Outdoors With Kevin Fox
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Squirrel Season Opened On May 22
Making squirrel hunting sound exciting is a challenge. Not that I don’t find it a fun sport, it’s just that I fear there are very few hunters who hunt small game anymore. With my gift to make things sound more interesting than they are, I suppose I could spin some yarn about this difficult stalk I made and even though the source of the stalk knew I was present he stood his ground almost daring me to close the distance. We put photos of kids with their deer or turkeys in the paper, and that’s natural as well because we are proud of this accomplishment. Hunting or sportsmen shows on cable rarely feature an episode on small game hunting with one exception being the show “MeatEater.” Deer and turkeys are also special because there are fewer of them, while squirrels always seem plentiful, and it somehow lessens the challenge of hunting them when you see them hanging out in the park and almost everywhere in our towns and cities. Anyone who truly knows me also knows that I like small game because it’s what I and most other hunters of my generation cut their hunting teeth on. There weren’t turkeys around and you might go all deer season and only see the hind end of a deer running out ahead of you while you are helping make a drive. But while squirrels do not get favorable press any longer, they are still a lot of fun to go after and there are several reasons. I especially enjoy the fact that Weapons 2 Wallhangers near Wayland also supports a squirrel hunting contest late in the season that always brings kids out and there are several categories which will have winners. It’s a fun day complete with a weigh-in and measurements.
I mentioned last week about fishing a Mepps Spinner because it takes me back to my fishing roots. I go after squirrels for the same reason, as I feel as though I’m returning to my hunting roots and back to what hunting really is. That’s not to say that I don’t love deer and turkey hunting like everyone else does. I look forward to the season openers. But for a change of pace nothing beats walking through the woods with your favorite .22 and putting a stalk on feeding squirrels. It just seems more like hunting. The squirrels that I have in the timber behind my house are not the city wire walkers that you find flat in town because they didn’t look both ways. They can be spooky and take off when they see you or they will flatten themselves on a limb only showing their head and ears.
I also enjoy hunting squirrels because of the options that are available to take a squirrel or two. I might take my scope sighted .22 and that may be the first choice of many hunters. I, and they, enjoy having a .22 that is capable of hitting the ace of spades on a playing card at thirty yards with a good rest. Hunting with that kind of accuracy should ensure that all you harvest will be with head shots. This too adds to the challenge of hunting squirrels. Younger hunters can develop several hunting skills by going out with mom and dad and hunting squirrels. Those skills would certainly include accuracy, but also patience as they must wait for the perfect opportunity to take that successful shot. This time of year, when the trees are fully leafed out, getting perfect shooting opportunities can be difficult and it’s for that reason a young hunter may wish to use a small gauge shotgun such as a 410 or 20 gauge. If you want to you can also hunt squirrels with a smaller caliber to really take you back in hunting history. In the past I have also used my Colt New Frontier pistol to go after squirrels. If you wish to really challenge yourself and test your stalking abilities then leave your firearms at home and pick archery equipment. Take the broadheads and field points off your arrows and put on blunts or judo points. While they still aren’t big game, putting the stalk on a gray or fox squirrels scurrying in the leaves can be exciting and you will earn each critter you are able to take!
The good news when hunting squirrels is that like other game animals, squirrels are most active early in the morning and in the evening. This is a good thing as that’s also when it’s also the coolest time of the day making it more comfortable for hunters during the summer months. In the fall, it may be a little easier to locate squirrels as there will be fewer leaves, but more importantly the hickory and oak trees will have ripe nuts and the squirrels will be feeding on those trees. When they are feeding on the crop you can simply go to a stand of oaks or hickories and find a comfortable place to sit or stand and wait for the squirrels to come to you. In the spring and summer it can be a little tougher. One of the favorite places that I like to hunt has several mulberry trees and the first part of June will see their fruit begin to ripen. One such location is a bottom between two hillsides and that little valley is always cooler to hunt making it even more enjoyable. Squirrels also feed on a variety of seed pods.
The only real drawback to hunting squirrels in the spring is that while the squirrels will not be difficult, the mosquitoes and ticks will be. To combat their irritation, I spray Repel tick defense around the bottom of my pant legs if I am stalking, and before I sit down I also spray around the waistband of my pants and this does a pretty good job of keeping ticks off me. For mosquitoes, I have Thermo Cell that does an excellent job of keeping the flying pests away. And while wind is never a help when hunting squirrels as it makes it harder to spot the bouncing limbs that give away feeding squirrels, it will keep the mosquitoes down. For warm weather hunting, I also like to have a cooler back at the vehicle to get the squirrels on ice as soon as possible. Also, if it’s possible I like to clean the squirrels as quickly as I can. The farm that I hunt on has several hydrants located on it which really helps. First off all water helps in skinning the squirrels as it makes the hair stick on the hide better and then after you get them gutted and cleaned you can wash them up. Both these jobs are not something I look forward to after I get home. If all that work is done prior to getting home then all you have to do is soak them in salt water and put them in the refrigerator.
The limit for squirrels is ten and they can be either gray or fox squirrels. However, I wouldn’t take ten if I had the chance. I like to take two or three as that’s about what we will eat and I never freeze them. Squirrels have a bad habit of working their way to the back of the freezer only to be discovered when you defrost your freezer or the freezer breaks down and quits. So when I harvest squirrels their 3 stops are 1. the cooler, 2. the refrigerator, and finally 3. the electric skillet.