Why would you think Mr. Busheytail is the perfect game animal?
The reasons are many; squirrels are very difficult to hunt and chasing them greatly increases one’s hunting knowledge; They will teach you how to become a better hunter! Squirrels are also abundant in much of the state and finding a place to hunt them is usually easy. Finding a farmer or rancher willing to let you hunt deer can be a challenge, but the same people will often open their doors to squirrel hunters. The fact that squirrels are great in a pot of meatballs or served with cream sauce and crackers adds a lot to squirrel hunting, though fewer and fewer people today are aware of just how tasty squirrel meat can be.
First off, you’ll need a stud gun with enough power to cleanly dispatch a squirrel from a 40-foot-high branch in a tree. When he was young, he had a pump-caliber air rifle that was very accurate out to about 25 yards. I killed a lot of squirrels with this little rifle, shooting to the head, but I remember not having enough oomph to cleanly dispatch squirrels with vital organ shots, especially if my aim was a bit off. There are many excellent .22 and .25 caliber air rifles on the market today that do a great job with squirrels.
A rifle used for squirrel hunting, whether it be air or .22 rimfire, should consistently shoot very small groups out to about 30 yards, which is about the maximum distance at which most squirrels are killed. Just as a white-tailed deer can jump a bowhunter’s rope, a squirrel is known to be active, especially the cat of the gray squirrels in East Texas. For this reason, many hunters in East Texas pursue their prey with shotguns. Even if a rifle has the punch and accuracy to kill cleanly at long ranges, keep in mind that squirrels don’t sit still for long, especially gray squirrels. The further you shoot, the greater the margin of error! My goal when hunting squirrels is a headshot that results in very little meat loss.
The technique involved in hunting squirrels depends a lot on where you hunt them. I have a good friend who owns a hunting ranch in East Texas. Throughout the year he maintains various corn feeders by dropping corn twice a day. My enlightened friend knows that if left unchecked and not harvested, busheytails will run rampant instead and eat a large percentage of the corn intended to attract deer and hogs. A couple of years ago I went downstairs and used my .25 caliber BB gun to take out several of their potential pests/food! After a tasty dinner of fried squirrel and gravy, my friend vowed to take the time to clean up every squirrel he shot at.
The squirrels are smart and prolific, just like the wild pigs and try as you might, you’ll always have them nibbling on your corn, but now you’re keeping the numbers in check and having a lot of fun doing it. Obviously this is a specialized way of hunting squirrels, but I have used it on many occasions. Just about every hunting ground in the state of Texas has multiple corn feeders and whether the ranch is in the Texas Hill Country or East Texas, there always seems to be a lot of bushy queuing around the golden kernels. of corn that are distributed freely on a daily basis.
I’ll set up in a likely area and usually lean against a tree wide enough to break the outline of my body. There is usually a pause in the squirrels’ movement when an approaching hunter disturbs the forest. Give them some time to calm down and get active again. Usually, if I’m in a good spot, I see squirrels moving around or hear their claws on the bark. Patience is the name of the game when hunting squirrels. Just like when hunting turkeys, it’s best to bring the rifle close to the shooting position so you’re ready to shoot without much movement. I often rest the rifle between my knees so I can move it a few inches and be in shooting position. Once a squirrel is shot, reload and stay silent. In about 15 minutes, you will probably see movement in the trees or on the ground again. If it doesn’t, it’s time to move on to the next likely spot with plenty of squirrel signals.
Still hunting is another very effective method of hunting squirrels and is best suited for hunters who have trouble staying still and staying still. There has been a resurgence in small game hunting in recent years and I expect the trend to continue. Regardless of the game animal one hunts during his career, squirrel hunting is absolutely the best teacher. If you take just a little information from this article, remember that a stud 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 chase their prey with a shotgun loaded with No. 4 or No. 5 buckshot. I’ve hunted plenty of squirrels with a shotgun, but these days I much prefer a tack gun. Squirrel season runs through the end of May in East Texas and in the rest of the state, the season never ends.
Get in touch with outdoor writer Luke Clayton through his website www.catfishradio.org