If you haven't read my last blog story, about the whys and wherefores that lead me to once again add a spotting scope to my hunting kit, you might want to go to the sidebar and give that story a quick read.
As an initial test of the resolving power of this spotting scope, I put a target out at 300 yards that had .177, and .22 caliber pellet holes in it, and discovered that in decent conditions, the scope would indeed resolve .177, and .22 caliber pellet holes at that range. Great, then I should have no difficulty at all seeing much larger items like stumps and ground squirrels at 400 to 500 yards.
After I finished with that experiment, I headed a couple of miles away, to an area that I had seen on an earlier scouting trip. It was an area that I wanted to check out from a distance, for ground squirrel habitat and squirrel sign.
Once I had the scope set up, and started looking back into the trees, it wasn't long before I was seeing the all important old stumps. There were also a lot of old blowdowns back in there.
I'm mostly interested in the area from the meadow's edge, back into the woods about 100 yards. For some reason, that I haven't figured out yet, if ground squirrels are there, the greatest number will typically be found around the edge of the meadow, and back into the woods about a hundred yards or so.
I've got the spotting scope set at about 35 power, and I'm liking what I see. As I'm slowly working the scope across the area, I spot a stump back in there, with a bright pile of debris sitting on the top of it. I know from experience, that the debris is from the remains of seeds and pine cones that have been field stripped by a ground squirrel.
This is good stuff, and it's decision time. This is our rainy season, and there are a bunch of thunderheads building in the distance. I know that it won't be long before I will be getting rain, with thunder and lightening all around. In looking at their size, speed, color, and direction of travel, I figure I've got an hour or so before I need to start getting to concerned.
Let's do it. I've got my RWS, .22 cal Rapier along, with its new 4-12x40mm Hawke Panorama EV scope on it, and I'm anxious to drop some squirrels with the combo. I get the Rapier out, along with my binos, range finder, pellets, pellet pouch, and bipod, get geared up and head out across the park, to the far tree line.
As I slip into the tree line, it definitely looks like ground squirrel paradise back in there. I locate the stump with the debris on it, and go over to check it out and take a picture. When I'm finished with that, I start looking the area over with my binos, and about 40 yards away, I spot another stump with debris on it also.
Man, this is looking really good, but I have yet to see a squirrel. About that time, out of the corner of my left eye, I see a flash of movement. I put my binos on the area, and sure enough, a furball has jumped up onto the back of a stump, in the shadows, and is looking directly at me. I zap it with my ranger finder, and get 46 yards. I've got the rifle sighted in dead on at 40, so I just hold a little high on his head, and squeeze off the shot.
I'm shooting the 18 grain JSB's out of the Rapier, and the combo is just stupid accurate. This might just be the most accurate PCP I own. For sure, it's a close tossup between this rifle and my FX 2000. Anyway, the pellet hit exactly where expected, and the squirrel was DRT.
As I'm heading over to get a picture of the squirrel, with the rifle and new scope, I hear a loud clap of thunder, and see a bright flash of lightening off in the distance. Hmm, go, stay, go, stay, I decide to stay for just a little while longer, and I decide to hunt in a way, that will take me back in the general direction of my vehicle.
It is absolutely beautiful back in there, and I'm really glad I decided to try the spotting scope method of scouting some of these kinds of areas. I'm very diligently using my binoculars as I hunt along. Lot's of stumps and blowdowns to check out, and with their coloration, these guys can be hard to see with the naked eye, especially when they are sitting back in the shadows.
There's another loud clap of thunder, accompanied with a flash of lightening, and a few rain drops start to fall. Nothing major, just a drop here and there, but an indication of what is on the way.
As I'm glassing the area ahead of me, I see a squirrel sitting on an old blowdown log. The R/F says 106 yards. I want to close the range some, so using the pine trees, that are between myself and the squirrel, I start putting the sneak on him.
I finally reach the point where I've run out of trees to use for cover. I very carefully stick my head around the side of the tree I'm behind, and shoot a range to the furball. It comes back as 61 yards. This'll do. Very slowly, I move my bipod into position, and while resting my rifle on it, I put my right shoulder against the tree and line up the shot.
At 61 yards, I know I'm going to need to show some daylight between the horizontal crosshair and the top of the squirrels head. I decide to use the hash mark between the first and second mildots on the Hawke scope. Considering the thunder and lightening going on, there really isn't any wind. One of those, "calm before the storm" scenarios.
I held on the spot between the eye and earhole, and launched the pellet. Because of the angle of lighting in the area, I was able to watch the pellet in flight, as it reached the apex of its flight path, and dropped, like a heat seeking missile, down onto the squirrels head. Always amazing to see.
The furball dropped down onto the log for a few seconds, and then rolled off of it out of sight. This is what I initially saw when I got up to the log.
By now, the thunder is getting louder, and the lightening flashes are getting closer, so I decided to get a quick picture of the squirrel and rifle, and get the heck out of there.
I took a somewhat circuitous route getting back. I Stayed tucked back in the trees, and followed the tree line back to the road I drove in on. I then stayed inside the trees along the road, and hiked back to my vehicle. No way did I want to walk 400 yards, in the open, across that meadow, with lightening strikes hitting all around the area. On the way back, I saw several more squirrels, but not wanting to get caught in the deluge that I knew was coming, I gave them all a pass, but I will be back.
The hunt was a lot of fun, even if it was cut short. It's the first time I've used the spotting scope to locate ground squirrel habitat at relatively long distance, and it was the first hunt with the new Hawke scope on my Rapier. Next time, I'm going to get out there a lot earlier in the day, before the thunder heads have a chance to build, and spend a few relaxing hours hunting more furballs.
There are literally hundreds and hundreds of these park/meadow areas in the forest. Some large, and some small. I've humped across many of them, only to find nothing, squirrel wise, in the forest on the other side. With others, I've hit the jackpot. I figured there had to be a more efficient way to check them out. I think I have found it. All in all, I'm very happy with the concept of using a spotting scope to optically recon some of these areas for squirrel habitat, and I'm sure she will earn her keep in no time at all.