Better Tactics and Equipment Mean More Squirrels
Day 1: Opening Morning of Squirrel Season and Where to Hunt
Editor’s Note: Know how to change your luck. Squirrel season is starting or already has begun across the U.S. When you put more thought into and use better tactics and equipment to hunt squirrels, you’ll end-up with more bushytails to take home.
The little patches of light began to flicker as the sun attempted to knife its way through the heavily-leaved hickory trees. I heard the squirrels long before I saw them. Tree limbs shook, and the early-morning dew dropped as bushytails sprang from limb to limb, playing and feeding. As I crept closer to my quarry, I heard the hulls of nuts falling on the forest floor while the bushytails consumed the meat of the hickory nuts. I was close now. I’d made a well-calculated stalk from 30-yards away. My movements had gone unnoticed by the squirrels. I was well within range for my Remington 541S Custom Sporter with a 2-7X32 scope. As I started to scope the trees for the closest target, I heard a squeaking 10-yards away. I’d heard the sound before. The sharp front teeth of a tree rat were cutting a nut, but where?
Halfway up a tree I spied what appeared to be a large knot on the limb. I looked through the scope and saw a fat bushytail eagerly eating a large hickory nut. When the crosshairs rested on the squirrel’s front shoulder, I fired. The squirrel tumbled from the limb. Another squirrel three trees ahead began to whip his tail and bark. Finding him in my scope, I fired again. He met the same fate as the first squirrel. By now squirrels were scurrying through the treetops. I tried to focus on one fat gray as he raced from limb to limb. But he was too quick for me to take a shot.
Then the squirrel ran-out to the end of a limb and hesitated just before he sprang. For a split second, the animal’s motion was frozen. My crosshairs found an aiming point. The rifle cracked, and there was a thud as my gun hit its mark. I’d finished out my limit of eight squirrels in less than 3 minutes. Opening morning of squirrel season had been a splendid success.
Where to Hunt:
Taking a limit of squirrels on opening morning isn’t luck. The successful hunter is a strategist. He feeds all the available information he can find into his hunting memory bank. Then he lays-out a hunt plan that should produce a limit of squirrels. The most-important consideration for a successful hunt is most naturally to find squirrels to take. During the early season, most squirrels feed on mast – acorns, hickory nuts, pecans, beech nuts and butternuts. So, to locate the squirrels, you must first pinpoint the feed. Just identifying a place with the right variety of trees doesn’t ensure bushytail success. A close observation below the boughs of the trees should tell the tale on squirrels. If you find an abundance of freshly-cut nuts, you’re on the right track. Check several trees in the area. The more food available in one location, the more squirrels you’ll likely find concentrated there. Squirrel concentrations are the key to successful hunting. The less you have to move to find targets, the more likely you are to succeed. And, although the adage, “Scouting does pay-off,” is a well-worn one – especially with bushytails – I prefer to find three good feeding spots within a few hundred yards of each other. Then, if I have a hard time taking squirrels in one place, I can change locations quickly and hunt another spot. Although some squirrels feed all day, bushytails usually are more active just before daylight until 2-hours after and then again for 2-hours before dark. Considering that you only have a few prime hours to hunt, an outdoorsman is wise to spend the greater part of his time in the regions with the most squirrels. For this reason, the three hot-spot technique works best when stalking or sitting for squirrels.