I was recently invited on a predator hunt in West Texas, to help thin out the coyotes and bobcats causing some headaches for a local rancher. The land was being converted to a wildlife /hunting preserve, but after years of a no hunting policy by the past owner, predators had gotten out of control. Predator hunting experts Cody Brunette and Chris Keys had been asked to come in and control their numbers, and asked if I’d like to come with them. Knowing my fondness for airguns, they mentioned I should bring one along to take a side trip for prairie dogs and jackrabbits. They told me there was a population explosion on another of the ranches they take care of. Well, this sounded like a winning deal to me; predators all night and varmint in the day!

On the Road to Texas!

Getting ready for the trip from Indianapolis to Midland Odessa I confronted the perennial challenge, how to get all my gear onsite without spending more in excess baggage than the cost of the airfare. I wanted to take three guns on this trip, but outside of the massive safari case used for long overseas trips, none of my cases would conveniently fit three full sized rifles. I finally settled on disassembling the guns removing the actions from stocks and demounting the scopes so that they’d fit into a standard two rifle case.

I’d originally planned to carry a couple of small tanks and a hand pump for keeping the guns charged. But while doing some advanced ground work, I went online to look for a paintball shop where I could get the tanks filled, and lo and behold found a dive shop…. In the middle of Texas, go figure! Calling to see if they could fill my tanks, the owner asked if I just wanted to rent tanks instead of hauling my own cross country. He arranged to have three bottles filled and ready, so all I had to carry along was the yoke and fill probes. I was a bit apprehensive without the safety net of even a handpump, but the shop owner had done business with airgunners in the past and assured me they would have everything I’d need. So in the end I got all the gear required packed into my duffle and a standard rifle case.

I had found a good deal on airfare online, but did encounter some hidden charges. I had to pay additional fees for my checked baggage and excess weight, if you’re watching your budget consider these costs before buying your ticket. Checking my gun case was trouble free; I filled out the forms, confirmed the guns were unloaded, and stood by while it went through TSA. Getting your guns squared away is always hit or miss, and depends on whose working at the airline check-in and security counters, as the only consistency to be expected these days is inconsistency. Airguns are viewed and handled as firearms, and as a rule I don’t even mention that they are airguns as this seems to totally confuse most airline representatives. But it was my day and after a few minutes wait for the gun case to clear, I was in my seat and on my way!

Flying into Midland a few hours later, I looked out the window to see an expanse of open land that looked like a giant game board with green vegetation and red earth checkering the landscape. This looked like endless hunting opportunity and I could not wait to get in the field. I was keeping my fingers crossed that the guns had made the transfer on my Dallas stop over, as I ran through a mental check list of what needed to be done on arrival (get gear, pick up tanks, drop off bags and put guns together, etc.). The approach was bumpy, and as it turned out the winds bouncing our little commuter plane around as the girl behind me sat retching would be my unwelcome companion for the next few days.

On the ground, my bags came rolling out quickly and seemed in good condition with no visible dents. I wheeled my gear outside and called Cody on my cell phone, and waited until I saw his full sized hunt-mobile pull up to the curb. I threw my kit in the back and we headed over to collect the scuba tanks. There were three tanks filled to 3400 psi waiting for me as promised, and all my connectors fit perfectly…. Off to a good start! I was dropped by my hotel to get checked in and sorted out, grabbed a fast bite to eat, and then headed out for an afternoon prairie dog shoot.

I wasn’t sure if I’d need optics (outside of my scope that is) on this trip or not. I always bring a spotting scope when heading out for a varmint shoot with my centerfires, but around a hundred and twenty five yards was going to be as far as I’d be stretching it with an air rifle. I packed binoculars and a spotting scope to be safe, but in the end only used the binocs. And they did come in handy for viewing the area between shots and picking out my rodent targets from the cow patties.

Guns and Gear

The gun I’d chosen to take along for smaller quarry was the AirArms S410 FAC. This superbly crafted rifle is an affirmation of excellence in British gun design. Every component of this gun is flawlessly executed; from the ergonomic stock, to the rugged and reliable action, to the overall fit and finish. The .22 caliber rifle I’ve been shooting is spitting out pellets at velocities in the mid 900 fps range, packing a walloping 31 fpe. This gun is cocked using a side lever action which I find to be a marked improvement over the traditional bolt action, and makes it fast to cycle the 10 shot rotary magazine. The magazine is quick and easy to fill, and digests a wide range of pellet styles, though I opted for Crosman Premiers as the best all around hunting load.

I like the CP pellets for a couple reasons, weighing in at 14.3 grains these round nose pellets are particularly accurate in the rifle I was going to use, and I know from past experience they perform well on small game. These pellets are purchased in bulk, and come packed in a box of 650 pellets per box. I transfer a couple hundred pellets into small fishing lure storage boxes for carry in the field. It is a smart practice to shoot the same pellets used for plinking and target practice as those that will be used for hunting, reduce the variables in your field gun wherever you can.

The accuracy obtained with this gun is really impressive, facilitated by the 12 grove Lothar Walther barrel and two stage adjustable trigger. Checking my guns zero after remounting the scope, I was getting fifty yard groups that opened up to at 100 yards. I don’t often reach out this far with my small bore airguns, but I’d been tasked with aggressively thinning out the varmints and would take long shots when presented. I knew this gun would be up to it! The other aspect of S410 I really like is the beautifully checkered walnut thumbhole stock. It is a dream to shoot standing, sitting, prone, or anything in between.

The optics mounted on my rifle was the Niko Stirling 3-9x50mm scope with adjustable objective, which can be optimized from 5 yards to infinity. The optical quality is clear, sharp, and offers excellent low light characteristics, the perfect compliment to this gun.

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