Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Being prepared: Hunting ammo

Being prepared with hunting ammo for your slingshot

Types of ammo for the hunt; a means to an end.

As most hunters have a prefered ammo, which sometimes is largely based on their equipment i.e. the chosen elastic for their slingshot. Sometimes a type of elastic will only work with heavy ammo, others only light ammo.
 For example, when I was about 18 years old we once found a black rubber tie down which was more elastic than the usual rubber tie downs maybe that batch of rubber was more stretchy, who knows? Haven't seen another like it but haven't searched too much either.
I asked my father if that rubber strip could make a good resorte (elastic band) he gave it a good stretch and suggested that if it were cut down the middle it might work? With that I helped him cut this rubber tie down, first we cut off the thicker molded ends. Then he started a cut on one end with his sharp buck knife, then I held these two pieces as he carefully cut the entire length till we ended up with two black square like bands. I took a strong fork and a thick leather pouch and built myself a resortera with these black cube like resortes.
On to the point of the example It was not as stretchy as either tubes or chains but the slingshot did work.  If you shot these heavy bands with a marble you saw no power and it was terribly slow, these heavy bands did however have a lot of muscle to shoot 1 once lead fishing weights with ease and heavy impact out to 50 yards no problem. 
This elastic was only effective with heavy ammo, some elastics can not handle heavy ammo and only do well with light ammo.
Other elastics like my favorite chained office rubberbands are more balanced in their tollerance of light and heavy ammo. Because of this it has given me options which through experience has shown to be the difference between coming home with a meal or coming home empty handed.

My two favorite hunting elasics are the high quality chained red #32 rubberbands in a 4x4x4 configuration per individual band, and my other are the economical ubiquitous chained #64 office rubberbands in a 3x3x3 chain per band.  Both kinds of chained elastic bands have proven efffective with ammo from baked clay balls to 1/2 inch steel balls up onto heavier steel balls and lead balls to 308 grain(20 gram) oval pebbles.

 Hunting terrain/area: Where you hunt has an effect on the kind of ammo you will use. I personally hunt within abandoned railroads, industrial areas with wild areas so this gives me a varying degree of terrain.  I am primarily a pebble user that is I personally prefer to use heavy pebbles for my slingshot hunting ammo but I have encountered terrain situations where the size of the pebbles were rendered ineffective for the situation at hand.

Hunting ammo for slingshots can be utilitary based on the situations a hunter will encounter.

What follows are a list of the kinds of hunting ammo I will carry within the possibility of what I might encounter in a given hunting situation. I will list their strengths and weaknesses.

Pebbles:    I normally carry oval or similar smooth pebbles (stones) that are within the 20 to 21 gram weight area. They have the most stopping power of my general ammo and are what I use for hunting rabbits, jackrabbits or squirrels and larger fowl and even pigeons and doves given the situations I encounter. Strengths, out in the open on the ground these pebbles are next to unstoppable the only thing that saves game is if the pebble misses it's mark these heavy pebbles can be used within light cover like small leaves on a small plant. Weakness these heavy pebbles can and do get deflected due to their larger size through heavy branch cover such as a branch pile, or heavy cover like blackberry vines or in trees with thick cover; these heavy pebbles can have a pin pall machine like effect in such instances. Despite their draw back in heavy cover, I can have taken all variety of smallgame with strictly using these pebbles.

Hexnuts: Are also a great general ammo that I will use when I am low on my supply of good hunting quality pebbles. They have similar impact but have their weaknesses in that because of their flat shape and the fact that they do occasionally spin they sometimes have a less solid impact. This is ok if you hit the main vitals solidly or have a solid hit. Another quirk is that because of this irregular shape they can deflect depending on your angle of impact. In this way pebbles are superior as you encounter less deflection with a heavy pebble.

If you're a target shooter reading this you might say "how can your shot not hit solid?".  Simple answer wild animals for one are hardly static targets nothing like the shape of a paper target or a soda pop can. Animals are living breathing targets that move a bit when you are stalking them and inviting them to be your honored guest at the dinner table; the angles you encounter in the field are hardly those you face while you're at the target shooting session making a video to show off your marksmanship. I will elaborate more on this topic in another post.

Ball bearings aka Steel balls:

I like to use steel balls in sizes from 1/2 inch to 13 mm to 14mm on to 16 mm, they are a good choice as a general hunting ammo. The half inch steel ball weighs approximately 129.6 grains just a fraction more than a .44 cal lead ball cast with "wheel weight alloy" which is lighter than pure lead.

With half inch steel balls and proper shot placement to vitals you can take game up to cottontail rabbit size. The half inch steel ball retains enough energy out to 20 yards to effectively dispacth a pigeon with a proper neck shot.

For longer shots with more knock down, I prefer 14 mm which is 11.25 grams or 173.6 grains this is about the weight of a .490 lead ball cast from a wheel weight alloy. The 14 mm steel is what I prefer for longer shots as it has more knock down power, my in between size is 13 mm which is 139 grains more like the weight of a .457 lead ball cast again from a wheel weight alloy.

I like the 1/2 inch steel for long shots on birds like pigeons in high places, this is good because, larger ammo if it passes over the bird will spook it. But a 1/2 inch steel ballbearing is not as alarming at least in my experience I have missed two shots and had a third try which resulted in bringing home some meat. In contrast I have taken these high shots with a pebble and when the much larger pebble passed over the bird's head it immediately flew away to safety.

These steel balls are also good for situations with heavy branches or heavily wooded zones. Such as shooting at a rabbit hidden in a black berry bramble or through fenced like material, or a dove in a conifer tree etc. It's smaller size will fit in such areas and deliver enough force to bring home your meal.

The caveat is the ricochete steel balls will bounce back with great force when they impact with large rocks or concrete and steel structures such as old over passes where pigeons may be hiding etc. In open ground and with non ricochete zones steel balls are perfect. Just make sure to adjust size for the situation/terrain you will hunt. In sum total  the steel ball is a great slingshot ammo especially if you dont want to cast lead balls. Steel balls and pebbles are my first choice for game around water as lead we all know is toxic and we have all contributed to the lead pollution in water from years of fishing at least I know I did.

Lead balls:

I am new to the use of  lead balls but in my short experience I have found lead balls to be as effective for smallgame hunting with a slingshot as some of my other favorite ammunition for slingshot use.  I realize my statement will seem redundant to those who primarily use lead balls as slingshot ammo.

 But I am a hunter who has used stones/pebbles as my main hunting ammunition with a slingshot for the better part of 30 years. For me then I must compare the effectiveness of lead balls to the knock down power I have known in the use of pebbles.  Lead balls deffinately get the job done but for my style of hunting I still find the heavier pebbles to be superior when it comes to knock down power.

However of all the things mentioned regarding steel ballbearings, you can have the same size lead balls with a lot more weight therefore more impact. Lead balls can deliver more punch than a steel ball of the same diameter. Consider that a 1/2 inch steel ball weighs only 8.4 grams or 129 grains a 1/2 inch lead ball due to lead's higher density weighs roughly 181 to 188 grains so you have a lot more punch.  In my limited lead ball use as my first lead balls were purchased later a friend (jmp) donated some lead balls.

 I find the .500 or 50 caliber lead ball to be an all around good round for hunting with my personal slingshots and my BT(blunt trauma) slingshot set-ups. It has the ability to carry it's weight out to past 30 yards and still deliver lethal impact and it's size will lend itself to tight spaces.  If you're not adverse to casting lead balls this can be a nice weekend project for you. Again you dont need lead balls to fill the pot with a slingshot this is well known but as my father once said to me "just because you don't have any good rocks available does'nt mean you are without ammo, look around you will find something" that's coming from a man who has at times used and reused a 7/16 socket as a slingshot projectile to take various feral jungle fowl and various cottontail rabbits!I say it is a good idea to have a lead ball mould as a backup. I will give further review to lead balls and different calibers on another post. I have yet to further explore this area. 

Moving along

Clay balls:
As in this picture a batch of clay balls I made and two completed in the center from a previous batch and fresh clay as you can see some of the moisture on the cardboard from the fresher clay balls I have air drying.

What I find most comical is that there are various "hunting experts" on the use of slingshots who say clay balls are not effective for smallgame hunting.
A word to the hunters out there who have made statements like "clay balls won't kill anything, you need big lead or steel etc":  

For the better part of many centuries baked clay balls have taken wild fowl and small mammals from prehistoric Mesoamerica to Medieval Europe, in ancient Mexico there are artifacts from Cholula which show fire hardend clay balls that were used in Blowguns to hunt birds for the purpose of eating. In fact in medieval Europe there are wood cuts and paintings that depict bow hunters on boats with a stone bow shooting water fowl with fire hardend clay balls to kill waterfowl such as ducks and other such waterfowl. The medieval bullet crossbow was used at first with oven hardend clay balls to shoot rooks out of the tree with a lamp. All proven history the fire hardend clay ball is effective on smallgame largely birds but some mammals.

Back to their use as a slingshot ammo for hunting: In my own history my very first rabbit came from the use of a large sunbaked clay rock in rural Mexico it was a close range shot but an instant kill. I have used oven baked clay balls to take various pigeons if you know anything about hunting pigeons you will know what tough birds they are. Some of my hunting colleagues have failed to take pigeons with heavy lead balls, so listen up hunters I have something to share here.

At ranges from 15 to 45 feet a well placed shot from a clay ball will bring down a full grown pigeon.  I have a friend from Coastal Mexico who informed me of his past resortera hunts who after hearing of my clay ball harvested pigeons shared with me how he used to make clay balls from the natural clay which he would add "rabbit pellets" to help make a denser ball something similar to making an adobe brick. The man said he took his share of doves and quail with these "bolas de barro" earthen clay balls. 

I always take these clay balls with me in areas where I fear damage to surrounding property or where I have danger to myself from ricochete or too much sound which can draw unwanted attention. They are eco friendly if you hunt waterfowl or frogs with clay balls. The standard 7/8 clay ball dry weighs 9 grams, that's more than a half inch steel ball!

The beauty is that they will shatter on impact to a very hard surface to a steel girder or concrete wall. Therefore safe for you with no ricochete and if they impact a pigeon's crop, neck or head you have a meal to take home. The only requirement is that you are keeping up with your accuracy.

Marbles "Canicas": We used to call marbles canicas as kids which is Mexican slang for glass toy marbles. Marbles have a similar history and use to clay balls, the average marble is pretty light about the weight of a 3/8 steel ball.

Can marbles kill? Yes of course they can, I have killed countless pigeons and invasive birds like Starlings with simple marbles in my childhood.  What I will say is that I learned in my childhood resortera days that with canicas if you hit a pigeon or dove in the body most times they flew away unharmed unless it was a very close shot and your canica "marble" happend to impact flush with the heart zone of a pigeon or dove then it would outright kill the bird.

But for me as a kid my shots I say were either lucky or an unconscious instinct directed my shots to the neck/head area because I did fell my share of squab with the underestimated marble. 

 But can marbles kill larger animals like "rabbits"? Yes they can and there are too many unique situations from both lucky individuals and some extraordinary slingshot marksmen who have killed more than a few rabbits with canicas.
My father killed some cottontails with marbles and so did my maternal Grandfather in the red innertube resortera period. I recently spoke to my father about hunting with "canicas" marbles. He said he had killed many rabbits with marbles but he also cautioned that you had to have a perfect head shot to kill a rabbit with a marble as anything less was a loss.

My recommendation as a responsible hunter is to use something more impactful like a 1/2 inch steel ball or preferably larger like 13 mm or 14mm. Or heavy oval pebbles or even hexnuts or lead. The majority of rabbits I have taken over the years have been with pebbles.

My personal responsible opinion is that marbles are good for bird hunting and I would not use a marble unless it was all I had left to shoot and it was my only chance to take a rabbit with a clean head shot. The same applies to my use of oven hardened clay balls.

But I digress and return to the canica, the marble has all the same uses for bird hunting that the clay ball does but it does have it's dangers as well, if a marble impacts concrete it may shatter and the glass shards can go in your eyes or it may not shatter and ricochete you just never know with a marble.

Putting it all together

Please note these are just my musings as this blog is almost like a living journal of the resortera style hunter they are the benefit of my experience only.

I always ask myself, what game am I looking for? Will there be shots of opportunity? Do I want to take the shots of opportunity? In such cases where there is more a need to bring meat, I am always keen to the shots of opportunity than the mere sporting aspect of simply persuing one quary in particular.  I consider the terrain first then I will consider my slingshot.

In general with my alambre resortera powered by chained #64s I know what projectiles I am able to use.  If it's a general hunting trip and I know where I am hunting I will arm myself accordingly.

If squab in concreted areas, I will use fire hardened clay balls but I will also carry my pebbles always as a standard ammo for sometimes squab can be found grazing in the field on seeds and or picking at gravel here the open range is perfect for either pebbles, ballbearings, or even hexnuts as an example. Always reserve the fire hardened clay balls for work in cave cliff terrean whether man made or natural where there is danger of ricochete. Again by having the clay balls and some pebbles I am already able to take most species.

What if you are hunting rabbits? Or jackrabbits during spring where the grass is tall. Here it's a good idea to have some options, steel balls or lead that can get in such places.

As an all around kit I will generally take 6 to 9 pebbles or hexnuts and 6 to 9 steel balls and 6 clay balls for my excursions. If I am out longer with more anticipated opportunity I will carry 10 to a dozen 1/2 inch steel ballbearings.

Hopefully some of this can be of some use to someone reading this and needs a loosely made blueprint of how to prepare for their hunt with a slingshot.

Good luck on your hunt