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Long range Ground Squirrels

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Long range Ground Squirrels

Postby DKOwen » Sat Apr 11, 2009 3:05 am

My bud Mike and I just got back from our annual pilgrimage to the Ground Squirrel infested alfalfa fields in the far North of California. This our third year to the same area, a local cattle and horse rancher 'saves' us a half mile long, 150 yard or so wide 'rough pasture' to shoot our airguns in.

This year we timed it bad, the snow was gone but the grass was very short. It was cold and windy most of the time, meaning the critters weren't out in numbers or for long. A dash or two here and there. These are Belding's Ground Squirrels, smaller than most, more like rat size than tree squirrels.

Mike and I set our chairs and tripod rests out on the high side of 'the long way' 30 or so yards apart facing opposite ways. Shots were long and fleeting. Between shots I amused myself by sniping rocks and random bits of cow poop at various ranges. As usual, my 24 inch Condor in .22 was delivering outstanding accuracy with 16 grain JSBs at 930 fps. The gun is sighted in at 75 yards (very close at 25 yards as well) and a ranging shot or two proved rocks all the way to the end of the field at 140 yards were in jeopardy.

About mid afternoon one fellow popped up at about 80 yards ('slightly high') and took off for the flats. I missed behind him, which only sped him up. I also missed at 'one dot up' and 'almost two dots up' ranges as he paused to grab a quick bite. Then he made the fatal stop, right next to the 'four dots up' rock I'd shot several times. Right on cue, the wind paused, I got a perfect sight picture on the sideways critter putting the fourth dot over his ear I started what turned out to be a perfect trigger squeeze. Everything 'came together'. A bit over half a second later, the pellet connected (it was calm enough I actually heard it) and instantly he started to 'break dance'. These guys flop around in a disquieting way with solid brain or CNS hits. Really heart wrenching to see at first, until you find out that's what happens even with their brain blown clean out of their skulls. A completely autonomous thing that can even cause dead critters to kick themselves into corners or down holes. I knew instantly the shot was 'spot on'. I noted the exact spot he came to rest in.

Later, as we were packing up, Mike and I couldn't get our laser range finders to agree so we went downrange. The shot was half an inch or so low, it took out the bottom half of the skull, lower jaws and most of the throat. You could hardly ask more of a rifle. Mike stood there while I stood where the chair was and we ranged each other. 132 yards! What a machine! Astounding accuracy/consistency, even ignoring the low cost. They may be kinda ugly to some, but they sure can shoot.

Now Mike and I are working on our schedules to see if we can make it back up before the grass gets too tall (the locals say we have 4 or maybe 5 weeks). You can bet I'm taking the 30 fpe Condor, and my 20 fpe Talon for the 'short stuff'. I still enjoy hunting with springers and other gas guns, and repeaters are nice, but when it comes to putting a little bit of lead exactly where you want it way down there, the Condor's the tool for me.

Doug Owen
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Postby jdweld » Sat Apr 11, 2009 11:41 am

Great hunt report! Brings ya right there!
Sailors and Dogs , KEEP OFF THE GRASS !
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Postby DKOwen » Sat Apr 11, 2009 11:47 am

Thanks very much, it was 'a shot to remember' in an otherwise so-so hunt.

Speaking of 'being there', I'm sure wanting to do just that....seems Mike and I may have left some behind up there.

I've got some stuff to do later this month, but believe me I'm guarding the end of the month like nobody's business......

"Take it out and play with it"

Doug Owen
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Postby mamcrackin » Sat Apr 11, 2009 11:48 am

That was a nice experience.....You must write for a living....I was hipnotized.....
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Postby DKOwen » Sat Apr 11, 2009 12:02 pm

Thanks, Jeff. That single shot was well worth the effort for sure.

Yes, in the dark evil past I used to get paid for running my mouth. Now nobody pays attention so I gotta write it down...... I'm very glad that other guys can enjoy the experience at least some. The real goal should be to get out there and pull the trigger yourself, of course, but bill gotta be paid....at least for you working stiffs.

Say, long as I have you hipnotized up real good, take $20 cash, put it in an envelope, address it to Doug Owen..........

Thanks again, keep your tank charged and pellet pouch full.

Doug Owen
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Postby sacshooter » Sat Apr 11, 2009 12:45 pm

Hey Doug,

My father went up Cedarville for his 2nd trip last week he said it was very cold, but he got a lot of shooting in. He will be keeping his 5th wheel parked at the sunrise motel for the whole squirrel season.

he was asking when I could back up to Cedarville with him, but I'm just too busy to slip away right now.

It is easy to fall in love with that place and the cool animals like the bald eagles and the deer.

Glad you had a good time, maybe our paths will cross up there some time I'll be back up 5/8 - 5/11 we are going with a big group of people.



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Postby DKOwen » Sat Apr 11, 2009 2:32 pm

Roger,

I've never shot Cederville, but hear it's super. Lots of rim and center fire guys though? A big advantage with the place we hunt is it's not shot up, and since three 'friendly' owners have the rest of the valley, no gunshot sounds at all. I really enjoy how when it's quiet and all. You see and hear so much more if you just pay attention. You feel the wind. Become intimate with your field of fire. Gunshots in the distance distracts me from that.

So very cool your father can stay right there and shoot his fill. Large numbers really drive some guys, and I hear they have them there.

I know how modern life eats up time like never before. IMO that makes it all the more important for you to find a day or two to spend with him.....while you have that chance. Squirrels you can shoot 'anytime' as I see it, good hunting companions are hard to come by.

Good luck next month. If we end up going again, and it's that late, we should come up with a plan to meet for dinner, a few beers and some tall tales at the least. I hope conditions and numbers are on your side. What you gonna shoot?

Doug Owen
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Postby mamcrackin » Sat Apr 11, 2009 8:46 pm

DKOwen wrote:Thanks, Jeff. That single shot was well worth the effort for sure.

Yes, in the dark evil past I used to get paid for running my mouth. Now nobody pays attention so I gotta write it down...... I'm very glad that other guys can enjoy the experience at least some. The real goal should be to get out there and pull the trigger yourself, of course, but bill gotta be paid....at least for you working stiffs.

Say, long as I have you hipnotized up real good, take $20 cash, put it in an envelope, address it to Doug Owen..........

Thanks again, keep your tank charged and pellet pouch full.

Doug Owen


Great story Doug. Had to tell the guys as a prelude to what they were about to experience...It is too bad more people don't slow down enough to do what they enjoy....Glad you wrote it down....BTW I hate to read so, for me to read a story that long says alot about your writing......
I had the chance to entertain my Army nephew with that story. He is in for 2 wks on leave from Iraq. I got to treat him to an afternoon of "The Airforce Condor Experience". They brought my younger nephew's 2 Crosman .177 pump rifles to shoot targets. None of them have had a chance to shoot the Condor or anything like it..They had no clue what they were in for...I can not emphasize enough how much they enjoyed shooting the Condor....I had Army nephew start out shooting JSB 15.8's with my regulated tank and then switch him to the high flow Condor tank....He, my brother, and younger nephew looked at me with mouths wide open when he let go of that first shot and it cracked like a .22 rim fire.....They were amazed at the precision and power. He must have gone through 200 rounds. He just kept smiling and sending them down range. I just kept the tank full and enjoyed watching the fun...He also got to take out a couple birds at 40-50 yd ranges....He said it is almost like cheating because the Condor is so accurate.....Needless to say they had a great time and I had a chance to show and tell him how proud I was of him and how fortunate I was to be able to give him an afternoon doing something he really loved doing.....He wants one to bring back to Iraq....One of the best days I have had in a long time.....You guys will have a soldier to be proud of back in Iraq in a few days...
Tanks are charged and Pellet pouch is running over...
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Postby maw » Sat Apr 11, 2009 10:29 pm

132 yard shot I'd be writing too and probably about sh-- when I connected with that awesome shot, good shootin Doug!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Postby DKOwen » Sun Apr 12, 2009 2:09 am

Jeff,

I don't think I can thank you enough. Your kind words are one thing, but sharing such a fine opportunity to enjoy your airguns with family adds so very much to my 'online experience'. I only hope the young nephews appreciate having an Uncle to take the shooting, if not today no doubt as they grow up....their friends should be jealous. Then there's the part about the older one being in the Service in such an important way and time. You are truly blessed (as are they).

I know that look, too. Kind of a 'no, this TOY gun can't possibly have done that' thing. The comes the part where they realize that downrange those holes are so close together you need a telescope to see the gaps between them. I still get that thrill sometimes. The shot goes off just right (like mine did the other day) and you watch through the scope as it happens before you like in a Lucas movie. The whole experience has been known to force more than a few of us to 'order up'.

For me, it was when that SOB that calls me friend, Tony (Trojan 1994) loaned me a 'nice quiet PCP' (that's what I asked for) for a group Ground Squirrel hunt in a small valley. I didn't want to make enough noise with my misses to foul the other guys up. He loaned my a Talon, the first I'd seen. I couldn't get over the gun. I put a kind of sloppy three shot group into a loading chute rail (2 X 6 wood board) two feet out and just below my field of view instead of into the squirrel at 50 yards or so I was watching. Undaunted by no impact anywhere near the critter on my first shot, I calmly reloaded and did it twice more...... After the hunt, I couldn't stop thinking about that Talon. I didn't want to 'get into' PCPs, I was quite happy with springers and gas guns (almost never too cold for CO2 in California), but you know how it is. I bugged Tony to death about it, finally ordering one. THEN he tells me it wasn't a stocker he loaned me, but a full up TT gun! Sneaky, that guy, be careful if you ever get near him. Since then it's several HPA tanks, a Condor, a full set of tanks and barrels, shrouds......

I guess all I can say is 'thank you' and hope it covers it.

Doug Owen
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Postby DKOwen » Sun Apr 12, 2009 2:17 am

Thanks, maw, it was kinda surreal. You know how you *know* as the shot goes off your sight picture was perfect and trigger pull right and you can predict where it's going without a doubt? It was one of those shots. Everything came together. Like I said, even the wind paused.

Sometimes you gotta fire a lot of shots between that happening, it's so cool when it happens in the field under difficult conditions. You know you should share that with good folks that will appreciate it. And for sure I don't expect it to happen again anytime soon.....not that I won't be trying.

Doug Owen
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Postby mamcrackin » Sun Apr 12, 2009 7:13 am

Wow. DKOwen, Yea "thank you" covers it with credit in reserve.....
I got bit by Tony early in my PCP experience....He started to
chime in when I was working out some accuracey issues with
my first AF. Now I have 2 Condors, A Talon tank, a Condor
tank, 2 regulated tanks, a BSA Super10, 2 hand pumps, and
an FX electric compressor.....Yea he has a great enthusiasm
for the sport and is very knowlegable about PCP in general....
I have to say, he is soley responsible for giving me the guts
to completely tear my gun apart and tweak each and every
part until it was as good as it could be.... He's one cool cat.
I really can't quite explain it but the search for nirvana precision
is what really makes this hobby a blast....
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Postby DKOwen » Sun Apr 12, 2009 9:38 am

Yup, we're talking about the same hombre for sure. Sneaky little so and so ain't he? He tends to grab at things with both hands, and inspire that in others as well. He drives himself as far as he can go in what he does, IMO, and can drag you right along if you let him. One of my ongoing pleasures is shooting with several friends every week, weather permitting (we make 3 out of 4 on average I'd guess). Tony is able to join us most weeks. He also shares my enthusiasm for lunch, if not my waistline.

Not only is it a treat to see what he's brought this week to shoot, but predictably he infects our end of the firing line with his attitude. He hands out encouragement, advice and grins to one and all like he had an unlimited supply.....which he may. However, I've learned not to fall for it. If I don't actually shoot those guns, I'm not as tempted to get one. He's open to every competition that comes along (the latest was his first '3 position' match yesterday in fact). I'm not a competitive type myself, I prefer other types of goals. He, OTOH, not only does well, but seems focused on the other shooters (big surprise). Lately, he's been bitten by the firearms bug and I've been given the opportunity to pay him back some. I guess I don't have to tell you how he follows directions and advice and how rapidly he's progressed in pistol shooting, do I? No half measure for that lad, a good example for us all.

He also has the cutest daughter you ever saw that shoots with us sometimes. In fact, she came on the first Ground Squirrel Safari and stole hearts the whole time. Last minute family responsibilities (he has some heavy ones) have fouled up his plans to go the last two years (duty before self.....) but he swears it's not going to stop him next year. And I believe him.

Hey, you want some *good* reading with some great photos? Check out:
http://www.network54.com/Forum/79537/th ... ages++PICS

The place I got my 132 yard shot in is the other end of the field in the second photo where the ground is more broken and sloping like in the photo just before John's Rock Chuck. That shot was a pleasure to watch as well. John is a long time range safety nut. He and I were driving back to the others and had to stop for a gate. He was driving, I got out to open it. While standing there, I saw the chuck dart between a couple of chunks of lava and alerted John who had a very accurate .22 LR that he's been shooting at longer ranges without much luck. John fussed and crept around unwilling to take the shot because others were a mile or so to our right. A couple of grown men played hide and seek with a furry rascal in heavy rocks until we'd worked our way past him so John would be shooting away from the others. Just a glimpse now and again of the chuck to guide us. Finally I saw him (or rather part of him) through a crack less than an inch wide. John set up and watched through that crack as the chuck fidgeted back and forth trying to keep an eye on us. Next thing you know, John snakes one through that slot and scores a perfect hit on Mr. Chuck. The pretty side is in the photo. It was only maybe 40 yards, but that slot was narrow and the timing had to be precise. We wanted to bring him back to show the others, but didn't want to risk the fleas that infest these guys, so we hooked that big black tie wrap to a back leg and I held him out the window for the ride back. Tony and his daughter added him to the row of dead critters they'd recovered against the fence where we'd started out. At dinner we realized we'd left something there (I forget what), so Mike and I drove back out. As we approached the biggest hawk you ever saw took off, trying to carry away the Chuck! We stopped and watched him try a couple times more and finally fly off to sit on a power pole and watch us. All the smaller critters were gone! In less than two hours. Great place, good friends, good hunting....we'll be back.

Hey, I just remembered the look on Tony's face when he was resting his gun on that rock pile trying to get a bead on a critter and that little squirrel popped up out of the top of that pile between his face and his muzzle to see what was going on. Hard to say who was more shocked, him or the little squirrel. You can go a long long time without seeing something like that for sure. Now I'm grinning and probably will be for some time. Thanks for the memories.

Doug Owen
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Postby mamcrackin » Sun Apr 12, 2009 9:48 am

Great stuff DK....Well mister Tony just scored himself a
Walther Kidde 5,000psi 110v electric compressor. So he
will have more friends come out of the woodwork now
than ever....He will be an even greater asset to the hunting
than before....And he will surely have all the shooting he
can handle at the push of a button....Glad he snagged that one....
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Postby DKOwen » Sun Apr 12, 2009 10:12 am

You're telling me? He lives about five miles from here and will no doubt fill to 4500 not something less with some excuse like the shop we get our fills in now (a problem we've been griping about over lunch for some time).

I understand the faithful will want to rush to take advantage of this great event, but I'd like to remind everyone up front, "the line forms to ther rear"!

Doug Owen
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Postby mamcrackin » Sun Apr 12, 2009 10:18 am

DKOwen wrote:You're telling me? He lives about five miles from here and will no doubt fill to 4500 not something less with some excuse like the shop we get our fills in now (a problem we've been griping about over lunch for some time).

I understand the faithful will want to rush to take advantage of this great event, but I'd like to remind everyone up front, "the line forms to ther rear"!

Doug Owen


All I can say is that, he was fortunate to get to that guy before me....
You guys are set.....Glad to see it.....
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Postby DKOwen » Sun Apr 12, 2009 2:08 pm

Yeah, I figure all we need now is aobut 350 miles of extsnsion cord and we're all set......

Doug Owen
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Postby mamcrackin » Sun Apr 12, 2009 3:36 pm

Well if Tony is supplying the compressor surely someone
can supply a gas generator.....
In my house there are no problems ....
Only solutions....


lol :lol:
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Postby Harry » Sun Apr 12, 2009 7:09 pm

Holy cow!! 132yd shot!! Outstanding MC!!

Funny thing is.. I think besides Maw, myself and maybe 1 other person, I don't think anyone noticed (or read your entire post) that you made a 132yd kill!

What kind of scope were you using? and where are the PICS??? hehehe

Can you see a ground squirrel with the naked eye at 132yds? I have difficulty seeing a Gray at 80yds :( I had my crosshairs once on a squirrel at 95yds and I didn't feel comfortable taking the shot. His head still looked pretty small with the mag. dialed all the way to 24X.
Again great shot!! That has to be a record on this forum.
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Postby DKOwen » Sun Apr 12, 2009 8:48 pm

I used the scope that came with the rifle when I bought it used, it's a UTG 6-24X50 with IR I've never used. It's noting special near as I can tell. I'm not a clicker, so I don't tend to adjust 'em much. I shot it at 8 power, same as I always do.

You're right, they aren't easy to see even up close. They tend to blend into the background like their little lives depend on it. Best I can do is spot movement past 50 or so yards. In this case he took off from 80 yards out more or less left to right for about 50 yards. Enough time to get my binoculars (always around my neck at such times) up and on him. You can move the tripod with one hand if you can control the binoculars with the other. So as soon as he stopped again, further out, I knew where he was 'cuz I was looking at him. Then drop the binoculars, pick the rifle up outa your lap and get on the scope. Being the same mag as the binoculars makes it pretty fast to find the target. Then set the holdover and holdoff, let out half a breath, refine the sight picture and start the squeeze before he decides to move again. You have several seconds usually. Not easy for sure. The dead critter at 132 was very hard to locate using available landmarks (power poles, bushes, rocks, etc.) even with me standing right behind Mike while he was seated in my chair. It was made harder as the light was strange making him look darker than normal. In the end we ended up going down (I wanted to confirm the hit as well).

In practice the target was small indeed. I could resolve the critter, knew exactly how he was standing (facing slightly 'up' from straight right to left, sort of 'ten o'clock' as seen from above on a part that was sloping uphill away from me. I knew where his ear should be, I put the crosshairs there and moved up to the fourth dot (which covered a lot of his head IIRC). Like I said, it was one of those shots where everything comes together....it just 'feels right' when it goes off. Then you wait and watch. It seems to take for ever to get out that far, then you see him jump at the impact and start the 'break dance' just before the sound of the impact gets back to you. In this case he started by flipping up into the air a couple of times, moving a few feet right before reversing directions and coming to rest a foot or so from where he started.

I took several photos on the trip, I have a wide angle shot that shows the field of fire from my chair and a telephoto shot showing the target as best I could from where I was. No closeups, I'm not big on snuff flicks, besides I'm sure we've all seen dead critters. Anyway, the photos are huge (like 3 megs each) to get the resolution. If someone who's good at reducing resolution (for the WA) and cropping out stuff (for the Telephoto shot) and knows how to post the results here wants to send me a PM, I'd be happy to email them. It might be nice to have some 'art' to go with the story.

Doug Owen
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