If you were humbled by gobblers this spring, don't worry. You've got plenty of company. For a game species that offers considerably better success odds, consider a hunting trip for squirrels. Some states have summer seasons, while most have long fall and winter seasons that will open in just a few months.
Both fox and gray squirrels are a joy to hunt no matter what the season. And unlike spring gobblers, success odds are usually very high, with generous bag limits.
Both squirrel species can be hunted with either a .22 rifle or a shotgun. Most hunters choose the latter, preferring 12-, 16- or 20-gauge guns teamed up with loads of size 4, 5 or 6 high brass shot.
Action is a matter of choice. I like double side-by-sides, but many hunters go with automatics or pumps. Single shots will certainly do the trick, though, if you're careful with your shot placement.
Sight is the sense most hunters use when squirrel hunting — watching for a flickering squirrel bushy tail, an odd hump in a branch, leaves shaking in a tree top. You should definitely keep your eyes working hard as you hunt for this small game animal. That's a fun way to detect squirrels.
But sometimes the best way to find this small game is by using your ears. Listen for these sounds when you go on your next squirrel hunt:
- Squirrel talk. Bushytails make a variety of sounds from meowing like a cat to muffled barking to scolding when they sense danger or an intruder.
- The crunching sound of teeth cutting through shells as the quarry gnaws on nuts and other hard mast crops.
- The pitter patter of acorn, walnut or hickory shell fragments falling to the forest floor.
- Shaking leaves and rattling branches high in trees as squirrels jump from one limb to another.
- Rustling of leaf-litter as the quarry scampers through the woods searching for food.
Tune your ears to pick up these telltale sounds and you'll often find it's easier to detect squirrels with your hearing than your vision. If your ears are in less than perfect shape from years of shooting, too much loud music or too many hours behind the tractor making food plots, purchase one of the hearing amplifiers on the market specifically designed to aid hunters trying to detect the sounds of their quarry.
How to Make Your Own Squirrel Sounds
Besides listening for the quarry, you can attract squirrels, or at least get them to move and betray their locations, by using a squirrel call. Tap, shake or squeeze them to produce alarm barks or mating squeals. Both sounds can elicit vocal responses or movement from squirrels, giving you the chance for a shot.
No, they're not as exciting to pursue as a trophy whitetail, bellowing gobbler or bugling elk, but squirrels are abundant and fun to hunt, with the possibility of taking several virtually any day you venture out. And to top it off, they make a fine meal when pan-fried or cooked long and slow in a traditional Brunswick Stew.
Just be sure to use your ears as well as your eyes when you head out into the sun-splashed woods.
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