The last couple of years I have more used more guns and been on more hunting trips than I could write about, so this month I want to reach back to a gun I used a lot and really enjoyed taking into the field. One of the great things about writing is that I get to try just about every gun that comes onto the market. The downside is that even when I find a gun I could settle down with, it’s time to move on to the next. And even in the case of guns like the FX Verminator, and Royale, Daystate Huntsman Classic and Wolverine type B that I continue to use for my personal hunts, I don’t get the time to write about each one as much as I like. In upcoming posts we’ll mix it up a bit with a look at some old favorites as well as a look forward with some new guns.
I’ve used the FX Royale for several hunts over the last few seasons, prairie dogs in Kansas, jackrabbits in California, groundhogs in Michigan, Raccoons in Indiana, and squirrels… lots of squirrels in Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Kentucky, Virginia… and this rifle continues to impress with it’s accuracy, power, inexhaustible shot count, smooth action, and overall shootability. It goes right up there with my other favorites from the top end manufacturers. I’ve written a couple articles on this gun, based on range work and using the gun for long range varminting, and in these pieces the gun is covered is some detail. So this time, I’m just going to jot down notes from a short notice and short duration squirrel hunt.
This hunt was on a 10,000 acre state recreation about an hour north of Indianapolis, where I do quite a bit of hunting every year. This year has been tougher than most, squirrel populations seem down and I’ve (for the first time) come across other hunters when I’ve been out. As a matter of fact I’ve gotten skunked a couple time, and wondered if I should move my hunting activities to the Southern part of the state to see if it’s any better. However, I didn’t have a lot of time as I’ve been traveling on business a lot, so figured I’d try this well known area once more. I loaded up my day pack with water, range finder, binoculars, granola bars, and hit the road early so I’d be in the woods at daybreak.
Arriving onsite I parked the car on the side of the road, slipped a camo windshirt over my fleece, and worked my way about a quarter mile into the woods following a horse trail, kicking up a nice little buck on the way. I found a spot were there was an abundance of mast producing trees, and sat down leaning back into the base of a tree that had a scooped out depression in the trunk which fit me like an easy chair, and dozed off. I woke up about a half hour later with the sun coming up behind me and lighting the woods. A lot of the leaves were off the trees, though some were still pretty well dressed in orange and burnt red colors. Hoping I hadn’t missed anything with my unplanned nap I got ready to start the timer; a method that has worked well for me is to sit a spot for 20 minutes and if nothing is seen or heard, move a couple hundred yards through the woods and repeat.
Nothing happing here so I slung my pack, shouldered the rifle, and worked along a deer trail to the next likely looking spot. On a small hill overlooking the adjacent rolling hillside I pulled my pack in front of me (one reason I like a messenger style bag) and pulled my binos out. Glassing the area didn’t show me any squirrels, but I did see a lot of nuts carpeting the ground. I sat and waited seeing nothing, and after 20 minutes was getting ready to leave when turning to my left (always scan the area before you get up) saw a fox squirrel on a fallen log forty yards away looking at me an twitching its tail. I slowly brought the rifle up and squeezed off the shot, watching the pellets flight as it smacked dead center in the head. The .25 pellet, a JSB Exact roundnose, hit the little rodent with authority, he flipped backwards and was dead when he hit the ground.
I had four more sets with nothing happening, so decided to start back in the direction of the car. I pulled out my binos and started glassing the trees, and spotted an odd lump in the upper branches that turn out to be the top of a squirrels head in a tree about 100 yards away. As I stood looking something warm and wet hit my arm, looking up I saw some little bird had used me for target practice! I guess fair is fair, but this stuff burned like it was acid. I wiped it off and rinsed of with my little bottle of water free sanitizer, then slowly started moving towards the tree where I’d seen the squirrel. I sat at the base of a tree about 30 yards away from where I’d seen the squirrel, who was no longer visible. After a few minutes I saw a tail hanging down from a branch in a tree about 10 yards behind the one I was watching. I waited for several minutes more, with no movement at all, when all of the sudden the squirrel came running down the tree, hit open ground racing for the next tree and ran 10 feet up a small sapling and jumper to a big oak standing next to it. The squirrel was wide open with its head pointed up and its back to me, when my second shot of the day nailed him on the top of the noggin. He dropped like he’d been smacked with a brick.
I generally impose a two squirrel limit on myself, as I’m not overly fond of eating these things, and really only want the tails for fly tying. The meat is dressed, quartered, and given away to an acquaintance who grew up eating squirrel and dumplings, so everyone is happy … well except maybe the squirrel. This is one of the great things about airgun hunting for small game; I leave home at 6:00 and am back, showered, and ready to go out for lunch with my family by noon. It only takes a couple of squirrels to make me feel like it was a productive trip, and I don’t know what I’d do with a large number of squirrels every season if I tired for a 5 squirrel limit every time I went out. For me, it’s better to have three short trips with 1-2 in the bag than one all day trip with a limit.
Have a few trips coming up that I’m looking forward to; heading out to South Dakota on a prairie dog shoot, Arizona for pest birds, the California for ground squirrels. With so much shooting, I’m hardly getting time to go fishing, and am going to try to work in a kayaking/camping/hunting trip as well.
The next thing is to start getting ready for the Extreme Bench Rest in October, this has become my favorite non-hunting airgun event in the year. The competition and organization is great, the people you meet are a quality group, and it’s three days of airgunners heaven. If you haven’t come before, you should give it a go this year!