I just looked at the calendar, and realized, that it's only about four weeks until I'll be able to squeeze in a bit of prairie dog hunting before the season ends on March 31st.
Prairie dog season here runs from June 16th through March 31st of the following year, but they are in hibernation mode from around early November, until the third or fourth week of March. Come the tail end of March, as they are emerging from hibernation, I'm always looking to get in a hunt or two before the season ends. The dogs are just starting to come above ground, so there aren't usually a lot of them out yet, but it can be worth a day trip or two.
I've set up two rifles specifically for hunting prairie dogs with. I've learned, that in the windy dog towns around here, I have the best success with a heavy gun. I do all of my shooting from the standing position, with the rifle rested on a telescoping Stoney Point bipod, and the wind will definitely blow a light rifle around, making it very difficult to hold steady on small targets at long range.
A heavy gun resting on the bipod, is easier to hold on target in the wind, than a lighter gun is. I've learned this through many windy, and frustrating hunting experiences.
With my Marauder .25 cal, I've added a laminate stock that weighs about 8 ounces more than the factory stock does. I've also selected a large scope, in the CenterPoint, Power Class 4-16x56mm variable. This scope has a 30mm tube with large glass, and adds another 26 ounces to the overall weight. With scope, scope rings, camera mount, and video camera, the total weight of this rig comes to just shy of 12 pounds. Just what I'm looking for in a long range (by airgun standards) prairie dog rig.
The accuracy of this rifle is as good as it gets. It's an 8 shot repeater, and I take a lot of prairie dogs all of the way out to 100+ yards with it. This rig is more than capable of making head shots at that distance.
The targets below, show the final sight-in group, shot at 65 yards, 5 shots with Beeman 30.8 grain Kodiaks, easily covered with a dime. This rifle also shoots the Benjamin 27.8 grain dome head pellets just as well.
The power level of this rifle, when shooting the 27.8 grain Benjamin domes, is 44 fpe, and 46 fpe when shooting the 30.8 grain Beeman Kodiaks. More than enough power to blow clear through prairie dogs at 100+ yards.
The .25 cal carries some serious energy down range, and this rig is absolute death on prairie dogs at long range.
The second rifle that I have set up, specifically for prairie dog hunting, is my AA 510 TC .22. It's a 10 shot repeater. This gun is a little different from most PCP's, in that it has twin air cylinders mounted side by side, like the barrels on a shotgun. As shown below.
The obvious advantage of that is, more air equals a much higher shot count. In this rifle, I shoot the 18 grain JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy pellets, which generate 29.4 fpe at the muzzle. For hunting purposes, this rig gives me 60 shots on one air fill, where my .25 Marauder gives me 16.
The reality though is, I rarely get enough shots in our local dog towns, on a morning hunt, to use even the 16 shots I have with the Marauder. The exception to that general rule is, from about mid June, to early July, when the years new crop of pasture poodles come above ground.
They are young and dumb, and haven't quite figured out, that coyotes, badgers, hawks, and a dude with an airgun, can be hazardous to their health. During that time period, the shooting can pick up substantially.
Again, for long range shooting in these dog towns, I need guns that are accurate in the extreme. The AA 510 TC more than qualifies in that respect. The below targets show the final sight in target shot at 50 yards.
The three pellet holes in the bullseye, were made during scope adjustments, with the final shot of the three, taking out the small orange dot in the middle of the 10 ring. That group near the eye, is the final five shots, that essentially went through the same exact hole easily covered with an Advil tablet. I would call this rifle a tack driver, but it's way better than that.
The rifle, with Nikko Stirling, 4-16x50mm scope, with 30mm tube and big glass, scope mounts, camera mount, and camera, weighs just a tad over 11 pounds. Again, this beauty also holds nice and steady in a windy dog town.
Next up, I'm going to clean their barrels, clean the lenses on a my binos, and range finder, make sure the scope lenses are clean, check my day bag for appropriate magazines and ammo, and we're ready to kick off the 2012 prairie dog games.
If you would like to see some video clips of these two rifles in action, go to the side bar on the left of this page, scroll down to the "Hunting Video Library" category, click on that, and then scroll through the videos, clicking on the ones you want to view. They start, with some AA 510 TC hunting videos, with a lot of .25 cal Marauder clips in there as well.
Over the fifty plus years that I have been hunting, and shooting, both powder burners and airguns, there have been some rifles that have stood well above their peers in the accuracy department. This FWB 300S is one of them. I call it my 300S sporter. It doesn't have the barrel sleeve, so that helps to keep the weight down, and the stock is some kind of hardwood that has been stained a dark brown. I bought the rifle new, from Beeman, back in the early seventies, but there are no Beeman markings on the gun anywhere. Interesting.
Accuracy wise, the gun is exceptional. I use it to take ground squirrels, with head shots, out to 45 yards. This rifle will shoot either the 7.9 grain JSB Exact Express, or the 8.4 grain JSB Exact pellets really well, with a slight edge going to the 8.4 grain Exact . The rifle generates just under 7 fpe at the muzzle.
With the race for more and more power in todays airguns, some folks miss out on just how effective, and efficient a gun like the FWB 300S can be, as a tool for controlling certain types of small vermin, such as ground squirrels.
I've killed literally thousands, and thousands, of California Ground Squirrels with it over the years. It's a keeper for sure.
Another exceptional shooter is my FWB 300S Tyrolean. It's basically the same gun as my 300S sporter, just sitting in a Tyrolean style walnut stock. This rifle has the barrel weight/sleeve on it, and that adds some weight. Especially out front. Again, this rifle is death on ground squirrels out to 45 yards.
The pellet of choice here is the 8.4 grain JSB Exact. For some reason, the JSB Exact Express do not do well in this rifle. It's a bit on the heavy side, but I really enjoy getting her out for a ground squirrel, or chipmunk hunt a couple of times a year.
The folks at FX Airguns in Sweden, make some exceptional air rifles. Somewhere along the way, they private labeled their Timber Wolf model as the Rapier, for RWS to market under their brand name. The one that I own is one of the most accurate airguns in my collection. In good conditions, it will literally put 18 grain JSB's through the same hole at 50 yards. The sporter type turkish walnut stock, just adds to the classiness of this very accurate rifle.
Instead of a magazine, this rifle has a two shot shuttle. It works great, and I use it to hunt both ground squirrels in California, as well as tree squirrels and prairie dogs here in Arizona.
My FX 2000 was the first FX built gun that I purchased. I acquired it used, and the fellow I got it from told me it was exceptionally accurate, and he wasn't wrong. Like the RWS Rapier, this rifle will also stack 18 grain JSB's at 50 yards.
I used this rifle while filming the first half of my DVD, "Airgun Hunting the California Ground Squirrel." The performance with both 15.9 grain JSB's, and 14.5 grain DYNAMIC tin pellets, has been exceptional. This is the rifle that truly got me hooked on PCP's, pretty much for ever.
No recoil, superb accuracy, that easily surpasses many of my high dollar .22 rimfires, with power to cleanly take ground squirrels, and prairie dogs out to 100+ yards. How can you not get hooked on that kind of performance.
I have a Benjamin Marauder in .22, that I have been very, very, happy with, so when I heard that Crosman was going to bring the Marauder out in .25, I knew that I would have to add one to the collection, and I haven't been disappointed.
My .22 Marauder is very accurate. It hangs right with my AA 410 ERBSL, FX Whisper, and Logun MK II in that department.
My .25 Marauder however, is in that group I mentioned in the title of this story. She is definitely at the top of the accuracy pyramid.
While pellet testing, I was blown away by the accuracy of this particular rifle. The first year I hunted with her, I had her shooting the Beeman 31 grain Kodiaks. I remember, that on my final sight-in target, she stacked five Kodiaks into a group at 65 yards, that I could easily cover with a dime. I then went on to kill prairie dogs with her, out past 100 yards. Incredible accuracy and power, from a PCP that didn't cost a grand or two. This rifle is a keeper, and will remain in my collection for many years to come.
Last, but not least, in my collection of super accurate rifles, is the latest addition, my .22 caliber AA 510 TC. I just added this rifle this past Spring.
The design of this gun kind of intrigued me. Instead of the usual big honkin bottle screwed into the end of the receiver, to increase shot count, the folks at AA went with twin cylinders mounted side by side. Much like with a side by side shotgun.
Having hunted quail with side by side 20's, and 12's, for many decades, I was curious about how this rifle would feel in my hands. I love it. It is a little bit muzzle heavy, and I like that in a long range varmint rifle. I shoot from a Stoney Point telescoping bipod, and this rig sits very nicely on the bipod's yoke, and really helps when going for those long range shots in the wind.
If you've followed any of my prairie dog hunt stories with this rifle, and watched any of the videos, then you've seen me take a bunch of dogs all of the way out to just shy of 100 yards with it.
The accuracy is definitely at the top of the accuracy pyramid in my collection. Her pellet of choice is the 18 grain JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy.
A lot of various guns have passed through my hands over the past five plus decades, but with very few exceptions, the ones that were exceptional, accuracy wise, are still in my collection. The vast majority of guns are accurate, but once in awhile, one comes along that is exceptionally so, and those are the ones that I really cherish, and they find a permanent home in my collection.
At the present time, these six rifles are the cream of the crop among the guns in my airsenal, and none of them are going anywhere, well............... except varmint and small game hunting.
As I've mentioned in the past, I'm fortunate to own some very accurate airguns. They have to be accurate or they wouldn't be in my collection. Among that group are several that are extremely accurate, as in the cream of the crop accurate, and my Marauder .25 is in that elite group.
Last year, I hunted prairie dogs, shooting the Kodiak 30.8 grain pellets, this year, I'm hunting the Benji, 27.8 grain domes. Excellent long range performance with either pellet.
Among the traditional small bore airgun calibers, the .25 caliber is in a league all its own. The energy these Benji pellets carry down range is impressive. The job they do upon impact with a prairie dog is even more impressive.
I prefer head shots, but even upper body, heart lung shots with a .25 caliber pellet, pretty much drop them in their tracks. Every once in awhile I'll have one that will run a few feet, but not often. That .25 caliber wound channel shuts things down in a hurry.
The way the prairie dogs typically react at pellet impact, is pretty impressive also. The energy delivered, many times, will pick them up, spin them around, or knock them completely off of their mounds, even at 90 to 100 yards.
The performance I'm getting from my .25 cal Marauder is everything I had hoped for, and then some.
Here's a refresher video showing a SteelPlinker quadrant paddle target, being hit with the 27.8 grain Benji domes at 50 yards. This really displays well, the power the Benji's are carrying down range with them. No wonder they really pound a prairie dog at impact. The first clip just shows the last two shots I took on a prairie chuck target, after final sight-in. I put three on the one inch spinner in the middle, and then purposely hit each paddle in a different location, to show how they react with different pellet impact locations. The video runs first in real time, and then in slow motion.
Below, are some more video clips from my last prairie dog hunt with my .25 Marauder. They may take 20/30 seconds to load, and run for about 3 minutes 22 seconds.
My pellet of choice for prairie dog hunting this year.
I picked this gun up from Mac1 Airguns last year when they first became available. The accuracy is right up there with the three other most accurate guns I own. Those are an FX 2000, RWS Rapier, and my new AA 510 TC, all in .22 cal.
I have a Crosman CenterPoint, 4-16x56mm Power Class scope, with 30mm tube mounted on the top of her. This is a big scope with a bit of weight. Just what I'm looking for when mounting a scope on a prairie dog rifle.
Most of the time, it's going to be windy in the dog towns, and I want some weight in the rifle, to help me hold it steady in those conditions. My .25 cal Marauder runs 11.75 pounds with scope, camera, and mounts. This has become one of my favorite prairie dog rigs.
Sunrise was at about 5:45, so I was in the town at 6:00, and ready to hunt by 6:15. It can be in the low 90's by 10:00/10:30, so I like to get an early start. There was a time, when the heat didn't effect me all that much, but as I've gotten older, that is no longer true. I should have purchased stock in Gatorade. I've become a really good customer.
I hiked about 300 yards away from the road, and started working my binoculars, looking for prairie dogs out in the sage. One of the first things I saw was a cottontail rabbit, with its ears glowing in the early morning sun. They do that when backlit, and that's what I'm looking for when hunting the little critters. Except, at that point in time, I wasn't hunting them, I was after prairie dogs.
It wasn't long before I started to spot prairie dogs here and there. The vegetation is getting pretty thick and tall, so each trip out there is a bit more challenging as far as spotting the dogs is concerned.
The closest shot of the day was at 40 yards, and the longest was at 101 yards, with lots of targets inbetween.
My Marauder gets 16 full power shots on a fill. Something told me, that it was going to be a good day, with lots of shooting, so I put my AirHog Pigmee tank on my belt and carried it with me. I'm glad I did, I had the best single day hunt I've ever had on this ranch. As a matter of fact, I was having so much fun, that I forgot to take very many pictures. I took a total of two. LOL. I did shoot lots of video though.
Usually, I'm lucky to get ten or twelve shots on dogs, in a three or four hour hunt. This time I got over 40. It was a busy and fun few hours for sure. The Pigmee tank was definitely great to have along.
I was hunting with the Benjamin 27.8 grain, .25 cal dome head pellets. They shoot sub half inch five shot groups at 50 yards, and that's the kind of accuracy you need for hunting prairie dogs at long range. They generate 44 fpe at the muzzle, and average 848 fps, with an extreme spread of only 23 fps. This is on a 3000 psi fill.
Below, are some video clips from the hunt. They may take 20/30 seconds to load, and run about 3 minutes and 45 seconds.
It was an awesome hunt. I've got more video clips that I'll get posted when I have a chance. I'm headed over to California on business for a week, so it'll probably have to wait until I get back. Stay tuned, more Benjamin Marauder air hammer footage coming soon.
Over the past couple of years, I have done a series of stories on my blog about various of my airguns, "earning their keep." What I mean by that is, how have they done when used for the primary purpose that I purchased them for, and that primary purpose of course, is for hunting.
I've had my .25 Marauder for one full cycle of the hunting seasons, almost one year, so I thought I would do an "earning her keep" story about my experiences during last years many hunts with her.
One of the first things I did, after I received her from Mac1 Airguns, was to test some pellets for use in the local prairie dog towns. My pellet of choice for this application, was the Beeman Kodiak, 30.8 grain semi dome head pellets. The above picture shows my final sight-in target, shot at 65 yards, with the Kodiaks. Most of my shooting in the dog towns would be at longer ranges, so a pellet with excellent long range accuracy would be needed. The Kodiak's proved to be a great choice.
I spent most of the summer hunting prairie dogs exclusively with my .25 Marauder, and the performance was simply amazing. I killed prairie dogs all of the way out to just past 100 yards in the wind with her, and never once wished for a more powerful rifle. It has done everything I had hoped for when I bought it, and I am very impressed with its overall performance.
In early October, I switched from hunting prairie dogs with her, to hunting tree squirrels, ground squirrels, and chipmunks. I was having so much fun with the ground squirrels, and chipmunks, that serious tree squirrel hunting got a bit sidetracked.
I also switched from shooting the Beeman Kodiaks, to the Benjamin 27.8 grain dome heads.
One of the fun things about hunting tree squirrels here in Arizona is, there are a variety of other critters that share the same habitat, and are legal to hunt at the same time. It makes for a fun day afield.
The accuracy of my .25 Marauder is simply incredible. I was taking the small Golden Mantle Ground Squirrels out to 70+ yards with no problem. Chipmunks to 60+ yards were almost too easy. I would walk around all day with a big smile on my face. This rifle will do that to you.
Some of the critters taken during squirrel season.
While hunting, I had a video camera mounted to the scope on my .25 cal Marauder, and captured a lot of footage of the shots being made, in real time. Below is a compilation of some of my favorite clips from last years hunts. I think they do a great job of showcasing the power and accuracy of the .25 Caliber Marauder.
The video opens with a clip of a Steelplinker's Paddle Target taking three hits in half an inch, on the one inch center spinner, from the .25 Marauder, shooting the 27.8 grain Benjamin dome head pellets at 50 yards. It really gives you a good feel for the power of the .25 cal Marauder, and does a good job of showing off the energy carried down range by these pellets.
The video may take 20 to 30 seconds to load, and runs 3 minutes, 41 seconds.
My .25 caliber Marauder has most definitely "earned her keep." She's a full fledged member of my hunting rifle collection, and in the accuracy department, holds her own against guns that sell for three and four times the amount she cost me.
I keep hoping someone will come out with an accurate .25 cal non-lead pellet. I would love to hunt California Ground Squirrels with her, but the ranch I hunt requires the use of non-lead ammo only. I'll keep my fingers crossed, and hope we see a non-lead .25 cal pellet at some point in the future.
At the time I received them, the daytime temps around here were running from about 15 to 28 degrees during the day. Anxious to try them in my .25 Marauder, I shot a few groups indoors at 20 yards. The results, shown below, were very good.
We usually get a bit of a warm spell around here about the middle of February. Right on schedule, yesterday was forecast to be 60 degrees. Thirty plus degrees warmer than a few weeks ago. I took the opportunity to get out into the forest, set up my gear, and shoot these .25 caliber Predators out of my .25 Marauder at 55 yards.
I don't have a lot of these to work with, because I sent some of the ones I received to a friend, so he could try them in his .25 Marauder. I gave myself 10 pellets to shoot in this test.
I was shooting over my wind flags, so that I could better manage the prevailing wind conditions. My wind meter indicated that the prevailing wind was running from 6 to 10 miles per hour.
After watching my flags for awhile, I noted that the wind would blow directly at me part of the time, and the velocity would drop a bit. This was the condition that I chose to do my shooting in. I would have to wait a few minutes for that condition to come back around, and then I could get off a couple of shots before it would switch ninety degrees on me.
The first five shots were used to make scope corrections, to get the group printing close to where I wanted it. Those are the shots shown in sequence, in the above picture. My hold was at 6 o'clock on the half inch orange dot.
After shots 3, 4, and 5, I made another small scope adjustment, and fired the last five pellets for group. As seen below, these pellets are very accurate at 55 yards out of my Marauder. The group measures just a hair over .5 inch, .554 to be exact.
I have about three dozen of the .25 Predators left, and I'm saving them to hunt in the prairie dog towns in late March, when the dogs start to come out from their winter siestas. Because of the design of this pellet, the energy transfer from pellet to prairie dog should be very impressive. C'mon late March.
The weather here has been cold. Yesterday, the high was 28 degrees, and today is supposed to hit all of 15 degrees. Since I'm not into frostbite, and I wanted to see what the pellets would do in my Marauder, I decided to shoot a few groups at 20 yards indoors. As soon as the weather warms up, I'll get them out and shoot some groups at 50 yards and beyond.
Twenty yards isn't very far, but in my experience, it's plenty far enough to tell if a particular pellet is going to shoot in a given gun or not. You would be surprised at how many pellets give really lousy accuracy, even as close as 20 yards.
I shot my Marauder off of my Stoney point bipod, just as I would when I'm hunting. It's not as stable as a bench with bags, but I've been shooting this way for so long that I do pretty well with it.
I've got 150 pellets to play with, so I've decided to use them in this way. Sixty are going to be used to shoot groups at various distances. Ten will be shot over the chronograph, and assuming that they are accurate at 50+ yards, the last eighty will be used to hunt with.
I shot three groups of five shots each at 20 yards. Based on those groups, the .25 cal Predators look like they have the potential to be accurate at longer ranges. In my experience with other pellets, when they shoot this well at 20 yards, nine times out of ten, they also shoot well at longer distances. I'll know as soon as we get some reasonably warm weather around here.
We normally get a short warm spell here in the middle of February, and if we do again this year, I'll get these guys out and do some group shooting at longer distances. I would love to use these in the local dog towns come late March. More to follow.
This is a story about Jamie's .25 cal Marauder. With his permission, I've reprinted it from the Yellow Forum.
I had a chance last week, a lull in the storm fronts moving through....nice, warm day, 60 degrees and dead calm.....I called a buddy of mine that has a rock-solid shooting bench, spotting scope and 150yds....but he didn't get home until 3 PM, so I weigh sorted and head sized a tin of JSB exact kings, checked everything out, shot some spinners and just got to know the gun better...
I haven't done anything to this gun out of the box except put it in Michael Chavka's masterpiece of a stock, moved the shroud forward, added a spacer at the back and two more baffles, reshaped the bolt probe a bit, did the trigger mod and adjustments, cleaned the bore, verified the tightness of all the bolts and screws, put a Hawke 4.5-14 tactical on it and have been running pellets and air through it at the cyclic rate....and I thought I was impressed with the .22.....this one's accuracy is a thing of beauty....and I haven't had it across the chrony yet or worked on it's consistency....
I got there, got set up, shot some groups at 50, then 75 and 100yds.....and was thoroughly impressed...without the chrony data yet, at a 3000psi fill, the gun starts low and climbs for the first 5-6 shots, then levels out for about 4-5 shots into amazing accuracy, then starts to drop....again, this is at 100yds, so any inconsistency will be immediately seen...at 25yds, this gun will put 24 shots into one pellet-sized hole, at 35yds, it will shoot 21 shots into one hole, at 50yds it will put 12 into a .395ctc group....75yds results in a full mag into 1/2 inch...
Now, at 25 and 35yds, it will put them all there from shot #1....at 50, on shot #5 it climbs up to center and stays there for 12, at 75 it starts at shot #5 and stays for 8.....at 100yds, it climbs up the target and lays 6 of them on top of each other before it starts to drop.....
After running numerous mags and fills through the gun, and totally wowing the hell out of my buddy, and stupifying his 65 year old father with my 'pellet gun', my spare tank was down to 2800psi....which I'd intentionally not filled for th purpose of trying this gun tethered....I tried this with my GD .22 and the results were not as good as fillng the gun and shooting it through it's sweet spot for some reason....
The .25, untuned however, was a different story altogether....the first 3 shots were not promising...and I'm not sure if the check valve needed to adjust to the constant charge, but they marched up the paper and settled right down...
This first pic is of a fill at 100yds...the one out the top was all me...had to add about a pound back on the trigger...i'd lightened it to ounces to bench it....but I'm used to about 1.5-2 lbs.....so ounces wasn't cutting it....I threw it up out of the group, but you can watch the group climb the paper, and settle into the sweet spot....
One thing I noticed with the gun was that it shifted POI to the right when I tethered it...don't know what that's about, except perhaps the larger volume pushed the tube somehow...the hose wasn't applying any tension...so after the first group, I moved the scope over a couple of clicks...this a full mag..
I shot probably 40 groups, but here are the best of the bunch...I'm going to add some of Greg Davis's goodies to this gun and play with it a bunch....the .22 is amazing....I'm expecting this one to be purely astonishing....Harry, I'm hoping this thing will run all the way to 200yds!
These are all one mag with the exception of the last two, they are 4 shots each..but out of the same mag...
This gun has the most long-range accuracy potential that I've had the pleasure of shooting so far...no, it doesn't have the smack of the Career or the Ranger...but I'm betting once I'm done tuning this thing, I'll run it against any unregulated .25 cal on the Market...
I saved the 25.4 JSB Quarter Bore shot string until last, because except for shooting them at 20 yards indoors, I haven't really spent a lot of time with them. At twenty yards indoors, they are on a par with the 30.8 grain Kodiaks, and 27.8 grain Benjamin dome heads. The prairie dog season had just opened, and I wanted to use the Kodiaks, so I started hunting with them and never got back to the JSB's. In the Fall, I switched to the Benjamin 27.8 grain dome heads for tree squirrels and ground squirrels.
As you can see in the above photo, the pellet to pellet weight consistency is very good. I lubed them with Napier Power Pellet lube.
Shot string on a 3000 psi fill. Factory settings.
1 - 877 10 - 891
2 - 878 11 - 888
3 - 884 12 - 886
4 - 885 13 - 883
5 - 885 14 - 879
6 - 886 15 - 875
7 - 886 16 - 872
8 - 887
9 - 889
AVG - 883 fps
ES - 19 fps
FPE - 44
The sequential shot to shot consistency is very good, as it was with the Kodiaks, and Benjamin pellets. This is one of the reasons that this rifle is so accurate.
At the moment, there are two feet of snow on the ground, but one day next spring, I'll get these guys out and shoot them at 50 and 65 yards. For now though, the Kodiaks and Benjamin's will handle any hunting I may decide to do this winter.