The above picture shows what is known, in the local vernacular, as a park. Most places would probably just call it a meadow.
It was a gorgeous day, so I decided to take a trip to the local forest, just to hang out for a few hours, and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. Of course I took an airgun along, just in case I got the urge to do a little ground squirrel hunting.
On my way out of town, I stopped and grabbed a $5 footlong for lunch. I didn't really have a lot planned, just basically a kick back kind of day. Not planning to do much hunting, I didn't bother to bring the video camera.
I picked a forest road, and started down it until I found this park area, that looked pretty nice, and decided to spend a few hours there. I pulled into the shade, under a nice big Ponerosa pine tree, and broke out my collapsable canvas camp chair.
One of the things that I like about hunting ground squirrels and chipmunks in this forest is, it's a great way to hone my shooting skills for fall tree squirrel season. All three critters share the same forest habitat, so while hunting the first two critters, I'm also scouting the same area for tree squirrel sign.
The Abert's Tassel Eared tree squirrels build their nests in these pine trees. They aren't great wanderers, and don't venture to far from their home ground, so once you find sign, you know there is a squirrel not to far away. Getting a shot at one though, is a whole different issue. They are true masters of concealment.
As I was just sitting and enjoying my lunch, one of the big furballs decided to drop by and see what I was doing in its neighborhood. It was only about 30 yards away, so I snapped a quick picture of it for posterity. Come this fall, I will be back.
The Abert's run about two pounds in weight. The Golden Mantle ground squirrels run about nine ounces, and the chipmunks around here weigh about three ounces. In other words, both critters are much, much smaller that the Abert's tree squirrels. Hunting the smaller furballs is a great way to practice for hunting the much bigger tree squirrels.
The ranges that you get shots at are the same for all three types of critters. After successfully hunting the ground squirrels and chipmunks for four or five months, and taking them regularly from 40 to 60 yards, the tree squirrels look like they're the size of house cats, in the scope, when it's finally legal to take them starting in October. It's almost unfair.
After finishing lunch, I decided to take a short walk along the edge of the park, and back into the trees for maybe 50 yards. For some reason, both the chipmunks, and ground squirrels like to hang out around the edges of these parks.
I grabbed my .22 cal Whisper to take along. I had gone a couple of hundred yards, and hadn't really seen any activity, when a chipmunk suddenly jumped up onto an old stump at what lasered to be 47 yards. As I was setting up for the shot, a ground squirrel jumped up onto the same stump from behind. Decisions, decisions. I decided to go for the ground squirrel. Fate works in funny ways. Today, the chipper caught a break.
Since I'm sighted in a half inch high at 50 yards, I held a little low, and sent the pellet on its way. At impact, the ground squirrel was blown off the back of the stump, and the chipmunk launched itself off of the front, never to be seen again that day.
Since I wasn't real intense about hunting, I decided to head back to my vehicle. When I got there, as I usually do before putting my gun away, I quickly glassed the area around me. As happens many times, I spotted a ground squirrel sitting on a stump out at 52 yards, facing to the left, watching me.
I got the rifle set up on my bipod, and since there was almost no wind, held dead on the squirrels ribcage. When the pellet struck home, the squirrel just dropped in place. It didn't even roll off of the top of the stump. Instant DRT.
It turned out to be a fun few hours. If you can dope the wind, it's darned near impossible to miss at these ranges with the .22 cal Whisper. The 16 grain JSB's, I shoot in it, are impressive to say the least.
Next time out, I'm going to hunt my .20 cal Logun Mk II. She's another tack driver.
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