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

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Saturday, December 6, 2008

The curse has been broken

Rifle: Henry Varmint Express .17HMR
I'm happy to report that this turned out to be a fun morning. My hopes were zero of seeing anything considering recent hunts, but things might be changing. Pheasant stocking ended last week, so when I arrived in the parking area there was only a single pickup there. Quite a change from a couple weeks prior. There were about a half dozen hunters parked in the duck and goose hunting area, and I could hear them popping off rounds from time to time. About a minute after I arrived, a pickup pulled in and 2 loud, barking hounds jumped out. "That's great" I said under my breath, but in a bit stronger language. The guy had a shotgun and he walked the path while his dogs went bonkers running through the brush. I thought I might be able to make some use of them by walking parallel to them on the other side of the tree line. I was hoping that the dogs would flush a rabbit in my direction. I didn't happen. I looped around and asked the guy if he had any luck since I heard him take a few shots, but he said "No". He then asked me if I was hunting deer and I said, "No, squirrels". He smiled and we kept walking. I think his attitude changed when I went from a deer poacher to a small game hunter in his mind. The Varmint Express is a rather large rifle, so I think people mistake it for a lever action 30-30.

For some reason that was the last I heard from that guy and his dogs. I then proceeded to take my normal route through the woods and for the first half hour saw nothing. I thought to myself, "It's going too be another one of those days". The temperature was in the low 20s and the morning sun was streaming through the trees. I started out at about 8:30 because I was so ticked off about what CVS posted on their web sight regarding guns and children that I spent a couple hours posting the info on my blogs and writing a letter to the company. That was time well spent, but it did cause me to get a late start.

About a half hour into my rounds, I saw a squirrel at quite a distance out running for a tree. It looked like a nice one so I decided I wasn't going to let this one get away. My normal inclination would be to sit it out for 10 minutes or so, then keep walking, but squirrel sightings have been so few that I was determined to stick this one out. I lost sight of it, but kept my eye on the tree so I wouldn't mix it up with another. It was a large tree so I knew the squirrel would be difficult to find. I stood behind a tree trunk and looked over all the branches but it was gone. I then moved about 30 degrees around the tree and sat out a spot for another 15 minutes. I think I did this 4 times, the last time being on the back side of the tree, directly opposite from my original position. I waited a bit over one half hour and since I was loosing the morning, I decided to wait just another 5 minutes before moving on. All of a sudden I caught something move in the corner of my eye. It was the squirrel! and it was starting to head down the tree. It would be a fairly long shot because the tree was so big, so I increased my scope's magnification to 6X. I could only see about half of it because a branch blocked the rest, so I aimed at its head and squeezed the trigger. CLICK! "Damn!" It was a misfire. I hadn't had one of those in months. That's my luck. I then cycled the lever quickly without making too much sound, got the cross hairs on the squirrel and slowly squeezed. BANG! It dropped and I heard the THUD when it hit the ground. I love that sound. YES!! I finally broke the curse that had been on me since pheasant hunting began. Everything has been spooked since mid October, so this gave me hope that things would soon be returning to normal. "It would be a fairly long shot because the tree was so big, so I increased my scope's magnification to 6X. I could only see about half of it because a branch blocked the rest, so I aimed at its head and squeezed the trigger. CLICK! "Damn!" It was a misfire..." I located the squirrel and it was a beauty. I took a few photos and movie clips for the blog and headed out to my favorite spot. I saw nothing for the next half hour and as I walked through my favorite spot, there was nothing. I thought to myself, "Because this area was good last year, it might not be the same this season". Just as I said that to myself I saw a squirrel run through the branches about 100 yards out. I moved as quickly and quietly from tree to tree as possible to get within range. I lost sight of it and stood behind a big tree waiting for it to show up again. All of a sudden I heard something running towards me. I turned and pointed my gun... it was a big bird dog that had earlier run up to me along the path. Two young guys were hunting with him, and it was obvious that the dog was young and wasn't trained well. I was angry because I figured that nothing would come out since the dog did a couple of laps around the area before leaving. I was wrong.

I took a seat on a stump under a tree in hopes that the squirrel would eventually come out. There was a small hill directly in front of me and I couldn't see what was directly on the other side. All of a sudden a big squirrel leaped over the crest of the hill and came running full boar directly at me. I'm guessing it was in a panic after seeing the dog. When it spotted me, it gave out a grunt, turned to my left and shot up a tree trunk that was less than 10 feet from me. It ran up about twelve feet and literally dove into a hole. This all happened in just seconds. "This is great!" I thought, and once again took a seat. About 15 minutes passed and about 75 yards out I spotted another huge squirrel running through the branches. Then about 10 minutes later it ran down the trunk. What a dilemma. I had a squirrel hiding literally a stone's throw in front of me but it wasn't moving. Now do I leave it and go after the other, or continue to sit out this one? I decided to go after the one I could see.

I proceeded to move about 20 feet and hid behind a tree. Where did it go? The squirrel was gone. My head was turning from left to right as I tried to keep my eyes on the hole to my left and the tree to my right. All of a sudden about 100 yards out I saw a squirrel run into a viney area at the very top of a large tree. I'm not sure, but this could have been the squirrel that I lost sight of to my right. It was WAY up there and I could only see it through 9X magnification. I fired 2 rounds at it but I either missed it or the small 17HMR bullet was deflected by the brush. It doesn't take much with such small fragile bullets. The squirrel went flying down the tree, jumped into another and was gone. It was now past 11:00 and the sky had gotten dark. That's it I thought. It was fun, but nothing moves in this weather. After about 15 minutes I left. So at least I had a nice one in the bag as well as a story for the blog. Let's hope this continues through the remainder of the season.

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