I have to admit that there are times when I let my eyes rather than my mind dictate what I want in terms of guns.
I know that looks alone should not be a major requirement, but I still let it influence my choice. There was once a time when, if I was going to purchase a firearm, I would ask myself if I really needed it. But when I retired, that word “need” was no longer a part of my vocabulary, especially when it came to my outdoor toys.
With “need,” it is so much easier to make up excuses why you buy the gun. One of my favorites is that one gun would be like playing golf with one club. Another that makes my wife smile is, and I have used this quite a bit, “I need it for a column in the Gazette.”
However, in my most recent case, I had no intention of buying another gun. All I wanted to do is scope my old Springfield Savage .22 single-shot bolt-action rifle so I could use it for squirrel hunting.
It sounded simple, but when I visited my friend Paul Galcik’s gun shop (Olde Saratoga Shooters Supply), we learned that the scope grooves in the gun were smaller than what they are using now. He did not have any scope rings that would fit.
Paul called Beecroft’s gun shop in Schaghticoke to inquire about the rings, and he said he had boxes of old parts, and told me to bring it over.
He did a lot of looking and found a number that almost fit, but not the right ones. So my only choice was to use the fixed sights. However, Mr. Beecroft cleverly handed me a recent trade-in — a Marlin Model 101 bolt-action single-shot .22.
The first thing to catch my eye on this gun was a quarter-size silver metal finger ring that, after you chambered a round, you would pull it back to set the firing pin. It also came with a set of scope rings that were already mounted, and when I shouldered it, I was hooked. Add to that he would take my Springfield in trade, and I reached for my wallet.
From the gun shop, I headed back to Galcik’s. He has a shooting range behind his house, and also had a few scopes for me to try out.
His first suggestion was a Tasco 30mm RedDot (BKRD 30/22). It features an integral Weaver-style mount, wide field of view, 11-position rheostat, three-volt lithium battery and measures less than four inches long. It is a lot of optic for $30.
I must admit that I was a little pessimistic about it, but that feeling went away when I fired the first two rounds and they were almost touching.
I was using CCI’s new Quite-22 segmented HP long rifle ammunition. It is a 40-grain bullet that leaves the barrel at 710 feet per second and delivers 45 foot pounds of energy. This new CCI has 75 percent less perceived noise than the standard .22 rifle bullet. I was soon to find out that this “quiet hunter” is a big advantage in the squirrel woods.
It only took a few rounds to zero in the Marlin, and the last five shots Paul and I took bench-resting the rifle could be covered with a dime.
That evening at home, I did a little research on the internet to find out more about this gun. I found out that the Marlin ringbolt was manufactured from 1960 through 1976. Marlin wanted to design a light, simple, single-shot rifle that would be good for beginners, and the less-than-five-pound Marlin Model 101 was just that. It’s easy and safe to load (only one round at a time) and safe to carry. In addition, it can handle .22 short, long and long rifle rounds. I believe this gun new sold for about $50.
Now what good is a new hunting gun that hasn’t been hunted? I did not wait too long after its purchase to get it into the woods.
Last Saturday, the Marlin 101 and I took a walk in woodlot adjoining an uncut corn field. But that was not the only gun I was carrying with me. I also had my .28-gauge Spanish-made side-by-side because on two occasions, I had glassed a flock of about a dozen turkeys from the road that were moving in and out of the corn. Almost every time I hunt turkeys, I always see squirrels, so I would be ready for both.
My main concentration was on the turkeys, and I set out my usual three hen decoys 50 yards or so from the corn field and 15 yards from my hiding spot. Every 10 to 15 minutes, I would make a few calls. I use a simple series of soft purrs and yelps and end it with a three-note kee kee call followed by a yelp. The kee kee call mimics a young lost turkey, and often will bring in adult hens and sometimes toms.
My first response to the calls were almost immediate, but from the wrong species. In came a mature doe from the field to investigate my decoys. I should have brought my bow, too. But when I added a yelp call, it startled her and she took off. As for squirrels, I periodically saw several too far out to shoot that were rummaging through the leaves looking for nuts. They never did move closer to me.
I was there about two hours when I saw movement deeper in the woods headed my way, and eventually I was able to make out the outline of a fully camouflaged bowhunter.
Taking the orange turkey carcass bag out of my vest, I flagged it at him and he waved and headed in my direction. He told me he had a tree stand several hundred yards in where he had been sitting since sunup. He said he had passed on two does and saw a large mixed flock of turkeys headed toward the field shortly before he left the stand.
He did ask me about the legality of the two guns, and I explained to him that the Marlin was only for squirrels or rabbits if I saw any. I also told him that I had checked with one of the Saratoga County Environmental Conservation officers about carrying the .22 into the woods with the shotgun, and he said the law says that you can only shoot a turkey with a shotgun/bow, and there was nothing else about having the .22 along with me for small game.
It was about 30 minutes later when I saw movement about 100 yards out, and it was turkeys. Quickly, I put my 12-gauge on my knee facing in the direction of the birds. They seemed to be answering my calls, but their path was angling them toward the corn, and they finally disappeared.
Looking back, I should have gotten up and tried to break up the flock, which is one of the successful ways to hunt fall turkeys.
Usually, when you break up the flock, you can set up where they were, wait a half-hour and start calling, and most of the time, they will come to your calls trying to regroup.
Fortunately, before I left, I decided to sneak slowly up to the cornfield to see if the birds were there. When I was 10 yards from the field, I used heavy brush to conceal my movement to crawl up to the field edge. No turkeys in sight, but about 40 yards away, there were three squirrels, and it looked like they were feeding their way toward me.
I put the shotgun down and set my turkey vest out in front of me to rest the Marlin and wait for the squirrels. Shortly after setting up, I had an opportunity to take something different. A crow landed less than five yards from the end of my .22 barrel. Although it was a legal target, I do not eat crows.
The squirrels were taking their time scampering in and out of the standing corn, but they were coming. At about 15 yards, one disappeared into the corn, but the other two continued to feed in the open. Clicking on the RedDot, I sighted in on the farthest one, a distance that turned out to be about 10 steps. I was pleased with the quiet snap sound of the CCI, and my targeted squirrel went down.
The leading squirrel looked back and then continued to feed, but not for long. I moved back a little bit out of sight, quickly reloaded and slid the Marlin back on my rest. He was less than 10 yards away when I squeezed the trigger and had my second squirrel.
Had I stayed hidden and reloaded, I could have also taken a third squirrel, but as I went to retrieve my squirrels, I spooked another squirrel on the edge of the corn where my second squirrel lay.
There were no turkeys this day, but I did christen my new squirrel gun, RedDot sight and Quite rimfire bullet that all worked well together.