Sunday, January 29, 2012

Duck Hunt With First Light Gear's Down Patrol

Back in August, Matt and I joined Josh (with FLG) and Tommy to make the road trip to the International Waterfowl Expo in Arkansas. We had a great time and talked about getting together for a duck hunt sometime during the season. Josh and Tommy live about 2 hours East of us near the Arkansas river. Over the course of the season, our schedules never meshed until 2 weeks ago when I called Josh and found that we were both free on the 21st. We planned to meet up at 5 am on Saturday and hunt an area of trees with standing water that was only about 4 feet deep.

My alarm goes off at 1:50am. This is what we do for fun? I get to Matt's at 3am and we get on the road. We pull up to Josh's office just before 5am and get suited up. We get to the spot and setup with Josh's G&H Decoys that are Texas rigged. The decoys are setup in less than 5 minutes and have the 3 mojos out shortly thereafter. We are all sitting just inside the treeline by about 5-10 yards and in a line 5 yards apart. This should allow us to fully ambush any birds that commit to the spread. 15 minutes before shooting light, shots start ringing out from the fields and water around us. 15 minutes early? Everyone's taken a shot a minutes or 2 prior to the actual shooting time, but a quarter of an hour prior is ridiculous. We wait until shooting light even though a flock of 8 birds came in a few minutes before. We hold ourselves to a higher standard and will set the example rather than follow it.

A few minutes after legal shooting, a couple birds dive bomb into the spread. Being in the woods, looking at the flooded area, with thick woods behind it as well, the area was much darker than shooting over open water like we are used to. The cameras weren't able to be used for probably 30 minutes. With us being set in a line, there is nothing that needs to be said about who takes shots other than "take 'em". It is much easier to pick your shots on birds hunting this way rather than in a blind with other hunters right on your elbows. The number of birds wasn't very high, so we were getting 1 or 2 birds coming in here and there. It was amazing to see them come out of nowhere and drop 100-200 feet straight down as they committed to the decoys. Even if they saw us pull up to shoot, it was too late. They had to stop their descent and fly completely vertically to attempt to bail out. If birds made it half way into the spread, they weren't leaving.

We had a group of 5 birds start to drop in. 2 break in a little faster than the other 3 and then decide to flare about 25% of the way in. As they start to flare, the words are spoken, "take 'em". 3 guns erupt as the birds exit through the top of the trees. I am following a drake as he flies directly over me. My first shot is off, then I pick a hole through the trees and pull the trigger a second time. He immediately folds and gravity takes over. I yell "I got him" and Matt exclaims he also hit one. Then, splash splash. 2 ducks drop into the water with force. A while later, we have a flock of about 100 birds circle, but we can't get any to break off and into our set. It was fun to watch them circle several times and hear nothing but the whistling of wings. It was almost deafening as they skimmed the tree-tops.

We ended the day with 11 mallards. It was slow with 5 guys there, but the experience was more than worth it in hunting outside of our element. As usual, Tommy's cooking was spot on and it was great to hang out with him, Josh, and Earnie. There was a lot of laughter and gunpowder was burned. Thanks for having us out, Josh. This is what we do for fun.

Bonus video from our day after Christmas hunt:

Friday, January 6, 2012

Gear Review - CCI .22 Sub-Sonic Ammo from

I was contacted by Caleb with about reviewing some ammo a few weeks ago. We worked out the details and that we would be reviewing .22 ammo. He let me know when it shipped and not 2 days later, the ammo was at my door. It was shipped in a non-conspicuous box, which I appreciate with living in a neighborhood. The packing material was a bit lax, but the .22 ammo was in hard plastic cases, so it didn't concern me as much.

The ammo we received was 40 grain hollow-point sub-sonic ammo by CCI. I've heard good things about sub-sonic ammo when used on small animals and predators that you trap as it's less likely to punch all the way through. Another item to note is that with being sub-sonic and hollow-point, when the ammo penetrates the target or animal, it expands as a usual hollow-point would, but with the ammo being slower, the damage is greater as the bullet expands sooner it it's penetration. We shot multiple .22's during the review. We used semi-automatic and bolt action rifles.

We started at the gun range. We used 50 rounds in both types of .22's and never once had a jam. We brought along the common Remington Gold .22 ammo to compare noise, groupings, and devastation.

The distances we shot were 20, 40, and 60 yards. The accuracy was never once questioned as the groupings were tight. There was no noticeable difference of bullet drop between the sub-sonic and regular ammo.

Sound: The regular .22 is not a loud gun to begin with, but with this ammo being labeled as sub-sonic, this is one of the items that immediately came to mind. The CCI ammo is labeled as 1050fps whereas the Remington Gold is 1280fps. We don't have any way of measuring the decibel range, but just playing it by the average ear, there was a solid difference. It sounded more like a pellet gun being shot than a true rifle. We mixed up both ammo in the semi-automatic and you could easily tell when the sub-sonic ammo was fired. This came in handy when we were squirrel hunting. Typically the first shot will scatter any other squirrels that are nearby. This was not the case with the sub-sonic ammo. We were able to take multiple shots from the same location without the squirrels completely disappearing and scrambling for cover. Using regular ammunition, you almost always end up waiting quite a while to allow the woods to settle down. Another plus with this ammo for us, being that we hunt public land, we could squirrel hunt the same locations that we deer hunt without worrying about others hearing us as much.

The plywood that we placed behind the target was our best case for measuring the toll the ammo puts on target besides the bushytails that we knocked down. I wish we had some ballistics gel to use on the test. The holes in the plywood where the CCI ammo penetrated appeared to be slightly larger which I would attribute to the quicker expansion of the hollow point by CCI. The squirrels that were taken provided the extra knowledge that we wanted. Typically, we aim for the head of the squirrel, but today, we were aiming at the ribcage as well to test this bullet. I have shot the Remington ammo for most of my hunting life and am very familiar with how squirrels react to being hit with it. The CCI ammo still punctured completely through the skull in some cases, but not all. The ribcage shots gave us the same results. Some, but not all of the shots would create entry and exit wounds. This leads me to believe that this ammo by CCI may actually be safer to shoot when you are not surrounded by countryside for miles. Although we as hunters are always paying attention to the safety of our shots and where the bullet will travel after the shot, the subsonic ammo, being slower, and less likely to pass through an animal, gives me a better feeling.

We typically use photos and video to illustrate our posts, but today was a perfect storm as we had people shooting high-caliber rifles at the same range as well as shotguns, thus not allowing the video to show the difference in sound. We only had our phones on us for pictures, and that didn't allow for macro-focus pictures. Lesson learned. As for recording squirrel hunts, it is laughable after you try it. You hike several miles while chasing bushytails and any unnecessary gear or movement really adds to the difficulty.

I would highly suggest not only trying the CCI subsonic .22 ammo, but also looking at the website the next time that you are looking at purchasing ammo. They keep a limited stock of items to keep their overhead low, but their inventory is always changing, so checking back often may give you the deal that you are looking for.