Prepairing for next year's squirrel season

Forums Hunting Prepairing for next year's squirrel season

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    dleadslinger
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    Member

    This it the time of the year when I recap on what went wrong and what went right with the past hunting season.  I am not too proud to admit that there were mistakes.  I am posting this so other newbies might learn from this as well!

    What went wrong:  Since I am fairly new to “purposely” hunting squirrel with an air rifle, I have noticed that in preparation (sighting in, pellet choice, etc.) I made some simple mistakes that cost me in bagging my query.  First, my selection of optics.  I selected a high magnification, SF scope that worked great on the bench but sucked in the field.  I found myself trying to adjust for optimal clarity, in the process missing opportunities to take a clean shot.  Since I had the yardage marks on the SF wheel, I didn’t take along my range finder, big mistake!  Also, sighting in and practice, I concentrated on the longer shots (50-70yrds) and neglected the 15 – 30 yrd practice.  Most of my shots were taken in the neglected ranges and I found myself guessing on the holdover, consequently, missing A LOT.  I also made mistakes on the pellet choice and power setting for my AG.  I selected the most accurate pellet I found and the most power that the gun could push said pellet.  Looked great on the bench but coupled with the above statements, I ended up “ice picking” and missing the vitals more than I should have causing 2nd and sometimes 3rd shots; which I am not proud of!
    What went right:  Experience!  Knowledge!  With all the mistakes, I was down and frustrated and almost gave up.  I figured since I couldn’t hunt, I might as well read.  Forums, books, articles, etc.  Whatever I could get my hands on to satisfy my need for AG knowledge.  What I found was that I wasn’t alone.  There are quite a few articles that give steps to make you a more successful hunter.  One such book suggested to just observe; so I did.  I went out to the woods and just observed.  Using my rifle to spot and only visualizing the shot without even touching the trigger.  This actually helped with identifying the wrongs.
    Changes already made:  Since my season is over, I have already started making changes.  First I took the high power scope off of my hinting rig and mounted a 3-9, without an adjustable objective, and sighted in at 25 yrds.  It kinda sounds odd to not have AF but it is clear for the distances I am currently shooting, without any parallax shift.  I have also changed my pellet and power.  I found a “hunting pellet” that provides excellent energy dump with lower penetration and still groups great out to 50 yrds.  The rifle has been tuned to shot these at ~850fps.  This combination should allow for better knock down in the event I don’t make the perfect shot.  I am currently concentrating on the closer shots… 15-40 yrds.  I figure if the bushy tail is farther than that, he gets a pass!  As soon as I get a chance, I will be shooting pine cones out of trees.  This will allow me to practice how much lower I need to hold in order to make a clean kill at a given angle.

    Any of the old pros that have suggestions; I would love to hear them.  I plan on making next season as successful as possible!

    PS:  I am not a journalist or a writer. Sometimes my mind understands but my fingers don’t.

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    JohnL57
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    Member

    Well we can’t hunt tree squirrels in my county, but we have tons of rabbits and ground squirrels. One thing I like to do in the off season is to ‘hunter plink’-that is pick a bit of bark or leaf and try to hit it either with or without using the rangefinder. A LOT of my shots on rabbit will be 10 yards or less in heavy cover so you need to be able to ‘thread the needle’ to make a good shot. Time in the woods, practice and more practice. Shooting up at an angle requires some hold under and the wind affects the pellet more up high.
     As far as I’m concerned all time in the woods is good, I walk the property I live on in all kinds of weather, it’s fun to try and spot the critters and see where they like to be. Right now it’s bunny breeding season, so I see lots of chasing each other around happening.
    Good hunting!
    John
    PS-they’re making some very realistic knockdown targets!

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    dleadslinger
    Participant
    Member

    Wow… Rabbits that close.  Not around my house!!!!

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    cahil_2
    Participant
    Member

    Sounds like you learned a lot already and are making smart decisions, like not pushing your luck on long shots.  I limit myself to 50 yards and I don’t practice beyond that for squirrels.  I have my squirrel gun scope at 8 power and find that works well.  I do push my yardage at the dairy farm where I pest and will take shots up to 80 yards at starlings if it isn’t too windy.  Looks like you got it figured out.

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    oldspook
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    “dleadslinger”
    Changes already made:  Since my season is over, I have already started making changes.  First I took the high power scope off of my hinting rig and mounted a 3-9, without an adjustable objective, and sighted in at 25 yrds.  It kinda sounds odd to not have AF but it is clear for the distances I am currently shooting, without any parallax shift.  I have also changed my pellet and power.  I found a “hunting pellet” that provides excellent energy dump with lower penetration and still groups great out to 50 yrds.  The rifle has been tuned to shot these at ~850fps.  This combination should allow for better knock down in the event I don’t make the perfect shot.  I am currently concentrating on the closer shots… 15-40 yrds.  I figure if the bushy tail is farther than that, he gets a pass!  As soon as I get a chance, I will be shooting pine cones out of trees.  This will allow me to practice how much lower I need to hold in order to make a clean kill at a given angle.

    Any of the old pros that have suggestions; I would love to hear them.  I plan on making next season as successful as possible!

    PS:  I am not a journalist or a writer. Sometimes my mind understands but my fingers don’t.

    
You learn quickly.  Lots of folks would have had to go a few seasons to sort all that out.

    Carry a toe bag.  You’ll be glad of it.

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    amoxom
    Participant
    Member

    You may get some benefit of using the phone app Strelok-Pro. It has helped me understand holdover and holdunder at various ranges based upon your specific scope, scope reticle, and magnification ranges, current sight-in distance, your pellet velocity, and pellet ballistic co-efficient. It can also account for shooting at upward or downward angled targets. It opens up a whole lot of data that would normally need to be found out through trial and error.

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    dleadslinger
    Participant
    Member

    “oldspook”

    “dleadslinger”
    Changes already made:  Since my season is over, I have already started making changes.  First I took the high power scope off of my hinting rig and mounted a 3-9, without an adjustable objective, and sighted in at 25 yrds.  It kinda sounds odd to not have AF but it is clear for the distances I am currently shooting, without any parallax shift.  I have also changed my pellet and power.  I found a “hunting pellet” that provides excellent energy dump with lower penetration and still groups great out to 50 yrds.  The rifle has been tuned to shot these at ~850fps.  This combination should allow for better knock down in the event I don’t make the perfect shot.  I am currently concentrating on the closer shots… 15-40 yrds.  I figure if the bushy tail is farther than that, he gets a pass!  As soon as I get a chance, I will be shooting pine cones out of trees.  This will allow me to practice how much lower I need to hold in order to make a clean kill at a given angle.

    Any of the old pros that have suggestions; I would love to hear them.  I plan on making next season as successful as possible!

    PS:  I am not a journalist or a writer. Sometimes my mind understands but my fingers don’t.

    
You learn quickly.  Lots of folks would have had to go a few seasons to sort all that out.

    Carry a toe bag.  You’ll be glad of it.

    
Thanks.  But I do have one question.  What is a toe bag?

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    dleadslinger
    Participant
    Member

    “amoxom”You may get some benefit of using the phone app Strelok-Pro. It has helped me understand holdover and holdunder at various ranges based upon your specific scope, scope reticle, and magnification ranges, current sight-in distance, your pellet velocity, and pellet ballistic co-efficient. It can also account for shooting at upward or downward angled targets. It opens up a whole lot of data that would normally need to be found out through trial and error.

    
Thanks for the suggestion.  Do you prefer Strelok over Chairgun?

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    amoxom
    Participant
    Member

    I have both, but have only tried Strelok-Pro. I also use the wind meter option for Strelok-Pro, works slick.

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    oldspook
    Participant
    Member

    “dleadslinger”

     

    
Thanks.  But I do have one question.  What is a toe bag?

    
A toe bag is a sock or something similar filled with something soft like dried beans or peas or sand or some such which you place under the toe of your rifle stock when shooting supported.  Proper use of it is to let it support the toe of the stock and pinch the bag with your off hand to set elevation.

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    jonny75904
    Participant
    Member

    That rabbit looks scared AF.

    I have a 3x9x40 scope I use for squirrels, and have recently begun thinking going back to iron sights may be the better way to go.   for quarry such as squirrels, quick on their feet, too much scope can be a bad thing.  

    I’ve taken to firing from one and only one location, and only when a squirrel is directly on top of the bait pile.

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    dleadslinger
    Participant
    Member

    “oldspook”

    “dleadslinger”

     

    
Thanks.  But I do have one question.  What is a toe bag?

    
A toe bag is a sock or something similar filled with something soft like dried beans or peas or sand or some such which you place under the toe of your rifle stock when shooting supported.  Proper use of it is to let it support the toe of the stock and pinch the bag with your off hand to set elevation.

    
Ah yes… toe bag… Got it, thanks!

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    dleadslinger
    Participant
    Member

    And the preparation continues …

    So for the last few weeks I have been playing with the gun and making changes where I felt were needed.  I turned up the power again and shot long distance 10 shot groups (70 yards).  Each 10 shots I would adjust the power down until the groups were really tight (  Shooting at 40 yards, it was hard to tell which groups were better). For the JSB 18.1s, my gun like to sling these around 860-870 fps. I used the JSBs because I have a couple thousand of these and only a couple hundred of the Barracuda hunters and polymags.  Long story short… Once I found the perfect number, I installed a regulator and tuned it to 865 fps with the JSBs.  This setting kept the Barracuda hunters a little under 860 and the Polymags a little over 890.  Shooting groups with all 3 pellets, at 40 yards, provided me with some excellent groups; even better than the previous setting of ~850 without the regulator.
    Confidence has grown and if I make a bad shot next year, it definitely will not be the guns fault.

    On a side note, I tried shooting all 3 pellets (2 shots each) into a milk jug full of water laying on its side long ways at 40 yards.  All 3 were pass throughs.  I attempted this again at 65 yards.  I was only able to recover 1 polymag which showed less than stellar expansion.  Still too much power for a polymag?

    Moved on to a little pesting.  English sparrows have been a real pain.  These little birds have been trying to get into my ridge vents and make nests.  I already have nests on every pole around my porch (17 poles total).  My wife has to knock the nests down about once a week in an effort to get them to move on.  She has had enough and has turned me loose!
    Keeping the distances at around 30 yards has been no problem at all.  No misses and all DRT.  I have even had a chance to practice elevated shots while they were sitting on the ridges of the roof.  A little nerve racking but still no problems with only one miss!

    The gun / scope combo has been working out great.  I think its time to work on the shooting sticks.  I don’t hunt sitting on the ground because of the location and the constant presence of poisonus snakes.  Using a bucket and short sticks work great for horizontal shots but very seldom have the squirrels been feeding on the ground.  A solution is soon to follow!

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    echochap
    Participant
    Member

    When I moved to the Midwest 15 years ago, I’d not hunt tree squirrel, tons of ground squirrels but that’s a different game. But no matter what scope I had mounted, I never go above 9x and generally leave it at 7x, so agree with your views on this. A lighter simpler scope is better in the squirrel woods, but good light transmission characteristics is important.

    The two things that really changed my success in the field was that I started carrying 6x or 8x binoculars, again with good low light performance. No matter how good you think your eyesight, good glass will let you see squirrels your missing with the naked eye. The other thing is I started wearing camo, at least on top including mask, hat, gloves and shirt/jacket.

    I think the most useful sticks around right now are the Primos Shooting Styx, solid hold and very fast to deploy and easy to adjust for height. Good luck next season, I love squirrel hunting …. still one of my favorite quarry.

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    dleadslinger
    Participant
    Member

    “echochap”When I moved to the Midwest 15 years ago, I’d not hunt tree squirrel, tons of ground squirrels but that’s a different game. But no matter what scope I had mounted, I never go above 9x and generally leave it at 7x, so agree with your views on this. A lighter simpler scope is better in the squirrel woods, but good light transmission characteristics is important.

    The two things that really changed my success in the field was that I started carrying 6x or 8x binoculars, again with good low light performance. No matter how good you think your eyesight, good glass will let you see squirrels your missing with the naked eye. The other thing is I started wearing camo, at least on top including mask, hat, gloves and shirt/jacket.

    I think the most useful sticks around right now are the Primos Shooting Styx, solid hold and very fast to deploy and easy to adjust for height. Good luck next season, I love squirrel hunting …. still one of my favorite quarry.

    
I carry a set of binoculars but for some reason never take them out of the backpack.  I have looked at the Primos shooting styx but boy are the proud of them!
    All good information… now to remember the binoculars!
    O and by the by…  When are you going to write another book?  I don’t know how many more times I can read the ones I have!

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    BeachGunner
    Participant
    Member

    All good lessons and comments. I might suggest ditching the non-AO scope and get a fixed mag AO scope in something like a 10x. Makes it very simple. I bet you’ll keep your new scope on 9x all next season. :)

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    dleadslinger
    Participant
    Member

    BeachGunnerAll good lessons and comments. I might suggest ditching the non-AO scope and get a fixed mag AO scope in something like a 10x. Makes it very simple. I bet you’ll keep your new scope on 9x all next season. :)

    Its funny you mention the scope. Yesterday I was shooting at 50 yards. I was getting 1.5″ groups which is very uncommon for this gun. Through trial, error, and lots of pellets; I found it was because of parralax shift. Probably because the scope is focused and zeroed at 35 yards, and its a budget scope I had lying around. I pulled out the trusty Disco with the scope that was previously mounted on my hunting rig. And intentionally shot it trying to get the same results. I could not duplicate them with this scope. Seems AO plays a larger part than I originally thought, even at these closer distances!

    It now seems that I am in the market for a new scope. From my brief reserch last night, it appears that fixed power scopes are clearer than variable power.
    BeachGunner, can you comment on this as I have never owned a fixed power scope.

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    Alan
    Participant
    Member

    This brings up an interesting issue—parallax adjustment. Like a lot of air gunners, I use a small wheel to make it easier to adjust the parallax focus. This is easy to do if you’re atop a beanbag, or other convenient rest. But when shooting offhand, adjusting either side or front scope’s parallax focus becomes a balancing act while trying not to lose sight of your quarry. More than once I which is was motorized with a conveniently-located thumb switch! 

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    BenGunn
    Participant
    Member

    If I was preparing for next season. (Its all year round in NH) I would get yourself a good red dot, then sight it in at 20 yards and have at them. Squirrels both Grey & Red move around and getting locked in on a scope at close range is not all that easy. Move onward to chipmunks and its even more tricky!

    The last squirrel I nailed 3 days ago was grabbed by a local fox within 30 mins!  Been a tough winter and the fox needs the nutrition!

     

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    dleadslinger
    Participant
    Member

    “BenGunn”If I was preparing for next season. (Its all year round in NH) I would get yourself a good red dot, then sight it in at 20 yards and have at them. Squirrels both Grey & Red move around and getting locked in on a scope at close range is not all that easy. Move onward to chipmunks and its even more tricky!

    The last squirrel I nailed 3 days ago was grabbed by a local fox within 30 mins!  Been a tough winter and the fox needs the nutrition!

     


    I would love to use a red dot but I have a feeling they would bee less effective since the foliage is still thick during hunting season making it tough to take a precise shot.  I have thought of having a 45* mount for a short range red dot ( similar to what has been seen on AR style rifles).  This way I could have the best of both worlds!

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