With a noisy creek running a bit high from a heavy rain the day before just to my left, and a large rocky ridge rising to my right, I proceeded as quietly as possible, stopping every so often. for any dollar sign along the way.
I carried my rifle at the ready in my right hand, and as I kept an eye out for new deer grazes on small trees here and there, I tried to focus on what was in front of me, in case it was my prey for the day. could appear.
I saw a flash of skin, stopped short, and shouldered the rifle. A moment later, I had the bug in the crosshairs of my scope. I gently squeezed the trigger of the .22 caliber rifle and watched as the gray squirrel fell, shot to the head, from the side of thick hemlock onto the soft October leaves.
It could be said that he was hunting squirrels that day, but that would not be entirely true. He was scouting some prime real estate, filled with mature oak trees during an acorn harvest, looking for a prime location for the opening of deer season a month from now.
But now he had a change of plans. I wasn’t interested in coming home with a single squirrel and spent most of the rest of the morning trying to get a few more squirrels to eat. I set up shop in a likely spot around a stand of mature oak trees, and a few hours later I was walking home with three bushy tails in my pack.
While a fair number of hunters will be out hunting bears beginning September 1, there is another species of game, the gray squirrel, which offers a slightly less challenge but still requires a degree of patience and knowledge in the Vermont woods.
Over the years, I’ve taken my .22 rifle and gone squirrel hunting in the morning. Now some people might wonder why someone would shoot a gray squirrel. Well, they’re a pretty good meal, if you can whip up three or four of the critters for one meal.
Cut the bug open and remove all the entrails. Next, skin the squirrels, which will be a little easier the sooner you get home. Cut off all the damaged and shot meat, then cut off the hind legs, front legs, and the breast. Fry this collection in butter, or better yet, in olive oil, until nicely browned, then place the meat in a crock pot, add two cans of crushed tomatoes, a chopped onion, two diced potatoes, garlic, and any other spice. your wish. Cook in the crock pot for a few hours and voila, you have a batch of bushy tail stew.
Most of my squirrel hunting would probably wait until, say, early October, when the leaf cover begins to shake off. But the most memorable squirrel hunts occurred with my children. When they reached the right age, I guess, around 12 years old, I would take the boys on their first hunt and that hunt would be for the bountiful gray squirrel.
They were carrying a 20-gauge shotgun, loaded with No. 7½-inch pellets. Finding squirrels does not require great lumberjack skills. First, find a large group of white or red oak trees. Then he looks up to the sky. As you move your eyes from tree to tree, look for the telltale bundle of dead leaves, usually in the crotch of a tree. That’s a squirrel’s nest. Take a seat and make yourself comfortable. When you came to this place, you no doubt alerted each and every squirrel in the area and they scrambled for cover.
Sit still (and this can be difficult for new hunters) for around 10 minutes and before long you will see the gray movement of your prey. Wait until the creature gives your young escort a good shot, close enough to kill it, and let it fly.
Two of my three sons were introduced to squirrels, the third having gone into the woods for the first time a little later during the spring turkey season. The boys learned about stealth, one of the best lessons any hunter can learn, while he hunts squirrels.
The most important lesson I passed on to my guys was this: kill only what you intend to eat. So when we went out and took home a couple of squirrels, it was time to get ready for the “bushy tail stew”.
While I wouldn’t describe myself as a squirrel hunter, I still like to get out into the fall woods maybe two or three times a year, explore new terrain, and while I’m there try to catch some gray squirrels.