A perfect shot. No messy blood on the fur.

A body shot to a possum from an air rifle will in all probability not kill immediately and a quick follow up shot could be necessary. 

Apart from preventing trees being ravaged by possums another benefit from hunting is the sale of possum fur. Somewhere in excess of $100 per kilogram but it takes a few possums to gather that kilogram. The fur is easily plucked while the body is warm but gets more difficult as it cools down.  If the pelt is sought the possum should be skinned when it is cold as the fur then does not pull out of the hide with handling.

« Last Edit: June 06, 2017, 04:20:23 AM by Novagun »