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Education / Training Big bore airgun hunt – Part 2

Big bore airgun hunt – Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

The Wildlife Ranch puts you up for a night, so there are no room rents but you’re on your own for food. Fortunately, the town of Mason has several nice restaurants, as well as a small grocery store. We were in town during the height of deer season, which runs all November and December, and everywhere we went we ran into other hunting parties hunting on different ranches. The signs in every building in town told us that hunting is the principal industry in this central Texas community.


Texas Wildlife Ranch in Mason, Texas was the headquarters for our two hunts.


Inside the store, a wide variety of game animals are displayed. The full-body mount on the right is an aoudad ram–our first quarry.

The morning of the hunt dawned with the threat of a thunderstorm. By the time we arrived at the ranch to pick up our guide, it was 6:45 and the heavens finally opened, delaying our start for an hour. Not that we might melt in the rain, but a Texas thunderstorm is not weather in which you want to be walking outside. So, it was about 8 a.m. when we finally reached the hunting grounds.

Eric ran his gas-powered compressor to fill a pony bottle to 4500 psi, which gave him three refills of air for the hunt. We would be hunting several miles from the trucks, so this is like carrying extra cartridges for a firearm.


Henderson fills a pony bottle before setting out.

We initially stalked a herd of Sitka deer, but after more than an hour and a couple failed stalks, they ran into a huge open field where we lost all chance of getting close.

Going through the country, we came upon several places where coyotes had finished an animal and left the remains to be picked clean.


Coyotes hunt in packs to bring down the weak and the young. You see bone piles like this everywhere. I found a complete aoudad skull with horns in the rocks during the stalk.


Talk about Jurrasic Park!

Eric decided to finally go after the aoudad ram he’s been wanting. Also known as the Barbary sheep, the aoudad is the most elusive animal at the Texas Wildlife Ranch. They live in the high rocks that offer them good visibility of any approach, and they spook easily. Getting to within airgun range or under 100 yards was going to be an ordeal.


The rocky terrain preferred by the aoudad will get your heart pumping after a few minutes!

Why a hundred yards, when I already told you Eric had bagged a goat two days before at 147 yards? Well, the aoudad is several times the size of the goats Eric bagged. They can weigh 225 to 300+ lbs. and are tough as nails. It takes not only great power to drop one but a perfect shot in the boiler room, which is the heart-lung area. Eric’s Quackenbush .308 is simply not enough gun for this game. It can drop a whitetail deer, but not an aoudad.

So, he was hunting with a Quackenbush Outlaw .457 Long Action, a 550 foot-pound rifle. He scaled back to a light 300-grain bullet to get a flatter trajectory, but that was as far as he dared to go. And that combination gave him a 100-yard rifle. However, with some careful movement through the high rocks that are this sheep’s natural habitat, he was able to get closer.

Three times he stalked the animal, and three times the game bolted before he could take the shot. Our team of four plus the guide probably walked two miles through the high rocks before a good shot was possible. But when it came down to business, one was all it took!


Henderson took this trophy aoudad buck with one .45-caliber bullet from his Quackenbush .457 Long Action.

We broke for lunch after Eric’s successful hunt. A drive into Mason landed us at the local pit beef barbecue place for our maximum daily ration of cholesterol. Then, back to the ranch to meet Richard, our guide for the second hunt.

This time, Paul Capello was the hunter and Eric armed him with the Quackenbush .457 Destroyer. He chose .457 Hornady round balls because Paul’s intended animal was a Merino sheep–a little smaller and less secretive than the aoudad.

When we unloaded in the hunt tract, we immediately saw small herds of different exotics roaming in the field. We were on a tract in which the animals would cost either $185 or $300, depending on the size and horn development. The Merino sheep is widely regarded as having the finest and softest wool in the world, as many sweaters and high-grade mattress pads can attest. They’re pure white, though in the wild they get covered with dirt and look dingy gray.

We walked about a quarter-mile into the tract before spotting a pair of Merinos that looked interesting to Paul. It took two stalks in the 85-degree heat of the Texas sun before he got to a good spot, but all was not well with the sheep. The two males were standing side by side, and one shot would have taken them both, so Paul had to wait for them to separate. It took several minutes before the larger of the pair decided to walk off on his own, giving Paul a good shot at about 40 yards. Remember, he was shooting with open sights.


Not one but two sheep are standing side-by-side just left of center at 40 yards (enlarged for definition). We had to wait for them to separate.

His first shot was right through the boiler room, as we learned later, but the animal didn’t fall. This is characteristic of hunting with a big bore and it’s very similar to bow hunting. After waiting several seconds, the animal became wobbly, so Paul put a second ball through him within two inches of the first one. That knocked him over, and it was quiet shortly thereafter. Both balls completely penetrated the sheep and were lost, but a fragment of one was embedded behind a rib, where it had become lodged on its way out.


Paul’s Merino was a good one, dropped with two good shots. The pelt will clean to pure white.

Eric’s aoudad is a $3,500 trophy–highly sought-after by hunters around the world. Paul’s Merino was $300. Prices at the Wildlife Ranch start at $185 for smaller animals and go up to $4,000 for a trophy bison. A whitetail deer trophy runs a flat $1,500. Compare that to paying a minimum of $2,500 a year for a deer lease, which brings additional expenses and no guarantee of success. Texas has almost no public land on which to hunt, so these are the best options for most hunters. Having lived in Washington state, Maryland, Kentucky and Ohio, where public hunting is free and plentiful, I know how absurd that sounds. After living in Texas for five years, I also know it’s the truth.

For those of you who don’t live in Texas, exotic game ranches are a huge boon, because you can fly in, hunt and fly back home. The trophy and any taxidermy can be shipped to you later, and the meat can be frozen for shipment, as well. Many hunters choose to let the meat be donated to one of several local food kitchens, so nothing goes to waste.

Remember, this was a blog about hunting game with a big bore airgun. No state has yet enacted legislation to allow big bore hunting, so this is one very viable option. When you buy that Career Dragon Slayer, you can start dreaming of your own big bore hunt.

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

52 thoughts on “Big bore airgun hunt – Part 2”

  1. Good morning B.B. The kids and I enjoyed the pictures. Took awhile to find the sheep. Has anyone tried using patches on the round balls? I’ve asked that because of a conversation with a friend who is a black powder shooter. Have a great day one and all Mr B.

  2. You mentioned no state ALLOWING big bore? Is that a typo, or are there restrictions on using air rifles on big game hunting, or is it just an issue that has never come up in the legislature? JP

  3. Hi B.B.,Sounds like a real exciting trip. Before I got into air gunning I would not have believed that game that size could be taken cleanly with an “air rifle”It certainly was an eye opener.Have a question. In a previous article,you commented that you thought Air Arms ammo was made by JSB.I’ve tried both in my TX200.They look exactly alike and perform very similar.Sometimes it goes back and forth as one performs better than the other at differt times.My cal.is .22 and AA AMMO gets does not get the good reveiws that JSB’s get. Any thoughts why? Thanks for this great info.center.

  4. Hi B.B.,

    found the hunting article as interesting as always, and all the talk of big bores has me wanting to buy one (maybe when Air Force makes the Talon in 9mm…). Off the subject, I mentioned earlier converting a Crosman 2240 into a pre-charged, which would open up all sorts of possibilities since the gun is already one of the most willingly modified models available (and a great gun too). I did some searching and apparently it’s been done independently many times with success. Do you think Crosman has any PCP plans for 2240 (or any pistols)in the future? The success of the Discovery and the included pump (power source) has made the concept of PCP’s much more attainable. Actually, just having the choice at the Crosman website where you pick options – getting CO2 or PCP would seem more cost-effective. Like how PA gives you the option of an Air Venturi gas ram for several springer models.. I’m just dreaming at the moment, as I haven’t purchased a new airgun in over 6 months and I’m having withdrawal effects. It doesn’t help that Wayne is purchasing a new one every entry..

  5. Well done, BB. Glad you’re home safe and sound and no accidents out there in the hunt. But giving up stalking game just because it’s in an open field? Carlos Hatchcock wouldn’t have given up! (kidding of course). On my weekly bicycle ride yesterday, I passed a young buck on the side of the road. Fortunately, it decided to walk back into the woods rather than trying to knock me off the bicycle. These 200 pound rats here in NJ are even scarier when I’m going 50 mph on one of my motorcycles.

  6. Air Arms Ammo,

    Why did people want Firebirds more than Cameros in the 1970, when they were so close to the same car? Perception is everything.

    Have you noticed that I often mention Beeman Kodaiks and H&N Baracudas in the same breath? Same pellet.


  7. Some states also identify legal hunting arms by characteristics that exclude air guns — “center fire rifles or handguns”, “handguns firing straight-wall center-fire handgun cartridges”, “shotguns shooting slugs” and the like. The third case will normally define “shotgun” in some fashion as a firearm — which still excludes air guns.


  8. BB, this question is off topic, BUT…I finally broke down and bought a Talon SS. I finally got around to shooting some groups yesterday, and discovered that Silent Sally (yeah, guys name EVERYTHING!) really likes Beeman Kodiaks. It certainly did not like Eun Jin 28-grain domes. As this is my first PCP I did’t fiddle with the power setting at all (I left it on 6 per the manuals’ suggestion). I’ve heard good things about the Eun Jins…should I give them another chance at a higher power setting? Or perhaps a different range than 22 yards (that’s the longest range I have in my fenced-in yard).


    Nate in Cincy

  9. CowboyDad here, and OT.
    B.B., I can’t wait for the Air Force rear diopters to ship (you did a report on them about a week ago).
    Last night I got to try a friends Feinwerkbau 700. I couldn’t believe how crisp the sight patterns of the sights on that rifle were compared to the stock sights on my 853c.
    I thought the included sights (on the 853), weren’t bad…but now it seems I may as well be looking through a toilet paper roll.

  10. Nate,

    You can bump the power setting up to 10 and try the Eun Jins, but they really weren’t made for the SS. They were made for rifles like the Condor and the Korean guns that pump out more than 50 foot-pounds.

    And try JSB Exacts – the 15.8 grain pellets. They will probably be better in your SS.


  11. Western PA,

    I hope they make a Discovery pistol! That would fill the gap for pistols that the Benjamin Discovery filled for rifles. In the mean time, I guess we’ll have to do our own conversions :).

    .22 multi-shot

  12. Nice article. I am amazed at the size of game big bore air rifles can take down.

    Different topics:
    1.Can you explain why oxidized pellets are bad? I have a couple of tins which I don’t wnat to throw out. Can they be salvaged?
    2. How does the accuracy of the AirForce Edge compare to the Daisy 853c? I am thinking of buying the AirForce dioper rear sight for my 853c. But since the cost of the sight is about 1/3 of the cost of the Edge…I just might go for the the rifle instead.


  13. B.B.

    Are those prices you mention, the cost one has to pay to hunt the animal in question? Wow. Regarding the thunderstorm at the outset, I just bought a rain jacket from Cabela’s that will shed water better than I had thought possible. It is utterly dry both inside and out after holding the sleeve under the kitchen faucet for a minute or so. I would like to match that against a Texas thunderstorm.

    All, here’s a little range action this weekend shooting my Savage 10FP sniper rifle at 50 yards. Each group is 4 shots which is the capacity of the rifle.



    The first I make to be .3 MOA CTC and the second about .7 MOA CTC. I mention this because

    1) The Leapers 6-24X50 scope has utterly vindicated itself as far as I am concerned. The click adjustments were utterly precise, and the image was very clear at 16X at sunset. Forget about Leupold and Swavorski. I don’t need any better than your Leapers scope at less than $100.

    2) A propos of our conversation about twist rates, 69 grain bullets for a 1:9 twist rate for .223 seem to be just about right. Sierra Match King hollowpoint bullets and whatever Black Hills does with their remanufactured ammo does not hurt either.

    3) Wayne, I think I have found a worthy foe for your S410. I’m practicing the sitting position with a sling so maybe we can give that a try. Don’t neglect your Ruger M77. Your good bolt-action is hard to beat.

    On a different note, Kevin and Volvo, sure enough the Winchester 94 fed flawlessly with real ammo (Federal Powershocks) in contrast to the snap caps. However, I tried working the lever from the offhand position, and sure enough got a few casings in the head. The solution is simple enough. A baseball cap deflected all of the brass–although I could feel the heat of them. I suppose a cowboy hat would be even more effective and were probably standard for John Browning’s original clientele. However, I can’t help but think that this is a little lapse in the genius of John Browning. Why couldn’t he have had the cases deflect at 2 o’clock or away from the shooter at some other angle? Given that the real men of those days were so tough that they didn’t even bother with hearing protection, maybe hot cases in the face didn’t bother them either.


  14. Hi Matt,

    I think B.B. might have been referring to Texas lightning, which even Cabelas is no match for. I grew up in Houston, where you have to beware of angry Texas drivers rather than thunderstorms.


    Joe B.

  15. Stingray,

    I haven’t tested the Edge yet, so I don’t know how it compares to the Daisy 853.

    I shoot oxidized pellets all the time. But when they become pure white and start flaking off, they change dimensions. At that point the only salvage is to toss them into the lead pot for casting bullets.


  16. B.B.,

    Just out of curiosity, which magazines do you read regularly…Guns & Ammo, Field & Stream/Outdoor Life, Airsoft International, Shotgun News?

    And why are there no American airgun/airsoft magazines(that I know of…or /are/ there?)?

    Joe B.

  17. Joe,

    I read Shotgun News, in which I write a monthly airgun column and 4 to 6 feature articles a year. I also read Shooting Times, which has the best technical articles. And I read American Rifleman.

    There was a newsstand airgun magazine several years ago, but it went under. There is a hobby magazine called Airgun Hobby that I recommend. It’s quarterly and it has some great articles about collecting and technical stuff.


  18. Weatern PA,

    Don’t forget I’m doing a rifle range here.. you don’t have to keep up with me!! But I’m sure PA would love it if you did…


    I’ve been shooting the USFT and Air Arms S410 .177, head to head… 25 dots each… and I don’t know how any two guns could be more accurate.. The 410 is lighter and easier for me to hold. The USFT is a lot heavier, and my nesting arm gets tired from the weight. I guess that is why most people use the knee stand, and go directly to the knee without the arm under. But I like to lock my left hand back into my right arm, to connect to my left knee…. then I’m a lot more solid. The extra weight of the USFT might make it more solid, but the groups are both about the same, mostly one hole 1/4 – 3/8″ – 5 shot at 18 yards indoors in the FT sitting position.. Even in a bench rest, they do about the same..
    HHMMM….. Should I be happy the Air Arms is as good as the USFT, or be sad the USFT is not better than the Air Arms… Of course, I should get better with the USFT, as I shoot it more. I’ve been shooting the S410 for six months now.. at least 15,000 shots or more, so I’ll see more with time..

    Let me know when your ready for a “show down”

    Ashland Air Rifle Range

  19. B.B.

    Ah yes, the lightning would have me running for cover.

    Wayne, I have thought that 16 pounds is a lot of weight to hold over time. Fantastic that the S410 keeps getting better. If you get the same results as the USFT with lighter weight that sounds pretty good. Okay, I’ll try the Savage police rifle at 25 yards next time as well as the B30 which didn’t get a showing the other day.


  20. B.B.

    Your hunt reminds me of my elk hunt with the marlin 336 30/30. Both needing to get close, to do the job right. Your terrain is much more open, but still some hiding pockets, for the game.

    But come to Oregon, next time. You can hunt here for a lot less money. And do lots of other stuff while your here. "Come on down" or up as the case may be!! I'll make room for you here at my house or Randy's next door.

    Eastern Oregon high desert has high country rams and antelope, and plenty of hills to get your heart pumping..


  21. BB,

    I was hoping for something more dramatic, e.g., Paul shooting a charging cape buffalo and you pumping furiously on a hastily adapted Discovery pump so he could take a follow-up shot before both of you were gored:).

  22. bb i live in a relatively rural neighborhood and have some neighbors close by. i am looking for an affordable but accurate pcp air rifle. i plan on using it for medium range relaxed target shooting (50-60 yards) and pest controll. inthe past i have come extremely close to purchasing a disco, but have changed my mind several times. recently i started looking at a talon ss for the noise reducer. con this rifle outperform the disco? do you have any group sizes for this rifle (i am also interested in some 20 yard group sizes)? if i decided to purchase the talon, what meathod would you reccomend to charge it? i was thinking that i needed either a refill tank or a pump because i’m not driving o a store every 30 shots. any recomendations? hopefully this all pays off and in the future i’m posting exciting stories of me and my rifle; but until then
    john from jersey

  23. John,

    A Talon SS should be quiet enough for you, and if not, you can install a bloop tube from Airhog.


    Want to see what kind of group an SS will make at 35 yards? Just read my article about a 10-minute sight-in. That was done with a .22-caliber SS.


    As for filling from a pump or a scuba tank, that depends on you. I don’t mind a pump. I have three and I use them all the time. But some people get really bothered by having to work to fill the gun. They are better off with a scuba tank, and a carbon fiber tank is best of all.


  24. Bg – farmer,

    Best smile of the day. My mental picture was of the Disco still hooked to the pump as a Cape Buffalo was coming in at full speed. Faster, faster…

    Anyway, since I have not been able to get an AA S410 vs. FX Whisper comparison out of Wayne, I broke down and bought a Whisper. I gave up an HW Springer and the Disco for it.

    I think this means I can definitely make the QB-78 a Christmas gift.


  25. I’ve been to Texas one time. Back in December 1987. Being from out of state, we were frequently reminded that we were number one by those using a not so freindly hand gester.

    Later on there was a snow storm and many, not used to winter driving, slid off the road from driving too fast. We eventually caught up to our favorite hand gesturing car load of people, who were stuck in the ditch, and we waved backed using our new found “you’re number one hand gesture.”

    We slept out under the open stars..well for one night in fear of rattle snake. Nothing like grabbing the center of your sleeping bag and running like mad.

    We aslo rode horses, roped and herded cattle…and lived off the land. ok they were little calves…and we dranks soda and ate beef jerky, but still a lot of fun.

    From the “hey mon” people with the knit hats in Galveston, to the roudy street parties in San Joses and the knuckle busting rig worker, Texas is quite diverse.

    As for deer hunting, you need to go north. They’re practically giving the licenses away and there are probably more deer here than people.

  26. wow some impressive groups! i’m thinking about the air pump. how is the airforce one? do i need any attachments to use on a talon? any cheaper pumps that will also work?

  27. John,

    Any hand pump will work. The AirForce pump is just more robust, like the Hill.

    If you get the AirForce pump with the rifle it will be set up to fill your gun. Be sure to tell them that’s what you are going to do, so they don’t sell you something they made up for the general market.


  28. Volvo,

    Is there still time to ship it to me first, then you get the comparison.. otherwise how will we know? I'll find the best pellet and send you a box of five tins of them, for a three day trial.. Do it for science… It's a long time until Christmas and you wouldn't open until then anyway, would you?
    I'll bring it with your other presents… Santa…


  29. BB,

    This is a little off topic, but my new R7 5mm arrived 11/22. The Beeman manual is not rifle-specific, and after reading it I have a couple of questions.

    1.) Since the R7 doesn’t seem to have much recoil, is a scope stop necessary?

    2.) This statement appears in the manual: “Most rifles will require a barrel angle correction if you add a peep sight (which I would like to do).” What is a barrel angle correction?


  30. Ah, I had to get my map out. San Atnonio was the place we went from what I remember not San Joses. Austin had few malls and Dalles a few tall buildigs, Forth Worth was the place to be…we had a lot of fun there. That’s where all the street parties were. Then again, we drank a lot and danced all night long. Well that’s my guess.

  31. bb 2 more questions for today. First are there any guages out that attach between the airforce tank and a talon? Also, how many times would a 13 cu foot scuba tank fill an air force tank?
    THANK YOU!!!
    john from jersey

  32. John, B.B. gave me the same advise about a Talon SS with one difference because I am also interested in shooting woodchucks he suggested buying optional 24″ barrel also. I have a Discovery so I wasn’t faced with having to buy a pump and put those dollars into a bloop tube for each barrel.

    Either configuration will put the pellets on top of each other. My targets consist of shooting at a pellet hole in a piece of cardboard, at 20 yards, which I expect to hit.

    The 24″ barrel with bloop tube running wide open on air is absolutely silent except for the hammer slap while the 12″ with its bloop tube makes a tiny poof sound along with the hammer slap. With either set up my neighbors don’t have a clue unless we shoot the swinging steel bird.

    I’m a senior that weighs 150 lbs soaking wet with CPOD, just a little touch, and can use the pump with some huffing and puffing. I tell my lungs that the workout is good for them:)

    I have two Dianas,( a 350 Magnum and a 35), a Discovery, a Benjamine 392, and a 1077, but the SS has become my go to gun.

    AirForce is having a special and if you buy the gun before Christmas you’ll get the CO2 adapter for free. A great deal and the CO2 works well for paper punching and tree rats at 20 yards.

    Let us know what you decide to do and how it works for you. Mr B.

  33. Volvo,

    I saw your purchase on the yellow.. congrats!! But you need me to put a scope on it for you… how about a 6-24x50AO leapers.. send it here first for a contest with the Air Arms S410 and USFT…

    Maybe some accuracy will rub off onto it while it's here..


  34. Witt,

    A scope stop is necessary if you want to keep the scope from moving. That’s why there are holes on top of the receiver.

    A barrel angle correction means that the barrel will probably droop downward. Beeman will correct this for you so a peep sight can be used and have enough adjustment to get on target.


  35. Wayne,

    Thanks for the offer, but I’m afraid once you see how sweet the FX is you will not want to part with it, and I don’t want to put you through that pain.

    If I had not convinced you to order the Blue Book, I would offer to trade you straight up for my new tuned QB-78 for your .22 AA S410. : )


    B.B. is 100% correct, but you may find the BeemanWilliams sight will work without any changes to the rifle. Beeman use to mark the boxes for select barrel angle, is yours marked? Wonderful choice by the way.


  36. After reading this article I emailed the NC wildlife resources commission about hunting large game specifically deer with Big Bore air guns. There response: “These larger bore air rifles have been gaining popularity over the last several years and they are legal to use in North Carolina.” So that at least makes two States it is legal to hunt big game in. This season I got a five point buck with my .458 DAQ.

  37. BB., I've recently discovered your blog and I'm amazed at the amount of information you share on almost a daily basis. I've been reading your hunting blog and I think I've found something that isn't quiet right. You stated that Texas has almost no public hunting land when in fact it has more than 1.2 million acres, a large portion is located just outside Conroe. Now the downside is you have to purchase a $48 permit to hunt. Thanks for all the info. keep it coming.


  38. Knothead,

    Welcome to B.B.'s blog which is written on a daily basis Mon-Fri. (www.pyramydair.com and click on blog). You're right, the amount of info is staggering. The blog's search engin is a wonderful tool.

    Come pay us a visit at the current blog. Weekends are filled with many difrferent topics. You never know what you'll find. Looking fwd to seeing you there.

    Mr B.

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