Airguns are a great way to make the most of every moment in the field. Here in New York, airguns became legal for hunting in 2010 and as you will see, airguns provide a nice alternative during the downtime of a hunt.
This is a guest post by Ed Noonan, member of the Professional Outdoor Writers Association (POMA) and NYS Outdoor Writers Assocation (NYSOWA). This article appeared in its entirety in the Outdoor Journal for the Shenectady (NY) Daily Gazette.
After lunch that afternoon I headed to a small woodlot in southern Saratoga County where last year I had taken my first black squirrel; and I knew there was at least one more there. This time however I left the .410 shotgun at home and replaced it with my Crosman Benjamin Trail NP XL 1100 airgun; a perfect and very quiet choice for bushy tails. I set my two man chair blind up on the same bushy knoll overlooking a small swamp area where I was successful last year, and settled in to wait. I hadn’t been sitting there too long when I saw the antlers and head of a buck about 100 yards away working its way towards me on the other side of the swamp. To my left about 15 yards was a well used deer trail that I noticed on the way in and I soon found out that was the one he was traveling. At about 50 yards out I could not resist putting him in the crosshair of my CenterPoint scope; and when I did I counted 7 good points. That evening on the way out I checked out the trail and also found several of his rubs. Still time to put up a treestand here.
It was about 3:30 p.m. when I saw movement about 25 feet up in a nearby oak tree. It was a gray and he was making his way down; but once he hit the ground he fed away from me. I watched him for about 20 minutes as he moved in and out of some heavy brush out of range. Then for some reason he turned and headed back. At what turned out to be 24 paces, he stopped when I whistled and sat up looking in my direction. I centered the crosshair at the base of his neck and Mr. Benjamin put him down.
It was about an hour before I saw another squirrel but just as I raised the gun something scared him and he scooted off and up a tree. Not sure what scared him but just a few minutes later he reappeared on a limb about 20 feet off the ground and within 20 yards of my blind. Another one shot kill. But still no sign of a black squirrel.
At about 5 p.m. 3 grouse flew in to the pines about 50 yards from me and 15 minutes later they marched out in single file passing within 10 yards of my blind. All easy shots; unfortunately the season here does not open until September 20 th. It almost as if they knew the season did not open for 3 days. Shortly after the grouse parade I saw 3 squirrels feeding in the hardwoods on the other side of the swamp; but they never came over.
It was a little after 6 p.m. and I was just about to head home when I saw movement in the grass on the edge of the swamp and when it moved through a small opening I saw the black body of a squirrel. Quickly I shouldered the airgun and sighted in on an opening where he was headed; but he never appeared. He must have turned and headed into the swamp. I waited another 30 minutes but he/she never reappeared.
On my way out I was startled when the 3 grouse broke noisily just a few feet from me; and then when I reached the edge of the woods, there on the other side of the field feeding was the 7 pointer. Rather than spook him I stayed in the woods until I could get to my truck without him seeing me. Now I knew about where I would be setting up my blind/treestand.
As a reminder, effective this year, airguns are considered a firearm. They must use either a spring or compressed air to propel a single projectile that is .17 caliber or larger, and with a muzzle velocity of at least 600 feet per second. And also, when using an airgun, you must obey all the laws concerning where you discharge a firearm and it must be unloaded when carrying it in a motorized vehicle or ATV.On Saturday morning I could not resist returning to the goose field. Things were rather slow for the first hour of legal shooting time but at about 8 a.m. when I stood up to stretch and had thoughts of packing up and leaving I got caught by a flock of 5 geese coming in from behind me. I never did get off a shot. Thirty minutes later however a flock of 7 came over the tree line from Saratoga Lake and did not even circle; they just dropped in and I was waiting. Three shots and two geese; seems to be my average this season; but I will take 2 out of 3 anytime. Unfortunately I had to leave by 9a.m. and as I walked back to my truck they were landing in my field. It was a great feathers and fur weekend.
The author at the practice range with his Benjamin Trail NP XL 1100