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News Articles

04
Good squirrel hunting won't last much longer

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By RON KRUGER editor@kentuckynewera.com
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There are no hickories. There are not walnuts. There isn't even many acorns. But there's a load of squirrels this year.

Because the population is high and food is relatively scarce, I've often found a limit of squirrels in single oak trees. They've been cutting them with the same abandon they usually only display in hickories. Seems only the biggest and broadest oaks are producing suitable squirrel fodder, and when the acorns are gone the squirrel will be gone, too. They'll die out or they'll move out.

This is the type of year one may see hundreds or thousands of them migrating through the tree tops or swimming lakes and rivers. This is bad news for those who like to wait until the leaves fall and hunt with dogs. And the prospects for next year are dismal.

So now is the time to cash in on a bumper crop of bushytails by stalking them with shotguns and rifles. This is my favorite way to hunt them. I've been doing it for more than 40 years and here are 10 do's and don't I have gathered, along with thousands of tasty meals:

-- DRESS LIKE A TREE: Most hunters wear camouflage, but few of them use a face mask. The shining face of most hunters looking up and down and all around can appear to a lofty bushytail like a blinking bulb against the dark forest floor.

-- BE VERY STEALTHY: Move only a few steps at a time and pause for long periods. I once did an article about the most successful squirrel hunters who participated in Missouri's hunter survey. Every one of them, in one way or the other, said patience is the key. This applies equally whether you spend your entire hunt sitting under one hickory or moving through the woods.

nCLOSE THE GAP WITH CAUTION: If you spot a squirrel out of range, move closer only when the squirrel is eating. When they're busy picking nuts they don't often look down. When they're in the tops of trees, birds of prey are what they fear most. When they move from spot to spot-especially when they head down-- is when they're most likely to spot your movements.

-- EACH TIME YOU TAKE A STEP: or a few, don't continue to look up. Look at the ground to determine the best spot to place your foot. And when you set your foot down, do so with the heal first and roll you foot forward. Don't tip-toe.

-- PICK A PATH: That will make the least noise underfoot. I know of no studies to this effect, but I'm sure squirrels hear very well. Old deer trails and logging roads are ideal. That's why the management areas like the LBL offer the best squirrel hunting woods around.

-- TRY TO USE: The available brush to conceal your movements. Do not, however, go through it or move it aside with your hands. Shaking limbs or brush are sure giveaways. Duck under them. Crawl under them. But don't move them. Whenever possible, don't stop in the open. Move from tree to tree and lean against them to break up your outline.

-- KEEP YOUR EARS: Open wider than your eyes. Listen for nuts falling, leaves rustling, limbs shaking, claws on tree bark or teeth gnawing on a nut.

-- MAKE ALL: Of your movements slow and deliberate. Don't jerk your head or body around to check out noises, and don't swing your gun barrel around as you shift its weight from arm to shoulder. A blued barrel is obvious when moved, especially when the sun is shining.

-- DON'T LEAVE: A tree that you know a squirrel is in just because you can't spot it readily. Like hunters, squirrels easily get bored with one spot, thinking another branch or even another tree offers better opportunities. When they finish with a cluster of nuts out on a limb they usually will follow that limb to the trunk, go up or down, and out on another branch, instead of just moving a few feet for another feed. If you're more patient than the squirrel, eventually you'll get a shot.

-- DON'T MOVE AFTER A SHOT: Especially with a rifle, but even with a shotgun, if you remain motionless after you shoot, other squirrels in a tree will move again after a short time.

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