It’s that time of the year again. The leaves are turning colors. The temperature is beginning to fall. Ah, yes October is here. While many people enjoy taking leisurely drives through the countryside, those of us from the hills are grabbing our shotguns in search of squirrels.
Many people in the South grew up hunting squirrels as they are the perfect quarry for youngsters. Like children themselves, squirrels have relatively short attention spans meaning that mistakes by young hunters can be corrected. Unlike deer who when are scared often run into the next county, squirrels simply run up a tree and hide. Often they will ‘forget’ about the danger that they spotted below them. Sitting patiently will often reward the hunter with an easy shot when the squirrel comes back down the tree.
Treed squirrels can also be taken in other ways. If you are hunting with a partner send the other hunter on a wide circular path around the tree to create a diversion. The squirrel watching the moving hunter will often move around the tree to hide himself from the hunter, thus exposing himself to the hunter who has stood still. As long as the shooter is careful, shooting a shotgun up into the air over the hunter is perfectly safe. The hunter walking around the tree in this manner should always keep his face toward the ground to prevent stray shot from falling into his eyes.
If you are presented with this scenario and are alone you can try a couple similar techniques as well. Hang your coat on a nearby tree or bush and slowly make the same wide circle. The idea is the squirrel moves around the tree away from you, sees the coat and runs back to where you can see it. You can also try throwing rocks or sticks to the other side of the tree to try to scare the squirrel to your side. Squirrels are very crafty and seem to disappear quickly, if these tips don’t work, just move on. Keep in mind if you are hunting with a rifle, any shot taken up into a tree must be done carefully to assure you have the tree for a backstop and you don’t send the bullet to an unknown destination. If rifle hunting, do us all a favor and only shoot squirrels on the ground.
When the leaves begin to fall, walking in the woods can become difficult without making a lot of noise. One method my brother utilizes is to walk quickly through as much area as possible. The squirrels here you coming but as you are not trying to sneak up on them like a normal predator they do not see you as a great threat. You may not take many of the squirrels that you see, but you should see enough to fill your bag. This method isn’t particularly good for young hunters as the shots tend to be quick.
Another thing that you should keep in mind is that when you shoot a squirrel others may be around. I normally sit in one area and as long as I’m not going to forget where it is and it is cold enough to not spoil the meat I will let the fallen squirrel stay where it is. Many times you can shoot two or three in one spot without getting up.
One last tip. If you are going to go squirrel hunting this year remember to take a kid with you. Hunting teaches responsibility, perseverance, and self reliance in a way that few other things can.