Tuesday, November 2, 2010

What Makes a Successful Hunt?

My first rifle was a target model Daisy BB gun. From that little rifle I progressed to a Benjamin .177 caliber pellet rifle. A lot of vermin and small game fell to that rifle as I learned firearm safety and hunting skills. I moved on to cartridge firearms and my airguns were put in the back of a closet for many years. Later in life I once again returned to airguns in the form of adult size airguns. I again felt the thrill of going into the field with a pellet rifle. Adult size airguns will have a place in my gun safe as long as I am able to shoot. I have found them also a perfect tool to introduce my grandson and nephew to the shooting sport and I gave them both a Daisy BB gun for Christmas. I am sure a Crosman or Benjamin will be in their futures if they learn their safety and hunting lessons well.

If you look at my list of favorite websites one is 54 Airgun Sport Forum

I used to spend a lot of time over there and the group on that site are experts on hunting with airguns. Drop in and spend some time with them and you just might be seeing an adult size airgun in your future. The article this week is by one of my buddies from over at 54 Airgun Sport. I hope you enjoy Rob's story, Wild Ed

"What Makes a Successful Hunt"

I am fulfilling a long time promise to Wild Ed by writing this, but at the same time, I am fulfilling a personal whim to be featured on his site. I've been astounded by Wild Ed's knowledge and writings for some time now and feel honored to be a contributor. I thought long and hard about what I may write about and then this idea came to me just about 15 minutes ago.

I took a stroll this past weekend in the many acres behind my house in search of squirrel and think I may have found the answer to what makes a successful hunt. I didn't bag a single squirrel that day, nor did I even take a shot.

The day was fairly calm in the mountains of Western North Carolina, deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The wind would only infrequently blow, but when it did, it did so with authority. The colors were in full plume and the woods were painted with reds, oranges, and yellows back dropped against a sky that was as pretty a shade of blue as one could ever hope for. Temperatures were around 60 and the recent frost ensured that the annoying bugs were well in hiding.

I wandered up an old logging road and could hear squirrels off in the distance barking and fussing at nothing in particular. The odd squeak of a chipmunk broke through the normal sounds of birds chirping. As I walked up this road I'd walked up a hundred times before, I noticed a small, but mature Chinquapin tree and I mentally marked its location to keep an eye out. The Chinquapin is a close relative to the Chestnut, and although much smaller, the taste is by far superior and they are not as common around here as they once were so this was a treat indeed.

A little further up the road, I saw where some turkey had been scratching around looking for acorns. Wild turkey are plentiful here so this was not of much interest, but did catch my attention enough to cause me to miss a squirrel that had been hiding nearby. He bolted over to another branch and then up and over to another tree and safely out of range. I sat down in hopes he may display himself for a long range shot, but after about 10 minutes of waiting, my attention shifted to a rustle of leaves about 8 feet away at a tree stump. After watching and listening for several minutes, a small mouse emerged long enough to scurry about and duck back into the leaves, presumably inside the stump.

I got up and wandered up the road some more. At one point, the wind picked up and I was instantly bombarded with acorns, small branches, and leaves. I thought this to be a good time to cover some ground and so moved briskly to a point I had been eyeing from afar that I wanted to sit to wait. As I made it there, the barking of the squirrels stopped and my cover was blown by a chipmunk who squeaked angrily at me. I never did see it, but rest assured, it saw me.

I don’t know if the relationship I seemed to have witnessed between chipmunk and squirrel can be called a symbiotic one as they are both rodents, but be it coincidence or not.... as the minutes went by and the chipmunk started squeaking less and less, the woods started to come alive again with squirrels. By the time the chipmunk had stopped squeaking, I was smack in the middle of a carnival of activity. It truly was as if the squirrels were waiting on the chipmunk to be satisfied that the danger had passed before venturing back out.

I have made a bit of a pact with myself to not take any shot less than perfect this year. It's been paying off as I've shot three squirrels so far this season and have yet to miss. All three so far had been head shots at ranges of roughly 15, 25, and 35 yards. As I waited for the perfect shot, something happened that could have just as easily been on the big screen at a Disney movie or a nature documentary.

I was waiting for my shot and I noticed a small shadow move over the landscape.... a shrill scream of a Red Tailed Hawk sent every squirrel in Buncombe County into hiding. Odd thing was I didn't see much movement nor hear much....everything just froze and there was not a squirrel to be seen. Even a couple I had been eyeing about 40 yards off had all of a sudden vanished into thin air. The hawk flew into a nearby tree and I watched him for a while, I wondered what alerted the squirrels to his presence. Perhaps he was a young and inexperienced hawk...perhaps he wasn't really interested in a meal and just wanted to boost his own ego. I like to think that he'd been watching me and got a good laugh out of scaring away all the squirrels leaving me to sit and go home empty handed. Whatever the reason, that's exactly what I did. After several minutes of watching him, I got up and headed homeward.

I didn't have anything for the freezer, but I came back richer for the experience. I found a new Chinquapin tree, I was pelted by acorns, watched a mouse in an environment where it cannot be considered a pest... I witnessed a relationship between chipmunk and squirrel much akin to the buddy system.... and I let my imagination go wild as I personified a hawk. I'd say that the only thing that would have made that hunt more successful is if others who have never experienced such could have. Enjoy your next hunt, Rob.

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1 comment:

Murphyfish said...

Hi Ed,
Excellent story by Rob, goes to show that a good days hunting doesn't have to mean firing a shot.