If you’re a hunter/shooter in the senior citizen category, chances are, somewhere along the line, you had a .22-magnum in your gun case.
I got my first .22-magnum rifle in 1967 when a friend gave me an old bolt-action. It was my first-ever hunt, and the game was woodchucks in the orchards of Columbia County.
Back then, there were woodchucks all over, and it was easy to get permission to hunt. Since then, their population has dwindled considerably, but I’m still chasing them in Saratoga, Washington and Rensselaer counties.
I hunted them regularly, but when I got the bass cast-for-cash bug, woodchuck hunting became my No. 2 warm-weather activity. As for the .22-mag, I haven’t had one for many years, and I really never thought I needed one until I happened to pick one up in a local gun shop.
I didn’t know it was a .22-mag because I was attracted to the gun’s looks and feel when I shouldered it. I know these aren’t good reasons to select a gun, but this Henry .22-mag lever-action was different.
Its stock is a handsome checkered American walnut, with a grooved receiver, blued 19.25-inch barrel, and a tubular magazine that holds 11 rounds.
When I worked the lever action and felt its smoothness, I was hooked, and it had a tag stating all parts were “made in America.” I knew then there would soon be a Henry in my gun cabinet.
It didn’t take long at the range to see that the Henry was a shooter. With the addition of a Center Point 2-7x32 mm scope and shooting the new Hornady 22 WMR 45-grain GR FTX Critical Defense ammo, I was able to punch a less than quarter-sized group at 100 yards in the 10 ring. I definitely had the right combination.
When I left the range, I was quite pleased and couldn’t wait to put those crosshairs on my first ’chuck. It happened sooner than I thought.
On my way home, I decided to go by several fields where I’d seen woodchucks, but they weren’t out. As I drove by a gravel pit surrounded by woods, there was a woodchuck. Having permission to hunt the area, I quickly entered the woods and began my stalk.
Crawling on my hands and knees up the back side of the hill overlooking the sand pit, I could see the ’chuck about 50 to 60 yards from me. Carefully shouldering the Henry from my prone position, I centered the crosshairs on him. A soft whistle brought him up on his hind legs, and Henry was right on target.
Since that time, I’ve had three other encounters with woodchucks, two of which were successful and one that wasn’t a miss, but rather a bit of forgetfulness on my part.
The two successful ones both took place on two Saratoga County farms where I was invited to hunt.
The first one was rather easy. I glassed him at about 200 yards and was able to get within 92 yards (using a rangefinder) of him using a hedgerow for cover. No. 2 was a bit more difficult because it took me several days and about five to six total hours of hunting before I tipped him over at 60 yards.
The one that got away was the easiest, because it was no more than 30 yards from me. It was on this hunt that I found out if you cock the hammer on the Henry, sight in on your target and squeeze the trigger, it will not fire unless you first use the lever action to load a bullet in the chamber.
I’m not positive, but I think that ’chuck was smiling when he dove back into his hole. But I do know where he lives, and Henry and I will be visiting him again.