Boating for Squirrels
Day 1: Choosing the Right Boat for Hunting Squirrels
Editor’s Note: Boat hunting for squirrels is hunting the crowds never find. It’s quiet, productive, and more fun than regular hunting ever can be. Many states have a small-game season during February. One of my favorite ways to hunt squirrels is by water.
My feet sounded like bricks hitting a tin roof as I walked across the forest floor stalking squirrels. The usual fall rains had not begun, and the leaves were as dry as parchment. Even though the trees still had quite a few leaves holding-on for their last taste of life before Old Man Winter stripped them away, the squirrels still could detect me. There was no escaping my noisy feet. I had tried to walk down a wet-weather stream, but there was no moisture to cushion my crunching feet. Stalking squirrels on this day was just impossible. So, I’d traveled to my favorite squirrel haunts via my Old Town Canoe. Paddling across a backwater slough, I had discovered a hickory nut ridge that was totally infested with squirrels. On either side of the ridge were sprawling acorn flats, also heavily populated with bushytails. But there was no way I could slip close-enough to the tree rats to take them. Frustrated, I walked back to my canoe and decided to try and discover an area where I could take bushytails with my .22. While paddling down the slough, I spotted quite a few squirrels close to the bank within easy shotgun range. But with a .22 rifle, the shots would all be questionable.
However, after two days of experimenting, I have discovered a method of canoe hunting for bushytails that works extremely well and is especially effective during dry weather. To be an effective squirrel hunter, you have to have the right equipment. I prefer an Old Town Canoe that’s made of high-impact plastic and creates less of a noise problem than the aluminum canoes. I also have added a rug to the bottom of the canoe where I place my feet to help cut-down on noise. I also enjoy hunting out a flat-bottomed War Eagle johnboat. You also have to be able to eliminate some of the factors that decrease your accuracy. One of those factors is having another person in the canoe besides you. Consider this. You’re aiming at a target that may be moving. Because you have no brace to shoot from, you will be in motion. And, since a canoe never sits absolutely still on the water, it too will be moving. When you add another person to the boat, he or she will be moving too. So, I have found that solo canoe hunting is best for bushytails. A life preserver is also essential equipment for bushytailing by boat. Because the chest type of life preserver adds from 1/2 to one inch of padding between your gun stock and your shoulder, you may have some difficulty seeing through your telescopic sight. I have discovered that moving your scope closer to your eye and sighting-in your rifle with a life preserver on will increase your accuracy. I also prefer to wear SOSpenders – a vest-like life preserver that lays flat on your chest and inflates when you need it.