Why I like to hunt squirrels with a shotgun


Some time ago we published the story of a hunter who had taken the North American Squirrel Slam in a single season. I thought it was one of the best stories we’ve published, but many readers couldn’t see past the fact that the hunter used a shotgun.* Comments ranged from condescension to outrage.

I can understand someone preferring to shoot squirrels with a rifle, I’ve shot them with .22, airguns and muzzleloaders, but I don’t get the hate for shotguns.

If I went squirrel hunting tomorrow (which isn’t a bad idea), I might take my 10/22 but I’d be just as likely to pack a shotgun, especially since the season is young and there are lots of leaves on the trees. . I would unscrew the turkey choke from my 20 caliber 870, put in a Modified and fire 5 or 6 shot field loads. I could even leave the red dot on it.

On the one hand, I like the safety aspect of shooting squirrels with shotguns. It was drilled into my head from a young age that .22 LR bullets can travel 1 1-1/2 miles and you’re not supposed to shoot them in the air. For that reason, most of the squirrels I’ve shot with rifles have been into a wide tree trunk or on the ground. It never felt quite right ripping them out of the branches with a bullet that could go on and maybe hit a drunk guy in the head.

I also don’t recall ripping apart a squirrel with a shotgun. If they are close, you avoid the mark and hit the squirrel in the head with the pattern stripe. Most of the squirrels I’ve skinned only had a few pellets and you lose very little if any meat if you pick your shots. I also don’t remember any squirrel I’ve hit with a shotgun doing anything other than falling dead to the ground.

And while I don’t really like .410s as wing-shooting guns, they make great squirrel guns for those with the skill and patience to stalk up close. (There, I said it, hunting squirrels with a shotgun requires patience and dexterity.)

*_Although he said in the story that he used a shotgun on the advice of his taxidermist, as he wanted to mount all eight squirrels in the heist._