By: Tom Claycomb
Springtime is magical in Idaho. Bear hunting, mushroom hunting, turkey hunting, ground squirrel hunting, and crappie fishing all kick off nearly at the same time. What’s a guy to do? You can run yourself ragged. It’s my favorite time of year. Especially if we’ve had a long winter. Every year I can’t wait for spring to hit.
This year, a buddy wanted me to help him out over in South Dakota. So lately I’ve been flying over there for two weeks and home a week. Then the Proverbial poop hit the fan. That is, the Chinese bat poop.
Everyone started bombing out with the Wuhan Flu. Then 200 people walked off, so I got stuck there for 6 ½ weeks. By the time I made it home, I was sick and down for a week. Uggh, if I missed my spring activities, I would die, not from the Wuhan flu, but from a broken heart!
But don’t worry about little Tommie. I’ve been hustling hard to make up for lost time. But in the midst of it all, suddenly I remembered. I hadn’t been pigeon hunting yet with my airguns. Spring is the best time to hunt pigeons.
The last six years I’ve been hunting exclusively with .22 cal. Airguns, but Justin Biddle, the Director of Marketing at Umarex, talked me into moving up to a .25 cal. Boy am I glad he did. Just like there is a noticeable difference in the killing power of a .22 as compared to a .177, I quickly discovered that there is also a big difference in a .25 as compared to a .22. The .25 cal. flattened a lot higher percent of the pigeons as compared to when I’m hunting with a .22. Suddenly I’m all about .25 cal. airguns.
Justin told me that their Umarex Gauntlet was an accurate and yet affordable PCP. Coming in with an MSRP of only $299, I have to agree. My other PCPs cost twice that much, and you can pay nearly 10 times that much if you want to.
The rifle arrived last week. I mounted the scope right fast and ran out to the high desert to zero it in. My last group was a 3-shot, 1/16-inch center to center group. As my wife’s kindergarten kids would say, “Wuh-Row!” this thing was going to be a shooter.
Right away I lined up a pigeon hunt at a feedlot. Let me deviate one moment: If you get into airguns, it will open up a whole new set of hunting opportunities for you. I don’t know if I’ve ever been turned down to hunt anywhere with my air guns. They won’t spook livestock like powder burning guns, and the farmers and ranchers like for you to thin out the pigeons and starlings. They roost in their barns and poop on their equipment, mess in the feed bunks and transfer diseases to their life stock, and overall make a mess.
The first spot I always hit on this ranch is a big barn by a set of big silos. I parked and slipped up to the barn. It’s always hard to get a shot at them roosting in the rafters before they scatter. And so they did this time. I then hid in the barn and waited for them to light on the top of the silos.
I didn’t have a long wait, and here they came. I’d shoot, and they’d fly off, and then 2-4 minutes later, 2-6 more would come dropping in and land. The shooting was hot and heavy. I had high hopes due to the groups that I was getting when I sighted it in, and I wasn’t disappointed. I only missed two shots, and one of them was when I was trying to do a head shot on a pigeon at the top of a silo. I even hit a sparrow on top of the silo, which is 6-flights of stairs tall. I’m telling you, the Umarex Gauntlet is now officially my best shooting airgun.
Pretty soon, a couple of cowboys showed up, which is the norm; I have a bunch of buddies down there. We had a great time taking turns shooting. They finally decided they had to get back to work, so I changed spots and went over to check out the sick barn, which houses their sick horses. This ranch saddles up 150 horses/day, so it’s a big outfit.
I usually always pick up a few at the sick barn, but it was really hot that day. After shooting a few pigeons and Eurasian doves, I wore out my welcome in that spot, and then drove the alleyways for a bit and then went back to check out the silos. I snuck up and peeked inside the barn. I could see a pigeon, but due to the glare of the sun, it took me a second to be able to locate him in the scope. I ended up popping one or two in the barn and then hid and set up to monitor the silos.
Before long, they came dropping in, and the firing began again semi-hot and heavy. After a while, things slowed down, so I whipped out a PB/banana sandwich and took a 5-minute break. I’d thinned them out a little, but 7 had dropped on top of the silos. I’d never climbed up there before, but wanted to get them, so I found a set out stairs and took off. Gee, this was almost like sheep hunting.
I finally got up top and started kicking off the dead birds. I could only retrieve 3 pigeons and a sparrow. Another one was out on a bad ledge, and another had fallen in a hole, and who knows where the other 2 were. At first it seemed like the 2 lying dead on the ledge were spooking the incoming pigeons, but once 3 landed and one of them started breeding the dead one. Who knows, maybe I ought to start setting decoys up there?
I should of taken my Gauntlet up there. Twice I came around a corner and could of shot pigeons. They’re spooky when I’m on the ground, but up there I got within 20 feet of a couple. Who knows, maybe up that high they just figured I was a big bird!
So, as we come to a close, if you aren’t into airguns, you need to start thinking about it. I’ll talk to our favorite editor Teresa and see if she’ll let me write a few airgun articles to catch you up to speed. Until then, start baiting the pigeons and getting prepared!
SIDENOTE, GEAR USED:
-A Umarex .25 cal. Gauntlet PCP air rifle was used for this hunt.
-JSB .25 cal. Exact King Diabolo pellets were used on this hunt. Super accurate.
-To bone out the pigeons, I used the new Knives of Alaska “Professional Boning knife”. (It hasn’t hit the
market yet but you should be able to buy one by this fall.)
-Air Venturi Nomad II air compressor.
Tom Claycomb III is a product tester for outdoor manufacturers, hunter, and outdoor writer, writing from Idaho.