3 Tips For Finding More Squirrels
There is nothing quite like the changing of the seasons! We just had a front come through East Texas and woke up to temperatures much lower than we’ve become accustomed to. Something about that first, genuinely cool morning brings a little life back to you after the dog days of summer. There are so many things that come with the Fall and it’s hard to contain my excitement. To me, Fall means a lot more fishing, camping and hunting. If I’m being honest, this is mostly because I know I won’t lose 20 gallons of water sweating when I’m outdoors. October begins some of my favorite hunting of the year. While some are exhibiting signs of early-onset buck fever, I am looking for squirrels. Now, any deer hunter will tell you that squirrels are easy to find during deer season. All you have to do to find a squirrel during deer season is to really want to see a deer instead. That’s when they show up, and show out. For someone looking for squirrels however; they can be a bit more elusive. Here are a few tips to help you ensure a freezer full of squirrels this season.
Tip #1: Stop
If you have been a squirrel hunter for any length of time you will understand this scenario: There are not any squirrels within range. You look around, and see 27 off in the distance. So, what do you do? You walk towards the 27 squirrels you saw in the distance only to find that when you get close; you see zero squirrels. I’m writing this portion of the blog as I sit in a chair waiting for squirrels. I know they are here, because I saw all 27 of them. I shot one. Now, I could move until I see more, or I could stop. I see their nests. I see nuts on the ground. So, I stop. I’m waiting. A squirrel is far too curious of an animal to let me sit here without it checking me out. As a matter of fact... excuse me a minute... Got him! Like I was saying, sit still long enough, and they can’t help but check you out. That little head will peek from behind a branch soon enough. Want a little more stealth? Lean against a large tree. Wait behind it until the curious little booger can’t stand it any longer and comes to see what happened to you. This becomes a great lesson for young hunters. You don’t have to move as fast as your prey if you are smarter than they are. Also, don’t hurt your neck staring straight up for 5 minutes. Stop and take in the beauty of creation. Breathe in the fresh air around you. Take a moment to appreciate the moment that you are in. Then, blow that hiding little joker out of the tree!
Tip #2: Look
I hope you realize at this point that you can’t shoot with your eyes closed. Well, you can, but it usually doesn’t turn out well. Most of the time new squirrel hunters will pan the landscape looking for the silhouette of their next target. For the first shot of the day, this may be sufficient. But after you have alerted them to your presence, you have to pay more careful attention. My son told me the other day that he couldn’t see any squirrels. “What are you looking for?” I asked. “Squirrels...” was his answer. I told him to stop looking for squirrels and he thought I was crazy at first. I explained to him that it’s easy to miss a squirrel because they are excellent hiders. Their fur often works as camouflage with the bark of the tree. I then explained that it’s easier to look at each individual branch. When you are focusing on a branch, your eyes adjust to see the bark and the limbs. Anything that doesn’t belong becomes much more apparent. This method trains your eyes to see a peeking head or twitching tail faster. It goes beyond just looking for a shaking branch or grey blur. Start at one end of a branch and work your way to the end. Look for movement; that twitching tail, that little head peeking. By the end of the day he was finding squirrels just as fast as I was. Another thought on looking: when you find one, before you shoot; look around. Squirrels will often run in pairs as they get active. Don’t miss your chance to knock down two of them back to back.
Tip# 3: Listen
Just because you don’t see the little rascals, doesn’t mean that you can’t know if they are around. Listen for their little “bark” and limbs and leaves rustling. Listen for the scratch of their little feet as they scurry up and down the trees. These are only the obvious sounds though. The number one sound I listen for is the sound of acorns hitting the ground. That light thump is unmistakable. If you can pinpoint where the acorn fell, just look up. Listen for several of those acorns hitting the ground. When you hear two or three hits in a row, get ready to shoot. The squirrel will typically pause briefly after dropping a few acorns. It may be locating the acorns it just dropped, or looking for the next few it will cut. But they normally pause just after dropping a few. When they do, take your shot.
There is so much more that we could talk about. Shotgun or rifle? What gauge or caliber? Dogs or no dogs? The important thing is that you take advantage of this beautiful season and get outside. Maybe you don’t want to hunt squirrels. That’s okay. More for us. But get outdoors and enjoy the creation around you. If you are going to hunt these rascals; stop, look, and listen. Learn their patterns. Use your senses to get ahead of them and you’ll be filling your freezer soon enough. Until next week, be safe and stay sharp!