Eddie concludes his excellent series on squirrel hunting with tips on how to get those ‘extra’ ones
Eddie Jones concludes his series on how to become an expert squirrel hunter
The past two features have given advice on how to get to know the squirrel, and how best to achieve the numbers required to control them pretty quickly on your permissions. To finish off the series, here are some more tips to help you gain those extra squirrels when you are out for a walk, rather than sitting up and waiting on a feeder.
Autumn, winter and spring are undoubtedly the best times to shoot squirrels because we have less cover to get through, but it can still be a job to find them at any time of year if they are sitting tight against a tree. When we’re walking through the wood, we want to see the squirrels well before we are in shooting range, and this means walking as quietly as possible. I like to look as far as 100 yards through the trees as I am walking, because I want to know roughly where the squirrel is, just in case I lose sight of it. If I do lose sight of the squirrel, nine times out of ten it will be because it has spotted some movement and is hiding just enough to be able to watch what I am doing, whilst keeping itself hidden from me. I don’t worry because I know the squirrel is close, otherwise I would have seen it running through the trees to get away, so now is the time to get those eyes working and find him.
IS IT, OR ISN’T IT?
When I first started to hunt squirrels more seriously, I’d stay in the area for up to an hour. I would not give up searching the trees that I knew it could be in, and I’d find it. Doing that certainly helped me to see more than I would if I’d just scanned the trees quickly, not seen it, and moved on to the next squirrel. When you study the trees for a long time, you start to notice little things that are not quite right; you might look and think you’re just seeing part of a branch, but it could be a leg or a foot, or its head could be sticking up just enough that it looks like a bit of bark raised on a branch.
You will see the squirrel at some point, but because you are not identifying it straight away, your mind tells you that it isn’t there. When looking up through the branches, use your imagination. Does that little bit sticking up on that branch look normal? In most cases it will be nothing, but you don’t know for certain. You have to check and check time and time again. Only then will you learn that the most insignificant little bump on a branch could be the squirrel trying to hide from you.
ADVICE FROM A WISE MAN
Shooting squirrels on your own can be some of the most frustrating hunting you will encounter. I have lost count of the times I have chased a squirrel up a tree and spent 20 minutes going around it and not seeing anything. I then get a sight of it five feet higher than me because it’s been creeping round the trunk, out of sight, and making me look a right twit. You then start to speed up as you try and try to get him to run up, but there’s not a chance. The faster you run round the tree, the faster he goes around, until you feel dizzy or sick. I did this for a long time until one day when an old chap who I had not noticed watched me doing it. He was in stitches. If he’d been 30 years younger I might have clocked him one, but he gave me the simplest piece of advice and never again did I run around a tree.
“Put your coat up on that branch, young lad,” he said.
“look as far as 100 yards through the trees as I am walking, because I want to know roughly where the squirrel is”
I looked at him, puzzled. What difference would that make? I did what the old fella said, though, and to my surprise, that squirrel hesitated. It stopped going round and showed just enough of its head for me to get the shot.
The squirrel had thought there was someone there, made it stop to think for a few seconds, and that was enough for me to shoot it. I have adopted that approach thousands of times over the years and it was one of the best bits of advice that I had ever been given when it came to shooting squirrels.
GET OUT THERE!
Another good way of getting the shot when a squirrel keeps moving round is to take someone shooting with you. I shot alone for many years, until my dad started to take an interest and then started to come with me. Working in pairs makes a great difference. You can get yourself rested and as steady as possible, and then the other person can walk around to the other side of the tree. The squirrel will be watching the walker and not see you next to the tree ready and waiting. Once the squirrel comes into sight, I usually whistle for my dad to stop. I’m as steady as I could ever be and 99% of the time I hit the mark.
As said last month, do not forget your aim point; the greater your angle the higher your pellet will strike, so if you are only going for squirrels you could zero the rifle on an average distance up a tree; that will save you using hold-under, and any shots you take will be good enough for a clean kill.
The last piece of advice I could give any serious squirrel shooter is to get the latest bit of kit that I am using. This one piece of kit has doubled my shot count when I shoot alone. It is not a cheap bit of gear either, and I would only suggest getting this if you are serious about your pest control.
I’m talking about a thermal spotter. I have never lost a squirrel up a tree since using this equipment, unless it has run inside a hole in the tree. I no longer have to search for ages because the squirrel shows itself within minutes. Thermal spotters are a game changer and I no longer go on a serious squirrel hunting trip without one. A squirrel will always want to see where you are, even when it is hiding from you, and a thermal spotter will pick up its head no matter how much is in view, and that is all we need to make a kill. I know that this is not hunting, and when I don’t need to shoot every squirrel I see in the wood, I won’t take it. I still love the thrill of the hunt and that will never be replaced by technology.
I hope this series about my squirrel control will help you to gain a few more shots. It takes years of learning, so don’t miss an opportunity to go out and put your hard work into practice. You will not learn anything sitting in a nice warm living room watching TV, although you do wish you had done that sometimes, once you’re out!
Using the thermal spotter is so much more efficient
Above: Do not be tempted to hit the squirrel anywhere other than in the head, you will only cause injury. Also do not shoot for a heart shot
Below: When aiming for a relatively flat shot, make sure you go for a head shot only. The shot should be just behind the eye When shooting upward at squirrels, make sure you use hold- under
I love my squirrel control opportunities
I love this Pulsar thermal imager more then I can say