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

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Friday, September 2, 2016

One in the bag on opening day with the 15-22

While the east coast awaits being slammed by the big storm coming up from Florida, the weather in Connecticut was still surprisingly beautiful. Pulling into the parking lot of the WMA at 6:30, the light was just bright enough to begin safely moving through the woods. I quickly covered myself with bug spray, put on a bug netting shirt and hood, my blaze vest and backpack, then headed out. Morning light changes minute to minute in the woods, and things became clearer with every step. Squirrels were in the treetops dropping shells to the ground, but the foliage was so thick they were impossible to see. The conditions were perfect for hunting.

The temperature had dropped ten degrees since yesterday, and the clouds had moved off leaving a clear blue sky. It was a crisp 60F with no humidity, unusual considering the way this week has been. Yesterday's rain softened the ground making it possible to walk undetected.

There are two areas that are my favorites to hunt in this WMA with a plentiful food supply for squirrels. I slowly made my way through the first one, listening to the squirrels as they sit on the treetops shelling nuts, hidden by the dense foliage. A shotgun hunter would have been tempted to take a shot into the air where the branches were bouncing, but hunting with a rimfire requires a clean shot on a visible target.

As I made my way to the second spot I witnessed the most amazing light show I ever remember crossing this path. There was a slight fog in the air and as the sun rose over the horizon, it streamed through the trees creating a horizontal beam of light that radiated across the trail. It only lasted a minute and was gone. A special gift given only to those willing to be out here this early in the morning.


As I made my way down the trail I came across a long section of overgrown grass and weeds that stood taller than myself, dripping wet from yesterday's rain and the morning dew. By the time I made it to the other side I was soaked to the skin. One good thing about getting wet is that you don't have to think about getting wet again. When I got off the trail and entered my hunting spot, I almost wished I had stayed back where I originally was. This entire area was overgrown with pricker bushes and everything was wet. But what the heck, I was already soaked so I just began pushing my way through the brush. I could tell no one had been hunting this spot over the summer because there were glass bottles everywhere. When this section of the woods floods, bottles, tires and plastic items of all kinds from who knows where wash ashore and distribute themselves everywhere. I used to get angry at the people who I thought left their trash in the woods. I even considered rounding up some Boy Scouts to help clean up the area and gather up the tires. Over the years I discovered that at least once a year this entire area goes about five feet under water and I'm guessing that debris from a near-by dump makes its way down the river and washes ashore in the WMA. There's nothing like walking heal-to-toe, quietly making your way toward a squirrel you are stalking, to then step on a plastic bottle, which gives out a loud 'CRUNCH!' All this glass is broken by the end of the season. There literally isn't a glass bottle anywhere. What self-respecting person with a .22 can resist blowing up a shiny glass bottle, especially when there are no squirrels to be found. All this glass tells me that no one has been hunting this area for a long time.

I ended up walking the area twice, and like at the first spot, I could hear squirrels in the treetops but was unable to get anything in the crosshairs. Finally, in the distance I saw a squirrel jumping through the branches. The area between that tree and myself was filled with pricker bushes, so I backed up and made my way closer to the tree from another direction. The squirrel was gone, so I stood still and listened... a branch bounce! I raised my rifle and looked through the scope. There it was, about 30 yards out. I usually walk from tree to tree but this time I realized that I had nothing to brace myself against. Its head appeared out of the leaves so I had to take my shot. I held my breath, let half out and slowly pulled the trigger. 'CRACK!' The squirrel dropped. I visually marked a tree and closed in on it. The squirrel was at its base. The bullet hit the shoulder and passed through the neck, killing it instantly.

After taking a few photos, I took a seat on a stump and gutted the squirrel. I spotted another one about 20 yards away. This one was on the ground but it busted me and made it into an old hollow tree. After making another pass I check my watch. It was 9:15 and I had been walking since before 7. Feeding time was coming to an end and it was starting to heat up. It was time to leave.

To get through to the main path, I had to backtrack through that tall, wet, weed filled trail, or take an alternative route. Not wanting to face the trail again I went the other way. Big mistake. I had to push through wet, waist-high pricker bushes, and everything was so dense that I had a hard time getting my bearings. I finally made it to a path, soaked again and with my legs torn to shreds.

I had one more sighting on the return trip, but it was quick and it must have made it into a dead tree. It was now 9:30 and I was done. At least I broke the ice having one in the bag. That was fun! I'll be back tomorrow.

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