An easy walk with a fine shotgun

A slow stroll through the woods in the fall clears my head of most of the daily toil. It’s one of my favorite times of the year, and on this trek, I scanned the trees for bushytails. Hunting squirrels is how many of us built our woodscraft skills as youth, our footsteps gently placed in the depressions left by our parent or mentor. And with more than 30 years of experience, a squirrel hunt provides a fun and challenging outing.

Finding squirrels is one thing, killing them is another. On this short walk, I was toting a break-barrel Henry 12-gauge single-shot loaded with a Federal Premium 7.5 target shell. Whether with a .410 or a 10 ga., hunting squirrels with a shotgun provides its own elements of difficulty, taking it down to one shot adds more. Your range is limited: The best shots are within 25 yards if you don’t want to have to chase down a wounded critter.

Once you spot or hear a squirrel, getting that close isn’t easy when the leaves are dry and every step crunches like a bag of chips. It’s a slow, methodical process and takes patience and perseverance. There’s a high likelihood you’ll be identified and your target will disappear, but sitting or standing quietly at that point will usually net a shot within 10-15 minutes.

This is the process I employed while stalking a barker I spotted about 90 yards from the trail. Sure, he pinpointed me and barked his warning as I inched toward his tree. His distraction allowed me to gain significant ground before he moved to the back of the tree to avoid detection. At this point, it’s all about patience. I had to wait it out, and I did. It took about 10 minutes for him to edge back to the side of the tree to see if I was still there, which gave me an opportunity for a shot.

I cocked back the hammer, drew the stock to my shoulder and squeezed off the shot.

Handling Henry’s single-shot in the woods feels like tradition. Smooth American walnut, sharp-cut checkering and a fine fit and finish give this shotgun a great feel and elegant look. There’s a lot of metal in the 12 ga. barrel, and its weight creeps a little forward of center, but the checkering and squared off fore-end give the shooter a good grip and excellent control.

The added weight is appreciated when it’s time to pull the trigger: It helps with recoil management, as does the soft recoil pad affixed to the butt of the stock.

Deep-gripping checkering on the hammer provides good control when cocking and decocking, but the spring is a bit heavy and makes it a little difficult to cock and would be a concern to a smaller shooter. That is my only concern with this very affordable break-action that has many modern features and is of a high-quality build.

With an MSRP of just under $450, you won’t find a finer partner to tote with you on your next hunt for bushytails. — Matt Lindler

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