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FOUR TOUGH GROUND SQUIRREL HUNTERS

Got up at 4:30 Saturday morning and waited for 3 other ground squirrel hunters: Jessi, Napoleon and Baxter. Jessi met me at my house to carpool into the mountains where we planned to meet the other 2 guys. Jessi and I arrived a bit early so we decided to do some scouting for some active Ground Squirrel holes that we could hit once the sun came out.

 

Napoleon and Baxter arrived, and after some fellowship we decided to start our hunt several miles into the forest where I had seen some activity in prior months. We walked around and sat for about an hour before realizing the place had been shot out by other hunters or simply had too small of a population, very disappointing.

Napoleon with his Evanix Rainstorm (above) Baxter with his Hatsan AT44 Tac (below) waiting for some action.

We drove from spot to spot throughout the day, and stopping frequently using all 10 of our eyes looking for Ground Squirrels in the distance sunning themselves. Baxter spotted one approx. 265 yards away up on a rock. He decided to stalk and for that I give him much credit for trying. The location was quite far and not easy to hide well, that Ground Squirrel was gone needless to say leaving Baxter with a few kills on some chipmunks at least.

The last spot we went to was an area I had a few kills on weeks before and felt this would be our last resort to some payoff to our long day of driving and hiking. I was beat and mind you I was the youngest in our group, I give Jessi, Baxter and Napoleon credit for the amount of ground they covered.

We split up in pairs North and South hoping to have more of a chance spotting the squirrels, I had a great feeling about this place as it had active holes and fallen rotting logs along with giant rock outcroppings throughout the hillsides.

Jessi and I soon spotted two Ground Squirrels running in the distance and soon after that 6 more. Never have I seen Ground Squirrel’s act so skittish, an obvious sign this area has put a lot of hunting pressure on them.

I ended up killing three with only one body recovered, I however made a pretty good shot at 60 yards through a hollowed out log and right through the neck of a Ground Squirrel. Jessi made two kills with none recovered although did leave a large blood trail on one heading into a hole.

Baxter and Napoleon found an area near a road where they spotted two very large adult Ground Squirrels where Napoleon made a kill with his Rainstorm at 75 yards.

This area had been very active in the past but just seemed shot out, gets frustrating when you have 4 experienced ground squirrel hunters and only a few kills over a whole day. The best part was to spend it with other Airgunners and too enjoy the scenery of this beautiful location.

 

 

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BACK COUNTRY AIRGUN HUNT

On Friday November 4th Marley and I left the house at 3:00am to make our way North where we would be spending the next three days. We ventured down the long dirt road that seems to head into nowhere for miles. As we arrived to the area in darkness I parked on top of a mountain where I planned to hunt for several hours while waiting for the other members of our group.

The sun was slowly coming up as Marley and I hiked our way high up onto a mountain hoping to have some good views of the fields below. The area was quite dry with very little green vegetation to be seen, yet still very sustainable to Jackrabbit populations. We sat for awhile and didn’t see any movement besides a few birds and the occasional chatter of a ground squirrel. As it was becoming lighter out I could see a dust cloud from a vehicle moving down the road from miles away, It was SteveO making his way right on time. We got up and made our way down the mountain to join him and too ended up making a failed shot on a Jackrabbit on the way down. As soon as SteveO arrived Terry was soon behind with us deciding to move down into an occupied camping area to relax for a bit and also get our gear ready for the few days of hunting.

After several minutes of setting up camp and getting our guns aired up we set out on foot back up into a nearby canyon that is usually loaded with Jackrabbits. We all went off to separate areas throughout the valley with my preferred area working the brush filled hillsides.

As I’m looking down the hill I can see Terry stalking a Jackrabbit just over the other side of the hill from me, I see him waiving me over as I think he thought the Jackrabbit may come my direction. He ended up tagging the Jackrabbit while making full sprint up the hill, not sure of the yardage but still a great shot.

After another hour of marching around I was able to spot two Jackrabbits moving through the brush, the larger one made a much better target and was taken down at 60 yards with Marley making a swift retrieval. I was using the new American Air Arms EVOL .30 carbine tuned to 85 fpe and too the perfect tool for Jackrabbit hunting. The gun is regulated, lightweight and has a shot-count capable of keeping me in the field all day long. This is my dream gun and one I have been waiting for Tom to build for over two years, I’m in LOVE. ;D

After a few more minutes of hiking back to camp we took a much needed break and to have some lunch before heading back out into the remote hills. After lunch SteveO and I headed back out several miles working the rocky hillsides with Marley finding several Jacks and even a Cottontail that was hidden in the dense brush.

The Cottontails out in this area are quite large and unlike in other areas don’t stop at all once flushed. I think this is because of all the pressure they have due to predators such as birds of prey, Coyotes and Foxes. As we were hiking we spotted quite a few small Ground Squirrels that proved to be very difficult targets as they don’t stay still for very long. SteveO spotted a few and was able to take several of them moving around the rocky hillsides at around 45 yards with his .25 Marauder.

We had made several more attempts at finding some Jackrabbits before heading back to camp before dark. The Jackrabbits I think were feeling the pressure of Marley being able to find them even in the most secluded hiding spots. Watching that little dog work is purely magical as she really is amazing at what she does, sometimes its a little unfair.

As the evening met darkness it became quite chilly out with the distant chatter of Coyotes echoing through the canyon. Marley and I slept soundly in the Jeep and awoke early to greet Tom and his son Nicholas to our camp where they would spend the next two days. Tom and Nicholas had hunted here before so they both were very familiar with the area and too the potentially huge Jackrabbits that find home here. After getting they’re gear ready and guns filled with air we set out again, this time 6 of us.

Tom had brought the New EVOL TAC .30 model rifle to test out, what a sharp looking gun it is. Nicholas was using a regulated bottle fed 22xx platform that was shooting at 30 fpe and has enough air for all day hunting. We ended up all meeting in this canyon where we were shooting at 100+ yards at this white rock, amazing what these modern PCPs are capable of.

After some playing around with the guns we headed back to camp where Terry was sighting in his old .20 Sheridan that he just had steroided. He had mounted a scout scope and planned to do some hunting with it that rest of the day. What a workout it was pumping that old fashioned vintage gun, 6 pumps was giving him 630 fps I believe.

Tom had made his way several miles from camp in a close direction from where I was hunting, I had mentioned I had taken 10 ground Squirrels so he made his way to find a few. Tom had managed to find quite a few of them along with bringing back several wild gourds that later would prove good targets.

Very old tree, one of the only ones seen for many miles.

That afternoon Terry left and the rest of us continued on into the evening by ourselves, I think we were all petty beat from the miles of hiking we all had done. I know Marley was very tired as those little legs had gotten quite the workout mashing through brush and rocky hillsides all day. Poor little thing was pooped ;D

That next morning SteveO had to leave us to get back home before traffic got to bad, was great to have him join us even though it was a quick two days. This morning was quite foggy and really didn’t seem like a very good morning for Jackrabbits, figured we would give it a try before heading out ourselves. Tom,Nicholas and myself headed out for a short hunt, several mile loop that would bring us back just in time for breakfast.

I headed us up into an area I suspected may be full of Jacks and too as a last resort had hoped Tom and Nicholas would have some luck. Here is Tom behind me and Nicholas way in back as we ventured up the steep hillsides.

Many of the times when working areas like this you can spot them moving through the brush in the lower areas, I have good success in hunting this way. I would rather shoot down on them than up as usually they make it over a hill leaving them lost from sight. It didn’t take long for all of us to get some shots on running Jacks, Nicholas came very close to hitting one on the run.

Tom was higher up the side of the mountain and Nicholas and I were lower, we were watching Tom shoot at several of them with Marley hot on the trail. For a few minutes we were all shooting as they were getting sprung from all directions. I’m really glad we checked out this area as I will definitely be back in Springtime when the population is higher and they are more active. We went back to camp and did a little bit of shooting with the EVOLs and even brought out the .357 Slayer for some fun.

This sport has given me so much joy over the years, Its great to see young men like Nicholas getting involved early. These kids are the future of our sport, setting examples and passing it on is the most important thing we can do.

Hope you all can enjoy until our next adventure.

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HUNTING WITH THE .308/.357 SLAYERS

On Thursday June 16th Terry and I set out at 4:30am to make our way several hours North to meet Tom and his son Nick for a two day hunt.We had chosen to get out during the week to allow us to beat the heat wave and to avoid people that frequent the area during weekends. As Terry and I drove down the long dirt road I couldn’t help but to imagine we were in the African Plains going on some kind of wild safari. Part of the excitement for me on trips like this is the feeling of being a kid again,problems and worries just slip away and the thought of adventure takes over. We arrived to find our usual camping area quite empty with the only occupant being a very nice old man who was just traveling through.

He had came over and talked to Terry and I being intrigued by the fact we were using airguns to hunt with. He had even brought up the famous “Lewis and Clark” expedition and was very familiar with the use of the  Girardoni air rifle. I really enjoyed talking to him and to spark someone’s interest in our fine sport. By this time it was 7:15 and we were soon joined by Tom and his son Nick who had decided to join us being he had just gotten on Summer break. The weather was nice and clear with a good solid breeze that kept things cool for most of the day. We all aired up our guns and filled our pockets and gear bags with pellets and water to set out for some Jackrabbit hunting. Terry and I were the first ones through the gate and into the fields where we almost immediately started seeing large Jackrabbits,they were simply everywhere so it seemed. I was using the first prototype .357 Slayer loaded with 127gr pellets provided by nielsenspecialtyammo.com along with Terry who was using his .22 Tapian Mutant Bullpup loaded with his custom made 22.5gr slugs. We hiked around the same locations as our last trip over a month ago that proved to still be full of action after taking 14 of them in two days. It didn’t take long to empty my magazine and exhaust my air supply from shooting at so many Jackrabbits, having a gun that has so much range capability makes it difficult to not shoot at something.      ;D

After an hour or so I had made my way back to camp to get something to eat and to cool off in the shade for awhile waiting for the others to return. Soon Tom and Nick made there way back into camp followed 45 minutes later by Terry, all of them with the same story of  how many Jackrabbits they had seen. Tom had taken a fairly hard fall on a rocky hillside that had knocked his .308 Slayer up pretty good along with his hand. Thankfully he was ok and the gun with only a few noticeable scratches with the zero being questionable. After several minutes of rest I had spotted a large Jackrabbit out in a nearby field, Tom had invited me to use his .308 and take it out as I had not really used it much. The first thing I noticed was the weight difference being lighter with the aluminum shroud and the fact it was a right handed model as I had been used to shooting the left handed prototype. The pellets I was using were 111gr provided by Nick over at nielsenspecialtyammo.com I took the gun expecting to be gone for only a few minutes but being it shot so nicely I ended up being gone for close to two hours. The area I was hunting had many hills that offered amazing views and vantage points to sniper style shooting. The gun was zeroed at 85 yards using a Leapers Accushot 30mms scope with etched glass reticle, one of my favorite scopes for hunting being fairly rugged. The first shot I took felt great with little recoil,similar in feeling to a pellet gun but with much more authority and thump. I was amazed at how flat shooting it was and how much more controllable it felt over the big brother .357 Slayer. The first Jackrabbit I was able to hit was at 60 yards moving through some thick sage,nice solid chest shot that made a clean kill.

Jackrabbit kill .308 slayer

Jackrabbit kill .308 slayer

I hiked around a bit more and found a good spot to sit and rest along with having a good vantage point to sniper a few with the first one taken at 115 yards with a solid hard hitting shoulder shot. The second one was very close to the first only he ran several hundred yards up a hill before stopping towards the top at a little over 300 yards. I gave the gun so much holdover that I couldn’t even see the Jackrabbit in my scope,kinda just guessed but ended up hitting solid throwing him into a backflip where he did the death dance.

I headed back to camp dragging these two kangaroos that get very heavy after hiking with them for several miles,Nick was kind enough to come over and help me get everything over the fence. As I walked into camp my presence had awoken Tom from his afternoon siesta under the giant shade tree. He immediately had concluded that the earlier spill had not effected the POI at all apparently. :o
My feet were sore and the sun by this time was taking its toll making relaxing in the shade seem like the best option along with drinking plenty of water. Terry came back into camp exhausted as the rest of us telling of how many Jackrabbits he had encountered and the few that got away. We pretty much stayed in camp until 6:00pm when we all set back out together to try a new area I had found on Google Earth. The area was about a mile hike South from camp and looked to be very good and one of the few places that were still a bit green.

airgun hunting

We all stayed close together and Tom was the first to make a shot on a Jackrabbit that was foraging in a small clearing,we all stalked the Jackrabbit and eventually all missed him as he disappeared in the thick sagebrush. A few more minutes went by and Tom spotted another running through the sage only to run several hundred yards with Tom and I taking turns trying to hit him. These big bores are simply amazing able to come several feet from hitting a running Jackrabbit at out to 400 yards. The loop we took was several miles through fields and mountains where we ended back at camp by 8:15pm. The night was lit by a full moon and offered us a nice relaxing evening being nice enough to even sleep outside. Later in the night I could hear Coyotes chattering in the distance and a hoot owl perching in the tree above our camp. The next morning had started later than I hoped as we had all slept a bit later than expected being so tired from the day before hunting. Terry and I aired up our guns and set out in close to the same loop as the evening before but ended up going much further. I had spotted a Jackrabbit sitting up in the sagebrush at 25 yards,shot a bit to high only to see a puff of fur from my pellet skimming the top of his head. These Hares are so fast and hard to spot that hunting them can get very frustrating. I can’t tell you how many shots I experience that’s like “How in the heck did I miss?” I followed Terry for a bit as I enjoyed taking pics and to be careful with my air supply and ammo,not having very good luck with any good shots. Terry spotted a good size Jackrabbit at around 30 yards where he was able to connect his shot,from the sound he had hit him hard. The Jackrabbit slowly ran away into some thick sagebrush making it very difficult to find and when you did it wouldn’t stay still long enough to make a shot. We both spent a good amount of time scouring the area to find him with no luck. A few hundred more yards on our hike I spotted a good size Ground Squirrel sitting on a rock that Terry was able to take at 35 yards.

Terry and I kept hiking higher and higher up into the mountains and by this time I had used up all my shots barely missing several Jackrabbits I had encountered on the rocky hillsides. We found a good saddle where we took a rest before we climbed even higher where we had to make it up over the next mountain and back towards our camp. The mountain we were climbing proved difficult with it being near vertical at some points. We too were running low on water that’s never a good thing in the blazing desert sun.

American airgunner

After making it to the top of the mountain we were both exhausted and had decided to take the easiest straight route back to camp that was thankfully mostly downhill. I was the first to stagger into camp where I found Tom and Nick as exhausted as we were relaxing in the shade. The first thing on my mind was to get some water and to cut open a watermelon that had been on ice. What a hunt,ended with 4 hard earned kills and legs that felt like jello. We all packed up our things and set out down the road till the next time. The best part of every hunt like this is the time spent with good friends and the adventure of exploring nature. Hope to share more soon but until then “Best Wishes” 8)