Feeling Squirrely

Okay, a day off at last. Deer in the freezer already so what’s next?? Well it is squirrel season in Oregon now so off I go to try my luck.
You didn’t think I would waste a day off indoors did you? Bad weather is coming soon enough. So I grab a rifle or two out of the collection, find my camo clothes and load up.

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I am not really all that familiar with the area I am off to today, so I am exploring as much as anything. As usual I bring more gear than I could possibly use, and load the truck down with snacks, drinks and warm clothes enough for several people, An air rifle of appropriate power, a backup air rifle and all the associated support gear. Then after all that I am off.

Oregon is pretty restrictive when it comes to squirrel hunting on the east side of the mountains, so there are only a couple of areas that are even open to the taking of squirrels. Now I’m not talking ground squirrels which are open year round with no restrictions, I am talking big beautiful western grey squirrels. I have seen these things as big as a cat and covered in thick light grey fur with a white belly. Yep, that’s what a squirrel is supposed to look like.

Now most of what I hunt lives on the ground. Rabbits, ground squirrels, sage rats, marmots, so walking around looking up in the trees is a new thing for me. Add that to the fact that I am hunting an entirely new area and I probably looked pretty comical wandering around aimlessly in camo, spinning in circles as I went.

So after driving around way too much and doing all the wrong things, I finally found some cuttings on a log and just parked the car, walked out a ways, and sat down for a while. Well what do you know after a short time something started moving in the trees. I saw several Douglas fir squirrels, and a couple chipmunks and lots of birds (mostly robins and woodpeckers) but no greys. At least I have a strategy now.

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The next spot I try pretty much the same way. A stand of pines with pinecones littered about on the ground. Find a spot to wait comfortably and 10 mins later, action.  First another dark brown Douglas squirrel, then there it was the holy grail (at least for this trip) a grey. 25yrds away and moving through the trees like a ninja. Man who knew they could move like that? I was up in a flash and in pursuit. I follow him from tree to tree trying to line up a good shot, only to have him move just as I start to squeeze the trigger. This goes on for about a hundred yards before I can line up a good kill shot with the Benjamin Discovery air rifle .22, but then it happens he stops on a branch about 20yrds away and just sits there looking at me.

That’s one in the bag and two to go. The limit for grey squirrels is 3 per day / 6 in possession on the east side of the state.

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I continue to stalk through the woods, stopping every now and then to let the woods settle, then moving off to the next likely looking spot. I see several more squirrels, but none of the big grey ones I am after.

I do come across a covey of ruffed grouse along a small trickle of a creek. There are 8 or 10 of them, it’s hard to tell for sure due to the low thick brush along the creek, but they are moving around all over the place. I can see 4 of them in one group near a large rock, and two more along the water.
One is standing on a stump bobbing up and down, while another is holding perfectly still in the middle of what was once a loggers drag trail.

I line up a shot at the one on the trail and squeeze the trigger sending the pellet cleanly over his head and prompting him to move into the bushes to his left before I can get the Discovery reloaded. I line up on one of the 4 by the rock and,,,,, damn!!! another miss. Reload, check, they are still there. I guess they were just closer than I thought. I kneel down and aim again, then they move out of sight just as I am starting to squeeze the trigger.

I remember shooting grouse to be much easier than this in the past…

I survey the area and find the one on the stump is still there, still bobbing up and down. Okay, last chance, I aim nice and low on the neck hoping this will give me some vertical grace. It is hard to time the shot right with all that bobbing. Just my luck I get a grouse with ADHD who can’t sit still even for a moment. squeeze the trigger and,,,, Grouse for dinner, yeah!!!

I field dress the grouse and bag it up, then back to hunting greys. I move along the little creek and find some cuttings on a stump here and there, but no greys. Making my way back to the truck I spot several more chipmunks, and even a douglas fir squirrel or two but the big ones are proving hard to find here.

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Back at the truck now and putting away the gear, taking care of my catch and getting loaded up for the drive home.

I did manage to find and bag one western grey squirrel and a small ruffed grouse, and I got to explore some new territory. I will definitely be back here soon to continue the chase, and continue my exploration of the area, but for now it is time to head home and make dinner.

Next time I am feeling squirrely I will know where to go….

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