Adult Air Pistols | Hatch magazine

As a child, I lived for fall and winter pheasant hunts with my grandfather and uncles.

I was too young at the time to wield a shotgun, so me, my brothers, and my cousins ​​became de facto retrievers. My grandfather grew up along the Nebraska border with Colorado, and he knew every grain and cornfield, and he knew the farmers who owned them. On the hottest days during hunting season, we’d climb into the back of Grandpa’s old Chevy pickup truck and cruise slowly down back roads looking hopefully into borrow pits hoping to spot a ringneck.

If we saw a bird, my grandfather would drive a few hundred yards, and one of my uncles would jump out of the truck, 12-gauge in hand, and wait. Then Grandfather would turn around, come back in front of the bird at a somewhat disinterested speed. He would usually give her a few hundred yards before parking the truck on the side of the road, then he would come out and lecture me and my cousins.

“Stay here,” he said. “I’ll call you when it’s time.”

Then he jumped into the borrow pit and started walking, gun ready. Invariably he or my uncle would push the bird towards the other hunter, and finally, having nowhere to go, the pheasant would fly away. If the stars aligned, one or the other would pocket the bird. Then my grandfather would call the truck full of kids and one of us would get out and get the pheasant.

We also occasionally hunted rows of fences and hedges, but since we didn’t own a bird dog worth the money, that was the most used method in bygone days – road hunting at its best.

And while it was fun for us kids, what we really enjoyed doing happened after the morning was spent hanging out in the truck. We would return to the town park in Little Wray, Colorado, pull out our BB guns and set up a series of Daisy targets. The little one-pump air rifles set us up for future hunting trips, and they were, with my apologies to Ralphie from “The Christmas Story,” a pretty innocuous pursuit.

My cousins ​​outgrew the BB gun, and they moved on to shotguns – first my uncle’s old .410 and eventually the 12 and 20 gauge models. They still hunt pheasants at this day. I have my dad’s old Remington 870 Fieldmaster 12 gauge, and I occasionally hunt ducks, doves and grouse with it. More than anything, however, it’s a family heirloom that I truly cherish – my dad brought it back from Vietnam (how he got it is a mystery).

But I also still own a few airguns, including an old Crosman 760 Powermaster that I’ve had since I was a kid – it’s a small, compact rifle that will launch a BB at a target at 645 feet per second (it’ll shoot a .177 caliber pellet 615 fps). That’s enough power to take down a rabbit or a squirrel, and certainly an invasive Eurasian Collared Dove sitting on a wire.

I also own a Caliber .22 Benjamin Trail NP XL 1100 – as the name suggests, it will fire a .22 pellet at 1,100 fps. For the record, this is about the same speed your medium .22 caliber long rifle will fire live ammo.

It’s a hunting gun, and with it I’ve taken grouse and those pesky collared doves (here in Idaho, because they’re invasive and don’t migrate, there’s no limit of catch and they can be targeted all year round, so long because the hunter is not in a restricted area, such as a neighborhood). And I’m off soon for my very first squirrel hunt in Idaho, armed with this mighty air rifle.

In the Midwest and South, squirrel season is a big deal. Here in Idaho, the American red squirrel, the only tree squirrel native to the alpine forests of the Gem State, was not designated as a game species until 2018. In my formative years In East Texas (my dad moved us south in the early 1980s), squirrel season was an event – some people anticipated it as much as deer season. My brothers and I occasionally pocketed squirrels in the nearby woods, using our trusty pellet guns. The objective was to shoot in the head, which is no mean feat for a kid with a .177 caliber pellet gun and lots of branches and leaves in his path.

These days my hunting trips are dwindling, but I was inspired by Idaho’s recent declaration that squirrels are, indeed, legal game, and I plan to spend some time to walk in the woods in search of delicious little rodents. . And, like I did as a kid, I’ll probably use my air rifle as my weapon of choice. Call it nostalgia, if you will. I go with, “Everything else is overkill.”

Small rodents do not grow as large as gray squirrels and fox squirrels in the South, Midwest, and along the East Coast. With a generous bag limit of eight animals, it might take that many to make a slow-cooked meal worth cooking.

I can’t wait to be there. It’s been years since I’ve scoured the woods looking for anything other than wild trout or wood grouse. While I’m researching, most of my squirrel hunting acumen is a holdover from my childhood or mental notes I made over the past few summers hunting cutthroat trout in the backcountry. from Idaho. Last summer it seemed like everywhere I looked I saw squirrels. More importantly, I’m researching squirrel recipes and trying to figure out how to get my bounty into the house and, eventually, into the slow cooker, without my girlfriend, who adamantly said she wouldn’t eat squirrel. squirrel, thinking maybe it wasn’t roast chicken with carrots and potatoes.

What she doesn’t know won’t kill her. But she could kill me, so help me keep my secret.

And, of course, I would be remiss to tell you that I haven’t reviewed the fly patterns using squirrel fur for the lining and fluffy squirrel tails for the streamer patterns. Seems wrong not to use as many animals as possible, doesn’t it?

It’s funny how outdoor activities can come full circle. Those days of shooting targets with airguns on the plains of eastern Colorado were some of the best days of my youth. In the coming weeks, armed with a similar, if slightly more sophisticated tool, I’ll be doing much the same, minus the static targets and little brass globes. It’s squirrel season in Idaho. I feel like a child again.