I love just being out hunting, but think that at the same time there is something cool about a quest …. giving yourself a challenge or a goal, which to my way of thinking enriches the experience. I’ve had several in my life, and with respects to hunting, fishing, and backpacking have had many, accomplished many, and still have many to do. When I got serious about airgun hunting a couple of decades ago, I started thinking about what I wanted to accomplish; all of the game I’d taken with firearms over most of my life, I wanted to now take with an airgun. I want to take one bear, one mountain lion, and one African lion with an airgun. I say one, because for each of these species I only want one, but it’s important to me that I do this before hanging up my rifles. I want to hunt a couple of other places in Africa, South America, and Asia with air as well. These are life goals, and may only be possible to do once in a life. There are others that are much more within reach: I wanted to take all of the predator species in N. America, to hunt deer and turkey in every State where it is legal, and hunt prairie dogs in every region where they can be hunted. Some of these I’ve done, such as deer in every State where they are legal, some I’ve done many times, such as the Grand Slam of predators (coyote, bobcat, fox, raccoon). The one I set myself last years was to document a grandslam of North American Squirrels, which I defined as the gray, the fox, the Abert’s, and a black color phase (could be from any of these species).
I wrapped up a grandslam with the inclusion of the Abert’s squirrel last year. I had shot these in the past with my .22 rimfire, but had never had the opportunity with an air rifle. This year I attended the EBR competiton put on be Airgun of Arizona. and slipped away for a couple days to travel up to the local mountains for an Abert’s squirrel hunt. I won’t go into detail, but I found an area based on some input from a local, along with a bit of pre-hunt scouting, to find an area that was a target rich environment. In two days I collected two limits of these tufted ear bushy tails!
The gray and fox squirrels are typically the easiest to bag, because they are so widespread and populations are good. There ranges tend to overlap extensively, and can often be found in the same areas. I have taken both of these in a single hunt in Indiana, Minnesota, Virginia, Illinois. The black squirrel is a variant color phase and can pop up anywhere, however there are certain locations where the likelihood of encountering the strain is much more likely. There is an area of the UP i9n Michigan where I know there will be not only grays, fox, and hybrids, but a high number of those in the black color phase.
The other thing that makes this a do-able challenge is that the costs are not over the top expensive; small game and limited day licenses are frequently available, and even compared to a basic turkey tag are very inexpensive. You don’t need a lot of specialized gear either, a well equipped squirrel hunter will have a pack or messenger bag with binoculars, range finder, pellets, call, game carrier, and (don’t forget) a camera or your phone to document your success. Sometimes I spend more on my mounts from a big game hunt that the hunt itself, but on theis hunt you will eat your trophy so a camera helps you capture the achievement.
The other thing I like about this challenge is that the seasons tend to be long; most States have a fall and Winter season and some also have a spring season, which gives you a fair amount of time to hunt. Set aside 4-5 weekends to squirrel hunt, you can probably get your gray and fox on the book in the first weekend without having to travel more than an hour from home. But make a trip of it, camp out or get an inexpensive motel and overnight it, traveling and staying out always adds to the experience! The book a flight to Arizona, I can often find a flight for under $200 from the Midwest, renting a car for a weekend is inexpensive and you can either camp or get an out of the way motel …. I think I paid $60. for a clean and simple little place in the mountains on my Abert’s hunt. The black color phase …… you’re going to have to research this, and it might well be the most difficult.
Turn your hunt into an adventure, give yourself a goal that will turn your hunt from a simple small game outing to a quest! This year I intend to do several of these goal oriented hunts; another squirrel grand slam, predator grand slam, and turkey grand slam all in the same year! I intend to take my bear this year, and I will hold out for a good one, and my first mule deer with an airgun (hope for my draw in Arizona).