Opening day of small game and early goose seasons was a bit unseasonably warm, but I had no trouble finding squirrels and crows.
Unfortunately, none of my goose cornfields had been cut, so I’ll have to do a little searching to find some green grass fields where they were feeding and I have permission to hunt. I’m sure sometime before the 25-day early season ends, I’ll get a little wing shooting in and have a chance to fill the eight-goose-per-day limit. Fortunately, opening day of bushytail and crow hunting was very good.
I was a bit anxious to get into the squirrel woods opening morning because it would be the first time I had hunted them without a “real” gun — a .22 rifle or .410 shotgun. My choice for the day was the new Gamo Varmint Hunter HP in .177 caliber, which, with a single cock, would send its PBA pellet out at 1,400 feet per second — faster than any squirrel or crow can dodge.
I was hunting a heavily wooded area close to home that bordered one of the uncut cornfields I usually hunt during regular goose season. The combination of good nut trees with standing corn nearby has always been a squirrel magnet.
Around 8 a.m., I entered the woods with my one-man Ameristep chair blind in its backpack, following an ATV trail about 100 yards in, then out to the edge of the field. Moving along just inside the wood line I found an area where squirrels had been feeding on corn and quickly set up the blind in a heavy brush area where I could see both into the woods and out into the corn. Chair blinds are great. They set up quickly and provide both perfect concealment and comfort. Their portability also makes them a good choice while hunting turkeys and/or deer.
I didn’t have long to wait for the action to begin. I noticed movement on the ground 30 yards back in the woods, where several squirrels were foraging for nuts. I was contemplating taking a shot when one of them starting hopping my way. He passed within 10 feet of the blind and went out into the field where he made the mistake of stopping to eat. Slowly sliding the barrel out the window, I centered the crosshairs just below his ear (didn’t want to waste any meat) and the Gamo had taken its first small game.
Fortunately, I looked back into the woods before going out to retrieve the downed squirrel, because another had left the group and was headed for the field. He stopped for a minute to look at the downed squirrel and disappeared into the corn before I could get a shot.
I’m not sure if it was the same one that went into the corn, but about 15 minutes later, a little gray head and shoulders appeared looking out of the corn and right at me. I ended the staring match with a well-placed .177-caliber pellet, again where it wouldn’t ruin any meat. The accuracy of this airgun continues to amaze me.
When I went out to retrieve the two squirrels, I looked down the hedgerow and about 100 yards away, I could see three or four squirrels around the edge. I moved back into the woods to where I thought the squirrels were, but actually, I went too far and had to backtrack. Sneaking up to a group of small pine trees about five yards from the field, I set up the blind without being detected. Two more squirrels joined the group and before I could raise the rifle, all but two of them entered the standing corn.
Sighting in on the farthest first, about 15 yards, No. 3 dropped quickly. The other one jumped, spun around and looked at the other, then went back to eating its last meal. That was the last squirrel I saw for about an hour, 20 minutes or so of which I spent checking the inside of my eyelids. That warm sunlight on my face does it every time.
The next one, which was to be my last of the day, was a bit more wary. He came in from the woods behind me, and I didn’t see him until he was in front of me. Being a bit too quick putting the barrel out the window of the blind sent him quickly back into the woods. But it wasn’t long before he returned, and this time, I was ready. At 18 steps from the blind, No. 5 was in my game bag.
My intention at that point was to fill my six-squirrel limit, but the caw-caw of crows at the other end of the field got my attention. Apparently, the farmer had cut down a few rows, and the crows were feeding there. I really wanted to get a crow with the Gamo, and it was definitely a good opportunity, so I packed up, went back about 20 yards into the woods and headed for the end of the field.
Crows have excellent vision, and getting close to them is almost impossible. As usual, my stealthy approach drove them all away, giving me time to set up. I put the blind in some very thick cover and made a shooting hole for the barrel of my rifle. I placed two decoys in the area where they had been feeding, one about 15 yards out and the other about 10 from me. Hopefully, a real crow would land between these two, giving me a good clear shot.
It didn’t take many crow calls to get their attention, and when I heard the scout crow overhead in a tree behind me calling, I knew they would be coming. Several landed out of range, but finally two dropped in. With the barrel of the gun already out the window, I slowly took aim on the closest one and shot a crow with an airgun for the first time.
It was truly a fun hunting day for me, and I owe it all to the Gamo Varmint Hunter. This could also be a fun day of bonding with your young hunter, as well.