Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Successful Bushytail Hunt Offers a Lesson in Big Game Hunting

It’s no secret among hunters that the squirrel hunting indulgences that proceed the big game seasons help with re-acquiring woods skills; but an afternoon in a lively hardwood stand also offers a lesson in the more weighty aspect of big game hunting—the shot.
The squirrel, as is the case with any game animal, has its unconventional followers.  Muzzleloaders, bowhunters, shot-gunners, riflemen, and air-gunners have all assimilated their tackle into the world of squirrel hunting.  A question poked at their motives most often brings out a hidden pride, accompanied by two words—“the challenge.”  The governing rules of this challenge are determined by the method.  Form follows function.  Each hunting faction emerges with its own mainstream, suitable hunting tactics. 
The same holds true for big game hunters.  Adaptation in the face of limitation is the reason why many bowhunters are treestand connoisseurs, riflemen often practice still-hunting, and muzzleloading hunters will stand hunt or stalk within a very comfortable range.  The key is in knowing the limitations of your approach and applying them to your hunting strategy.
As a general rule, stealth will more readily make or break a deer rather than a squirrel hunt—a missed shot can be detrimental to future prospects of the day.  Even still, a pressured squirrel will often seek a comfortable, unreachable spot in the crotch of a tree to broadcast to the rest of the bushytail community the details of your existence.
One late-season squirrel hunt comes to mind.  Rain overnight had dampened the leaves, and I moved quietly through the open woods.  Several grays eyed me as they moved playfully about the ridge; but I approached slowly, gently teasing the boundaries of their flight distances.  When I felt I was in good position, I found a solid rest, waited for the perfect opportunity—still target, no branches in the way—and gently applied all my knowledge of shooting to the trigger.  From the first to the last of my limit, every squirrel dropped in a surrendering spring from its perch, and all from the same two acres of woods.
Experience has dictated that a good shot will put animals in the bag faster, and before they have time to tell on you.  The same tactic should be practiced with bigger game.  In either case, missed shots should be diligently avoided.
The medium between a missed shot and a made shot is perhaps worse in total than an outright miss.  The hunter assumes a responsibility for preservation upon initiation, and a wounded animal is in direct violation of that trust.  Not only is it an unpleasant occurrence for the animal, but it is also an unfortunate loss for the hunter, and entails much energy spent tracking and searching, sometimes to no avail.
Squirrels have the considerable advantage of being able to climb trees to escape humans, and have a nasty habit of doing so in the event of a non-fatal shooting; whereas bigger game animals take to tight cover, still easily accessed by the tracker.
For me, squirrels lost to trees usually result from assuming the animal dispatched and turning my attention to others in the vicinity before collecting the prize, which bring us to another point.  Never assume an animal dead.  In the squirrel woods, the biggest consequence may be a bushytail lost to a den tree or a badly scratched or bitten hand; but in the world of big game, the swift paw swipe from an angry bear, or powerful punch of a deer hoof could be deadly.
Prevent this incident by always approaching an animal with a weapon readied.
If ever it is safe to assume an animal lifeless, it is if it has tumbled from its tracks down a rocky bluff and, maybe . . . into a river.  Are you going to retrieve such a harvest?  If so, you’re in for an icy bath and possibly bacterially infested yields.  The surroundings of a target and its possible moves if wounded are elements worthy of weighing.  In most cases, if the recovery of a shot is questionable, waiting for your quarry to move could present a better situation, or, even at the loss of the harvest, prevent the possible waste of unrecoverable game.
The key to maximizing the effectiveness of the shot lies in being conservative and apprehensive.  The squirrel woods are a great place to pursue the sport of hunting, and lessons learned there are equally suitable to all hunters.

Mixed Bag
Unfortunately, the hunting seasons are coming to an end; but hopefully that means you have plenty of pictures of trophies!  Share them here via the contact form on the navigation bar at the top.  If you have stories worthy of sharing, share them too!

1 comment :

moose hunt said...

I know full well among predators the squirrel hunting fun activity that proceed the large game seasons assist with re-obtaining forest abilities but an mid-day inside a lively hardwood stand also provides a lesson within the more weighty facet of large game hunting