239 PESTS IN TWO FARM HUNTS: PELLET RIFLE BROKE; HW30/BEEMAN R7 VORTEK TUNE KIT.
Our 2011 farm and ranch pest totals are listed below.
Regarding my 2012 hunting, below is how things went on a couple recent 2012 farm pest hunts:
2012 Hunt#1: I got to hunt the 50 acre farm, a new place, for California ground squirrels. I got 68 squirrels despite strong winds. My .22 caliber Weihrauch HW80K carbine died after the 10th squirrel. My .177 AirArms TX200 Mk3 was the backup rifle and got the rest. And after I got home, I found that the mailman had brought me a Vortek PG2 tune kit for the Weihrauch HW30/Beeman R7.
2012 Hunt#2: I started off with my .177 Beeman R1. Then switched to my .177 Beeman R7 with the newly installed Vortek PG2 R7/HW30 tune kit. Winds were pleasantly low. On this second hunt, at the 400 acre farm, I got a total of 97 squirrels, 40 pigeons, 27 blackbirds, 6 starlings and one crow. Most all with the Beeman R7.
2011 FARM AND RANCH PEST TOTALS:
2011 was a year of scarce small pest birds. My take of starlings and blackbirds was down about 500 birds from 2010. Between Dr. Pest Deaths efforts and a few slim pickings hunts with other friends, we got 1,721 pests in 2011, down about 1,000 from our peak year in 2007 when we got 2,902 pests. For 2011 we got 1,238 California ground squirrels, 239 barn pigeons, 192 blackbirds, 29 starlings, 13 crows, 2 grackles and 8 rabbits. As you can see, 2011 was not a good year for starlings and blackbirds. Just comparatively few around here now. Though in past years, they were here by the thousands.
2012 HUNT#1, THE 60 ACRE FARM:
Some months back, late 2011, I was pest hunting the 400 acre farm and a passing truck stopped and the driver came over and invited me to his small farm, of about 50 acres, not too many miles away. He said that along with ground squirrels, there were cottontail rabbits. Right he was. I hunted twice in 2011, getting 104 California ground squirrels and 8 cottontail rabbits. Four rabbits per hunt. Cottontail rabbits are best skinned and gutted on the spot, while still warm to keep the abundant fleas on the rabbit and not on the hunter. Personally, I prefer cleaning fish as any mammal is a messier cleaning job. But we did have a good rabbit stew recipe and so the rabbits were for the stew pot.
The first 2011 fifty acre farm hunt was with the .177 Beeman R9 (975 fps with 7.9 Crosman Premier Lite hard lead alloy round head pellets). The second 2011 fifty acre farm hunt done was with the soft tuned .22 caliber RWS54 recoilless sidelever-cocking springer (780 fps with 13.43 grain AirArms Falcon soft lead JSB domes).
Both pellet rifles had BKL one piece medium mounts. A Weaver v16 4-16 42mm@12x scope on the R9 and a Hawke 4-12x 40mm@12x on the RWS54. The R9s Rekord trigger unit was far the superior to the heavier, cruder RWS54 trigger, tuned though the RWS54s trigger was.
The rabbit-inhabiting farm was indeed small. But farmer mentioned something about another field near a cow pond near his house where I had never been, but I was wrapped up in hunting the flats and low, rolling grasslands east and north of the farm buildings, where I was. So I did not follow up on the farmers suggestion.
Months passed. 2011 became 2012. I had been hunting elsewhere. But it was time for a return to the 50 acre farm. The farmer again invited me to hunt the cattle pasture next to the cow pound near his house, instead of the land east and north of the barns and out buildings. So I did and was glad of it.
THE CATTLE PASTURE:
It was a small pasture, perhaps 20 acres of flat land bare except for a carpet of two inches high, bright green, young, winter wild grass. This winter so far has been almost as dry as toast. Very unseasonably dry. And the land was already suffering. About a dozen cattle were bunched in a small group around a broken bale of hay. Late winter and already expensive, purchased hay was having to be used to feed the livestock. Bad news for the farmers economic well-being.
There was a chunky black bull with the cattle, but happily he had a live and let live attitude and showed only disinterest towards me. Accurately gauging livestock moods is a necessary skill in farm and ranch pest hunting. Caution is always the best policy.
FIFTY ACRE FARM HUNT AIRGUNS:
Today I carried my soft tuned .22 Weihrauch HW80k break-barrel, 16 carbine barrel length springer. Shooting 13.43 grain AA Falcon JSB round heads at 770 fps (17.6 ft/lbs M.E.). With a 9 yard zero, the .22 pellet rose almost two inches before falling back to the second zero at 46 yards and 11 inches low at 80 yards. Ideal for squirrels that let me take 40 to 50 yard shots. A BKL one piece, medium height drooper mount held a Weaver v16 4-16x 42mm scope. I like 12x magnification for all my pest hunting.
The ground squirrels out in the mid-morning chill were all large adults. Used to farm activity, their spook distance was about 45 yards. Ideal for the HW80ks 46 yard zero.
It was 10AM by the time I had arrived and started the hunt. The sky was covered with a high overcast and winds were south2north at 5 to 10 mph. Nothing the HW80k could not handle.
THE HW80 BREAKS:
The first squirrel was a mere 35 yards. As I hunted farther away from the farm house, the squirrels grew progressively more spooky. At the pasture borders farthest away, squirrel spook distance was about 60 yards. I still did ok because I had my standing height camera stand tripod rest to permit steady aimed shots. My Bushnell laser range finder and corresponding trajectory chart told me how to hold for elevation. I tried to shoot in the lulls of the winds and shoot as directly up or down wind as I could because wind doping is harder and more complex than one might think.
Although I am a hardcore .177 fan, I have to admit using a .22 is entertaining and the HW80k with a Vortek kit gives very satisfying smooth, no-twang, no-vibration, crisp shooting, even with the soft tune setup I am using.
After my 10th squirrel, the HW80k suddenly refused to cock. The nocked end of the lightweight Ed Canoles aluminum body, steel-core piston rod had broken off. So cocking could not happen. I walked back to the car and swapped the .22 HW80k for my .177 AirArms TX200 Mk3.
AIRARMS TX200 MK3 TO THE RESCUE:
Hunting smart means ALWAYS having a backup gun. Today my .177 TX200 Mk3 was my backup. Today was a ground squirrels-only hunt. On mixed pest hunts, I bring one low power air rifle and one higher power. Low power in case the winds are low or there happens to be good numbers of small stuff (blackbirds and starlings). High power in case of strong winds.
Today, the .22 HW80k was for short to medium range. The .177 TX200 was for long range. Does that sound odd? The .22 HW80k, even soft tuned, was putting out 17.6 ft/lbs M.E. (down from 21.8 ft/lbs M.E. with the max power Vortek tune). 17.6 ft/lbs M.E. is more power than the .177 TX200s 16.1 ft/lbs M.E.
Doesnt make sense?
Well, look at the below .22 HW80k trajectory plot. Then compare it to the following .177 TX200 trajectory plot. For a 45 yard shot, which gun would you choose? For an 80 yard shot, which gun?
We can see that for a 45 yard shot, choose the .22 HW80k. Because it is just about right on the mark at 45 yards. The .177 TX200 is less preferred because of the almost 3 inches of hold-under required. But at longer ranges, the .177 TX200 is better, such as at 80 yds where the .22 HW80k requires 11 inches of holdover but the .177 TX200 only requires about 4 inches of holdover.
HUNT CONTINUED WITH THE .177 AIRARMS TX200 MK3:
After lunch, the wind had changed from south2north, to north2south, and strengthened to 20 to 25 mph. Squirrel spook distance continued to be about 60 yards. Due to the gusting winds and the need to take shots at all angles to the wind, each shot required a different wind drift allowance.
Unfortunately constantly varying winds are hard to correctly allow for, in estimating wind drift. The .177 TX200 underlever springer gave me several squirrel kills at distances of 86, 86 and 91 yards while the wind was near calm during the brief lull between the time the south2north winds ceased and the north2south winds began. But once the winds grew stronger, even at a mere 60 yards, using the .177 TX200, I was missing more shots than I hit.
ENDING THE HUNT:
The winds grew stronger. Almost as strong as this wind tunnel of a farming valleys blow your hat off summer winds. Ugh! This is February, still basically winter which is when, at least between rains, the winds were the calmest. Or supposed to be.
3 PM, I headed back to the car, thanked the farmer and headed home. Total California ground squirrel tally of 68 for today. I had made a big dent in the farmers squirrel population, but I would be back again.
VORTEK PG2 HW30/BEEMAN R7 TUNE KIT:
I got home, after a coffee and cheeseburger enroute. A small package was in the mailbox. A Tom Gore Vortek PG2 tune kit for the Weihrauch HW30/Beeman R7.
The Vortek HW30/R7 kit looked like a scaled down version of the Vortek HW80/Beeman R1 tune kit. Vortek mainspring with front guide and the unique Vortek shotgun shell rear guide unit. A Vortek piston seal, breech seal, small container of Vortek spring&guides grease and instructions. The Vortek mainspring looked shorter and thicker wire than the non-Vortek tune kit I already had in my .177 Beeman R7.
I installed the Vortek PG2 kit into my .177 Beeman R7. But saved the Vortek HW30/R7 piston seal and the Vortek HW-compatible breech seal for later use. My R7s Beeman/HW-factory breech seal was still ok and my R7s piston was already o-ring sealed by Ed Canoles.
Since I had the R7 apart anyway, to clean and degrease before installing the Vortek kit, I put a new McMasters-Carr milspec Viton size 19 o-ring, though the old o-ring looked fine. But at about 10 dollars or less for 25 o-rings, why not? I very lightly lubed the o-ring with V-Mach moly grease, which is a greasier, lower moly content grease than Beeman moly grease. And gave a very thin coating to the piston outsides. The exposed mainspring coils and outside of the Vortek guides got a very thin coat of Vortek spring&guides grease, not the moly.
I had gotten a small amount of moly grease in front of the pistons o-ring. So it initially did some dieseling. After about 50 shots, almost all the excess grease had burned off. Shooting over my chronograph, 35 feet above sea level, on a cool day, I got:
After about 100 shots, with all observable excess lube burned off, the average velocity had increased slightly to 703 fps. Cocking was smooth but a little more effort. Firing behavior was a quick snap, with no vibration, no spring twang. Recoil was a little heavier. Winds cut short a target shooting session, but what I observed with the small amount of shooting I did at 30 and 50 yards, was that I could expect similar to what I had been getting with the non-Vortek tune kit.
So, what is next?
Now Ill tell about the next hunt where I used my .177 Beeman R1 and Beeman R7.
2012 HUNT#2, THE 400 ACRE FARM:
Hunting with a pellet rifle is frustrating in strong winds. The hat blows off, the camera stand tripod rest blows over, blown dust gets into the eyes, mouth and gear, the wind blows both hunter and the shot, making misses easy and hits hard. On such days, there is little resistance to going home early. And a stop for a burger and beverage can be the days high point.
But, once in a while, I luck into good weather. A calm air or low winds day. The day before Hunt#2 was windy. The day after Hunt#2 was windy.
But the day of Hunt#2 was calm early, low winds later, and even the late afternoon moderate winds were miracle winds.
Let me tell you about this unusual day:
400 ACRE FARM:
I had not expected much. About every day of late had been windy. Even today (after the hunt) strong, cold winds are blowing the trees and making being indoors a pleasure. But I have to take a hunt when I can get one.
I got to the 400 acre farm about 9:30AM. I had brought along the .177 Beeman R7-Canoles-Vortek and my .177 Beeman R1-Canoles, two West German break-barrel springers made by Weihrauch. The Canoles term refers to the pistons being o-ring sealed by Ed Canoles. The Vortek term refers to the gun having one of the desirable Vortek PG2 tune kits installed.
.177 JSB EXACT EXPRESS PELLETS:
I wanted to check the 30 yard zero on the R7 and the 55 yard zero on the R1. I had both R1 and R7 using 7.9 grain JSB Exact Express 4.52mm soft lead, thin skirt, round head pellets. While these JSB pellets are precision made, they are soft and easily deformed by rough handling. However, these JSB pellets make good hunting pellets as they mushroom as good as other pellets, if not better due to the soft, pure lead and more thin-walled construction that permits more impact expansion.
For some reason, when I arose bright and early, the air was calm. Even by mid-morning when I got to the farm, the winds were low, varying from 5 to no more than 10 mph. The day was sunny as here in California, the driest winter I can recall, continues. It being early March, the early mornings are cold. But by 9:30AM the sun had warmed things up to about 60F and the mid-afternoon high today would be around 70F.
Upon arrival, I set up an informal target range inside the farms large, sheet metal storage shed where I can get 60 yards. The R7 was almost on at 30 yards and a few scope adjustments of the Swift 4-12x 40mm@12x scope had the JSB Exact Express domes zeroed. For small farm pests, particularly blackbirds and starlings, I like taking shots at 30 yards and so the 30 yard zero. The rule of thumb is to zero for the expected shot distance. The local blackbirds and starlings generally let me get within 30 to 40 yards before spooking.
For the .177 Beeman R1, with its Weaver v16 4-16x 42mm@12x scope, I wanted a 55 yard zero. This was because when I zero it at 10 yards, it goes up mid-range about 1.5 inches and comes back down to zero at 55 yards. I had not shot the R1 for a while and wanted to make sure it was hitting where the trajectory plot said it should be. I tape the trajectory plots to the stocks. Trajectory plots show where the pellets should be hitting, every 5 yards, from 5 to 80 yards for the larger, more powerful R1 and from 5 to 60 yards for the smaller, lower powered R7.
Both scopes have standard duplex crosshairs. I do all my hold-over/hold-undering by eyeball estimation. Dr. PestDeath uses mildots. And another successful airgun shooter is a clicker. And they both do very well with their techniques. But Dr. PestDeaths mildot technique requires changes of magnification to use his mildots at more different ranges, due to not enough dots on the Hawk scope crosshairs.
Changing scope magnification from shot to shot is not my cup of tea. I like to start with 12x and stay with 12x. 12x is high enough magnification to see small targets at extended ranges. And low enough magnification to still be able to find the critter quickly in the scope. Too high a scope magnification and I have a hard time just finding the critter due to the smaller field of view.
The R1 was shooting Beeman pellseated (ball end) 7.9 JSB Exact Express 4.52mms at about 965 fps and the R7 was shooting those same JSB Exact Express at about 700 fps.
700 FPS BEEMAN R7:
For a Beeman R7 (Weihrauch HW30S) to shoot 700 fps with 7.9 grain pellets is unusually fast. My R7 used to shoot 7.9 Crosman Premier Lites about 580 fps, but the piston was converted to use o-rings as piston seals and I recently installed Vorteks new Beeman R7/HW30 PG2 tune kit, which gives more power than the factory setup. Also, in my R7, 7.9 grain JSB Exact Express shoot a little faster than 7.9 grain CPLites.
With the Beeman R7-Canoles/Vortek sighted in, I then shot 55 yard target groups with the .177 Beeman R1. It is a good idea to check ones pellet rifle at the start of a hunt to make sure it is still hitting where expected. Ive had a pellet rifle that was right on at hunts end, only to be off a bit at the start of the next hunt. Why? Not sure.
It took longer to get the R1s 55 yard zero perfected. But the job got done. While I was inside the big storage shed doing the target shooting, about 20 crows landed on the ground outside the storage shed main door. They started eating away at a pile of the farmers cattle feed. The R1 neatly took out one crow at 60 yards and the rest flew. Crows are smart and are quick learners.
I did not shoot at the crows actually on the pile of feed.
NEVER put pellets into the animal food!
I also dropped 4 feral pigeons off the top of an old feed tower that was about 45 yards beyond the storage sheds rear door. And two starlings and four blackbirds too. The R1 hammered them.
CALIFORNIA GROUND SQUIRRELS:
Near the farmers house was his garden and his chicken and sheep pens. He has some grapes, which he gets a few of, but the starlings and blackbirds eat most of. Last time, I hit the squirrels here pretty hard but a return was in order. There were perhaps 15 ground squirrels within 100 yards. Using the .177 caliber R1, I shot 11 squirrels over the course of a ¼ mile oval walkabout that started and ended at my car.
The R1 was overkill for the small pest birds and I was eager to see how the low power Beeman R7 break-barrel would do. The low winds had happily died down. The air was calm. I could not resist. I put the R1 back in the case and got out the R7. But first I took a lunch break at the car. A cup of coffee, despite a lot of creamer, does not make much of a breakfast. I was more than ready for lunch by noon!
R7 CANOLES-VORTEK ON PESTS:
The air was still calm after lunch. With the R7 slung over my shoulder, I headed out for the afternoon session. The idea was to do a slow loop around the cattle pasture fence lines. My sore knee insured the loop would indeed be done slowly.
Small numbers of blackbirds and a few starlings were sitting on the fence lines here and there. The 7.9 grain JSB Exact Express round head pellets out of the R7 put them down nicely. Small pest birds were easy at 30 to 40 yards. Particularly as all my shots were taken off the Samsonite lightweight aluminum standing height camera stand rest, and I used the Bushnell laser range finder and my trajectory plot to help insure the hit.
But today, my main target was the ground squirrels. Despite them being pests, I wanted clean, quick kills and soon they would be having dependent young down in the burrows. I do not like shooting the parents and having the dependent baby squirrels then die a slow, cruel death. And so today would be my last hunt for ground squirrels until the juveniles are out and about.
If it werent for the economic damage to the farmer and the farmers desires for the squirrel control, I would not hunt the squirrels until late summer. All life is precious. I would rather let the young squirrels have more time to enjoy life. I even hate to shoot starlings when they have dependent babies in the nests. But the farmers, losing money to the pests, do not share this philosophy for understandable reasons.
My goal is to reduce pest numbers with my pellet rifles enough that the farmers do not feel a need to put out poison, which kills everything that eats it. And the dying can take days via internal hemorrhaging. The dying poisoned pests get eaten by hawks and owls and other predators, which transfer the poison to the hawks, owls, etc.
Not only was the wind low and even calm at times, but in the afternoon when it rose to variable winds of about 15 mph, even then the wind would switch around to be at my back, which for this area, was a miracle in my view, as I walked the long straight potholed paved farm roads (said pot holes mostly made by ground squirrels tunneling under the pavement and then the weight of the farm trucks cracking the weakened pavement).
Thus requiring little wind drift allowance.
This was a beautiful day for airgun hunting and nearly perfect for a low power pellet rifle like the Beeman R7.
BEEMAN R7-CANOLES-VORTEK ON LARGE CALIFORNIA GROUND SQUIRRELS:
All the squirrels above ground were large adults. And eating the farmers livestock feed seems to grow them into extra big ground squirrels. The ground squirrels at the vegetation-poor 1,000 acre cattle ranch, are smaller and skinnier. But here, these were definitely BIG squirrels. Almost the size of small rabbits.
With the .177 R7 pumping out 7.9 gr JSB Express domes at a Vortek-boosted 700 fps, taking out the ground squirrels was no problem. Most of the shots I got were around 40 yards. The 30 yard-zeroed R7s holdover at 40 yards was 1 ½ inches. And 4 at 50 yards. The R7 is easier to control and place the shots, than the more powerful Beeman R1.
I only shoot stationary shots. With the scope at 12x, the range known, the holdover read off the trajectory chart, the camera stand rest giving steady, deliberate, aimed shots, and the calm to low winds air, I rarely missed. It was easy to place the pellet just where I wanted it. And often I could see the pellet hit. Despite the R7 being a low power pellet rifle, putting the pellet on a critical spot, took the squirrel out. Just got to love that Vortek PG2 kit!
I hunted up and down the farm roads, going for the ground squirrels with dens which undermined the roads and the pasture fence posts. By the time I had hunted about a 1.5 mile loop around the farm with the R7, I had gotten 86 adult ground squirrels, along with 36 barn pigeons, 23 blackbirds and 4 starlings for a total of 149 farm pests. Not bad for such a small spring-powered pellet rifle.
Adding the 22 pests I got with the Beeman R1, this 2012 Hunt#2 totaled 171 farm pests in about 5 hours of actual hunting.
I really like hunting starlings but they, for yet another year, were few in number here. Several blackbird flocks were moving around the farm. About 500 blackbirds per flock. But they moved as a flock and were hard to hunt. The flock would land. I would slowly approach and get a shot or two. Then the entire blackbird flock would spook and all fly off. Winter blackbirds are for that reason hard to hunt.
Blackbirds and starlings are small targets and so I rarely take shots over 40 yards with the R7. Pigeons are bigger. I got pigeons from 25 yards to 55 yards, with the average R7 shot about 40 yards. Closer shots were when I could approach from behind the cover of the cattle. Ground squirrels with the R7 were taken out to 57 yards but most were around 40 to 45 yards. Low winds allow longer shots. When the winds blow strongly, 30 yards can be a long shot.
R7 CANOLES/VORTEK VELOCITY POST-HUNT:
By hunts end , I must have put 200 shots through the Beeman R7, hunting and target. I chronographed the R7 post-hunt to see how the new Vortek PG2 R7/HW30 kit was breaking in.
The Ed Canoles o-ring sealed piston increased R7 velocity a bit. The R7/HW30 Vortek PG2 tune kit increased velocity.
How would my R7 have done if I had also installed the special Vortek R7/HW30 piston and breech seals?
I dont know.
But installing just the Vortek spring and guides gave superior performance to the extent that I am not going back to my non-Vortek R7 tune kits.
I had been happy with the non-Vortek tune kit that was already in my R7. I had not imagined my non-Vortek tuned R7 could be improved upon. I had figured the Vortek kit for the Beeman R7/HW30 was just another tune kit, equal but not better than other tune kits. If Tom Gore had not urged me to try his new R7/HW30 tune kit, I would have stayed with the non-Vortek tune kit I already had in the R7.
In a way, I am kind of irked at Tom Gore. His new Vortek PG2 R7/HW30 tune kit proved to perform superior enough that now Im stuck with spare non-Vortek tune kits/springs that are not going to be used. Not as long as I can get Vortek kits.
Robert Hamilton, California
Posted on Mar 10, 2012, 10:33 AM from IP address 220.127.116.11
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