Oddball Methods for Bushwhacking Bushytails
Day 1: Retrieve Squirrels and Rabbits by Twisting Them
Editor’s Note: Everybody knows about the tried and true techniques for squirrel hunting – stalking, sitting and using a dog, but, chances are you haven’t tried these wrinkles that will put more game into your bag by day’s end.
A friend of mine told me, “My brother, Bill, and I both shot at a fast-escaping bushytail as it sailed through the timber. ‘I’ll get him,’ Bill announced. And, when the squirrel hit the ground, Bill went racing after it. He shot at the little tree rat as it scurried between trees, through leaves, went up one tree, topped-out in the second tree and ran into a knothole about 5-feet off the ground in a thigh-sized sapling. ‘Come on over here, I told Bill. “I believe we can get that squirrel out of this knothole if we can get us a twist-‘em-out stick.’” A twist-‘em-out stick was an essential tool of the early settlers. Its primary function was to retrieve game from irretrievable locations. This tool was extremely effective on small game like squirrels and rabbits. The twist-‘em-out stick was always, and is today, readily available. The stick consists of a branch that may vary in length from 3 to 8 feet or longer. On the end of the green branch, there should be a fork where the limb branches-off. By taking a pocket knife and sharpening the forks to a point, an outdoorsman forms a miniature “V” much like the stock of the slingshot most of us once made with automobile inner tubes, a little bit of cord, a shoe tongue for a pocket and a forked branch for a stock. All that’s required to utilize the twist-‘em-out stick is for the game – such as a squirrel or a rabbit – to be treed either in a hollow tree or in a hole in the ground. Next, the hunter pokes the stick into the hole and begins to turn it around, until the fork’s caught in either the squirrel’s tail or the rabbit’s hide. Once the critter’s tail or skin is entangled in the forked stick, the stick can be pulled from the hole, and the critter removed. The twist-‘em-out stick really works well to retrieve wounded game. However, this method is not as foolproof when the game is in no way wounded. For example, when Bill got over to the tree where the squirrel had gone into the hole, he already had started to look for a twist-‘em-out stick. In a few minutes, he found a 6-foot limb that was just about the right size.
Bill said, “I’m pretty sure I hit that squirrel, and I hate to leave wounded game in the woods. Let’s try to twist him out with this stick.” After twisting awhile, Bill said, “I believe I’ve got him by the tail.” By now both hunters had laid their guns on the ground and were eagerly working to get the squirrel out of the knothole. “I can see his tail,” Bill explained. “Good, just reach-up there and grab him,” my friend directed. “I’m sure he’s dead. He’s probably just balled-up in that tree and stuck. Just snatch him on out of there.”
My friend told me later that Bill grabbed hold of the squirrel’s tail and snatched it. There was only one problem that was apparent when the squirrel came from the hole. It wasn’t in the least wounded but was highly upset. The squirrel jumped on Bill, ran-down his shirt, across his pants and leaped-from Bill’s kneecap to the ground in less than a half a heartbeat. My friend stood there laughing and said, “I thought you said you’d killed that squirrel.” “I did kill that squirrel,” Bill explained. “He just didn’t know he was dead.” When Bill asked why his brother hadn’t shot the squirrel, my friend countered, “Why didn’t you?
Turns out neither hunter had their guns, because they were so busy twisting-out the squirrel. That twist-‘em-out squirrel escaped with nothing more than hurt pride, a sore tail and a few less hairs than he’d had when he began the ordeal. But, for a man who hunts squirrels very often, the twist-‘em-out stick is one of the most essential pieces of equipment that a bushytail hunter can employ.