I was at the EBR in Phoenix over the weekend, and though I didn’t shoot (because of scheduling conflicts) enjoyed my time there. Even when you don’t shoot it’s great to see old friends and meet new ones! But since I wasn’t shooting, I had time to break away for a quick hunt.
I’ve written about what I consider the grand slam of squirrels in North America, and yes I realize there are others, but these are my big four: fox squirrels, gray squirrels, black color phase (fox, gray, or hybrid) and Aberts,. The first two are easy and can be found almost everywhere, the black color phase are regional variations and you have to search for individuals where the color phase most frequently occurs, and the Aberts requires you to travel to regions with natural growths of piñon pines. Arizonans moutnain areas holds large populations of the tufted eared Aberts……. So I was going to take advantage of my open schedule!
I checked around and talked to my buddy Kip Perow to get an idea of where to start. I left towards the end of the day on Friday and worked my way up into the mountains, with beautiful vistas and piñon forest as far as the eye could see. Driving along I saw a road kill Abert, so parked the car and hiked in for a look-see. About 100 yards in there were some giant trees, at least a couple looked like possible den trees, and tons of pine cones littering the ground. I noted the miles so I could find my way back before daylight the following morning, then went back into a little mountain town to find a motel for the night.
I had the option to select any of a number of rifles for this excursion, but it probably won’t come as a surprise to many readers that I selected the Brocock Compatto. I am hunting this rifle every chance I get, and can honestly say it is my favorite small game gun right now. I won’t repeat myself too much here, other than to say I find the combination of accuracy, power, compactness, and overall shootability ticks all the boxes when it comes to what’s important to me. I’ve been shooting the heavier 18 grain JSB pellets in my gun, but when I opened the gun case for my hunt realized I’d packed the 15 grain pellets. But as it turned out, they worked perfectly. I pulled the trigger 12 times and accounted for 10 squirrels, including one squirrel I shot twice (to knock him out of the tree) and one miss.
When morning started to break with the scent of pine wafting through the predawn gloom, I was back in the woods sitting in a large natural basin covered in piñons waiting for action. It wasn’t long before I heard barking, and as it started getting lighter saw the branches in a pine about forty yards away and towering overhead shaking in a way that was inconsistent with the light winds. Then I picked out the silhouette of squirrel through the branches. Leaning back against my pack and aiming upwards, I had a clean heart shot and took it. There was a muffled report (this rifle is quiet) and the squirrel dropped with a thud and didn’t move.
Turning back around I saw a second squirrel high up in a tree behind me, and scooted around for the shot. I steadied myself by leaning against a tree, and dropped the crosshairs on his head. I squeezed off the shot and watched as the second squirrel of the morning literally dropped straight to the forest floor. I walked over and gathered up my bag, then moved off through the woods. Over the course of the next 3 hours, three more of these beautiful squirrels were dropped. This was one of those days where everything was textbook perfect and I felt like I could not miss.
These squirrels are not as wary as the grays and fox squirrels I hunt in the Midwest, when they were on the ground and saw you coming, they would run up a tree and watch from a hidden position. Unfortunately for them, they almost never achieved complete coverage and invariably left a shot opportunity.
I am going to schedule another trip back when winter hits, I’d like to go out in the snow and hunt this area off snowshoes, and think it would make for a great little adventure!