Tuesday, November 15, 2011

An Afternoon of Squirrel Control

Mixed Woods

    Walking through the woods Sunday afternoon confirmed that I needed to do some serious squirrel hunting.  In a period of about an hour I observed more than thirty squirrels, most of which I got withing shooting range of.
    Monday afternoon was warm and slightly breezy, and I arrived home with an hour and a half of light left to hunt.  I grabbed my air rifle and a handful of pellets and walked into the woods with a run-and-gun strategy in my head.  Fifty yards down a dirt trail that runs behind the dog fence the first shot presented itself.  A young, but solid bushytail had spotted me and was scaling a thick red oak broadside to me.  I used a convenient horizontal log as a rest and fired a shot that dropped the unlucky squirrel.  With squirrel number one in the bag, and roughly forty-five minutes left in the day, I decided to head straight to a beech stand that I observed several squirrels the previous night.
    I reached a pine edge on the crest of a hardwood ridge and quietly slipped into the shadows, taking advantage of the soft pine bedding that layered the forest floor.  The stand of pine is not a hundred yards deep, and soon I was approaching another hardwood edge.  Still somewhat concealed, I trusted my feet to find their footing as I scanned the ground and trees for bushytails, letting my left hand grasp a gum sapling for stability.

    The minute I grabbed the tree, the leaves up high must have moved because several squirrels split in opposite directions.  I picked one early and stuck with him as he sped along the branches of a young oak tree, desperately craving the safety of the solid pine.  With a crack of my air rifle I dropped him, just feet from the edge.  The second perched broadside on a dead beech, barking, warning the others in his feeding group of my presence.  With one more crack, I placed another pellet in the center of his back.  A third squirrel was advancing to the safety of the pine trees.  Leaping to a pine trunk, he hesitated a second too long, and he too fell to the soft ground with a quick, but practiced, discharge of my air rifle.

    With the golden light fading, I only had minutes to locate the downed squirrels.  I felt confident in my mind that I had mentally marked the spots where the bushytails had landed, but the laurel on the ground, and the possibility of them moving after hitting the ground left me with only one of my four grays when I was caught in full darkness.
    Both today's success, and the fact that I lost a few squirrels due to heavy ground cover and disappearing light, drive home a belief I've been subscribing to for a few years.  Contrary to the belief that squirrels are creatures of hardwood forests, exceptional squirrel hunting can be had in mixed woods.  Quick, easy access to evergreens, like white and yellow pines, allow squirrels to feed, or make a speedy escape from a hunter, in treetops that don't sag under their weight and give away their position.  Pine trees' evergreen quality also provide cover from predators in the winter, when hunters are in the woods and leaves are on the ground rather than on the trees.  Pines also provide a staple food source for squirrels--pine nuts.
    Another case in which I rely heavily on pine woods is when the wind is blowing.  The strong backbone, and close-growing property of the white pine has a wind-blocking quality.  Inside of a stand of pines is also much quieter on a howler than the open hard woods, giving the bushytail a leg up in avoiding predators from their quiet perch in the crotch of a tall white pine.

1 comment :

alex azoury said...

Seems its a hunting adventure you've enjoyed. I also enjoyed reading your post. If you're only using gun and shooting squirrels for fun and enjoyment, then its fine. but, if you are really fed up with the creature disturbing your gardens and all, then you should try some traps that can catch many squirrels at once and help you to get rid of squirrel problem. You can find some great tips about traps over internet.

By the way, thanks for the post as I really enjoyed reading it.