Squirrels: the perfect small game

Why would I think Mr. Busheytail is the perfect game animal? The reasons are many; squirrels are very challenging to hunt and pursuing them greatly increases one’s hunting knowledge; they will teach you to become a better hunter!

Squirrels are also plentiful across much of the state and finding a place to hunt them is usually easy. Finding a farmer or rancher receptive to allowing you to hunt deer can be challenging but the same folks will often open their gates to squirrel hunters.

The fact that squirrels are excellent in a pot of dumplings or served with cream gravy and biscuits adds much to a squirrel hunt albeit fewer and fewer people today are aware of just how tasty squirrel meat can be.

First and foremost, you will need a tack driving rifle with enough punch to cleanly dispatch a squirrel from a limb 40 feet up in a tree. As a youngster, I owned a caliber pump air rifle that was very accurate out to about 25 yards. I killed a lot of squirrels with this little rifle, making head shots but I do remember it didn’t have quiet enough “uumph” to cleanly dispatch squirrels with shots to the “vitals”, especially if my aim was just a little bit off.

Today, there are many excellent .22 caliber and .25 caliber air rifles on the market that do a great job on squirrels. A rifle used for squirrel hunting, whether powered by air or a rimfire .22, must consistently shoot very tight groups out to about 30 yards which is about the maximum distance most squirrels are killed.

Just as a whitetail deer can “jump the string” on a bowhunter, a squirrel is known for being “active”, especially ‘cat’ of gray squirrels in east Texas. For this reason, many east Texas hunters go after their quarry with shotguns. Even if a rifle has the punch and accuracy to cleanly kill at extended yardages, keep in mind that squirrels do not set still for very long, especially gray squirrels. The farther the shot, the greater the margin for error!

My goal when squirrel hunting is a head shot which results in very little meat loss. Technique involved in hunting squirrel depends much upon where you hunt them. I have a good friend that owns a hunting ranch in eastern Texas. Throughout the year he keeps several corn feeders throwing corn twice a day.

Squirrels are smart and prolific, just like wild hogs and try as he might, he will always have them nibbling away at his corn but now he keeps the numbers in check and has a lot of fun doing so. Obviously this is a specialized way of hunting squirrels but one I’ve used on many occasions.

Just about every piece of hunting ground in the state of Texas has several corn feeders and whether the ranch is in the Texas Hill Country or east Texas, there seems to always be an abundance of busheytails around the golden kernels of corn which are distributed freely on a daily basis.

I’ll settle into a likely area and usually lean against a tree wide enough to break the outline of my body. Usually there is a “lull” in squirrel movement when the woods are disturbed by an approaching hunter. Give them some time to settle back down and become active again. Usually, if I’m in a good spot, I’ll see squirrels moving about or, hear their claws on bark.

Patience is the name of the game when hunting squirrels. Just like when hunting turkeys, It’s best to get the rifle up close to shooting position so you will be ready to shoot without making a great deal of movement. I often rest the rifle between my knees so that I can shift it a few inches and be in shooting position. Once a squirrel is shot, reload and remain quiet, within 15 minutes or so you will probably again see movement in the trees or on the ground. If you do not, it’s time to move on to the next likely spot with plenty of squirrel sign.

Still hunting is another very effective method of hunting squirrels and one best suited for hunters that have a problem with setting still and remaining motionless. There has been resurgence in small game hunting the past few years and I hope the trend continues.

Regardless what game animal one hunts during his or her career, squirrel hunting is absolutely the best teacher. If you take only one bit of information away from this article, remember that a tack driving rifle is an absolute must! Your target is about the size of a half-dollar. Keep your shots close and within your effective range.

Many squirrel hunters go after their quarry with a shotgun loaded with #4 or #5 shot. I’ve taken lots of squirrels using a shotgun but these days I much prefer a tack driving rifle. Squirrel season runs through the end of May in east Texas and in the remainder of the state, the season never closes.

Contact Outdoors writer Luke Clayton through www.catfishradio.org

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