A blog by Bob Rich. Squirrel Hunting, Henry Rifles, Reloading, Range Shooting and More!


Saturday, February 17, 2018

The last squirrel hunt of the 2017-18 season with my old 20 gauge Mossberg.

This week I put up a post on the 'Squirrel Hunter' facebook group where I asked, 'Show us a couple of your favorite squirrel hunting rifles or shotguns'. I was surprised that most of the photos were of bolt action .22s. So in honor of my facebook squirrel hunter friends, I thought my final hunt of February should be with a bolt action. I don't own a bolt action .22. My Mosin Nagant would be a bit of an overkill and very illegal, so that left me with my bolt action Mossberg 20 gauge. I had a great neighbor who was elderly, and sadly ended up getting dementia. When the local police got wind of it, they came to his house and confiscated all of his firearms! When he passed away his wife needed to money so she went to the police station to get them back. They said they no longer had them. So in other words, someone stole her personal property and some very precious memories of her late husband. This still really bothers me. I wonder who now has them in their gun safe? Enjoy them in hell.

One day years later she saw me in the front yard and came over carrying a gun. In her German broken English, she said she had a BB gun for me. It was the Mossberg 20. She told me about the gun confiscation and I was furious! But a lot of time had passed or I would have contacted the NRA and local authorities to take legal action. I guess she discovered this shotgun leaning against the wall in the closet. Until this year this has been the only shotgun I've owned since I sold my Browning Sweet 16 back in the 70's to help pay for college. This shotgun is only worth about $100, but it means a lot to me. In case you're interested, this happened years prior to the new law requiring paperwork to transfer long arms in Connecticut. Another idiotic leftist law.

Last night I found an old leather sling, at least part of one and I rigged it up so I could carry the Mossberg on my shoulder. I now use a squirrel carrier so I like to have at least one hand free when walking through the woods. The sling worked great.

It's been getting light earlier, so I arrived in the woods at 6:30. There was already plenty of light. I had a procedure on my back done a few weeks ago where they microwaved the nerves on my spine so that within 2-6 weeks they were supposed to die and give me some sciatic back pain relief. Since this would be the last hunt of the Sept - Feb squirrel season I made the decision to push myself to see if this procedure actually did any good. I headed out to the far end of the WMA; an area that I haven't been able to hunt in over 6 months.

Within a couple of minutes I saw a herd of deer running along the edge of the swamp to my right. That alone made it worth coming out. I arrived at my spot and I was seeing more squirrels than I had seen in this area in years. A few times I saw two or more squirrels chasing each other around the trunk of a tree. Squirrels were barking at each other. It was fantastic! But there was a problem.

Yesterday was in the 50's and it lightly rained all day. Last night the temperature dropped down into the 20's, so that glaze of ice on the leaves and reeds made a large CRUNCH with every step. It was impossible to hide my approach. Though squirrels were everywhere, they were usually around 75 yards away, out of the reach of my 20. I took a few shots to see if I could reach some, but no such luck. I made the decision to pick a spot and sit it out until it warmed up enough to melt the ice. It took a couple of hours and it got cold just sitting there. Now I have another reason not to deer hunt.

By 8:30 I began to notice that the temperature was rising a bit and the bright sun was thawing the leaves. The crunchy leaves had suddenly become soft and mushy and it was a lot easier to move undetected. Especially when the squirrels were in groups, chasing each other and distracted.

Before the thaw I sat out one squirrel for an hour, and that's unusual for me. I'm usually on the move after 20 minutes, but I was determined to bag this one. He'd appear from time to time, but never exposed enough of itself to give me a decent shot. Finally I decided to move in closer and it ducked into a hole in the tree, never to show its face again. Discouraged and still squirrelless I needed to move on before I blew the entire morning and being the last weekend morning of the season, that would have been disastrous. Feeding ends at around 9am, so it was now or never. I could see 3 squirrels moving in the trees about 100 yards out, so I moved toward them.

The area was surrounded by dense pricker bushes so it wasn't easy to close in. By the time I got to the area they had disappeared. I took a seat. Within the next 45 minutes all 3 ran out from their hiding spots and I dropped them one at a time. One landed in dense prickers and after about 15 minutes of being shredded, I had no choice but to give it up. Very disappointing, but I was bleeding more than the squirrels.

I moved out to another spot and slowly closed in on two squirrels digging for nuts on the ground. They both moved out of sight until one appeared on a nearby tree and ran full out on a high branch trying to get to another tree. I shot and dropped it. I now had 3 on my squirrel stringer. What a great little simple invention that turned out to be. It keeps the squirrels opened up instead of curling up in the game bag, getting soaked in blood and soaking my clothes with blood in the process. They bleed out quickly and are much easier to gut when I arrive home. They also remain much more photogenic.

It was now 10:30 so I decided to hang it up so I could be at the car by 11. I spent so much time sitting this morning that I was cold and looking forward to a warm car and a hot cup of black coffee.

Henry Repeating Arms is sending me out their basic H001 lever action rifle to begin hunting with. It should be lighter than my solid, heavy octagon barreled Henry's, and with my messed up back I'll be hunting with it next season. In case you're interested, I did do much better walking today than I have been over the past year, but after a few hours at home I began to feel it. Feb 9 was the one year anniversary of my accident.

Along the path I came across at least a dozen strange holes (see photos above), possibly from deer digging? Also some coyote scat. Maybe I'll do some predator hunting over the summer. It's been a fun season and I think I hit my limit of 40. Thank you Henry Repeating Arms for the use of the beautiful lever action 410. It proved to be an amazing shotgun. Is it September 1st yet?!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Our Great Squirrel Hunting Heritage: Siege of Cincinnati

In September 1862, Confederate forces under General Kirby Smith captured Lexington, Kentucky in the second year of the American Civil War. Smith dispatched General Henry Heth to capture Covington, Kentucky and Cincinnati, Ohio. Major General Horatio Wright, commander of Union forces in Kentucky, ordered General Lewis (Lew) Wallace to prepare Covington's and Cincinnati's defenses.

Upon arriving in Cincinnati, Wallace immediately declared martial law. All business owners were to close their shops, and civilians were to report for military duty. Wallace stated, "Civilians for labor, soldiers for battle." Men in the regular army would fight on the battlefield, while the civilians would prepare trenches and other defensive features to prepare the two communities for attack. Cincinnati residents reportedly "cheerfully obeyed" the order.

Ohio Governor David Tod left Columbus, the state capital, and came to Cincinnati to assist Wallace. Tod immediately ordered Ohio's adjutant-general to send any available troops other than those guarding Ohio's southern border to Cincinnati. Tod also ordered the state quartermaster to send five thousand guns to equip Cincinnati's militia. A number of Ohio counties offered to dispatch men to Cincinnati as well. Tod immediately accepted the offers on Lew Wallace's behalf. He stated that only armed men should report and that railroad companies should transport the men for free, and send a bill to the State of Ohio later. Civilians from sixty-five counties numbering 15,766 men reported for duty at Cincinnati. These men became known as the "Squirrel Hunters."

Many of the Squirrel Hunters had no military training and carried antiquated weapons. Despite these shortcomings, they still rallied together to help defend Ohio from Confederate invasion. City officials commandeered Cincinnati's Fifth Street Markethouse to serve as a dining hall for the volunteers. Churches, meeting halls, and warehouses served as barracks. One day after he called for the volunteers, Governor Tod requested Ohioans to stop sending men for duty.

Thanks to the actions of Wallace and Tod, Covington and Cincinnati had adequate defenses to repel Heth's advance within two days. Wallace quickly lifted martial law and allowed all businesses to reopen except those that sold alcoholic beverages. By September 13, 1862, news reached Cincinnati that the Confederate forces were withdrawing from Kentucky and that Cincinnati was no longer in danger. Wallace earned the nickname "Savior of Cincinnati" for his actions in September 1862. The Squirrel Hunters returned to their homes.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Tomorrow I hunt with the Henry pump action .22 and CCI Quite Segmented HP .22. This will be a first so I'll keep you informed on how it works out. I gave the rifle a quick sighting in at about 20 yards last weekend. I had peep sights on it but swapped them out with a basic Cabela's scope. It will be the first time I've hunted with this rifle in years. I've never shot Segmented HP Quiet 22, so hopefully they shoot the same as standard Quiet .22. The difference between the two is that Segmented is jacketed and has a hollow point. Regular Quiet is lead ball (round nose). Both are subsonic and shoot at 710 fps.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

First hunt with the new camera glasses. 1/13/2018

Today was the first morning I tried the new camera glasses I got for Christmas. Being near-sighted I require prescription lenses. I had the manufacturer make me a pair, but they didn't fit the frame and the prescription was incorrect. A total strike-out. Since I knew no one else would be in the woods, I decided to hunt using just the clear lens. Hunting without my glasses made things difficult and I missed a few squirrels because of it. I could see them, but it was difficult to gauge distance and line them up with the shotgun's bead. But at least I got to play with the camera, I was able to drop one, and I learned a little about what not to do. Next time I'll increase the resolution, slow my head movements and tilt the lens up.

Last weekend the temperature in Connecticut was -6. A week later it was 56! A foot of snow disappeared in two days due to a torrential rain that lasted a day and a night. It finally stopped early this morning but another cold front moved in while I hunted, dropping the temperature from 56 down to 30. Along with the changing front came extremely high winds. Even so, I decided to hunt... blind.

The Solution... Contacts. I've been putting them off all my life but now I have no choice.

Gun: Henry .410 shotgun.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

A 6 degree hunt with the Henry .410

Happy New Year friends! It's January 2nd and I had planned to take the day off from work to hunt. It's another day in the single numbers so I've had second thoughts, but who knows how long we'll be able to hunt before we get hit with a storm that buries us and brings the season to an end? It's only 6 degrees this morning but I decided to go for it. Other than the cold it is a beautiful morning. I've found that squirrels don't like this bitter cold any more than we do. I'll be lucky if I see one squirrel out of its tree on a morning like this.

It was 7am when I entered the woods and the sun was just breaking over the horizon. I took it nice and slow because there's ice under the inch of new-fallen snow, and after last year I don't need to land on my back again. I decided not to travel too deep into the woods because with this cold it's possible to get into trouble when hunting alone.

After an hour and seeing nothing I began to widen my area, heading toward the tree where three squirrels chased each other over my head and I was able to drop two of them on December 9th. If there's two there may be more, and if not, that third squirrel might still be in the area.

As I neared that tree a squirrel came into view running across the ground and it ran up the same tree where I had spotted the three! It must have been the one that got away. It ran around the back side of the tree, then it dove into a hole and disappeared. I took a seat in the snow in the shadow of a big tree and rested my back against the trunk. The warm orange sunlight streamed across the treeline and I just sat back and enjoyed. Birds were feeding everywhere, and that's a good thing. If the birds are unafraid and making noise, the squirrels are more likely to let their guard down and show themselves.

After half an hour, the squirrel showed itself again. It poked its head out of a hole far up in the tree and didn't move. I very slowly moved my Henry 410 into position, got a bead on it and slowly squeezed the trigger. Any sudden movement would have caused it to pull back its head. BANG! The squirrel rolled over and dropped to the ground. It had to be a head shot, so I instead of getting right up to retrieve it, I stayed seated for another five minutes hoping another would appear Nothing did. Even with my insulated boots on my toes were getting cold, so I decided to get up, find the squirrel and move on. It was right under where it dropped, and it was a good head-shot.

That squirrel stringer really does work great. It keeps the squirrels from turning into stiff, bloody curled up rocks in the game bag and I now get home without covering my vest and pants with blood.

Went I returned to my car I got out my squirrel gutting gear and began slicing behind the tail. I've finally gotten down that method of skinning and I can't tell you how much easier it is. Cut perpendicular of the tail right near the anus. Take it slow and cut right under the fir layer and just above the white internal layer. You don't want to cut down into the meat. Carefully widen the cut, then grab the tail with one hand and the front legs with the other and the fir pulls off like a glove. Then break the bones with pliers at the joint just above the paws and cut them off. Work the pelt with your fingers over the legs and pull the pelt off. Remove the head, slice open the ribs, gut, and you're done. It was so cold that the knife was sticking to the skin like Schwartz in A Christmas Story's tongue stuck to the flagpole.

Another one for the freezer and I was on my way home. Oh ya. When I was leaving I discovered a horseshoe. What a horseshoe would be doing here I have no idea, but it must mean good hunting luck for 2018!

I need to do a count to see how many squirrels I bagged so far this season. There's a 40 squirrel limit in CT. A reminder not to forget that your license expired as of January 1st so I hope you renewed. I'll have a POV camera with me during the next hunt. Until the next hunt, shoot straight and stay safe.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

7 degrees and one in the bag with the Henry .410

The only squirrel foolish enough to come out in this cold

It was cold out at 7am this morning, but I was OK except for my feet. I should have worn extra socks. I had chemical heaters in my gloves, insulated coveralls, a rabbit hat (VERY warm in even the coldest temperatures, jacket, vest... If you forget one thing it's all you can think about. Don't forget a chap stick! I did forget the beard.
Reminds me of when I had hair.

My primitive squirrel stringer worked great. My vest would have been filled with blood, and likely my pants as well. This lets them bleed out on the ground and keeps the squirrel from stiffening all curled up and covered with blood. Thanks to whoever gave me the idea.

I first spotted this one on the ground. It heard the snow crunching under my boots so it ran up a tree. I saw it dive into a hole at the very top. I took a seat and occasionally it would pop its head out. It was a really long shot and I didn't think I had a chance with the Henry .410. I figured it was worth a shot. I fired and it dropped. Head shot! I also got to try out the squirrel stringer I made last night. Worked great! I wish I could have filled it up, but the squirrels were smart enough to stay inside. 7 degrees is just too cold. Even the birds weren't flying.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

First snow and 3 in the bag with the Henry .410 shotgun.

Snow was predicted for today. It was supposed to begin around 6am and snow through the afternoon. I've found that squirrels tend to know when the weather is about to turn bad, and they hunker down and don't move much. This morning I was hoping I was wrong.

A couple of minutes down the main path and I catch some movement in my peripheral vision. I stop for a closer look and spot the end of a squirrel tail behind a tree trunk about 25 yards out. I carefully and quietly make my way into the woods hoping not to get spotted. No such luck. The squirrel darts up the tree to the uppermost branches. It must have seen me because it's running full out from branch to branch. I have my Henry .410 so shooting into the air at a running squirrel won't be an issue. Squirrels are smart, and this one is staying on the backside of the branches. From time to time I'd get a glimpse of it's head or tail so I ready myself and wait for the shot. Head spotted! Bam! Miss. Running. Bam! Mass. Running across a branch. Bam! It dropped. Squirrel one in the bag.

About 15 minutes later I spot two squirrels running around 50 yards away. The temperature is right around freezing which is warmer than it has been so the leaves under my boots are soft and quiet. Maybe I can sneak up and get a shot. No such luck. Both split up and run into different trees, diving into their old, rotten trunks. I sat them out about 20 minutes, then decided it's time to move on. It's around 8:00 and the end of feeding is closing in. Time to move.

I circled the area a couple more times. Light snow began to fall. Nothing's moving. I'm guessing that it because everything has gotten so quiet I can hear my ears ring. I decided to make a final pass around an area where I don't often have much luck, but who knows? I could get lucky.

As I pass through the area, nothing but a few birds are moving, walking on the ground and waiting for the snow. I decide to take a couple selfies to use in this story then head home. I put down my shotgun, take a few photos and start putting together a post.

Suddenly a hear some unusual scratching. I look up and spot 3 squirrels, almost in my face, running around a tree trunk maybe 20 feet away! Holy shit!!! I drop my phone, raise the Henry straight up and Bam! One drops. Bam! Another drops. The third got away.

I finish my post and go to retrieve my game. The first I come across is wounded but very much alive. I hit its hind legs so it can't crawl away. I want to finish it off as quickly and painlessly as possible. I pull my Ruger LCR .22 with CCI Quiet .22. I didn't want to post a photo of a squirrel with half its head blown off, so I shoot it behind the head. It took 3 shots to put the damn thing away! These squirrels are tough. I'm thinking, how many times do I get a body shot on a squirrel that I know I had dead nuts, but somehow I seem to have missed?! Maybe I didn't miss after all. It took a shotgun blast and 3 rounds point blank to kill this thing.

The other squirrel was about 10 feet away and it was dead. 3 in the bag so I think I'll head home. The older I get the more I'm content to take 2 or 3 and leave,  preferring to leave something behind to hunt the following Saturday.

Let me end this post by saying that I've been hunting squirrels with numerous .22 and .17HMR models, plus a 20 gauge over the past 10+ years. That includes about a dozen Henrys, a Ruger 10-22 and a M&P 15-22. In my opinion this Henry .410 is definitely the most effective squirrel killer and the most fun. Until next weekend, enjoy the snow and stay safe!

Friday, November 24, 2017

Thanksgiving Day and the following Friday, squirrel hunting with the 15-22

It's been some time since I hunted a squirrel with a .22. The September squirrel season was devoted to hunting with the New Henry .410 shotgun. Now that the leaves are off the trees the shots are longer and less obstructed. For the past two days I've hunted with the S&W M&P 15-22.

I got a late start on Thanksgiving because it was my job to prepare the turkey so my wife could put it in the oven when she woke up. Because of that I didn't get into the woods until around 8:30. Even though pheasant stocking ended last weekend, the woods were full of guys who hoped to pick up some stragglers. They were wrong. Not a shot was fired while I was there and most won't be back until next year.

 Over the next hour I only saw a single squirrel, which I bagged, confirming that my sights were dialed in properly, so I was all set for tomorrow's hunt. It was already late and the area was spooked by pheasant hunters, so I left and returned home to get ready for Thanksgiving guests.

The following morning I was in the woods nice and early. It was around 6:30 and the squirrels must have been sleeping. The woods were good and active with flocks of birds landing in the trees and making a racket. I like that because I think it puts the squirrels at ease, it wakes them up as well as helping to cover the sound of my footsteps. Still I saw nothing for the first 30-45 minutes.

I moved on to another spot and started to get some action. The squirrels that survive to see the end of November are smart, fast and cautious. They tend to spot movement a long way off and usually require a lot of stalking and waiting.

This one busted me, but I sat it out for around 20 minutes. Then it began moving again and scrambled from tree to tree on the upper branches. I followed below until it made a mistake. It froze, I shot and it dropped. My first squirrel in the bag. I headed to another area...

 Now things were beginning to pick up. Twice I spotted a group of 3 squirrels (not the same 3) at a distance but as I closed in they heard the frozen leaves crunching under my boots and disappeared into the hollow trees. I waited them out but they didn't reappear. I guess that's why they are still alive.

When I first entered this area I spotted a big grey with a huge bushy tail running along a fallen tree. I wasn't sure if it spotted me or not, so I slowly approached. It seemed to have run into the high grass and didn't reappear. I headed on. During a return trip I saw the same squirrel at a distance and as I closed in, it must have spotted me again! Like magic it disappeared. This took place right next to the fallen tree where I spotted the running squirrel earlier. I looked everywhere for that squirrel, but it was gone so I backtracked to check the trees again. On my third pass that damn squirrel appeared once more! Again it disappeared as I approached. When I got in a good position I decided to wait it out.

I got between three trees that hid me as well as serving as a support to shoot off. I waited for half and hour, then decided to head back to the car. I threw the rifle sling over my shoulder but then decided to give it a few more minutes.

Looking into the trees I spotted something in my peripheral vision. The damn squirrel walked out of the grass and was standing 10 feet in from of me! My rifle was over my shoulder and I dared not move or it would have spotted me again and ran. It started walking around, stopped, and was standing perpendicular to me. I slowly let the sling slide down my shoulder but the squirrel spotted the movement. I could tell it saw me though it wasn't looking directly at me. Its tail and hind legs began to twitch. Finally it ran full out up a tree and turned itself around to the back side. It had nowhere to go, so I figured it went back into the brush. I waited, and with my amplified muffs on I could hear the squirrel eating! I still couldn't see it. I moved in closer but it was hidden good. I decided to accept defeat and leave.

The rifle went back over my shoulder, but for some reason I decided to give the branches one last look. There it was! A perfect profile shot, wide open and not moving. I guess it figured I couldn't see it if it didn't move, and it was almost right. I really didn't want to blow this. I slowly took a step back and got behind a tree. Brought the rifle up and tried to get a bead. It was gone! Damn!. No wait. There it was. I put the crosshairs on its chest and squeezed one off. It dropped. Nailed it! You might ask why I didn't aim for the head. After going through so much to get this one in the scope I wasn't taking any chances of missing. A shot to the heart and lungs will do the job nicely.

This kind of action is what makes squirrel hunting is so much fun. It's hunting. Not just shooting. I'll likely be out tomorrow. Maybe I can get another chance at those groups of squirrels.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

My first experience hunting with the DEEP's new pheasant hunting system.

Today was the first morning I got to pheasant hunt under the new Connecticut pheasant hunting system. I arrived at 8:30 and there were 12 trucks in the lot with a group of guys by the gate waiting to head in. The stocking truck was also in the lot, having already stocked and the guy from the state had a clipboard with a list of hunters listed, scheduled to hunt from 9am - noon. He came over, asked me my name and checked my name off the list. He seemed like a very nice guy, and spent time shooting the bull with a group of younger hunters.

There were at least 8 dogs in the lot chomping at the bit to get into the woods. I love dogs, but not during hunting season. They are my competitor, and I don't stand much chance against them. The stocker let us in a few minutes early, and the dogs all scattered. Within a minute there were shots fired. A group of young hunters with their dogs were to my left and I saw them drop 4 birds. With so many dogs out there if you can't get out ahead of them, you don't stand a chance. Throughout the morning I'd hear a dog bark, the pheasant gobble and shots fired. After an hour most of the shooting subsided. I'm guessing most had bagged their limit and left. After that I'd occasionally hear a shot. I bagged mine on the return trip near the water's edge. This morning I was hunting with the old Mossberg 20 gauge.

During the hunt I came across a few squirrels, but decided not to pursue them with the 20. Maybe they'll be around when this pheasant season is over and I can have fun squirrel hunting again with the .410.

As I returning to the parking lot there were only 4 trucks left and the stocking truck was gone. I passed the remaining hunters and their dogs on the way back. I'm guessing the stocker went to pick up more birds for the afternoon hunt. There was no one to check how many birds hunters had in their bags.

This was way too hard. This sciatic nerve injury has made it very painful to walk for so many hours, especially through the brush were pheasant hide. Hopefully the two cortisone injections I'm getting in my spine Tuesday will reduce the inflammation and the pains that go with it. Now I need to decide if I'll try this again next Saturday, or should I lay low till after Thanksgiving when the pheasant hunters are gone? 

My personal opinion on this new system? It sucks. Instead of hunters stepping into the woods a few at a time, there is literally an army that heads out at once led my a pack of dogs. Since the dog hunters are out front, the pheasant that were released on the path are immediately put up and shot. In past years if I could get out ahead of the dogs I could possibly bag a couple within the first hour. Not any more. Like I said before, this new system makes it too damn hard for us guys hunting without dogs. I hope the DEEP reconsiders their decision next year. If not, this will likely be my last tag.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Driven out of my usual hunting spot by the DEEP, I put one in the bag with the Henry .410 at Roraback WMA

Today begins the new hunting laws instituted by the CT DEEP for the 2017 pheasant season. In most Central CT WMA hunting locations, no one can be in the woods before 9am. You need to book a reservation and the number of hunters in the woods at one time is limited. Hunting now is basically like shooting at the state range. You can't go in the woods before your time slot begins. You have to be out when that time slot ends. Then a second wave of hunters enters the woods and at 4pm anyone can hunt. It's no longer enjoyable as far as I'm concerned, and squirrel hunters are locked out of the woods during squirrel feeding time, which is for the most part sunrise to 9am. At least at the range they know if you showed up or not and if you make a reservation and don't keep it there is a penalty. I wonder how many retired guys will book a slot every weekend whether they plan to hunt or not? The state range now limits us to 2 shoots per month. How long it will be before we'll see that enacted for hunting?

For the last couple of days I've been corresponding with the DEEP and the state biologist about my concerns. I was asked to put my thoughts in writing and email them so the DEEP can review the suggestions and complaints when they decide how the system will operate next season. I sent them two pages last night.

I wasn't able to book a slot in time this week so I was locked out of the hunt on opening day. In all my life I have never heard of such a thing. I would have passed on buying a pheasant tag if I knew the system would be run like this. Each week we now have to rush to book a spot before all the time slots are filled. I thought I went hunting to get away from the kind of pressure that I have to deal with at work. There's a lot of old timers and immigrants who hunt this area. I bet most don't use the Internet and are either ignorant of the new law or will simply chose to ignore it. If the WMA's are run like they've been for the past 4 or more years there won't be a Conservation Officer in the woods to check licenses anyway. Each week we now have to book a time-slot online, then either print out a new hunting license or put the pdf on our phone. What a hassle! Thankfully this procedure ends after Thanksgiving.

Today I was forced to find another spot to hunt so I drove way up to Roraback WMA. That place is still void of small game and I only spotted one squirrel all morning which I bagged. There were only two cars in the lot where I hunted and the three hours I was there I only heard 2 or 3 shots. I then drove around to the other parking areas in the WMA and there were maybe 5 cars in total. This is some hunting season!

I've been hunting a particular WMA this year because I know it like the back of my hand and it's basically flat. If you read my blog you know I was out of work for 4 months this year with a severe back injury. Thanks to these new rules I had to hunt a hillier WMA today and I'm paying for it now. I'm actually looking forward to the two cortisone injections that Workman's Comp will have their neurologist put into my spine near the sciatic nerve in a week or so. This entire situation sucks.

The main focus of my letter to the DEEP was that hunting is more than just shooting two birds on a Saturday and returning home. It's about watching the sun rise. Running into a herd of deer and having a flock of birds perch on the branches around you. The woods are very different from sunrise to 9am than it is in the hours that follow. Hunting is about experiencing nature and being alone with your thoughts and your God. In my opinion hunting is no longer hunting when it turns into nothing more than a few hours at the shooting range or a morning shooting sporting clays.

Here's the solution to the problem. No more Friday stocking. The birds are gone by Saturday morning. Instead, stock at 4-5am Saturday. That's it! Get the birds out early Saturday and most of us will come out with birds that morning. Why does government have to make everything so goddamn complicated?!!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Three in the cooler this morning with the Henry .410 shotgun

Today was opening day of duck season, and as one guy put it this morning, "It sounds like Baghdad!". Squirrels don't like that kind of commotion, but I was able to bag these three with the Henry .410 and 6 shot 2.5" shells before it got crazy. Next weekend begins pheasant season, and the new CT law prohibits hunters from being in the woods prior to 9am on Saturdays until the weekend after Thanksgiving. Thankfully they changed the squirrel hunting law this year which allowed us to hunt from the October 1st until opening day of pheasant season. Usually squirrel hunting is suspended during those weeks. Another law I could never understand. I guess I'll need to either head north to do my squirrel hunting or switch to pheasant hunting. I don't know if I want to wait until 9am when an army of hunters and their dogs will descend in military-like fashion on the WMA. That's not my idea of hunting. Thankfully a couple weeks after they end stocking, the bird hunters disappear and the woods once again belong to the squirrel hunter.

My search for a replacement pair of Uncle Mike's gloves.

I've worn these Uncle Mike's gloves on every hunt since 2006 and as you can see they're shot. Do me a favor and let me know if you run across a pair for sale. I have a feeling they stopped making them years ago. I should write the company. Thanks.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

6 in the bag this morning with the Henry .410

This morning. One hour with the Henry .410.
Between 7:00 and 8:00am.
6 in the bag.

It was one of those mornings that I wondered if I should stay home or not. It rained for the last two days and thunderstorms were predicted for morning. I did decided to go, and arrived at the WMA by 7:00. Two cars in the lot, but I figured they were hunting something else, maybe deer hunters and they always go deeper into the woods. The wet ground made it possible to walk in near silence and a flock of starlings landed on branches all around me. They were everywhere, on the ground, on low branches and at the tops, but for some reason they didn't seem to mind that I was there. There was movement everywhere and made so much noise that I has to reduce my muff's amplification. I expected the flock to flush but they didn't so I used them for cover. 3 deer jumped out of high brush less than 20 yards to my right and ran across my path. About 5 minutes later I either saw two more or the same ones appeared about 30 yards away. They just stood there and stared at me. Maybe I was pushing them closer to some deer hunters. They can thank me later.

In total I bagged six squirrels this morning. Unlike on earlier hunts this season, they were not on the canopy, but instead on the ground or the low branches. The nuts have fallen so they moved to the food supply, and doing so gave up their cover. Squirrels were moving between 7 and 8am, and after that it was quiet. I stayed for about an hour and a half. I usually hunt for about 3 hours, but 6 in the bag is enough. I'll save the rest for another morning and I had enough to clean in one morning.

No squirrel was within range when spotted, so I had to close the distance. The .410 has its advantages, but also its drawbacks. Each dropped with the first Winchester 6 shot shell, but half of them required a second hit to put them away. 

It's been years since we've had a squirrel season like this, many in recent years being nothing but discouragement. The hawk population appears to have decreased this year. There were mornings in recent years where I would stop, look around and have 4 hawks in eye-shot. This year I might see one. The decrease in predator activity and the increase in nut supply must be responsible for the boom in the squirrel population. There also seems to be less hunting pressure this year, since most of the time I'm hunting alone. 

The .410 has proved to also be an asset to early season hunting, being able to take shots into trees that I would have passed up with a .22 because it's just too dangerous. The Henry has also given me the ability to take the shot even when I don't have clear view of the squirrel's head. With full choke you need to be on target, but it does give me a few inches of leeway if I can gauge the center of mass. 4 and 6 shot BBs are big enough to easily see when cleaning the squirrel, and they usually are just under the fir and on top of the meat. Since I blog and post on facebook, a squirrel downed with the 410 has a better presentation than does a squirrel shot in the head with a .22. 

So even though my back injury has slowed me down considerably this season, the abundance of squirrels and the use of the 410 has more than compensated. The big question now in CT is whether the new hunting laws will keep squirrel hunters out of the woods before 9am from opening through Thanksgiving. I've contacted the DEEP and will inform you of their response. Good hunting friends. Until next weekend.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

What?!! NO SATURDAY MORNING SQUIRREL HUNTING during pheasant season in Central CT?

I just sent the DEEP 2 emails. I want to know what they are doing?! From what I can tell we can't enter the woods until 9am on Saturday from October 21st thru November 18th when they stock pheasant for the last time. That means squirrel hunting is dead for a month for us guys who work on weekdays. The season is short enough as is, ending the 1st of March. No wonder they gave us a few extra weekends to hunt in October this year. My option is to hunt at more distant WMAs, which wouldn't be a bad idea considering how miserable it is for squirrel hunters who struggle to hunt side by side with loud pheasant hunters and their dogs. I think I'll pass on a pheasant stamp this season.

PHEASANT PROGRAM Changes in 2017: 
This year, the DEEP will purchase a total of 15,000 adult pheasants. In addition to our statewide stocking efforts, seven areas will be also be stocked on Saturday morning and afternoon and will only be open to hunters with a Saturday AM (9:00 AM -12:00 noon) or Saturday PM (1:30 PM - 4:30 PM) permit. These select areas will be stocked prior to the morning permit and during the afternoon break to assure hunters that birds will be available at these areas on the weekend. 

These areas include: 
Cromwell Meadows WMA 
Durham Meadows WMA 
Housatonic WMA 
Nathan Hale State Forest 
Naugatuck State Forest (Hunter's Mountain Block only) 
Simsbury WMA
Skiff Mountain Coop WMA 

 All hunters wishing to use these areas on Saturdays must have a Saturday permit and will only be able to be present during the specified time on the daily permit. Saturday permits for these areas will only be available on the Online Sportsmen Licensing System the Monday preceding the Saturday hunts starting at 12:01 AM. Daily Permits can be found by selecting either the OTHER or BIRDS AND WATERFOWL tab once in your licensing profile. Permits are free and need to be printed on your license and carried in the field while hunting. Hunters must have a valid firearms hunting license or a combination license to secure a daily permit. All hunters must also purchase a CT Resident Game Bird Conservation Stamp to hunt pheasants on these areas. Hunters wishing to use these areas but not acquire a Game Bird stamp should avoid going to these sites on the designated Saturdays below. Daily Permits will be needed at these areas on the following Saturdays: Saturday, October 21 Saturday, October 28 Saturday, November 4 Saturday, November 11 Saturday, November 18 (Does not include Nathan Hale, Naugatuck SF, and Skiff Mnt.) Compliance with these requirements is necessary in order for birds to be stocked prior to 9:00 AM and again between 12:00 -1:30 PM. If hunters are present, birds will not be stocked. Permits are not needed to hunt these areas Monday-Friday, except at Skiff Mountain Coop WMA.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

5 in the bag this morning with the Henry .410

It was a weekend much like last, warmer than usual, soon to be hot, humid, miserable, with record breaking heat. I had stayed at home, and I was not about to miss two weekends in a row. As I approached the WMA there were two squirrels running in the road, a sign, an omen of things to come? How quickly our attitudes change with the glimpse of a bushy tail or a bounce of a branch or a distant bark from a tree.

I entered the woods with a .410 in hand, a Henry, lever action, traveling as light as I could, knowing that the heat would soon become intolerable. I walked through what I call "my hot spot", but nothing was moving, the grass was still, the blazing disk of the sun slowly rising and blinding though the branches. But the trees were still. Motionless, with not even a breeze to sway a leaf.

30 yards away I spotted a flicker along the trunk of a tree. Was it imagined, a bird or a leaf and an over active imagination, or the actual reason I get up so early in the morning to be here? People laugh when I tell them that I squirrel hunt, joking that their yards are full of them. In the woods they are smart, not on porches or eating bread off the lawn like suburban tree rats, but sharp, aware, ready and rarely relaxed. Waiting to be attacked by coyote, or fisher-cat, or hawk, or man. These are the survivors, a higher breed of squirrel, animals worthy of respect, higher evolved. An intelligent and skilled master of escape, with no fear of heights, able to balance on the thinnest branch, and vanish before the eyes of a man, making us look like a fool.

Squirrels sense impending danger, usually, but this squirrel was preoccupied, focused on some fallen nuts, unaware of the distance closing between us. I raised the shotgun and put the bead on the silhouette. It was clear, sharp, motionless. This was too easy. But what about the distance? Longer than I usually shoot, out of range? I pulled the trigger. The gun recoiled but I didn't feel it. I cycled the lever, readying myself should the squirrel awake and run, or thrash, making it's way into the swamp or hole or and empty hollow in a tree. And another squirrel might appear. I was ready. But the carcass lay motionless, dead, as still as the roots that it lay against. 5 minutes into the hunt and I had one in the bag, my low expectations forgotten, replaced with excitement, and hope that this would be the day that I brought home my limit once again. I was amazed at how the flicker of a tail and the thump of a gray hitting the ground can fill me with such excitement.

It was 7:30 and my shirt was soaked with sweat, gnats swarmed my face, like a swarm of bees on a hive. Without my netting I wouldn't have been able to stand it, almost too tiny to see but relentless, untiring and biting. But netting creates a distance, in my mind anyway, even though the bastards were less than an inch from my face. But this protection has its price, and that price is heat. The enemy of the Fall hunter, fogged glasses, making it impossible to see. But the woods were hot and the morning was young, and the squirrels were surrounding me, hidden, cunning, eluding me but I was unwilling to let them go.

This was a better morning. Squirrels running in pairs, circling trunk like the threads of a screw. I bagged 5 of them, over 2 hour of time, each in different groups. By 9:00 it was too hot and I was tired. It was a fun morning, but I look forward to first frost.

A shout out to the Boy Scouts of America for doing an amazing job of cleaning out the area two weeks ago. You guys are a credit to your generation.

Firearm: Henry .410 5 shot lever action   
Ammo: Winchester 2.5" 6 shot


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Three in the bag with the Henry .410 9/5/17

This morning's hunt was my fourth of the season. Once again I'm hunting with the Henry .410 with 6 shot Winchester shells. 

I entered the woods at 6:45, and what's the first thing I spot? 4 deer just standing there. I fumbled for my phone, turned on the camera and tried to take a picture. It's fuzzy, but you get the idea. It's true that deer come right up to squirrel hunters and squirrels enjoy kicking leaves around deer hunters.

This morning I only hunted for one hour because it was oppressively humid and I was already soaked. It was getting warmer by the minute and since I had already bagged three squirrels I decided to hang it up for the morning. I did hit two others, but they were out there, dropped, but ended up climbing into holes in the old rotted trees. This year is the first that I've seriously hunted squirrel with a shotgun, and the first time I've ever shot a .410. I'm loving it and my never go back! Hunting in September requires getting on the target fast and pulling off the shot before the squirrel is obstructed by foliage. The .410 with full chock gives me a little room for error but not much. You need to be right on the squirrel or it won't drop. But it isn't necessary to have quite the precision required with a scoped .22. I'm finding that the range of the .410 is about the same as a .22 without a scope. If I'd feel comfortable taking the shot with iron sights, I'll likely drop the squirrel with the shotgun. I like the idea that I can take a shot without having to worry about the bullet traveling for miles and landing in a residential area. In Connecticut where small hunting spots are surrounded with housing, that always has to be taken into consideration. Especially when shooting into trees and not having a backstop for the bullet.

Everything is working great so far, including the Brass Stacker sling and loop cover. I've read about some cycling issues with the Henry, but my shotgun has worked flawlessly. Just be sure to completely cycle the gun after each shot. I added a hammer extension and it's worked beautifully! I don't even think about pulling back the hammer, and it's basically effortless. This was a concern when I first handled the .410. I was afraid that if I put up a pheasant and needed to get off a quick shot that I'd be fumbling for the hammer and might not have time to pull the hammer back all the way. With the extension which goes for about nine bucks on eBay, none of my concerns were realized. The gun shoots fast, it's well balanced and very easy to get on target. I'm loving this shotgun, and I now have 10 for the season.

Monday, September 4, 2017

9/4/17 Two more in the bag with the Henry .410 Shotgun

Happy Labor Day! I hope you got out to hunt. I got a little later start this morning, arriving in the woods at 6:30. Surprisingly I was still the first one in the lot. I had expected to have a lot of competition this morning since it's a holiday. I guess people like to sleep in. 

Within the first 10 minutes I spotted the first squirrel. It was high in the trees, so I waiting a few minutes until it began to make its way down. This morning I hunted with the Henry .410 shotgun with 6 shot Winchester shells. Since this is the first year I've ever hunted with a .410, I'm experimenting with ammo. The last two times out I hunted with 4 shot and today 6 shot. I wasn't sure what to expect, but if anything, it worked better than the 4 shot. I took 2 shots and bagged 2 squirrels, both before 7:00. Both were stone dead when they hit the ground, and that wasn't always true of the 4 shot. The first squirrel was around 40 yards out and the second 25. That means that I'm getting a good group with the full choke that the Henry comes with. 

To get 4 shot shells in 2.5" cases I have to drive all the way to Cabela's, but I can pick up 6 shot at WalMart. For some reason they carry 4 shot in 3" but not in 2.5". Unlike most of their ammo at WalMart where you have to run around the store to find an associate to unlock the case, they don't lock up shotgun shells so they are fast and easy to buy. And it seems that they're always in stock. Even better, it's a couple bucks cheaper for a box of 25, so I'm switching to 6 shot and I'll save the 4 for pheasant. 

By 8:30 I could feel in my bones that it was over. It was quickly heating up and the sun was blasting through the trees. That's when everything goes back to sleep. So I have 7 so far this season. I plan to cook a couple on the grill tonight so I'll shoot video when I do. I'll be back out there tomorrow.

The first squirrel down, downed with Winchester 6 shot at around 40 yards.

The next squirrel was about 25 yards out and was taken with the same ammo.

I gut my squirrels within an hour of bagging before they stiffen up.

 Slow cooking for 4 hours, then flower and fry on the grill.

Fried squirrel on the plate tonight!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Squirrel Calling

Do any of you have a good squirrel calling technique? I heard a guy once who perfectly mimicked a squirrel bark with is mouth, but since I can't do that I use a call. This really doesn't bring them in, but sometimes when things are dead it will bring them out. It's more of a locator. I'm sure you have squirrels in your yard. Instead of shooting them, pull up a chair and listen. Then grab a call and try to talk to them. Especially if you live in a place like I do that prohibits summer squirrel hunting. It's a good time to learn their language.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Bagged a woodchuck with the Henry .17HMR Golden Boy with Iron Sights

This Golden Boy is dead on! With iron sights I was able to take out this woodchuck at over 50 yards.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Turkey Targets by Birchwood Casey

Birchwood & Casey sent me two target frames and 6 splatter turkey targets to use when patterning the Henry 410. The frames slide into the corrugated cardboard backers and tabs hold the target. A cross-bar allows you to drive the frame into the ground with one step. Tabs eliminate the need for a stapler or tape to hold the target. The colored splatter effect makes your pattern much easier to see from a distance and makes shooting more fun. I can't wait to get to the range with the 410 to see how various loads pattern at different distances. Zoom in and check out the turkeys. They are beautiful. After taking these photos I put one on my computer screen and all of a sudden I hear a turkey gobbling. I'm thinking "What the hell?!!" I turn around and my daughter is playing with the dog, and the toy has a squeaker in it that would make the prefect turkey call. Almost freaked me out. Thanks Erin.

Check out the complete Birchwood Casey line and ask them to send you one of their beautiful catalogs. https://www.birchwoodcasey.com/

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Browning SA-22

The Browning SA-22 is an amazingly beautiful, light and accurate .22. Right out of the box this rifle shot dead nuts at 25 yards. Its sights are fine, with a thin blade front sight that allows for great accuracy. The rear sight folds down and elevation adjusts by loosening a screw, similar to the sight on a 10/22. Since I often hunt in the early morning with low light, I need a scope to look into the trees and amplify the little light that is available. That's why I mounted a cantilever scope mount and an inexpensive ($50) scope with parallax correction to dial in close shots.

The major down-side to this 150+ year old Browning design is the ejection port which is at the bottom of the receiver. I can't tell you how many times I was burned by hot brass flying down my sleeve. The positive side of the design is that when I lean up against a tree to brace myself for a shot, I'm free to position myself on either side since there is no side brass ejection. A drawback of the scope mount is that it interferes with the rotation of the barrel which separates the barrel from the receiver. Since the mount was installed I haven't been able to remove the barrel. This is a terrible design flaw. 

This rifle was manufactured in Japan, and I personally can't tell it from the early Belgium models. The manufacturing is flawless. I love the fact that the receiver is milled from a single block of steel, and I'm guessing that's why these rifles are so expensive. The wood is like glass and the checkering flawless.

Another thing I'm not crazy about is the loading system. First, I find it awkward to rotate the loading tube that is recessed in the recoil pad, then pull it all the way out to slide the cartridges into a loading gate located at the right side of the stock. Cartridges will jam if a bullet has any imperfection. If you're like me, when you return from a hunt, you unload the rifle and reuse the ammo. The last few rounds need to be manually ejected through the bottom of the receiver, and more often than not the bullet will slightly bend, causing the loading problem. This system makes for an elegant rifle, but I find the handling clumsy. 

Ammo: The Browning can only shoot LR, while a lever rifle can shoot any .22 ammo (other than magnums). I recently tested CCI Quiet 22 in the Browning and I was amazed that this light load was able to cycle the rifle! The action is not nearly as stiff as it appears. The Browning with Quiet 22 will make an awesome combination.

Should you buy one? If you're looking for a beautiful, light, accurate hunting and plinking rifle, and money is no object, this rifle might be for you. But if you're a real small game hunter and don't plan to baby your rifle, I don't recommend it. I much prefer hunting with the Henry Small Game Carbine which is short, light, accurate and gives me numerous ammo options.

This is the beautiful Belgium-made Browning which my brother willed me when he died last year, purchased in the 60's. This rifle hangs on the wall in his memory, and I'll be hunting with my Henry's.