Alright folks, we know deer season is just around the corner. We also know that between salivating over trail cam photos of that big old ten-point and eyeballing turds on your favorite property that you’ve probably, unintentionally of course, walked right passed, or underneath, some great early season game.
I am, of course, talking about squirrels. You’ve heard them chattering away in the canopy, shaking their tails as they shout out your location. You might have even given them the chase a time or two in your not so distant past. But for some reason, I certainly don’t know why, American hunters aren’t hunting squirrels like they used to. It’s as likely today for a child’s first hunt to be for whitetail deer as it is for squirrels. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that, but let’s not forget about the small game that puts our hunting skills to the test like no other.
And while that .308 is just waiting to go boom, you can save your shoulder, some meat and a good amount of money by hunting squirrels with an air gun. And it just so happens Hatsan's Galatian III Carbine PCP (pre-charged pneumatic) air rifle is one of the best squirrel eradicators I’ve ever used.
A .25-caliber PCP rifle, Hatsan’s Galatian III is capable of sending a .25 grain pellet at speeds of up to 1000 fps. For squirrels, rabbits, and even fox and coyote with the right shot placement, death is imminent.
Taking the Galatian for a test drive this past spring gave me a chance to manage the local urban population of grey squirrels near my home in northern Virginia. The three-week spring season boasts ample targets, old and young, and near impossible shots through thick foliage. The perfect proving ground for both the rifle and myself.
A 13-shot rotary magazine is more than enough for a limit, assuming you can find a target through all that green, and assuming you find a pellet that hits where it’s supposed to. I tested a variety of lead pellets, from older back-of-the-shelf relics to newer loads from H&N and Beeman before I found the perfect projectile. What grouped best for me was the 31-grain Kodiak Match pellets from Beeman. The old 25 to 30 yard wall for air guns is a thing of the past with PCP rifles. I reached out to 50 yards to take a squirrel from a clear branch, and his buddy from the exact same location when he came to investigate the disappearance. And I was taking headshots. That’s right, a half-dollar at 50 yards with an air rifle. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Comb and butt pad can be adjusted to fit your size and the side mounted cocking lever takes minimal effort to engage. An indicator on the rear of the action housing allows you to visually verify cocked and locked status. The safety, mounted forward of the trigger guard, is of a simple push lever design, and automatically re-engages when the rifle is cocked, which took some getting used to.
Hatsan's PCP air rifles use a removable air cylinder capable of pressures up to 200 BAR. As for the number of shots per charge, I could have pushed 50 shots down range before I fell low enough below that to notice a change in accuracy. Filling the tank can be done with a separate scuba type tank (which you can have filled at a local dive shop or paintball shop), or a hand pump. Trust me though; you’ll prefer spending the few extra bucks on a proper tank and hoses from Hatsan.
Yes folks, it’s true, deer season is what gets us going, but squirrel are plentiful, tastier than an old bruiser buck, and are about the best way to practice your skills for bigger game later in the fall.