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The art and joy of precision field target and airgun shooting. Photos, tech spec, reports.
"Airgunning" is the oldest Field Target website in Portugal. Online since 16-02-1999,
created and updated by P. Mateus . Copyrights apply.

Ground Squirrel Hunting in Los Padres National Forest
By Martin Adriaanse  

On Saturday June 20th, after our first NOCASA field target match, I drove home to pick up my hunting gear for the next day, and from home I drove to Robert Hamilton's house, about two hours South of where I live. Robert's not only a very passionate and skilled airgun hunter, but also a very nice guy! When I arrived, he and his wife Cai Xia had a tasty Chinese dinner and a room to spend the night ready. The next morning he woke me up at around seven, and off we drove to Los Padres National Forest. As we got closer to our hunting spot, the number of ground squirrels crossing and sitting alongside the road started to increase - a good sign. Finally we got to our destination, and took some dirt road to a large open field with oak trees scattered about it. There was a good amount of squirrels running around, so we decided to sight in our guns, plink a little, and start hunting.

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I spotted my first ground squirrel within ten minutes and shot it after a short stalk; hit it square in the chest, but to my surprise it tumbled backwards, crawled back to its feet and headed for a hole in the ground where it must have died almost instantly. Robert had warned me beforehand that these were tough critters, and that body shots just won't cut it most of the time. But I, stubborn as always, just thought Robert was having this problem because he was shooting a .177 and that I wouldn't have this problem with my 21 ft-lbs .22 cal Lazaglide R1. After a day of shooting I was convinced Robert was right - even after they're head shot right through the brain, they sometimes manage to flop or crawl back into their hole. I believe this is because the instinct to run for their burrow at times of danger is so strong, that even after they're dead their reflex is to go down; about half of the squirrels I killed made it to their den after a shot through the central nervous system... amazing.

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In the afternoon we took a little break from the hunting to attend the barbecue at Robert's hunting club, a really nice piece of property right in the middle of quail/deer/ground squirrel country with a clear trout stream running along the clubhouse. The food was great, and after talking with some club members, we went back to our squirrel field. Unfortunately, a firearms varmint hunter and his buddy had settled where we wanted to hunt, so we moved on to another field, which proved to be even better than the previous. This field was just infested with ground squirrels. We scouted around a bit, did some shooting, and then it was time to set up camp, for the mosquitos really started to get at me, and it was getting dark. Robert had to go home with his wife; I stayed behind to sleep in my van.

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The next morning I woke up at around 5 am. I washed up quickly, had a bite to eat, and went at it, but this time I used a new tactic to hunt them. The day before, I'd just stalk within shooting range, shoot once or twice and move on to the next burrow, but now, I'd stalk within shooting range, shoot one or two squirrels, and back off about twenty five yards to wait for the others to pop up again; they usually do within ten or twenty minutes. This method proved highly effective. By the end of the day I had shot fifty (yep, 50) ground squirrels, and the most productive burrow gave me seven confirmed kills. The hunting was very easy and comfortable the whole day except for when I got into my sitting position..... on an ant hill. These darn insects really know how to bite people. I had to throw off my clothes to remove all the ants from my body - glad there was nobody around!

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The reason why I shot fifty ground squirrels and not more was because fifty ground squirrels on one day is enough for me. I could've just kept hunting until sunset, but I was satisfied with the number of squirrels I had gotten that day, so around 4pm I packed up my stuff, took some pictures and hit the road to home sweet home. If only all weekends could be this good!


[ Source: Martin's Airgunning Homepage ]



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