Fifty-five years ago, I took 85 cents down to the Beaver Variety Store on the corner of Lark Street and Clinton Avenue in Albany and made a deposit on my first gun — my first layaway at age 10.
It was money I earned bagging and delivering groceries at the Quick Serve, the neighborhood store. The gun, which I had seen in a magazine, was a beautiful Daisy No. 25 pump rifle with a plastic stock and fore piece, and an engraved hunting scene on the receiver. The rear sight was classic, in that it could be flipped over from a regular buck horn to a peep sight. The gun held 50 BBs in a springloaded magazine, and they left the barrel at a blazing 375 feet per second. From the time this model was introduced in 1914 through its final production in 1986, Daisy sold more than 20 million guns. It was definitely the most popular BB gun sold at the time.
Each week, I would visit my Model 25 and get to hold it while making my 25- or 50-cent deposits. It took a while for me to pay off that $9.95 purchase price, but I knew it would be worth it. And speaking of worth, that same gun is selling today on the Internet for anywhere from $40 for one that’s very rough to $300 for one that’s like new.
I remember when I made what I thought would be my next-to-last payment, leaving me with what I believed to be a 95-cent balance and thinking soon the Daisy would be mine. I got quite a surprise that day when the storeowner handed me the Daisy and two boxes of BBs and said, “Close enough.” Thus began my love for guns, shooting and eventually hunting.
Now, 55 years later, I have a new airgun, a GAMO Viper Express Air/ Shotgun rifle, in my gun cabinet. And for the past several months, it has seen a considerable amount of range time poking holes in targets.
I did accidentally come upon a woodchuck this summer in a secluded area where I could hunt it, but I couldn’t get close enough for a shot. I know it would have done the job, but he was just too smart for me, and I decided to focus on getting a gray squirrel, since the season was open.
What caught my eye with this particular gun was its shotgun feature. It shoots a .22-caliber matched pellet and a GAMO EXP airgun shotshell loaded with nine to 14 No. 9 shot. The chamber of the Viper was sized to handle the shotshells. To shoot the .22-caliber pellets, there is a chamber adapter that you slip into the chamber first, and then the pellet.
This Viper Express pellet leaves the barrel at 725 fps and the shotshell loads at 750 fps. The shotgun pellet penetration is a quarter-inch into a 200-pound compressed piece of cardboard. That’s more than adequate to bring down a bushy-tailed gray squirrel.
It’s a single-shot with a breakaction cocking system, vent-ribbed bull barrel, all-weather synthetic stock and second-stage adjustable trigger. The front bead sight was relatively accurate, but I added a fixed power S4x32WR BSA scope, which definitely tightened up my shot groupings. Using the .22-caliber pellets, I shot from a bench rest position set at approximately eight yards at a three-inch Shoot-N-C target, and made the necessary wind and elevation adjustments needed to get a nice three-shot group covering just over an inch. Then replacing the smaller target with a 5 1 /2-incher, I was ready to try the shotshells.
Again, I was quite pleased when I placed 11 pellets in a two-inch circle around the bull’s-eye. Now, all I had to do was get within 10 yards of a gray squirrel.
I had to chuckle as I pulled off the road next to the woods and it was still dark. Getting up at 4:30 a.m. and dressing in full camouflage just to go squirrel hunting seemed a little much, but I knew that it was the only way I could ensure getting set up close to the corn before the squirrels were moving to feed.
These are wild squirrels, not those found hopping around in a backyard, and they’re considerably more wary of their surroundings and intruders, because in the woods, there are a number of predators that would like nothing better than to have them for dinner.
The area I had selected was the edge of an uncut corn field, bordered on two sides by standing hardwoods. I had walked the edges of this field several days earlier, and it was obvious from the signs I saw that squirrels were frequenting it regularly. I actually spooked a half- dozen of them as I walked around that afternoon. Now to get there undetected, I decided to park several hundred yards from the field, enter the hardwoods, then make my way slowly, several hundred yards in parallel to the field and then move out to the edge of the corn. On my way in, I spooked several turkeys off their roost. I filed it in my memory for turkey season next month.
During my pre-scouting trip, I had marked an area where I found the best cover and the best site to set up. Finding it in the dark the morning of the hunt was a bit tricky, but when I did, there were still 20 minutes before sunup, and plenty of time to get set up. Using heavy brush around the base of a tree as a backdrop, I set up a Hunter Specialties 12-foot long by 27-inch high, Max-1 HD portable ground blind, and settled in to await the arrival of the first gray squirrel of the season.
Not long after the crow calls ushered in the daylight, the woods came alive. It’s amazing how quiet a deer can be when moving through thick woods. Noticing movement to my left, I slowly turned my head, and there, standing no more than 10 feet from me, was an adult doe, followed by two younger deer. Stepping out into the field, she and her family quickly disappeared into the standing corn.
Just minutes later — and I never saw it enter — a squirrel came hopping along the edge of the field, stopping every few jumps to eat the corn that was laying on the ground. He was about 30 yards away when I raised the Viper and rested it on my knee. Watching him through the scope, I estimated what I thought was 10 yards, and waited for him to come into range. It didn’t take long; in fact, when I finally took the shot, he was no more than six paces away, and I collected my first Viper bushy tail. I have to admit that this was really a fun hunt and one I know any who have young hunters in your family would enjoy, if they tagged along. It’s an ideal way to introduce a youngster to hunting.
A few minutes later, two squirrels, one on each side of me, entered the field and stopped about 15 feet away. Unfortunately, I got a little too anxious, and they caught me moving to ready my gun. Both disappeared into the corn. But one returned to have another look, and I could see his head looking back toward me. Removing the shotshell and putting in the chamber adapter, I loaded a regular .22-caliber pellet and took careful aim. He was 15 steps from the blind when I touched off the shot, and the second squirrel was history.
Three more squirrels made the mistake of getting too close that morning, and by about 10 a.m., I had five in my game bag, more than enough for the chili I planned.
Note: BB and pellet guns are considered firearms in New York state. Therefore, all the regulations governing them apply, including not discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling. Check the regulations in the “New York Hunting & Trapping 2009-10 Official Guide To Law & Regulations.”
In conclusion, the Gamo Viper Express offers you a new, exciting, challenging and economical way to hunt small game and/or just plink.
21 Tamarack Trail
Saratoga Springs, New York 12866
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