The weather app on my phone said the rain would end at 1:45 this afternoon, and as usual, they were right. The rain ended at 1:15 so I grabbed my .22, jumped in the car and headed off to the woods. I was amazed how quickly the sky was changing. The clouds were breaking and I could see sun and spots of blue sky! The temperature had also risen to the mid 40's, so today was looking up. The problem was that it was way past squirrel feeding time, but I thought that if I was lucky, the squirrels that had hunkered down during the rain would be out to feed as the sun came out. We shall see.
Arriving at the WMA, I was pleased to discover that there was only a single pickup truck in the lot. I put on my blaze vest and tried to decide what to wear? It seemed too hot for a stocking hat, so I threw it in my blaze vest and put on a ball cap. I did wear my winter camo gloves because I hate my fingers getting cold to the point where I can't cock the hammer on the lever rifle or feed the ammo into the tube. Better a little warm than cold and I can always take them off. Lastly I grabbed my bag of CCI Quiet 22 and the Henry Carbine and headed into the woods. I loaded the 12 round tube as I walked and was very happy to see that all the snow was gone. Thank you rain! It was a little swampy in parts, but the fallen leaves had become wet and soft, making my footsteps silent. That's very important this time of year when snow or dry leaves crunching under my feet give my position away and make it very difficult to get in close to a squirrel, which is necessary when hunting with low velocity CCI Quiet 22 ammo.
As I entered my first hunting spot, I noticed two trucks sitting there. Were they working? I've never seen a truck in this area and so far off the beaten path. As I approached it became obvious that no one was around. That was a relief and could have ended my hunt. Wait a minute! This is awesome! These must be the trucks that the DEEP uses to clear the main path and cut the loops through the tall brush for the opening of pheasant season. I've always wanted to see this operation in action but not once in my life have I been in the woods to see them actually do it. At least I'm getting to see the trucks. And around the truck was a cleared field which usually is comprised of four foot high thorn bushes that I have to push through to access my spot. This has actually opened up a short-cut and new possibilities.
I walked to my spot and as I had predicted, nothing was moving, so I kept moving and walked the more difficult route along the edge of the swamp.
I walked about a mile without a squirrel sighting, but the birds were obviously excited about the clearing weather. The trees were filled with woodpeckers and the ground with Robins that were making a racket and created a lot of movement. Though that can mask squirrel sound and their movement, I prefer that life to walking in silent deadness. I also believe that the movement wakes the squirrels up and gets them moving with confidence, while masking the sound of my presence.
I ended to spotting 6-8 squirrels, which is more than a lot for this area. I mean this was very unusual and made for a great afternoon hunt. There were a pair of squirrels chasing each other round tree trunks while running from tree to tree. I can't ask for more than that, because squirrels preoccupied in a fight are easy targets. I followed them for about 45 minutes and took a few cracks at them. Now let me discuss the problem.
When I hunted with Quiet 22 at a different location in September, I was seated and able to take careful aim at squirrels as they ran and froze on the side of tree trunks or sat on a branch. That makes for good shot placement. And when they dropped, they usually fell into fairly clear areas. If you remember, I had discussed how often I thought I missed, when in reality the squirrel was hit, but the cartridge didn't have enough punch to exit the hide and kill it. Instead it would fall, crawl a distance and die. Well I believe the same was happening today, but the results were different. During the September hunts I was able to locate the dead squirrel about 20 yards from where I knocked it down. It's not so easy when hunting this area which is filled with dense brush.
Let me begin by saying that early in the hunt, I picked up some single shot whisky bottles that had floated ashore and checked my sights at around 20 yards. I hit every bottle with the first shot. The scope is dead on.
During today's hunt I know I put lead into at least 3 squirrels. They went air-born but did not drop. One squirrel was hit multiple times. Squirrels are tough and unless you land lead on the head or in a vital organ, the squirrel will keep going. Sometimes even a head-shot doesn't immediately stop them and they will try to thrash their way into the swamp or into a dead log. Today's shots were solid hits, but not being able to punch their way out of the squirrel, the bullet lodged under the pelt is sometimes not enough to bring the squirrel down. I had a blast hunting them today, but I know I ended up wounding squirrels instead of getting a clean kill, and I don't like that at all. The fun thing about Quiet 22 is that I was able to take repeated shots. Sometimes they'd see the bullet hit the trunk or hear it wiz by, but instead of running they sit there looking confused. They obviously didn't have a clue that I was there and that they were being shot at! Sometimes they even ran directly toward me. That's the big plus about Quiet 22. You don't spook the area and the squirrels can't execute a typical plan of escape. The problem is that multiple squirrels made it into dead, hollow trees and likely expired there. That's a waste. For this reason I've decide to return to CCI Hollow Point MiniMags. Wounding squirrels in unacceptable.
I had so much fun that I hunted till about 4:30, then while shadowing a squirrel I noticed that the sun was about to go down. I was a good mile into the woods so I broke off the hunt and started back. It's not cool to be in the woods alone after dark, especially when you're in your 60's and I could have a run-in with a black bear, coyotes or a mountain lion. That's when I'm glad that I decided to conceal carry a snubby .38 Special with +P hollow point ammo. Let me add that I checked with the state DEEP and conceal carry is totally legit while hunting if you have a Connecticutpistol permit. I realize that a .38 Special is a pea-shooter against a bear, but it does make a lot more noise and muzzle flash than Quiet 22, which makes less noise than a pellet rifle. It will also easily stop a coyote and a mountain lion if the shot placement is right. But most of all, it gives me some sense of security when alone. There is also the possibility of running into human predators, and for that the snubby with Crimson Trace green laser would do a fine job.
Here's something I've been seeing that I wanted to run by you. It looks like the state has been marking trees this year. At first I thought it was deer hunters marking the location of their stands, but then I noticed the writing. I wonder if these trees will be taken down? Any ideas?
Oh well, I'd better get to sleep before Santa arrives. Wishing you and yours a Wonderful, Happy and Holy Christmas. And Happy Hanukkah to my Jewish friends. God bless. I hope to be back in the woods Monday. Hope you're getting out there as well.