It is really easy to take things for granted when the topic rolls around to squirrel hunting. We watch them bound across the lawn, raid our bird feeders and generally act oblivious to the human activity until… we start acting like predators. When squirrel joins the menu, it’s best to employ four critical keys to ending your hunt with a heavy game bag.
I watched a great example unfold a few weeks ago at my farm when my oldest son and some of his friends joined me for a serious squirrel hunt. We went in four directions and agreed to meet back at the cabin in two hours to skin and prepare our game as the main ingredient for a big pot of Brunswick stew. When we met back at the cabin at the agreed time, I started the pile with seven bushytails. Combined, the other three young men managed to add two more to the heap.
Since the amount of meat for our stew was still lacking, I left two behind to skin our game and had my son’s friend, Michael, join me for a session of “squirrel school.”
Find The Food
The best way to target a squirrel is when it’s on the move, and most of the time, their primary motivator is gnawing on the next nut. That morning, hickory nuts were the primary food source, so I gave Michael a quick lesson in dendrology. Once he could identify a hickory tree at a distance, then the next phase of the hunt began.
Stealth Is Key
Slowing to a snail’s pace, we spent a lot more time watching than walking as we carefully placed each foot to avoid breaking twigs and shuffling leaves. Even before we had our quarry in sight, we acted like one was watching us. By virtue of moving slowly, as in taking a single step and freezing in place for at least 20 seconds, we didn’t alert any unseen squirrel’s flight instinct. When we crossed the 40-yard mark to the next hickory, we began hearing gnawing and pieces of hickory nut shells fall through the canopy and hit the forest floor. I whispered to Michael to use a nearby tree for cover and to rest his rifle for an accurate shot. I did the same. We didn’t have very long to wait until we both had a squirrel in the crosshairs. I let him shoot first and quickly followed up with the second bushytail tumbling through the limbs before his squirrel hit the ground.
At least three more squirrels were still in the tree, but by now, they were limb hugging to avoid detection. We moved within 15 yards of the tree and I posted Michael against a tree to wait and watch. I told him I was going to walk to the opposite of the tree and make the squirrels move back to his side of their tree. On script, when I walked past their tree, they scrambled around the trunk back to Michael’s side where he potted another. I then stood still and braced my rifle against a tree and told Michael to move to another tree 90 degrees from where he had been hiding. According to plan, the two remaining squirrels moved back around to the opposite side of their tree from Michael. Two quick shots from my rifle brought our total to five from one tree.
It became obvious to the novice hunter that successful squirrel hunting was more than a stroll in the woods with a rifle. On our walk back to the cabin we reviewed what had taken place and the difference it had made in success. Put these methods to work and you’ll up your chances at bagging the main ingredients for a backwoods feast.
As long you have a .22 in the backcountry, you’ll never go hungry!
by Len McDougall / Apr 23, 2013