Monday, February 9, 2015

Squirrel Hunting 2/5/2015

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With deer season behind us and turkey season over a month away, my dad must have been going through withdrawals. Additionally, I had been striking out on fishing...as you can read from my last trip. So, when he asked if I wanted to go squirrel hunting late Thursday afternoon, I was all for it. I was doubly hooked when he told me we were going after fox squirrels. When I first started hunting them (back in the 90s), we had a good number of fox squirrels on our place. But, due to tornadoes destroying their habitat, we didn't have enough to warrant shooting them. So, it has been the better part of 2 decades since I popped one. Fox squirrels, if you didn't know, are much larger than their grey cousins...by a factor of 2 or 3. They are less dependent on trees and spend more time on the ground. Dad told me that a place on our family land in New Market had a ton of them and that we would be going after them. He even sent me this picture:


As you can see, there were at least a couple of them local.

Of course, I had to leave work after hitting the gym (yes, we have a nice gym at work, and I am trying to work on my fitness, per New Year's Resolutions) and grab my hunting stuff.

After I ran home and grabbed my 10/22, I realized that I was out of ammo. No, I  don't mean out of .22 all together, just the stuff I like to hunt with. In my 20 years of squirrel hunting, I have come to the inevitable truth that squirrels don't just taste tough. They ARE tough. I have used a lot of different ammo, but I have found that standard 36 grain round nose ammo will just punch holes in them without being fatal (that is, unless that hole is in a head). The first one I ever killed ended up with 7 holes put through it. I have missed several kills, and not from missing the squirrel, but because I hit it and the squirrel was able to find a knot hole or nest in the tree. However, if you use hollow points, the additional shock and surface area gives you a large advantage. If nothing else, the shock will knock them out of the tree, which may do the deed for you. Using the right ammo is one of the main reasons I have had such success hunting in the last year. You can read about one of those trips here.

Local sporting goods stores such as Academy, Gander Mountain, etc are frequently sold out. When they DO have ammo, it is frequently plinking ammo that is ridiculously high. Though I detest going to Larry's Pistol and Pawn, they are the only place that consistently has exactly what I want: CCI mini-mag HP. And, once again, they came through for me. They were offering 500 rounds of the aforementioned ammo for under $50. Again, this isn't cheap ammo. This is very high quality hunting ammo. I may or may not have picked up a WASR-10 AK47 while I was there....which was the reason it took me an extra hour to meet dad.

When we met up, we had around an hour to hunt, which isn't much time....but it was better than nothing.

Unlike my typical trips where I walk fire lanes and roads, we were hunting for these guys who were very local. So, we set up camp to wait for them. I climbed up a metal stand and waited.

In the distance, I could see plenty of grey squirrels playing. Dozens of them. Unlike our place in Harvest where the majority of the trees are young (due to the tornadoes), this area is an established forest featuring massive trees that housed 5 or 6 different squirrels. And, on occasion, I would see that many on one tree. I was getting antsy to climb down and go after them, but I realized that these trees were 100 yards or so into the woods and I would not be able to slip up to them as I can in Harvest, by utilizing the roads and trails. So, I waited.

Minutes later, I heard a squirrel rummaging in front of me. Every once in awhile, I would spot this little grey squirrel, who would pop out from behind this tree 10 feet from me just long enough for me to put the scope up. Then, it would dart back behind the tree. It would emerge on the other side and repeat the process.

Concentrating on this little guy allowed a fox squirrel to slip up from behind me. In fact, had dad not texted me, I might never have seen it. As expected, it stayed on the ground, which made it hard to shoot. These little 36 grain bullets deflect off of anything, so I held my shot. It made a circle from behind me and eventually ended up on the road directly in front of me. However, it was a long shot.

Now, my 10/22 is a lethal little rifle. As you may recall, I built it last year with a lot of good parts. However, I sighted it in for only 50 yards...as the vast majority of my shots fall well under that. Even so, I took a rest and shot. The squirrel took off and crossed the road where it bounded into a tree. As it barked at me, I lined up another shot. And another. And another. The gun simply wasn't sighted in for that range, which was pushing 75 yards.

The good news was, I had it treed. As a kid, this was usually a disappointment. When they get into a tree, it's hard to find them. They get flat. They get into corners. And, they aren't afraid to move around the tree and keep you on the wrong side. As a kid,  I would get impatient and move on.

With 2 solid years of experience on my hand (referring to becoming a serious squirrel hunter the last two years), having them in the tree was now a massive benefit. I popped out of the tree stand and ran(Yes, ran. The last thing I want that bad boy to do is start tree hopping). When I got there, I knew he hadn't moved trees because there wasn't a nearby tree to jump to. What I was worried about was if he would go down the backside of the tree and take off running on the ground.

Slowly, I would scan the tree, up and down. I look for anything irregular. Sometimes you see their ears sticking out. Other times you see their fuzzy tail. They are sneaky dudes, for sure. And this one was a wily one. For 20 minutes I moved around the tree. The tree was fairly small in diameter, so I wasn't sure HOW he was evading me. I assumed that he was just moving around as I moved.

Eventually I called for dad to come help.

I got still and asked dad to move around the tree. Sure enough, he scrambled to stay out of sight of dad...not knowing I was there.

I lined him up while taking a rest on the tree next to me and made a clean headshot. Deff not the biggest fox squirrel I have ever seen, but he will eat good! While we didn't get any more shots off, getting one of these rare guys was worth the hunt.

And, getting to spend time with my dad is always worth the effort.