I had this gun set up to shoot DYNAMIC PCP-2 tin pellets, at 18 fpe, for use while hunting California Ground Squirrels, but as that old expression goes, "the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry."
Since I'm not going to be able to get over to California as much as I had planned this year, it's time to go to plan "B" and set this gun up to hunt the types of ground squirrels that we have here in Northern Arizona.
Since I don't have to shoot tin pellets here, my plan is to turn the power back up to max, and sight her in with the 18 grain JSB Jumbo Exact Heavy pellets shooting at about 30 fpe.
Most of the shots around here are going to be in the 40 to 65 yard range. For this purpose, I like to sight her in one half inch high at 50 yards. This way, I just hold a little low for closer shots, dead on at 55, top of the head at 60, and show just a little daylight above the head at 65 yards. Been doing it this way for years and it works great.
One other change I made, was to mount a Leupold Vari-x-II, 4-12x40mm scope on her. I've had this scope for over 20 years, and it's one of my favorites.
One of the mantras you always hear, when talking about scopes for airguns is, they must be able to focus down to 10 yards. Well not really. I rarely shoot at less than about 35 yards. I will occasionally shoot at 20 yards indoors, to do some preliminary pellet testing, but most of the time I'm hunting, and rarely get a shot much under 35/40 yards.
This scope focuses down to 25 yards, plenty good enough for my hunting application. It has a fine duplex crosshair, and that works out about perfect for shots out to around 70 yards. At the longer ranges, I just use the tip of the duplex post as my aim point.
As usual, I set out my wind flags. I put the target frame out at a lasered 50 yards, and shot a few groups while making scope adjustments, until I had the poi adjusted to where I wanted it.
The wind was varible in speed, and shifting directions, but by watching the flags, I was able to pick some lulls to shoot in, and got her shooting exactly where I wanted.
Final sight-in target. Holding center on the green dot, five 18 grain JSB's went into .525 ctc at 50 yards, with four going into .279 ctc. Considering the breezy conditions, not to bad. Half minute of ground squirrel for sure.
The next morning, I headed out into the forest to see if the local ground squirrels had emerged from hibernation. It wasn't long before I had my answer. On my way to the area that I was going to hunt, I had several run across the road in front of me.
The two types of ground squirrels that we can hunt here in the mountains, are the Rock Squirrel, and Golden Mantle ground squirrels. Neither one populates an area like California Ground Squirrels do, but both are very fun and challenging to hunt, and the country that they live in is just magnificently beautiful.
Below is a shot of the forest canyon that I decided to hunt. It has a lot of old stumps, from being logged over about 100 years ago, as well as a lot of deadfall, blowdowns, and piles of large and small boulders. All places that both types of these ground squirrels like to build their dens in and around, as well as sit on as they survey their domain.
I decided not to shoot video on this trip. I just wanted to get out with my new gun, and on the first hunt of the season, just have a fun day of hunting, without messing around with any video technology.
I had been slowly hunting my way up this canyon, glassing the rocks, stumps, and logs, when I spotted a ground squirrel sitting on top of a pile of boulders at 46 yards, but it was partially obscured by a small pine tree. I had to move a bit to my left for a clear shot, and when I did, the squirrel bolted down the back side of the boulders.
I took that opportunity to move to a spot, in the shade, under a big pine tree, where I could survey the boulder pile, as well as have a better view of the entire area around the boulders. I set my rifle up on my Stoney Point bipod, and just waited. About ten minutes later, as I was glassing the boulders and area around them, I spotted the squirrel pop up on a stump to the left rear of the boulder pile.
I shot a range to it, and it came back at 52 yards. Knowing I needed to hold a bit low at that range, I settled the crosshairs on the center of it's chest. I slowly took up the trigger pressure until the shot broke.
That 18 grain pellet hit him just under the chin, and it sounded like a lady finger going off. There wasn't so much as a twitch. He was DRT.
First hunt with a new rifle, and the first shot with it is a clean kill. For me, it just doesn't get much better than that. This is a great start to a new season of varmint hunting.
After getting a couple of pictures, I continued slipping through the Ponderosa Pine forest, glassing all of the likely squirrel habitat as I went. I spotted a couple more, but they lit out cross country before I could get a shot.
I decided to turn around and check my back trail, and sure enough, there was a squirrel sitting on a large pile of boulders, that I had passed by earlier, and at that time nothing was on it.
It lasered at 56 yards. Again I made the shot from my bipod, and at impact, the pellet picked the squirrel up, and blew it clear off the back of the boulder. All I found when I got over there though, was some blood on the rock, but no squirrel. Looking around, I could see more blood smears, and where it had slipped down into the depths of the boulder pile. I hate it when that happens.
At that point, I decided to call it a day, and spent the next half an hour hunting my way back to my vehicle. As I always do, before putting my gear away, I take a few minutes to carefully glass the surrounding area. It's interesting how many times I'll get a shot at a critter that has gotten curious about my presence, and will be sneaking a peek at what I'm doing there.
Sure enough, as I'm glassing the area, I spot a ground squirrel sitting upright on a stump off to my left. I shoot a range to it and get 61 yards. At that range I know I'll need to hold a bit high. There is also a slight breeze coming at ninety degrees from my left.
I set the rifle on my bipod, hold the horizontal crosshair on the top of the squirrels head, and put the vertical crosshair on its left side. About that time, the wind picks up. I'm well outside of this guys danger zone, which is usually about 50 yards, so I decide to gamble and wait a bit to see if the wind drops.
A short time later the wind does drop to a light breeze again. I finalize my hold and send the pellet on its way. There is a resounding WHOP at impact, and the furball drops on the spot. When I get over to it, I see that the pellet has gone through both shoulders for instant lights out.
This type of hunting isn't high volume shooting, but man is it ever fun and challenging. I'm thrilled with the performance of my new AA 510 carbine, and the accuracy of the 18 grain JSB's is all that I could ask for.
This type of hunting is great practice for this coming fall tree squirrel season. It was great to get out into the forest, and I have plans to do it again next week.
Stay tuned, more to follow.