Eddie Jones: Stalking squirrels in bad weather
- Credit: Archant
This month Eddie is back in the field after his favourite quarry, the squirrel, but the weather made it hard work
The last few features gave you some insight on how I appreciate every rifle I use and what I like about them, and I know there were some raised eyebrows when I revealed the S510 TDR as the one rifle I would keep. To me, though, it was no surprise because all rifles made by Air Arms are keepers to many shooters, and the TDR was what I felt to be the true all-rounder. So, for this month, it was only right that the TDR should steal the show once more as I unleash it on some of those tree rats.
I had watched the forecast all week whilst at work, and according to the professionals, Friday was to be the best day of the week. I took a quick walk without the rifle before work on the Thursday, just to give me some idea of where the squirrels were feeding in the wood and it soon became apparent that most of the food being eaten was near some pine trees. I noticed a few places where squirrels were bringing the cones to eat, and this gave me a plan to get there early and see if I could take advantage of these areas by waiting for them to come to me.
Patience is key
It was cloudy and a breeze was gently blowing through the trees when I arrived at the wood at 7am, and light was just starting to break through in the distance, so I got comfortable amongst some fallen branches and waited. It was an hour before I saw my first squirrel, and it was a good way off, down the more open end of the wood, but it was coming my way. In this situation it pays to stay where you are and not be tempted to go toward it. Patience is the key – you don’t want to ruin your chance and if the squirrel decides to hang around away from you, you will often find that it provokes a response from another squirrel in its territory, thus showing you another target that you might not have seen.
I carried on watching the squirrel until it was almost within shooting range, and then I lost it behind a tree just in front of me. After a few minutes of inactivity, I decided to creep the short distance to the tree and look for it again, and it took me longer to find it because I didn’t have my thermal imaging spotter with me. The squirrel was sitting halfway up a tree, 25 yards away, looking in my direction and I didn’t want to move at this point, but if it had seen me there was no point in hanging around. Slowly, I lifted the TDR and was able to bring the scope to my eye. The squirrel was still just staring at me so I placed the cross hair just to the back of its eye and pulled the trigger. The squirrel dropped like a stone to the soft, leafy floor and lay motionless. I decided not to go and retrieve it immediately, but sank back into the branches and waited for another to come to the feed area.
It was another 40 minutes before the next squirrel showed. I heard claws scratching at the tree bark as it ran up a tree and I knew roughly where it was, so I kept still and waited for movement – and then I saw it, no more than 10 feet from me. I’d been sure it was a lot further away when I heard it climbing, but I had misjudged its location.
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I stood as still as possible and waited for my chance as the squirrel made its way down the tree into some ferns. This was not good because the ferns were quite thick in this area and I was about to lose it, but I looked around and managed to grab a thick, stubby branch, which I threw it into the ferns around 10 feet from the squirrel. As quickly as the squirrel had descended toward the ferns, it made its way back up the tree. It got to around 10 feet up the tree and then stopped to look for what had made the noise. That was his mistake; I had been ready with the TDR, was on it in an instant, and another shot to the head sent this squirrel to the floor, just like the first.
I was now three hours into the session and the feed area I was in had produced two, but I was getting bored so I decided to go for a walk around the edge of the wood. I’d noticed a couple more good feed areas and needed to get a better approach from the edge, rather than go through the middle and be seen.
After a good hour, I had seen around four or five more squirrels as I was walking, and I had lost two easy squirrels in the high trees because I just couldn’t get a shot – they laid as flat as pancakes on thick branches and I just couldn’t see them. The others all scarpered as soon as they saw me, and didn’t stop until they found a drey, or a hole in a tree. I did miss one, too, but that was my bad judgement because the wind had got up and I didn’t compensate enough for it.
It can get very frustrating when you lose so many – well, it used to, but now I just think ‘they’ll be there next time I go’. It started to rain, too; the forecast was rubbish and I was now getting wet. I never seem to do too well on squirrels when it’s wet and cold, but I plodded on in search of another.
I was near the end of the wood when I noticed grey fur moving on the floor in front of me. I managed to get to some small bushes to hide my body, and then took a look through the scope. The squirrel was feeding on one of the pine cones from nearby conifers, and was sitting upright on a stump. I was steady as a rock on my knee, took the 30-yard shot with ease, and the squirrel did a couple of jumps and then lay motionless just behind the stump. I decided to call it a day. Clouds were getting a lot darker in the distance, and the wind was getting stronger, but I know I will be able to go back on a nice sunny day – if we ever get one – and proper bag up on these squirrels, so until then, they’d better make the most of it!
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