When I left the house yesterday, I headed back to the valley area that I had so much success in last week. When I got there, some bow hunters had their elk camp set up near where I would have launched my hunt from. Rather than get in the middle of their hunt area, I headed for a different spot, five miles away, that I had pre-scouted for ground squirrels during the summer. It's a small valley maybe 300 yards long, by 150 yards wide.
This spot is at a higher elevation, and has several different species of trees. Ponderosa Pines being the most dominant, but the area also has quite a few Blue Spruce and Gambel Oaks, with a few Aspen thrown in for good measure. The probability of seeing a variety of different squirrel species is probably a pretty good bet.
My gun of choice for the day, would be my .22 caliber Benjamin Marauder. I've had this rifle since they were first introduced about three years ago. It's very accurate, and I have it set up specifically for hunting prairie dogs. I haven't had a chance, this year, to hunt prairie dogs, so I thought I would take her out for a ground squirrel hunt.
I keep a 3x5 card on file, for each of my guns, that shows important info like, what pellet it's sighted in with, the sight-in distance, fill pressure, number of shots, etc. The card for this gun shows that I have it shooting the 21 grain Beeman Kodiaks three quarters of an inch high at 55 yards.
The first thing I did when I got to the hunt area, was to put my portable target frame out, and check my zero. The below target shows the result. The green dot is three quarters of an inch in diameter, and I was holding at six o'clock. Three shots almost touching works for me.
Time to hunt. I was parked at one end of the valley, so my plan was to hunt down one side, cross over at the far end, and hunt my way back up the opposite side.
As I always do, before leaving my vehicle, I glassed the area to see if any squirrels were showing themselves. There were no squirrels showing, but there was a chipmunk sitting on the tip of an old deadfall branch, like the flame on the tip of a tall candle.
I see tons of chipmunks, and give the vast majority of them a pass, but this shot opportunity was too good not to take. The chipper lasered at 63 yards, and I couldn't resist knocking it off of that tall perch.
The sound of the 21 grain pellet connecting with the furball, was louder than the gun going off. The pellet literally blew the chipper three feet into the air. The accuracy of my .22 Marauder never ceases to amaze me.
I took a quick picture, and then continued hunting along the edge of the small valley. I spotted a Rock Squirrel, which is similar to a California Ground Squirrel, at a little over 100 yards, but didn't get a shot at it. I think mainly, because of a loudmouth Pine Squirrel, that suddenly decided to start mouthing off. As soon as that thing started with its loud scolding chatter, the Rock Squirrel bailed for parts unknown.
The Pine Squirrel is a tree squirrel, and that season is not open yet. I can't imagine anyone actually hunting them for meat. They are very small, about six ounces, but what they give up in size, they make up for in lung power. This isn't a very good picture, he was forty feet up in a spruce tree, in the shadows, and my camera doesn't have enough zoom to really reach in there and pick him out. He was one loud, sassy sucker though.
Ignoring the loudmouth, I continued to hunt. Much to my surprise, now sitting on the same log, that the Rock Squirrel had just abandoned, I spot a Golden Mantle ground squirrel. Maybe the ruckus got his attention, and he had to come out to see what was going on.
The laser indicated 54 yards. He was facing directly at me, so I held center chest, and launched the pellet. It caught him just under the chin, and he disappeared off of the back side of the log. I could still hear the Pine Squirrel running its mouth, 50 yards behind me.
After taking a picture, I crossed over to the other side of the small valley, and hunted it back to my vehicle. Along the way, I got a couple more ground squirrels with nice clean head shots. Both were just over 50 yards away.
I've mentioned before, that to consistently make head shots on these small ground squirrels, you need a rifle that will keep its shots inside a nickel at 50 yards. Not a problem for my .22 cal Marauder. It will keep them inside a dime at that distance.
It was a fun day. Not tons of ground squirrels in this area, but still enough to make for a fun hunt. The Marauder did what she always does, puts a pellet where I want it, when I want it, on demand. A truly mind blowing experience for the ground squirrels.
Tomorrow, I'm going to head back to the other valley. I've got my fingers crossed that the bow hunters may have moved on, and I'll be able to hunt the other side of squirrel valley.