I arrived at the starting point of my morning squirrel hunt just a little later than I would have preferred. It’s long been my habit to get into the woods a bit before sunrise and sit down somewhere and wait for the squirrels to wake up and get active around me. But my tardiness today would force me to use my forest-ninja skills.
It was a pleasant surprise to discover that the previous day’s rain, and the heavy morning fog, had left the ground cover nice and wet. Moving quietly would not be an issue at all.
As I entered the woods I was thinking of my last squirrel hunt a few weeks ago wherein all the squirrels had taken the midnight flight to Cleveland. Areas of the forest normally alive with tree rats (during deer season) had been completely devoid of squirrels, and I was hoping desperately that today’s hunt wouldn’t play out the same way. Within about two minutes I was assured that today would be entirely different matter. The trees were well stocked with my favorite furry-tailed, acorn eating rodent!
The first shot from my Henry pump .22 dropped a squirrel a short distance away and I carefully marked his fall before scanning the vicinity for my next customer. Seeing nothing immediately I moved forward to recover my kill. Unfortunately, he had fallen into a thicket and it required me to make quite a bit of noise to get to him. The squirrels closest to me were alerted to my presence so I eased further into the swamp for the next round.
Sixty or seventy yards further along I noted a lot of noise coming from an area off to my right. Standing quietly for a few minutes and observing I spotted what appeared to be about half a dozen tree rats in full eat and play mode. So I turned toward them and began a five minute ease to get into position.
My Henry rifle has a nice Burris 2.5 X 7 X 28mm scope that is extremely bright, and of course the rifle itself is well zeroed with its favorite subsonic ammo. So the next several shots – which were ridiculous misses – I can only chalk up to my own excitement at being in a target-rich environment. I’ve been squirrel hunting for over forty years, and I get just as excited today as I did the first time I ever shouldered a rifle and shot my first squirrel. I love it that much!
“Ok Guns, just settle down and get it right” I told myself.
Following my own advice I dropped the next three squirrels in the space of about ten seconds.
Again, one of the three fell into a palmetto cluster that would make enough noise to wake the dead when I waded into it to retrieve my squirrel. A long time ago I learned that if you shoot more than about three squirrels in a row without recovering them, you risk forgetting their location in all the excitement. I truly hate not recovering a kill, so as bad I wanted to keep shooting, I resolved to not shoot more than three without going to pick them up.
After I had gathered up the carcasses I moved forward another sixty or seventy yards and got still and quiet again.
Scanning the trees all the time, looking for movement, I spotted the silhouette of a squirrel on a tree limb out to my front at a range of nearly seventy yards; a very long shot for a squirrel! So I braced my rifle against a tree and took a bead on him. I used the second horizontal crosshair and placed it right at the top of his head and gently squeezed the trigger. I was rewarded with a clean kill that fell straight into … another clump of palmettos!
Recovering my longest shot / kill of the morning from the biggest clump of palmettos yet, now I faced a swamp bottom out in front of me that was deeper than I had expected. For the next few minutes I was more absorbed in crossing the swamp (without bogging up to my ass) than I was in spotting more squirrel. But once across I resumed scanning for movement.
In just a few minutes I spotted a couple of squirrels in a tree just a short distance out in front of me. A few easy steps forward, while they were playing with one another, and I was in shooting position.
I dropped the first while the second was out of sight behind the tree. He stuck his head out to see what was going on – and I missed the second shot. Damn!
Spotting me the squirrel ran down the backside of the tree and stopped at the base of it. I eased forward at the ready, fully expecting him to dart off along the ground, or maybe to run back up the tree. But for some reason he did neither. Thinking himself hidden he stayed right at the base of the tree. With the help of the sodden and silent leaves I closed to within about ten feet before I spotted just the tip of his tail sticking out on the left side of the truck. So I began tracking to the right very slowly, keeping my rifle at the ready. When just the top of his head came into view – I blew it off from about eight feet away!
Now I realized what it was I had forgotten to bring with me this morning: my game bag. I was toting all these dead squirrels by the tail, and doggone if they weren’t beginning to get heavy! I had no wish loose one while walking so I stashed em on the trail with the intent to come back with my four-wheeler and pick them up.
On the walk back to the four-wheeler I killed another one that I spotted while he sat stock still high on a limb.
Squirrel hunting with a 22 rifle is both fun and educating. It’s great training in stalking, target acquisition, and marksmanship. And when it’s all over – you get to eat them!