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A Good Day For Squirrels

Small Game & Varmit hunting Talk

A Good Day For Squirrels

Postby FireCloud » Sat Dec 11, 2010 7:46 pm

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Have you ever noticed that on some days the woods seemed to be filled with squirrels everywhere you look? But, on other days, you may never see a single one? Oddly, some of the days when I have figured the squirrels would be out and about are the days when they were nowhere to be seen. And on the most unlikely days, I have often seen a lot of squirrels. Today was one of these odd, unlikely days when conditions were logically not ideal for squirrels to be out, but they sure were!

Although I was up about two hours before sunrise to go deer hunting, due to the already blowing wind, I was not rushing to get on the stand as conditions for deer hunting were just plain poor. The winds were going to be bad today, blowing nearly constantly from 10 to 15 MPH, with gusts up to 20 MPH, per the morning weather. So a little bit of shooting light was already present as I laced up my boots to leave the house.

Looking out the side door, I spied two squirrels chasing each other in the oaks in my yard next to the woodline. So I retrieved my .22, unlocked and eased the door open, and waited for a few minutes. These two squirrels moved off into the woods and never presented me a shot. They escaped to die another day. But that was an omen of more to come.

I decided to take my .22 to the deer stand with me. As I sipped on my morning coffee while the sun rose, an aggitated squirrel came to check out why I was sitting in a tree. One piebald squirrel, which I have named Jean, nests in a pine 15 yards east of my stand and often checks what I am doing each morning when she ventures out. I am not going to shoot her because I want more piebald squirrels from her.

This curious squirrel was in the same tree Jean ordinarily uses to check my status and behaving very similar so I spent a little extra time checking the squirrel out before attempting a shot. I had a couple of opportunities to make a shot but due to the still dim light I could not be positive of its identity so I let it walk.

Thinking back, I should have shot it because Jean has seen me in the stand dozens of times and she never chatters at me. This third squirrel of the day was really letting me have a verbal thrashing for being in his territory. That should have been a clue right there but I probably was still not fully alert. Early morning is not my best time of day!

Squirrel number four showed up about a half hour later. I heard something rustling directly under my stand and looked down in time to see a fast grey blur zip under the stand and down into the ravine behind. I could not see it because the stand hangs over the ravine a little and the squirrel was below the stand. So I just waited. I could see the vines running down from a small oak about 5 feet behind the back window moving as the squirrel clung to them.

But before Squirrel Four made himself a target, Squirrel number five appeared in another small oak straight behind my stand on the other bank of the ravine. He conveniently ran out a couple feet onto a limb and stopped. That is the shot I wait for when using my .22. Just as I was scoped in on him, Squirrel number four ran up the oak he was in and stopped where he was directly framed in my stand's back window. I shifted the scope to him, but decided that, at only 5 feet away, I would miss as the scope was mounted above the barrel and sighted in for 35 yards.

So, I swung back to Squirrel number five, who had never moved, and dropped him with one shot. He fell dead at the foot of the tree. I always aim for the head when it is available as a target and typically it is a clean, fast kill that drops them instantly.

I use a low noise, subsonic .22 bullet fired from a single shot Winchester rifle so the noise normally does not disturbe the squirrels much, if at all. But of course the squirrel sitting 5 feet behind the stand close to the line of fire did get more than the usual racket so he bailed for cover. I bolted another cartridge from the clip and sat back down to wait.

It was a while before Squirrel four reappeared, probably at least 30 to 45 minutes more. The wind was really whipping the trees now and the squirrel had taken to the ground. He was on the opposite bank of the ravine below a small group of oaks and pines. I moved into position and braced the rifle to wait for him to stop moving. When he finally paused on tree root, I pulled the trigger.

With the subsonic bullet, which travels slower than sound, you can actually hear the bullet hit an animal. It makes a nice thwack which I heard as it hit the point of aim. He ran up under some of the overhanging tree roots where I could not see him. But as always, I just chambered another bullet and sat down to wait. Squirrels don't give up their life easily and hang on against all odds. But the bullet had done its work and about a minute later he released his grip and tumbled to the bottom of the ravine, his white belly turned up to the sky.

Although I did climb down to retreive the two squirrels, then did a little more still hunting for about an hour more, the wind was just too high so I gave up for the morning. Five squirrels seen, two shots taken, and two squirrels killed. I was happy with the results, especially for a day with high winds.

Knowing the squirrels were out, I took my .22 back to the deer stand this afternoon too..."just in case." About four pm, Squirrel number six appeared. He was traveling through the trees behind the ravine. The blustery winds were whipping the limbs and leaves around so badly I could not follow him through the trees well enough to see where he went. Apparently he simply kept moving and left the area as I remained in the stand for another 30 minutes or so and never saw him again.

A light rain arrived about 4:30 and I gathered my equipment and headed in for the day. However, the rain cloud passed over before I reached my house so I stopped in small clearing with three producing oaks. Daylight was fading fast with the overcast skys but the wind actually had died down. There was only a very modest breeze compared to the near gale force winds earlier.

I took a perch beside a good tree to provide a decent gun rest and kept my eye on the largest oak. In about five minutes, I saw a slight movement around the trunk as Squirrel number seven squatted, tail over its head, against the tree trunk on one of the lower limbs. I eased slowly left to get a better shot. This one was going to be tricky as I had some small twigs in the way and would have to aim very carefully if I was to thread the bullet through the twigs to the squirrel's head.

Even though the wind was much less, both the tree I was using for a brace and the limb the squirrel was sitting on were moving slightly. I focused, concentrated on holding steady, and when the shot lined up correctly, I squeezed the trigger. Thwack! I heard the satisfying sound of the bullet thump the squirrel in the head and watched him drop like a rock straight to the ground. It looked easy as the squirrel lay dead below the tree, but this shot definitely was a hard one.

My technique is to never move position if I can confirm the squirrel is dead but to simply reload and wait silently and motionless. More times than not, the event may dislodge another squirrel from hiding. Sure enough, Squirrel number eight for the day scooted from a nearby tree toward a nest high in the large oak. He reached the nest without stopping, thus presenting no shot opportunity.

However, I had one more trick up my sleeve for Mr. Squirrel. I steadied my aim with the scope on the nest and let out a soft, low squirrel chatter. I have learned to mimic several sounds a squirrel makes using only my mouth and it fools them some of the time. I have on several occasions coaxed a squirrel back out of the nest using this trick.

This time however the squirrel only raised its head barely above the edge of the nest for just a second or two to see what made the noise. With the tree swaying and the squirrel popping its head up only for an instant, I just did not have a shot. I tried coaxing him some more but he would not show himself again. Once he learned it was me making the noise, he was not going to be fooled again. So I gathered the third squirrel for the day and called it quits.

For a horribly windy day, seeing eight squirrels, getting three shot opportunities, and killing all three squirrels with one shot each was a pretty good squirrel hunting day in my book!
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Re: A Good Day For Squirrels

Postby Bullie » Sun Dec 12, 2010 6:29 pm

Nice hunt. I felt like I could see every one of them. I enjoyed reading it.

I gotta get me one of those single shots with a clip though. :W:
The Paterfamilias of Modern Squirrel Hunting.

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