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Back from a varmint hunt....

Discussion in 'Shooting Related Threads' started by Brian in Oregon, Apr 20, 2010.

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  1. Brian in Oregon

    Brian in Oregon Well-Known Member

    Joined:
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    Deplorable Bitter Clinger in Liberal La La Land
    Went on a varmint hunting trip Sunday and Monday, over at the White River Game Management Area, on the east side of Mt. Hood. The area is starting to dry out a bit, but some roads are still closed because of bad conditions. How bad? I had to ford flooded parts of the road, which were as deep as my tires are tall, and they're 33". Lots of mud. Some parts have had 3" to 4" gravel dumped on them. These were the ones that were constant bogs and were deeply rutted. I can only imagine what the closed area is like.

    We forgot turkey season opened. We couldn't hunt Sunday in some of our favorite spots because the turkey hunters made camp nearby, and thus were hunting close by as well. Didn't want to disturb them. We went deeper into the WRGMA to hunt gray diggers. For those who don't know, they are scrawny California ground squirrels. Not much meat on them, and they're considered an invasive pest here, displacing the native Silver Gray squirrel, which is a game mammal.

    Did OK on Sunday. Not a large body count. It's been cold and wet, and those that are up and running around are the survivors from last years varmint wars. Thus they've been educated and are quite wary. Typically they'll suddenly appear on a dead run and disappear. You see far more than you'll shoot. Typical shots run from shotgun range to 200 yards, and sometimes more.

    Shotguns work best for gray diggers on the run. Because Sean and I use a short barreled 1187, which has no gas compensating system and requires heavy loads, our shells have been heavy #6 pheasant loads, but these aren't cheap. This trip we tried cheap Mao-Mart 3 dram 1-1/8 oz 7-1/2 target loads in longer barrels with the gas compensating system. We soon found that while these patterned quite well, they were iffy for putting gray diggers down at 40 yards, and sometimes even at 30 yards. To give you an idea of the power difference, 7-1/2 shot only dented an old washtub at 30 yards, while 6 shot penetrated it. Penetration on the gray diggers was shallow, and though the wounds were no doubt fatal, they were not instant, allowing run and crawl offs. We won't be using 7-1/2 in future hunts. Sea's friend, Chase, also had an 1187, but his has a long barrel. As far as we're concerned, the 1187 is one of the best hunting shotguns ever made. Recoil is low, allowing enough control to make followup shots fast.

    Sean took his Savage heavy barrel 17 HMR. This is quickly becoming his favorite cartridge for squirrel size varmints, at least out to 125 yards. He's having problems with ranges beyond that, but that's more of a matter of range estimation. His windage is generally good. While pretty flat shooting, the 17 HMR is still a rimfire, and is inferior to most centerfires in its class. Last trip out he was missing some easy close range shots. His gun was sighted in at 100 yards, and the arc was high enough that the bullet was passing over the gray diggers at 50 yards, though some standing ones did get hit in the head. After a demonstration of the trajectory, and showing that at 6x the bottom of the upper thick part of the duplex reticle was right on at 50 yards, he stopped missing. The top of the lower thick part of the reticle is right on at 125 yards. Beyond that he's using Kentucky elevation. I suggested to him since he prefers the 6x setting and since this is a walkabout rifle, that he get a Leupold fixed 6x scope and have a custom reticle made with hold points on it for various ranges.

    The 17 HMR is a deadly killer on gray diggers. While it is not as spectacular as a 223 Rem, it still gazorps them. Crawl offs are rare. Accuracy is outstanding, at least from Sean's Savage. One criticism is that he has a poor cheek weld. We're going to install an add on comb to address that. On Sunday a wind came up, and it really pushed the 17 HMR around. And while shooting into and away from the wind, the bullet severely impacted higher or lower. This change in elevation was more than enough to miss a gray digger. It was a good lesson in ballistics for Sean.

    Myself, I was using my Remington R15. In years past I usually used my Browning 1885 Single Shot High Walls in 223 or 22-250, each topped with a Leupold 6.5-20x scope. Haven't used it because they're a bit heavy for walkabout rifles, and the weather was iffy (it rained late Monday afternoon). Also wanted to practice with the R15 because it's my main coyote rifle, and if you can hit a gray digger, you can hit a coyote. I had an EOTech on it, but did not like the 65 MOA circle around the dot. Had no problem hitting gray diggers out to 100 yards with the 1 MOA dot, though, even with no magnification. Instead of getting a 1 MOA dot only model and a 3x magnifier, I replaced it with a Leupold Mark AR 3-9x scope with duplex (not mil-dot) reticle.

    Well, things did not go as planned. Instead of using my expensive Hornaday 55gr TAP ammo, I tried Remington 55 gr soft points. Missed some easy shots. Not sure what went wrong. My own reloads with 55gr Hornaday SXSP are accurate and print to the same POI. Switched back to Hornaday TAP and was hitting right on again. Will have to put the Remington loads on paper to see what happened. My other AR15s have not been picky with any 55 gr loads.

    Made a number of kills, but two stood out. While Sean and Chase did a walkabout, I lounged in a chair and patiently waited for gray diggers at a rockpile. I think we've hit it a little too hard. Not many left. Anyway, spotted a digger about 200 yards out, and shot him. Instantly after I fired, I spotted another one that popped up on the rockpile, about 100 yards out. He must have wondered what the report was and investigated. Immediately shifted the crosshairs down and took him too. Another gray digger frustrated us on numerous trips. He liked to watch from on top of a feed station shed. Any vehicle coming up the road would cause him to take a dive. Obviously been shot at before. This time we parked well down the road, and worked our way up through the woods that were back a bit from the road, which ran though an open field. Despite careful stalking, he spotted me and took a dive. He paused on a piece of wood, and I made a snap shot, standing offhand, about 100 yards out. The bullet was a bit low, and grazed the wood under him. He then ran under the shed. I ran up and waited him out. Played cat and mouse. Could see him under the heavy beams, but wasn't able to get a shot in. He then broke and made a dash for his hole, which was about 20 feet left and behind the shed. Caught him on the run.

    That was the last kill of the trip, as it was just starting to rain, and ugly clouds were on the way. The winds had died down. "The calm before the storm" definitely applied. It was eerily calm. Not a single leaf even moved, which is rare there, as there's almost always a slight wind at a minimum.

    We explored some areas that I've never been in before on the WRGMA. Found a couple of nice waterfalls that don't show on any maps. Sorry, no pics, did not have a camera with me. Did not see any coyotes, but there was a large number of mule deer. Most were traveling in herds of about eight to a dozen, and we saw many herds. They were quit skittish, even though it wasn't hunting season. Probably spooked from the onslaught of turkey hunters. Also saw a lot of raptors, especially hawks. And our camp was overrun by mice at night. No wonder there are so many owls there.

    The gray digger season will be better when the young, dumb ones start coming out of the dens. Maybe in another month.
     
  2. Brian in Oregon

    Brian in Oregon Well-Known Member

    Joined:
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    BTW, when we were leaving the area, we came across a roaring campfire some uber rednecks (think "banjo music") abandoned. While the grass is green, and fire danger to it is low, there are a lot of oak trees that still have dead leaves from last year, plus lots of dried out oak leaves on the ground. Real smart. We dumped five gallons of water on the fire and it didn't slow it down at all. Had to shovel a lot of dirt on it to put it out. We drove by these morons the day before, and they we just trashing the camp. Slobs.
     
  3. Auctioneer

    Auctioneer Well-Known Member

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    PIC'S PIC'S WE NEED PIC'S.
     
  4. Brian in Oregon

    Brian in Oregon Well-Known Member

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Deplorable Bitter Clinger in Liberal La La Land
    Sorry, didn't take a camera on this trip. Wife needs hers for work and my daughter misplaced hers. All I have are film cameras, and haven't gotten a small compact digital for myself yet.
     
  5. Luckyman

    Luckyman Active Member

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    Sounds like alot of fun....My Dad and I went on a Wild Boar hunt at the Jack Ranch in Paso Robles California a few years back and had the greatest time after we shot our pigs....After that it was ground squirrel heaven....Basically a Disneyland for shooting....The squirrels took over the working cattle ranch we were hunting on and have to be controlled! I can't tell you how many we shot but you can't have enough ammo! It was one of the best memories that my Dad and I will ever share!
     
  6. dverna

    dverna Active Member

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    Brian,

    Hard to believe a head or tail wind can affect POI significantly - even on a .17. Cross winds kill you - especially with those light bullets.

    Sometimes you just miss. If you son begins to believe he needs to adjust for head/tail winds he will likely start missing a lot more.

    A 30 mph head wind should have the same result as a bullet speed difference of about 44 fps.

    Don Verna
     
  7. Brian in Oregon

    Brian in Oregon Well-Known Member

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    Location:
    Deplorable Bitter Clinger in Liberal La La Land
    I've never thought about head or tail winds when shooting a 223. Just not really an issue until you start getting out about 600 yards, and there's precious few areas here where you get those kind of shots on vermin.

    But boy howdy, the 17 HMR sure was affected for head shots past 125 yards! Combined with the normal cone of fire, it's enough to make a group slightly larger than a rodent's head. And that's all that's needed to have some misses.

    Headwinds and tailwinds were not really an issue for full body shots.
     
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