Hunting Squirrels with Calls and Dogs
How My Squirrel-Hunting Career Began
Editor’s Note: Many states continue their small-game seasons through February and even further. This week we’ll be discussing squirrel hunting.
"Listen, I can hear two gray squirrels and one fox squirrel barking," I whispered to my son after making a young-squirrel-in-distress call. John looked up at me and said, "How do you know which one is the fox squirrel?" I smiled and explained, "The fox squirrel has the deep, raspy bark. He doesn'twhine at the end of his barking like a gray squirrel. Listen as I call to them again, and point in the direction where you think the fox squirrel is barking." I whipped the ground with a small leafy branch and blew the young squirrel-in-distress call a second time. The three squirrels barked, and John immediately pointed in the direction of the fox squirrel. "Okay, son, do you want to take the fox squirrel or the gray squirrels?" I inquired. "I'll go after the fox squirrel, Daddy," he answered. "You can hunt those two gray squirrels." We experienced a productive morning of squirrel hunting and both came close to taking our limit of squirrels. I guess I share an interest with Dr. Dolittle because I enjoy talking to the animals. I like the way a grunt call sometimes can make a buck come to you. I enjoy using a turkey call to try to fool a wise old woods wizard. I admire the men who can talk waterfowl down from the sky with their duck and goose calls. But I most enjoy the productivity of squirrel calling.
Years ago, a package addressed to me arrived in the mail. When I opened it, I found a round, hollow piece of metal about the size of a bottle cap. I noticed a hole in each end, and the packaging read: Mr. Squirrel – the Ultimate Squirrel Call. Glancing over the directions on the front of the package, I decided that I simply had to blow this whistle to make squirrels come running. So, I took the whistle into the field on two or three different squirrel hunts. But when I blew the whistle, nothing happened. A year later, I received a phone call from a man I'd never met before. "Mr. Phillips, I'm Shannon Talkington," the gentleman explained. "I'm the fellow who invented the Mr. Squirrel whistle. I sent you one and asked you to try it. Did you have an opportunity to test it yet?"
"Yes, I did," I answered cautiously. In an excited voice Talkington asked,"What did you think about it?" I paused and said, "It didn't work." Talkington couldn't believe his squirrel whistle didn't work. He asked, "If I can prove to you that it works, would you write about the whistle in your newspaper column?" I said, "If you can tune that whistle to make a squirrel come to you, I'll put you in a national magazine." We set a date for our squirrel hunt, and I took my son John along with us. Talkington explained that he’d left his rifle at home because he wanted us to shoot the squirrels while he called them. As we walked into the woods that first morning, Talkington cut a small leafy branch and took out his squirrel whistle. "What do you plan to do with that limb?" I asked. Talkington looked up and asked me, "Did you read the instructions on the back of the box?" I smiled and said, "No one ever reads the instructions on the back of a package." Talkington laughed and said, "No wonder you didn't call in any squirrels!" I watched Talkington whip the ground with the leafy branch and begin to toot on the whistle, but nothing happened. He repeated the same process, and still nothing happened. He looked up and said, "I don't think there's any squirrels in this spot. Let's move to another area and try the call again."
I really didn't believe that we'd take any squirrels that day after watching Talkington fail to call a squirrel with his call and the leafy branch. But as we moved deeper in the woods into an acorn flat, Talkington whipped the ground and tooted on the squirrel whistle again. To my surprise, three different squirrels began to bark. John and I stalked within rifle range, and each took a bushytail.
The rest of the morning went just as Talkington had predicted. We'd move 100- to 200-yards away from the last place we'd taken a squirrel and call again. I couldn't believe how effectively the Mr. Squirrel whistle called squirrels out of their holes in the trees and made them bark.
Tomorrow: How and Why Squirrel Calls Work