While squirrel season has been in for awhile now, the fact of the matter is that, with the leaves on, the hunting is rather rough. In fact, I have not even been out yet. Before long, though, the leaves will be gone, and squirrel hunting time will be here.
Personally, I love squirrel hunting even more than deer hunting. Even before the Game Commission ruined deer hunting, I still preferred squirrel hunting. This may sound strange to some, but I have my reasons. One is the time of the year. The “golden” days of autumn have been the subject of countless poems, paintings and stories. They’re great, and squirrel hunting allows you the opportunity to experience and enjoy them first hand. The weather’s nice, too, so you don’t have to dress in heavy clothes. Squirrels are really rather plentiful, but they still represent a challenge to your skill and patience. In my own case, squirrel hunting also reminds me of early outings with my father. The first game I ever hunted was the good old bushytail. That was sixty one years ago, yet I remember it with crystal clarity, and can still play out many of the scenes in my mind at will.
On my first squirrel outing, I carried my old (then new) Mossberg bolt action 20 gauge. It’s difficult to believe that that was sixty one years ago, but it was. I still use that old shotgun more than any other, and I’ve mentioned it in the column many times. Dad carried his 16 gauge side-by-side. I still have that gun, and have finally gotten hold of two paper shells to go with it.
Around here, the gray squirrel is the most plentiful species. This year, however, there seems to be a lot of fox squirrels as well. These big, red beauties seem to be all over, even in spots where you might not normally find them. Black squirrels, which are really just a color phase of the gray squirrel, are less common around here, although they are supposedly plentiful in some areas of the country. Personally, I’ve only ever gotten one of them, and I had that one mounted.
I know that this may sound a bit morbid, but I use the road kills I come across as a pretty good indicator of game populations. On the squirrel and rabbit scene, it looks like hunters could have another pretty good year.
There are two basic techniques for hunting squirrels. The first is simplicity itself. You just find a promising piece of woods and sit down in it. It’s essential to remain as quiet and motionless as you possibly can, as squirrels have extremely acute vision and hearing. This type of hunting tests you patience in a couple of ways. One involves just waiting to see something. The other is even more difficult. That occurs when you see a squirrel in the distance, headed more or less in your direction, but still out of range. It’s really hard to sit still and do nothing when the game is in sight, but that’s what you have to do. If you try getting up and going after the squirrel, you’ll probably just frighten it away.
The other method involves walking quietly for a short distance. Then stop and stand still for a few minutes. If you don’t spot anything, move on a little more and stand still again. Just keep doing this over and over. The key here is moving slowly and quietly. The technique works best after a rain, when the leaves on the forest floor are wet. Since the method allows you to cover a lot of woods, it can sometimes increase your chances of success.
Squirrel hunting is really great. It offers something for everyone, from a novice hunter to a grizzzled veteran. Give it a try.