I arrived in the woods at 7:30 and this was my first chilly hunt of the 2011 season. The temperature was in the 40's and it felt good to hit the woods dressed in a sweatshirt, camo jacket, gloves and the rest. This is my kind of weather. I'd take Alaska over Florida any day.
Henry H001T Octagon Frontier Model .22LR
The state stocked about two dozen pheasant in this WMA very early in the morning, so the parking lot was filled with pickups and cars very early as the bird hunters attempted to get a jump on one another. Last weekend I made the decision to leave the shotgun in the car and head out with the Henry H001T Octagon .22 lever rifle. Squirrel hunting hasn't been good this year, but for some reason they were out last Saturday. The problem was that I was spotting them well out of shotgun range, and by the time I was able to get close enough to take a shot, either I was busted or a hunter with dog would enter the area and blow it. This time I decided to do some serious squirrel hunting with my scoped Henry rifle.
Last weekend was absolutely perfect weather for squirrels. They came out in numbers to gather nuts in the morning sun. The same wasn't true for today. It was dark and cold, but at least the air was calm. It was obvious that a storm was on its way, and as you would expect, the animals were hunked down and ready for it to hit. Birds were flying low and moving from tree to tree, making it difficult to differentiate between a bird and a squirrel in the branches. Crows were flying low and landing in the treetops, which was very unusual since they always fly high above the hunting area and land far from it where it's safe.
It took a good hour before I spotted the first squirrel moving at the very top of a large tree. The fact that it's still early in the season and most of the leaves are still on the trees made it difficult to get a good visual. I had to quietly move closer, which isn't easy in this reed-covered area. Putting tree trunks between myself and the squirrel to mask my movement resulted in losing sight of the squirrel.
At my first visual clearing I stood behind a tree and searched for movement. Combing the top of the tree with my scope, I finally spotted the squirrel lying flat on a high branch, remaining motionless with only its head exposed. Getting it in view again I increased the scopes power to 7x and moved in a bit to give me a body shot. Bracing myself against the tree, I put the cross hairs on it and squeezed off a shot. It barely moved and didn't seem to be hit. I squeezed off another and this time it moved a few feet and stopped. Could I be missing it?! Did I knock my scope off? I fired a third round and this time it dropped. There's nothing like watching a squirrel drop from a high branch and hit the ground early in the morning. It's the sound of victory!
Usually I would run towards the squirrel to be sure it was dead and avoid having one crawl away wounded, but something told me to sit tight this time. Did I catch something moving in the corner of my eye in the same tree? Listening to my instincts paid off. There it was; a second squirrel, and this was a big one. For some reason it appeared dark in color, and I had a hard time seeing it against the dark tree bark. The squirrel began to run and when it stopped on the trunk, I fired off two quick rounds and it dropped. When was the last time I dropped two squirrels on the same tree? I bet it was a couple years back on the day I bagged the limit of eight.
Looking at the first squirrel, it was obvious that it had been hit numerous times. My scope wasn't off, but this was a tough one. I guess I didn't hit a vital organ with the first two shots. The second squirrel proved to be a standard gray as well. I wonder why it looked so dark in the tree?
Pheasant hunters with dogs soon began moving into the area so I was forced to move on. Snow was beginning to fall and that was the end of today's hunt. This brings my squirrel count for the season up to 8. Until next weekend's hunt.