Today on Croswords we are taking a few minutes to talk with noted airgun hunter and writer Jim Chapman. This past summer Jim took the Benjamin Marauder on a hunting trip to South Africa and carefully chronicled his journey. He collected all these notes and pictures into a book that we will be sharing with you over the next few weeks here on Croswords. Before we dive into the book I wanted to take a few minutes to ask Jim a few questions about his trip and his love for airgun hunting…
Jim, for our readers who may not be familiar with you and your globetrotting exploits, please introduce yourself and tell readers about your website.
Well I think my experience is not all that different in terms of hunting; when I was a young boy my uncle gave me an old BB rifle that I cleaned, and then used for the summer terrorizing sparrows and gophers. I went through the normal stages of rimfires for small game, shotguns for upland game, and eventually centerfires for big game. After college I left the States and moved to Europe for several years, followed by Japan then Australia, I was away for the better part of 20 years. It was while I was living in Europe in the early 80’s that I was introduced to adult airguns. I like to shoot and since you couldn’t own a firearm in those places I gravitated to airguns once I found out about them. I get to travel all over the world for my work, and have had the opportunity to hunt and shoot in many places. My wife is South African so I’ve been spending a good part of my summers down there for many years, where I always get in as much hunting as I can.
How long have you been hunting with Airguns?
I guess I really became serious about airgun hunting in the late 80’s. I was asked to run a couple projects in Asia and (what was then) Eastern Europe. I moved my wife and son back to the States to be near family, and I alternated between a month abroad and a month back in California. When I was back at home I had a whole month that I didn’t have to work. I hunted almost every day during that period, and often with airguns. That was a fun couple of years!
I do a lot of wingshooting and hunt a lot with firearms and bow, but airguns are my favorite. To airgun hunt the way I believe it should be done means getting in close (30-50 yards), which hones your skills as a hunter. I’ve always thought of it as a cross between archery and firearm hunting, as it uses skills from both. Another factor is that I have a busy life and airguns give me an opportunity to hunt closer to home. Because you can safely shoot them just about anywhere, it opens up property for me to hunt where a firearm, even a rimfire, is not going to work. Firearms generate too much noise, too much power; you’d be surprised how many places are opened up to hunt when you don’t have to worry about those two issues.
Do you have any favorite game you like to hunt with airguns?
There are so many species you can hunt in different parts of the country; but I’d have to say that tree squirrels in the Midwest and jackrabbits out West are my favorites. Both of these species require the same hunting skills I use when hunting big game. It’s funny, I get the same charge of adrenaline when shooting a squirrel I stalked, as when I’m lining up on a whitetail. But unlike deer where I might shoot three or four in a season, I can get many shots on a two hour squirrel hunt. Of all the small game animals I hunt with an airgun, guinea fowl in Africa are my favorite. These birds are big, they are fast and they are wary. I think they represent the ultimate airgunning challenge.
Tell us about your adventure to South Africa?
I have hunted in South Africa a lot, with firearms and airguns. I received special permits to hunt big game with bigbore air rifles, and have taken everything up to kudu and warthogs. We always choose standard caliber airguns to bring with us to hunt small game and for pest control at my friends farm, and it always turned out to be great fun. On this last hunt I decided to focus on the small game, and it was an excellent call! We had a great time and I think when readers look at my little Marauder Journal they’ll see why.
What led you to South Africa?
My wife is South African and we have family we like to visit there every year. But more importantly, I have two friends that are professional hunters named Rob Dell and Andrew Myers. Andrew stared hunting with airguns while living in the UK, and Rob is an outfitter (Hounslow Safaris). Rob’s family owns a large property in the Eastern Cape. These guys have become specialists in airgun hunting in South Africa.
You took the Benjamin Marauder with you. What did you think of the gun and its performance?
I wanted a gun that offered excellent performance (accuracy and power), that was multishot capable, and that was reliable. And even though noise was not a huge issue on the farm, I wanted a quiet gun as I also had the chance to hunt on friend’s vineyards back near Capetown where noise was an issue. I had four guns with me, a .22 caliber, two .177 caliber Marauders and a .177 Discovery. We shot thousands of pellets between the three of us, and the guns functioned perfectly.
Is it difficult to travel abroad with an airgun?
Of course depends on where you’re going, but in the case of South Africa it is easier to travel with airguns than with firearms. What made it much less complicated was shipping the airguns over in advance, which you cannot do with firearms. That step made the whole process (outside the 32 hour travel time) much easier.
What game did you hunt?
We hunted wild pigeons, guinea fowl, carrion crows, Egyptian geese, hyrax, mongoose, springhare, rabbits, and many pest birds. What was wild was not only the types of animals, but the sheer numbers of them. My friend’s property is about 10,000 acres with hundreds of thousands of acres of reserve and farmland around it. You should understand that in South Africa all properties are called farms; they are what we would call ranches. Even though only a portion of the land was used for livestock, areas where there was feed drew pest species from far and wide. I left two Marauders on the farm where they are used every day for pest control. It’s kind of cool, Rob lives in a place surrounded by all kinds of big game and he carries his Marauder in the back of his truck for pest control when he heads out. I tell you, I made big points leaving those airguns behind as gifts!
Was the trip successful and would you take the Marauder again?
I love the Marauder. Sure, there are a lot of good products out there but nothing comes close to the rich feature set, the performance, and the quality of this airrifle, anywhere near the price point. I’ve taken several small game guns out over the years and the Marauder would be high on my list to use again.
What is your next big adventure?
I’ve got several hunts lined up this year; I’ll be airgun hunting in Texas, California, Indiana, Missouri, Kentucky, California, and Colorado for all kinds of game. But I think the next long trip will be somewhere in South America. I’m looking for a place that offers
something unique …. But I don’t know what yet.
I would like to thank Jim for his time answering these questions for us. Look for the first chapter of his book here on Croswords starting next week and follow Jim’s continued adventures at his website, American Airgun Hunter
Thanks for reading everyone.