November 09, 2020
The sun creeps above the horizon as the fall woodlands come alive. A few songbirds twitter about while the cawing of crows echoes from the distance. Leaves on the ground rustle, perhaps signaling the otherwise silent passing of a whitetail deer. Or could it be one of the squirrels you are targeting, scratching around in the leaf litter?
Then you get a glimpse of a bushytail on the ancient oak den tree you've been watching. Before you can raise your firearm to draw a bead, the squirrel, exhibiting its sixth sense for detecting nearby danger, disappears around to the other side of the trunk. You wait patiently, but your quarry does not reappear.
This is a scenario every squirrel hunter has faced. These animals are masters at using the trees to turn invisible, and you are at a great disadvantage when it comes to matching your senses with theirs.
But, as the old saying goes, two heads are better than one—and four eyes and ears are better than two of each. Taking to the woods with a hunting buddy can go a long way to leveling the playing field when pursuing bushytails.
At the heart of it, hunting squirrels in tandem has a lot in common with hunting them solo. Deciding on the firearm you'll use and picking a place and time to hunt involve the same challenges, regardless of the number of hunters.
In the simplest terms, choosing your gun usually boils down to whether or not there are still leaves on the trees. If there are, a shotgun is the better choice since clear, uncluttered shots are less likely. Once the trees are bare, longer shots become necessary to keep from spooking the quarry. That’s when it pays to switch to a .22 rifle.
Identifying where to hunt means finding areas in which the squirrels are actively feeding. Look for busted nut fragments or skinned pinecones on the ground, as well as leaf nests or den trees. Places that are rich with activity can produce shots at multiple squirrels without needing to change locations.
In terms of timing, getting in the woods around dawn or at dusk is the ticket to finding the animals moving and feeding.
THE SET UP
Once you've identified the feeding area or den tree on which you plan to concentrate your hunt, it's time to pick your stand. If your target is a den tree, you and your hunting partner should position yourselves on opposite sides. Should a squirrel spot either of you, it most likely will scamper around the trunk, providing the other hunter a shot. The same is true for hunting a stand of forage trees. Additionally, bracketing the sides offers the best chance for spotting a bushytail that is lying flat on top of a limb.
To get a better view of the upper portion of a den tree in hilly country, hunters usually move onto a hillside for better visibility. But that can mean shooting straight across the valley at eye level, which is obviously a bad idea if your partner is posted up on the opposite slope. You're better off with both of you down in the valley, shooting up into the tree.
Additionally, be sure to take the sun into consideration when positioning yourselves. Having a north-to-south set up is best. That way, regardless of whether you are hunting at dawn or dusk, neither of you will be staring into the glare of the sun.
Some hunters who don't pursue squirrels tend to think these critters are not much of a challenge to hunt. That idea is based on their interactions with the semi-tame bushytails they encounter in backyards and parks.
The wild cousins of those suburban squirrels are a different animal altogether. In the woods, a squirrel that is not alert and suspicious of everything will quickly end up as a meal for some predator. Hunting rural bushytails calls for real stealth and trickery.
As to the latter, the use of squirrel calls can be very beneficial. Piquing the animal's curiosity with a call they are used to hearing from other squirrels can lead it to make a fatal error of judgement and reveal its location.
With regard to stealth, remaining still and quiet is important, though when hunting with a partner, there can arise situations in which you need to communicate. Calling out to each other will send the squirrels diving into the hollows of the trees. That's why, when setting up, you need to have a clear line of sight to your partner. Before heading into the woods, establish some simple hand signals to use as communication. That way you can alert each other to the presence of the quarry and guide one another on where to look. Just be sure to keep the signals simple to require as little movement at possible.
FLEXTONE OL' BUSHYTAIL
The Ol' Bushytail offers four realistic calls in one. You can bark, whine, alarm chatter or make a distress call, and strike up a conversation with all the fox or gray squirrels in the area. ($14.99; flextonegamecalls.com)
HAYDEL'S MR. SQUIRREL WHISTLE
The Mr. Squirrel Whistle imitates the distress call of a young squirrel. It excites adult squirrels, making them bark and, at times, move toward your location. ($12.95; haydels.com)
HUNTERS SPECIALTIES SQUIRREL CALL
This call imitates both fox and gray squirrels and makes realistic barks, chatter, alarm calls and distress calls. ($11.99; hunterspec.com)
PRIMOS SQUIRREL BUSTER
From the distress squeal of a young squirrel to the chatter of fox and gray squirrels, this call reproduces all five calls of the gray and fox squirrels' language. ($13.99; primos.com)
QUAKER BOY SCOLDER SQUIRREL CALL
With the Scolder Squirrel Call you can effortlessly create realistic squirrel barks and chatter. To operate, tap the bellows with your fingers or leg or on the ground next to you. ($12.99; quakerboy.com)
Introducing children to hunting by way of the squirrel woods is a great way to turn them into lifelong sportsmen. However, the experience must be enjoyable. Expecting a kid to tote a big adult gun isn’t reasonable. Here are two great options for kids.
ROSSI MATCHED PAIR .410/.22
As you might guess from its name, this convertible dual threat can be either a .410 shotgun or a .22-caliber long rifle. The barrels swap quickly and effortlessly, making this a great choice for young hunters. The break action operates easily and enables children to load and unload it themselves. A cross-bolt safety keeps the gun from being discharged by accident. The firearm is light, weighing about 4 pounds, and is available in matte black, green, tan or gray. ($219.95; rossiusa.com)
GAMO SWARM MAGNUM 10X GEN 2
Pellet guns are a great carry for kids. The scoped, .22-caliber GAMO Swarm cocks easily and loads automatically. It's exceptionally accurate and more than capable of killing a squirrel. It features both a manual safety and automatic cocking safety system and weighs less than 7 pounds. The gas piston cocking system produces pellet speeds of 1,300 feet per second. ($279.99; gamousa.com) — Dr. Todd A. Kuhn