Dave is forced to postpone a long-awaited squirrel-hunting trip, but finds inspiration in the Pound Shop instead
There I was, sitting at my desk when my private messenger sprung into action. It was my old mate, Mick Ball, asking me if I fancied helping him to clear a few squirrels from one of his permissions. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance, but unfortunately I ended up jumping just a tad too high on this occasion.
After our little conversation I went down to my shed to dig out a few essentials for the following day’s shoot, and whilst I was shifting a couple of large boxes, I felt my back go ‘ping’. Nooo! Not now! As I stood up, I felt an electric shock of pain course through my lower back and I knew instantly that I wouldn’t be going shooting the next day.
You see, I have a recurring back problem, which flares up without warning a couple of times per year. It all began when I was just 18 years old, whilst digging bait for a boat-fishing trip. I was straddling a bait hole, with a hefty iron fork full of mud, when I turned to dump it on the mud beside me. Suddenly, one of the tendons in my lower back gave way. I left my bait bucket and fork where they lay, and had to crawl on my hands and knees for nearly half a mile back to the beach. That episode put me in bed for eight days, the pain was excruciating, and I’ve never fully recovered.
It was just bleedin’ typical that it decided to play up the day before a very much-needed hunting trip. I crawled upstairs to my pit, necked some painkillers and Diclofenac, then PM’d Mick to tell him my bad news.
BLESSING IN DISGUISE?
The next evening, Mick called me and told me how his day had gone.
“You must have known, mate, I only managed to shoot one squirrel. I think they’ve been shot at before, Dave. They were very twitchy and extremely wary,” he told me.
Well, that got me thinking about a trip I’d made to Texas many years ago. I was staying with a family friend in a huge house in the middle of nowhere, with more trees and squirrels than you could shake a shooting stick at. There were loads of what looked like bird feeders dotted around the treetops, and after a couple of days observation I discovered that they were, in fact, squirrel feeders. They were all home-made, and Rick, the guy I was staying with, told me that he’d put them up years ago in order to keep the population down with his trusty .22 rimfire - that was some rifle, I can tell you, it held about 20 rounds in a tube magazine! Those squirrels were extremely confident after years of feeding, and I wondered if it would work over here on Mick’s permission. That would be my mission as soon as I could get out of bed again.
A couple of days later, I was up and about, albeit still in a lot of pain, and hunched over like Quasimodo. I hobbled down the garden and found an old decking board, then grabbed a saw, some screws and my electric screwdriver, then hobbled back to my bench.
A quick search of Google on my iPad soon had a dozen or more pictures up with the exact type of feeder I was looking to build, and from there I just winged it and made it all up as I went along. I’m really happy with the result, and I can’t wait to see if the squirrels take to it. For now, until I can get over to shoot with Mick, I’ve put it up in my mate Jim’s garden – where there are three grey squirrels that visit regularly. You can’t get a better field test than that.
1 x decking plank 1 x sheet of clear plastic / perspex 1 x 3-inch hinge 1 x sanding block or paper Screws
BUILDING THE FEEDER
Step 1 Measure a 10-inch length of board and mark it out square, using the square on your saw for accuracy.
With a fine-tooth saw, slowly cut the board to size. (I’m glad I could sit down for this bit). Then repeat the process to give you two 10-inch sections.
“only been up for a day and the squirrels started to use it”
Sand the cut end with a sanding block to remove any sharp edges or splinters.
Mark out a section measuring 6in by 4.5in, cut it out, then flip the decking board over and use that piece as a template to mark out another.
Flipping the board will ensure that you have both side sections of the box with matching patterns. It’s important to make sure that they look exactly like this, so the large grooves sit on the inside of the box.
That’s the sawing done for now. You should have four pieces that look like this.
Begin assembly by screwing the backplate to the base. Use a thin drill bit first, to make pilot holes in order to stop the board from splitting.
Make sure your screws are long enough to go a good way into the board. I used two-inch-long screws for added security.
Three screws should be enough to secure the base to the backplate.
Now it’s time to add the sides. Again, using drilling pilot holes before putting the screws in.
Repeat this process with the other side, putting three screws in each piece on the backplate and base for security.
Grab yourself a large wood bit. This will be used to drill a hole at the top of the backplate.
Drill a hole in the centre towards the top of the backplate. This can be used to hang the feeder from a hook in a tree.
Measure the distance between the grooves on the inside of the box, allowing a tiny bit extra so that the front can slide into it, then measure the depth.
I didn’t want to buy a whole sheet of
Plexiglass for £20, so I bought this tub from the pound shop – result!
Mark out the front dimensions on the clear plastic, and cut it with a Stanley knife whilst using your saw as a guide. NEVER use a plastic ruler for this, or you could lose a few digits.
Slide the clear front into the grooves and you’re almost done. It’s a good idea to cut three or four front sections, just in case of any stray pellets when shooting.
Now it’s time for the lid. I had this old piece of pine cladding in my shed, which is lighter than the decking board – it makes it easier for the squirrel to lift it up. Mark it out with ¼” overlap on each side.
Cut the lid out, sand it down and then attach the hinge to the top.
Attach the other side of the hinge to the backplate of the feeder and you’re done.
You can buy a big bag of peanuts like this from most ‘cheap’ shops. This one cost £3.99 for two kilos.
Lift the lid of your feeder and fill it right up with peanuts. That’s it, a job well done.
I’d only had my homemade feeder up for a day and the squirrels started to use it, so lifting that lid is no problem for those wily tree rats. Now to make full and constructive use of my feeder!