I've been looking forward to this day since the last day of February when the squirrel season ended. I was in the woods by 5:30 and it was already too warm for me. I much prefer the cooler weather, especially since I do a lot of walking when I hunt and have to be covered up to protect myself from mosquitoes in the warmer weather. It was 70F at 5:30am, so I knew this wasn't going to be good.
The morning started slow, but within the first couple of hours I had a few squirrel sightings. I did get to take shots at two of the squirrels, and I was careful to brace myself against a tree and gently squeeeeeze off the shots. I missed both, and they were within 25 yards! This is what I was afraid of. The last time I shot at the range I wasn't satisfied with my groups, and I wasn't able to find the MiniMags that I had originally sighted my AR-15 in with. Was this going to be the way it was going to be for the rest of opening day?! I'd just have to make the best of it and keep moving.
Within minutes I spotted a squirrel around 40 yards out. I wasn't going to try to sneak closer and give the squirrel a chance to get away, so from a freestanding position, I set the scope to 5X, put the cross hairs on its head as it walked away and squeezed off a round. It went out of sight so I assumed it was another miss. I took another look and noticed a bit of its gray, fluffy fir sticking just above a dirt mound. Was I actually going to get a second shot?! I moved in and the tail didn't move. I started running towards it and it still didn't move. What the hell?! I nailed the squirrel exactly where I aimed, right in the head. I sighted the scope in at 25 yards, but the new ammo must have raised the shot a bit and made it accurate at around 40 yards. maybe that was the problem with my first 2 misses. I'm guessing I was shooting low because they were so close. When I raised the shot a couple inches on the second squirrel it went airborne, but managed to get away. I now felt more confident with the rifle and I had one in the bag. My first squirrel of the 2012 season.
When I reached the parking area, I found a spot to gut the squirrels. I couldn't believe that there wasn't a single large rock in the shade! I set up on a rock and went to work. The sun was so hot that I felt like a pizza baking on a stone pan as I worked over the rock. For me gutting squirrels is a lot harder than hunting. The term 'Thick Skinned' must have been coined by a squirrel hunter. It never ceases to amaze me how a the edge of a piece of paper can cut my skin, but my razor sharp stainless steel knife can barely cut through their fir and skin once rigormortis sets in. After one heck of a lot of work, I left with three gutted squirrels in the cooler and 3 tails that I had promised to a friend at work.
I forgot to mention that I had passed a young boy on the path on my way to the car who was squirrel hunting alone while his mom waited in the car for him. What a great mom! The kid was hunting with the double barrel and had one in the bag. He seemed excited when I told him I had three. That was great to see.
Monday is a holiday and I'm taking a vacation day Tuesday, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it cools down a bit and I see as much action as I did today. This turned out to be a memorable day. I hope you had one as well.
Season squirrel count: 3
UPDATE - A LETTER FROM MATT
Congrats on your opening day! I wanted to get back to you about how I did as well. We met briefly around 8:45 or so and talked about the scouting I did the day earlier. I saw 3 squirrels that day and bagged 1. All the squirrels I saw were on the ground and the one I bagged was walking across a downed log about 30 feet right in front of me. I had a perfect, safe shot with a prefect backstop so I took the shot. The other 2 were out of range / I would have been shooting somewhat uphill for one of them and didn't want to take the shot. I was very happy with this years opening day as I was only in the woods for about 2 hours or so and saw a decent amount of activity and bagged one as well. The heat was becoming a problem for me even though I was very quietly stalking through the woods and not moving too much so I called it a day right around 10:45am. My only regret was bring my Weatherby shotgun that day instead of my left-handed Stag AR (with .22LR convo kit). I wasn't sure how opening day would go and figured it would be safer if I ended up shooting up at trees to bring the shotgun vs. a rifle but will definitely bring the AR the next time out. Here's a link to a picture of my opening day squirrel. It was a male and pretty good sized too. I can't wait to get out again and bring the Stag this time. Happy Hunting! -Matt B.