Monday, September 9, 2013

The Best Hunt in a While

I've found over time that if I have to choose between shooting my limit for a given species each day or having one, really good and challenging hunting experience that may or may not yield a result, I'll take the good hunt.  Today was that day.



A Tranquility Sunrise

It felt very much like last week didn't really count because a variety of factors conspired to shorten the day and my rifle was my second stringer.  It was a hunt for sure but just not the foolproof recipe I have concocted over the years that makes the hunt a true experience.  I had things in order this week and Olivia (my wondrous wood stocked Marlin 980s) and I were paired up.  Also different than last week, today started as most squirrel hunts do... a hundred or so miles from where I need to be.  So at 4 AM I rolled out and at 4:15 on the money the car started and we headed south.  I decided on the ride down that we would go for my probably new favorite spot to hunt.  It proved to be a solid choice.  the 5:50 arrival meant 30 minutes in the dark waiting to be able to see.  I do love the sounds of the country in the morning...

The parking lot is situated at the north end of about a 700 yard access road that leads straight south to the end of a ridge.  The access road is flanked along the way by nut bearing hardwoods.  It's always a prime place to pick up and extra on the way in or out.  Since it was an easy walk, I hiked down and propped up and waited... and waited... and waited some more.  Nothing.  No barks.  No leaves bouncing around.  No stealthy shapes moving along branches.... nothing.  After about an hour I headed down the road.  At the very south end the road veers east and downhill.  To the south west is a long slow running system of fingers and saddles just infested with hardwood... and among those fine large trees we find squirrels, always and without exception.

I hiked in and down and found a good tree to blend in to and I waited.  Off down the hill I could hear one squirrel barking and managed to pick it up moving when line of sight allowed.  Hearing and seeing nothing else, I decided to move that way and see what came of it.

The Big Woods
The sun was still pretty low and the light was working for me.  I was able to move maybe 75 yards without much trouble.  The ground was damp and the cover was, if you paid attention, pretty workable. 

I thought I had lost the critter by the time I was approximately in position to watch the tree it was in.  Just the same though, I kept an eye on the tops and limbs.  Sure enough, after about 15 minutes it came back into view moving limb to limb and cutting some.  I watched a good long while and every minute or so checked the rifle to make sure it was still on safe and a round was still loaded.  The first good hunt of the season always makes me a little giddy.  I didn't want to lose anything to a mistake.

After some time of not exactly known length the critter decided to come down out of the tops and make for the ground.  As it cleared the lower branches and hit the trunk proper, I lined up and flicked of the safety.  When it paused I fired.  In an ideal world I would now say it fell out and just cleaned itself on the way down.  Sadly, for an aging guy like me, eyes are not always in touch with hands and I missed.  Fortunately the critter had a death wish, took two strides down the trunk, stopped and stuck out its head looking around.  This time, no miss.

2013's first redhead
 One round through the eye finished this up nicely.  I was pretty surprised that I could still hit that well with open sights at the 30'ish yard involved.  Turns out if I just slow down a bit and remember the practice, it all works like it used to only slower...

Anyhow, I scooped it up and waited to see if any others were around.  An hour later I still had no other sounds or signs so I decided to bag it.  Things were getting hot and the flies were starting to really get into the blood on the carcass.  While I was wrapping up, I happened to look up in the tree where I got my good shot and saw this...


Maybe if I take that shot a couple of minutes sooner and miss my day goes all different and we're talking about how much Benadryl I carry for things like hornets.  The good news is though, not today.  :)

Thanks for reading along,

-JP

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