David points out that there is still two months of prime squirrel hunting season left in the new year.
USA – -(AmmoLand.com)- Every year when deer season ends, hunters all over the country put their guns away, start watching football. Or wait until spring for the turkeys to start gobbling and rarely bother to get out in the woods during the months in between. But they’re missing out on one of the most fun things to do during the winter downtime, and that’s to hunt for squirrels.
Here in New York, squirrel season is the longest hunting season we have, starting on the first day of September and ending at the end of February giving you a total of six months to put some small critters into a stew pot, and if you’ve never had a bowl of old-fashioned squirrel stew, you haven’t lived.
Sadly the older I get, and the more people I talk to, I find there are less and fewer hunters who bother to go out for squirrels anymore. Most seem to find it too bothersome to grab a .22 or a shotgun that early when it’s too warm, and they seem not to like going out in the winter when it’s cold. I can tell you though that there’s nothing like it at either time of year.
I started squirrel hunting at the same time I started deer hunting when I was eighteen or so. After a while, I started seeing so many big grey squirrels I got tired of watching them from the deer stand. On the days I would never see signs of deer, I began wondering why I didn’t pop one of those abundant early season squirrels.
The next year I began carrying a .22 pistol, and I got practicing to the point where I could bag a grey from under 25 yards. Then once deer season was over, I started taking a gun out for squirrel and my winter meat started to increase.
I found I was able to get a lot more squirrels with a .22 rifle than a shotgun. That wasn’t so much because of skill, but in some of the woods where I hunt, you might see a squirrel out to thirty or forty yards where a .410 might be pushing it. My favorite gun has been my old Remington Model 33 single shot that I have owned for almost twenty years. In the time since I have owned it the number of squirrels that have been collected with that gun number in the triple digits.
Over the years I have tried a variety of .22 LR loads, of all brands but I have had the most luck with nothing more than standard velocity loads. They tend to be quieter than the high-velocity rounds and have occasionally scored a double on squirrels, the second grey not knowing what happened to the first. I have also had the occasional squirrel stay within gun range when I have missed.
I have taken squirrels with an odd assortment of handguns over the years. In addition to the few .22 LR handguns, I have bagged them with a .22 Magnum Ruger Single Six, and even a Smith & Wesson Model 39 9mm; the FMJ round didn’t do much damage to the meat, passing clean through.
Squirrel hunting is one of the age-old hunting sports of this country. Back in the days before refrigerators and a way to preserve meat, it was nothing for someone to go out and shoot a couple of squirrels for dinner for the family, and that task many times fell to the younger members of the family.
Squirrel hunting taught marksmanship skills in a time when ammunition was scarce and to a farm family with only a few dollars, it was also expensive. General stores sold .22 rounds in partial boxes, selling however many rounds the buyer could afford at a time, and those rounds were precious.
Most people today think hitting a deer at 100 yards is a tricky shot. Not to an experienced squirrel hunter. I’ve seen old timers who can knock a nice grey out of a tree at thirty or forty yards with a .22 like it was nothing special.
Taking your .22 to the range and plinking away at a target is just fine, but if you plan on taking that gun out to hunt squirrels, you need to be able to hit the critters. One of my favorite targets has always been either playing cards or simple 3×5 index card. Put them out at the 25-yard line and have at it. A playing card turned sideways is about the same area as the vitals as a large grey squirrel. Get out the Ace of spades or a face card, and you can mimic a target roughly the size of a squirrel’s head.
Squirrel hunting seems to be a dying sport. I can maybe count the number of people on one hand I know who has ever done it locally in my lifetime. Most hunters now seem to stick to whitetails and turkeys and leave the rest of woods alone. All I can say is you are missing out on quality time in the woods.
At one-time squirrel hunting was probably the most common way to get meat for the family. It was a right of passage for the young boys in a family to start hunting, heck; even Annie Oakley got her beginning bagging small game, squirrels in particular when she was a teenager. Don’t just go out and chase squirrels for yourself and the meat you can get, but take a youngster with you and get them started in it too, you won’t regret it.
About David LaPell
David LaPell has been a Corrections Officer with the local Sheriff’s Department for thirteen years. A collector of antique and vintage firearms for over twenty years and an avid hunter. David has been writing articles about firearms, hunting and western history for ten years. In addition to having a passion for vintage guns, he is also a fan of old trucks and has written articles on those as well.