I had a chance to talk to him about the Abert's squirrels a bit. I mentioned that I don't generally see many of them, and he stated that they are solitary animals, except during breeding season, and density up here runs about one per fifty acres. During peak times that can be as high as 5 or 10 per 50 acres, but the ongoing drought over the past several years, has kept their numbers down. Very interesting I thought.
When I do get one or two, they seem like real trophy's, and they are.
There is a ground squirrel that inhabits the same forest that the Abert's tree squirrels do. They are called Golden Mantle Ground Squirrels. They are a bit more prolific than the Abert's squirrels, but not much, and are about one third the size. I hunt both simultaneously. They make for a very challenging air rifle target. The ranges you find them at are the same as the Abert's. Shots range from about 30 yards on out to 70.
I was only about a 100 yards into the forest, when I spotted something on a rock pile in the distance. It was in the shade of a big Ponderosa pine, and I couldn't make it out with my naked eye. When I put my binoculars on it, it turned out to be a ground squirrels head just peeking over the back of a rock. I shot a quick laser range on it and got 43 yards.
I have the Marauder sighted in dead on at fifty yards. It shoots dime sized groups with the 18 grain JSB's at that range. I held a little low and launched a pellet. The resounding, THWACK, of a solid hit came back to me, and the head instantly disappeared. I made my way over to the rock pile, to find a lot of blood, but no squirrel. He had dropped out of sight down into a large crack in the rocks.
I was a little disappointed at not finding him, but was very pleased with the shot. These little guys have a head about the size of a 50 cent piece. As I hunted along, I saw several more ground squirrels, but they disappeared pronto. No Abert's as yet, but I did see ocassional sign.
About an hour later, I spotted a ground squirrel on a stump behind some low hanging branches of a pine tree. When I moved to get a more clear shot, the squirrel disappeared down into the old stump. I knew from past experience, that there was a good chance he would reappear in a few minutes. I also knew that there was a good chance that he wouldn't come back out at the same spot he had disappeared.
I started glassing the area around the stump, sure enough, a few minutes later I see him sitting on an old log about 10 yards to the right of the stump he had disappeared into. I range him and it comes back right at 60 yards. It's getting late in the day, and there is zero wind. I put the crosshair on the top of his head and touch off the shot. He rolls off the back of the log stone dead.
There was a pine tree directly behind him a few feet. The pellet passed through the ground squirrel and hit the tree with a loud SMACK. When that happened, an Abert's squirrel came into view on the ground, from behind the tree.
HOLY CRAP BATMAN! I was not expecting that. I racked the bolt, and in true buck fever fashion, launched a pellet right over the top of his head. Crap! first Abert's of the season, and I miss. How long have I been doing this? It doesn't matter, buck fever is buck fever, and a miss is a miss. %#@*&^!
He takes off for a tree a few yards in front of him and off to my left. The guy disappears around to the back of it, so I can't see him. If he goes straight up the back and into the canopy, he's gone. They are absolute masters at becoming invisible in the tree tops.
I shoot a quick range to the tree trunk. It'll be close enough, and it comes back at 58 yards. As I'm watching the tree through my binoculars, I see him come out on a branch about 30 feet up. He slips out onto it and lays down like they do. This time I settle down, hold a little high, and squeeze the trigger. At pellet impact, he simply rolls left and drops out of the tree. There is a nice soft thud as he lands in the blanket of pine needles below.
He turned out to be the only Abert's I would see on this hunt.
Abert's tree squirrel with Golden Mantle Ground Squirrel.
When I get there, I find a nice shiny, all steel soup type can. Say what? Somebody carried that thing out into the boonies, ate the contents, and then just dropped it on the forest floor. Nice.
As I'm standing there looking at it, I suddenly flash on prairie dog hunting, and the fact that an 18 grain JSB, launched at 30 fpe at the muzzle of my Marauder, blows clear through a prairie dog at 80 yards. Hmmm? Steel being tougher than a prairie dog, I wonder if it would blow clear through a steel soup can at 80 yards? Only one way to know. I picked an old stump, put the can on it and backed off a lasered 80 yards. I set the Marauder up on my Stoney Point bipod and sent an 18 grainer in no wind, down range.
What do you think, does an 18 grain JSB leaving the muzzle of the Marauder at 30 fpe have enough energy to do any damage to a steel soup can at 80 yards?