I got out this morning for a squirrel hunt, and had a great time. Been doing a lot of shooting and testing of guns and pellets since our return from SA a couple weeks ago, but this was my first chance out to hunt. I’ve mentioned in the blog before that this bushytail rodent is one of my favored quarry, and this was my first hunt in my new home state of Minesotta. The gun I selected for todays outing will come as no suprise, but I’ve been very anxious to hunt the countries most popular and accessible small game animal with the .303 this year. I’ve been using the caliber a lot for medium game and predators since last season, but think it will be an interesting choice in the field for squirrel.
Why do I think this admittedly large and powerful option is right for the small bodied tree squirrel? First, it’s fall and there are still a lot of leaves on the trees and while I always want and strive for one shot one kill, I want that kill to be immediate at this time of year. Most shots are still up in the trees, and I don’t want to loose a squirrel in the dense folliage. And while I typically take head shots, at this time of year shot selection can be more limited with all the leaves and branches to shoot through. This was the same rationale that had me using .25 so much over the last few years, I like .22 hunting guns and use them a lot as well, but when out in the woods don’t really see a downside to a major caliber, so long as it’s accuarate. Also to put it in context, arguably the .22 LR rimfire has been the principle gun used to take squirrels for the last hundred years. And it generates significantly more power than either of the .303 air rifles I use without adding any range, with the downside it carries a lot further if you happen to miss.
I got out in the woods at daybreak, and it was a destined to become a clear and cool morning as sun light started to filter in through the early mist. I had my camo poncho, a messenger bag with my binos and range finder, some coffee, pellets, a camera, and a combo camera/rifle rest tripod. The gun was the FX Boss and the pellets the 47 grain JSB, sighted in at 50 yards. I’ve been using Hawke Frontier Binos for the last two seasons and love them, unfortunately mine are sitting somewhere between Port Elizabeth and Johanessburg airport, I don’t know exactly where only that they didn’t make it back with me. So I’m using my Leupolds for now, and you can’t complain about any optics from this company!
I worked my way through a 20 acre stand of woods bordering a lake by my house, and picked up the rustle of leaves and some exciting barking as I walked into the woods. Moving to the base of a tree about 30 yards from a big oak. I settled in and only waited a few minutes before I saw the outline of a squirrel moving in the leafy shadow high up in the oak. I found him in my scope, lost him, then found him again, quickly lining up and pulling the trigger. That pellet smacked on a broadside chest placement with a loud thud and literally threw the squirrel out of the tree! This was the performance I’d been wanting, and a couple more squirrels in the bag signaled it was time for me to wrap up and get back to the house. I’ve got some articles in the works in which I’ll go into the detail of the guns performance as the season progresses, for now I’ll just say that the .303 shows a great deal of promise as a bridge from small game to larger quarry, and the statement I’ve made a few time about the .303 becoming the new .25 is not hyperbole.
Ok, so why the rush to get home? Well I’ve got some home improvement work going on that I’m trying to spend a few hours a week on right now. The basement in my house gives me a 15 yard target range, and I’m building it up into a combined shooting range/test facility/workshop/filming studio for several writing and filming projects that I’ll be working on through the winter. Hopefully you’ll be seeing the fruits of this work starting to roll out in the next few weeks. I’ve got about 75 rifles up in my gunroom/office, and many new ones on the way to write up, and I want to get back to some quantitative testing to support my field work. Life has gotten so busy, that if I don’t have the capability to at least do the initial work up at home, it’s almost impossible to keep up.
If any readers have topics they’d like to see covered, shoot me an email or post it on the blog and I’ll follow up. Another thing I’m doing, and maybe several of you are as well, is getting ready for AOA’s Extreme Bench Rest competition. Still leaning towards the Boss, but could also see the Wolverine or the Verminator as well. I’m trying to work on my discipline; pacing shots, timing myself loading the magazines, and putting together my rest and wind meters….This event was tremendous fun last year, and even if your like me and don’t consider yourself a competitive shooter, I’d recommend you become one for a day ….. it’s a blast!
Well, that’s it for this week… Grab a gun, fill your tanks and get out there and hunt!