It was just perfect out and there was no one else hunting the area. The temperature has gone up to 47F and it was sunny!!! There was a beautiful fog on the ground at 9am. How could I resist, being my last day of vacation for the year. Most of the snow was gone and the leaf-covered ground was wet and soft so I was able to walk almost silently. Toes down first, then the heal. Stop every 5 steps or so in areas that have good potential. Listen and look, then take a few more steps and repeat, staying as quiet as possible.
(Rifle: Henry Golden Boy .17HMR w/ octagon barrel).
Within a few minutes I spotted my first squirrel. Like Wednesday and in the same area, it was running from the ground to the tree. This time I wasn't going to let it go. It paused for a second at the base of the tree and I nailed it with the 17. It was still moving a bit on the ground so I shot it again. No more waiting for them to die. I've lost 3 this year by not shooting them when they hit the ground, which allowed them to crawl into the heavy brush wounded. Now I make sure they're dead before I even reach them. These 17HMR CCI Game Points do one heck of a lot of damage. The bullet is smaller than a 22, but it really makes a major hole. That was one in the bag.
I didn't see another for about 30 minutes, until a squirrel began barking at me from a tree, running from branch to branch. It's very rare in this area to come across a squirrel that barks. Most just run and disappear. This one ended up running into a hole, so I took a seat and waited. After a half hour, I reluctantly gave up. I've found that there's a window of opportunity in this area between 9am and noon. After that everything goes quiet. It was already 10:30 so I couldn't waste any more time on this one, though I hated to throw in the towel. I'll leave him for next time.
As I approached the hot spot I discovered last time out, I saw 4 squirrels at a distance run across an open area one after another and climb into a tree!! Around here, once in a tree they never come out. I had a shot at the last squirrel when it hesitated for a moment at the base of the trunk. It was a long shot without a scope, but I hit it and rolled it backwards. It was a head shot.
Minutes later I saw 3 more do something similar, but they were way too far out. In both cases I waited for about 20 minutes before moving on. Man is that frustrating. On the way back, I found a stump of a huge tree that must have been cut down years ago. It was 4-5 feet in diameter and made a perfect butcher block. I used the opportunity to rest a bit and carve up my game.
Here's a few tips:
Carry a bunch of those thin plastic gloves that you can buy at CVS. They keep your hands from getting covered with blood in the field. Carry a pair of pliers. They really help when pulling the fur away from the flesh, especially if you wait a few hours before gutting them. They also make it easier to break the paw bones. Don't forget to bring some large freezer bags. Cut off the tail, put it in a clean bag and save them for coyote hunting decoys. Put the meat in another with a handful of snow to keep the meat fresh. Remember to pack everything out. Throw the gloves in the bag with the meat, but leave the remains for the animals to feed on.
A Few Squirrel Hunting Tips
Get out early. I've found that the window of opportunity to see a squirrel move is when they feed, between sunrise and 10am. Also before dusk, but that time is very short; about 15 minutes. You can occasionally find them at any hour, but early morning is your best bet. Keep your eyes pealed at a distance. They will often sense your presence 50 yards or more away. Look for trees dropping nuts and little holes in the ground where they have been digging. Gut your squirrels soon after bagging them. They are much easier to skin. Bring a sharp knife and a pair of pliers to brake the bones so the paws are easier to remove. If you don’t see nests, don’t be discouraged. They are likely living in old trees. Carry freezer bags. You can carry your gutted game and protect your electronics should you get caught in the rain. Put a few stones in your pocket when you leave the parking lot in case a squirrel is hiding around the back side of a tree. Tossing a stone into the brush on the back side might get the squirrel to move to your side of the trunk and give you a shot. If you don't grab those stones ahead of time, I'd bet you can't find anything to throw within reach when you need them.