One of the things that I love about living in Northern Arizona, is the fact that where we live, we are surrounded by the 1.8 million acre Coconino National Forest. That is one huge playground, if you love the out of doors the way that I do.
I'm going into my eighth year of roaming around in this forest, and haven't even scratched the surface, as far as exploring it goes. Each year, I try to add more acreage to my list of places I've been in the forest.
That's what I was doing last week when I found a new spot to hunt ground squirrels in. I took a road that I've never been down before, just to see what I might see. I know, if nothing else, I'll have a beautiful drive. When I'm out exploring, I always take an airgun with me because I never know what I might find.
I had covered maybe ten miles of, new to me forest road, when I came to an area that had all of the attributes needed to be ground squirrel country. Lots of rotted out old stumps, deadfall, and blowdown logs. Our local ground squirrels love that kind of stuff. I pulled off of the road, and spent some time glassing the area for squirrels. I didn't see any, but it was only about eleven o'clock, and I know from experience, that on some days, for some unknown reason, they don't become active until early afternoon. This place just had that look about it. I knew there had to be squirrels around there.
I decided to keep on going for awhile, and see what else I might find. About noon, I decided to pull in under some trees and have the sandwich that I had brought along for lunch. It was a gorgeous day. About 78 degrees, a little windy but nothing obnoxious, so I decided to just hang out and enjoy the serenity and solitude for awhile.
After a bit, I checked my watch, and it was going on about ten minutes to one. I decided to head back to the squirrely looking area, that I had found earlier, and see what I might be able to learn.
When I arrived there, It didn't take me long to get into my hunting gear and slip into the forest. I hadn't gone but maybe 70/75 yards when I spotted the first ground squirrel of the day. It's sitting on the top of an old pile of rotting tree limbs, left from when the area was logged eighty plus years ago.
I dropped that squirrel, and the hunt was on. For whatever reason, these guys decided to come out in the early afternoon that day. I hunted for a couple of hours, and got a half dozen of the furballs.
I took some video of the shots as I hunted along, and I'll let those tell the rest of the story. In one of the clips, I state that there is a right to left wind blowing, so I'll hold on the left edge...NOT! Sometimes my tongue gets tangled around my eye teeth, and I can't see what I'm saying, but I actually held on the right edge of that squirrel.
On a side note, my digital compass gave up the ghost that afternoon. That's one of the things that's been in the back of my mind, equipment wise, while out wandering the forest the past several years. What would I do if my digital compass suddenly kicked the bucket. The answer is to get out a backup, regular lensatic compass, but I never got around to adding one to my field kit.
Technology is great, right up until it isn't. I've got a SPOT II, emergency GPS locator, that I always use when I'm in the forest. I send my wife a spot when I'm at the location that I'll be hunting from that day. But, I also show her on a Forest Service Map, before I leave the house, where I'll generally be. If the SPOT II should go south on me, and I don't show up for dinner, she can at least show Search & Rescue the general area that I had spent the day in. It gives them a good starting point. One million, eight hundred thousand acres is one hell of a big area to search, especially if you have no idea where to start.
I didn't have a backup plan for my digital compass going south on me. When hunting a new to me area, I always shoot an azimuth of the direction that I'm going to hunt in, and most importantly, I always shoot a back azimuth to where I've left from. It was a non-issue that day, because I didn't intend to go very far into the forest.
However, sometimes I'll go a mile or more deep into an unknown area, and that's when I want a compass on me that I can depend on. Once into the forest, it all looks the same, and it's real easy to get turned around, and not be sure of what direction you need to head in, to get back to your start point. Especially on overcast days. On more than a few occasions, over the past several years, I've had to use my compass to find my back azimuth, to get myself headed back to my vehicle.
Well, my point to saying all of this is, rather than replace the digital compass, I'm going back to an old technology, but proven, milspec lensatic compass. I had one for years, loaned it out and never got it back. I love technology, but it can, and will crap out on you when you least expect it. If a piece of technology fails you, you need to have a viable backup plan. This was a wakeup call for me, and I'll heed it by going back to old tech for my compass.
Anyway, the day turned out to be a ton of fun, and well worth the effort to go back to that area, and dig a little deeper into what it might have to offer hunt wise.
A couple more photos from the hunt.
Until next time, thanks for reading.