Now winter is truly upon us it is now time for me to hit the woods and start my squirrel cull. I have spent quite a lot of my time off work in Wales, so my grounds have been getting an unusual rest. There is nothing I like more than spending a chilly, frosty morning walking through woodland. The amount of wildlife that you come across that hidden by the greenery of summer inspires me to get out as often as possible.
Many a day I have sat in one place waiting to see how many different type of bird I can see, or even just listen to the noises that come from the animals that surround you. These are the reasons that I get out into the countryside; the pests that I shoot are a bonus.
I received a call from a landowner that a small wood that he has had been seen to have a fair bit of squirrel activity lately, I shoot this ground from time to time but mainly in winter once the call comes. I had planned to go out with my old man (Dad) before the call came in, so it was a good opportunity to give the Galahad another test and also for my Dad to go on his first squirrel hunt.
It was one very foggy morning when I picked up my dad, from leaving my house and driving 30 miles to his the temperature had not risen above -2. I had packed extra clothing just in case it was going to be too harsh in the field to compliment the new Jack Pyke fleece hoody and jacket that I was trying out. It was about 10:30 when I arrived at my dad’s house, it had been a slow trip; the fog had dropped visibility down to 30 yards in places. We were hoping that it would lift as the sun tried to break through and give in to a glorious sunny day.
Well another slow 10 miles later and we were at the ground. We both got the Galahad S from their snug cases and set off in search of a grey or two. We had been searching the wood for a good half hour when we spotted on run up a tree. I was quick to lift the Galahad to my shoulder and track the squirrel, I was surprised by how poor it was to see the squirrel, and the fog was dramatically reducing the vision through the sidewinder. The squirrel stopped around a third of the way up, luckily it sat on a clear branch to eat the chestnut that it was carrying up the tree. I had time to line the sidewinders cross on its head and pulled the Galahad S trigger. Squirrel number one was on the floor.
We had not got far when dad noticed two playing in a big oak tree, he motioned over to me where they were so I held back to watch. Dad was walking slowly on the damp leaves, there were many small twigs buried beneath them. I was waiting for the laud crack as he stepped on one, but twinkle toes made it to within 40 yards from them. I could see him working his next move out. He made sure he sucked his belly in so he could hide behind a small tree as he walked a bit closer. Eventually he got into position and after what seemed an hour or three, I saw a squirrel drop from the tree.
After what seemed a promising start soon turned to anguish, the fog had thickened up so much we were loosing squirrels every time they headed up the tree tops, you could hardly make anything out through the scope. We needed another plan!! We wanted to do some fox shooting once it had got dark, so in dads little goody bag was a thermal imaging spotter that we use.
We decided to go back to the car, re-fuel with food and drinks and then set off again, this time there was no chance of hiding, their little bodies would glow like a light bulb in these cold conditions.
We headed back to where we had started and spotted one within minutes. We did not need the thermal imager for this one; it was sat at the bottom of an Oak tree right on the edge of the field. Dad wasted no time creeping up to a tree to get a good steady rest, I pointed that it was still there, so dad lifted his Galahad slowly to his shoulder and proceeded to edge around the tree for a clear shot. I watched the squirrel; it was still unaware that 25 yards away was a pellet getting released towards it. The squirrel was killed instantly, number three in the bag.
We were now heading back into the trees, it was still very thick fog near the canopy, but it did seem to be lifting from the floor. We had split up and were around 40 yards apart, dad was scanning the trees while I was watching the floor for any movement. Dad prompted me to come over, he said that he could see a tiny hot spot and it hadn’t moved at all,
I was only half way round when dad gave the thumbs up, it had moved a little more up the branch and showed itself more to confirm this was a squirrel. I was still struggling to get a nice sight picture near the tops of the trees. At last, the squirrel finally showed me a little more of its head, I could see it now, I stayed in the same spot for about ten minutes and it must have thought I had gone. It might of only been half an inch more of its head I could see, but it gave me that bit more confidence with my hold under and aim point. I let the pellet do the rest after I released the trigger and another squirrel was in the bag, we were now making a dent in this wood.
My next chance came by accident, we were having a minute while dad was scanning the wood with the thermal spotter when I was sure I noticed some movement to my left on the ground, quietly prompting dad to take a look I too could see something moving amongst the brambles.
I decided to move a little more left; whatever was moving about in the brambles was heading towards a bit of a clearing. I rested on my knee and waited. Was it a rabbit? I was thinking. It finally revealed itself after a good five minutes, my leg had gone numb by now, but I was committed to stay in this position. It was a squirrel; it had been collecting nuts as its mouth was full. It was in no rush, it was also oblivious to my cross hairs of the Sidewinder tracking its head. I took the shot the second it stopped moving, I knew if I was in this position for much longer I would not have been steady enough. I went to retrieve the squirrel with pins and needles in my right foot.
We were now nearing the end of the wood when dad found another. I could see him pointing to a tree just in front of him. I slowly walked around the back of the tree until I got the thumbs up from dad. He lifted his Galahad and sent another squirrel tumbling to the floor.
Well six in the bag was a pretty good result in these conditions, I know without the thermal imaging spotter it would have been a lot lower, but it was great to have the tools to make the day more productive.
We decided to call it a day, there was no way any foxing would be done as the fog did not lift enough to see 50 yards all day. It was then time to grab a bite to eat before heading off, I made sure dad had used the antiseptic gel before doing anything with the food. No matter what we shoot, every pest has the potential to carry disease so make sure you clean your hands well after every shoot.