Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sniping Tree Rats

I guess most country boy learn to shoot from hunting rabbits and squirrels as a child, I know I did. Dad liked to hunt them with a shotgun but I learned real fast that can cause some problems when you bust up the smelly guts with the shotgun pellets. Pop had me stand downwind while we field dressed my first gut shot squirrel and I about blew lunch when I pulled his jammies off.

Our neighbor Thadell used a bolt action .22 and shot every one of his squirrels in the head. This caught my attention and turned me into a rimfire fan for taking sneaky tree rats. To me there's nothing more fun they doing the Mohican Sneak up on a wary squirrel. Once in range you still have to get a clear sight picture to snipe the head and drop it clean to the forest floor without hanging up in a tree canopy or fork in the trunk. Precison work for sure along with a heck of a lot of patience. Some of these dedicated squirrel assassins are known to gather each October near Plato Mo. This is their mark.

The first trick to finding squirrels is to find places where they hang out, den trees are the easiest to spot. The dark circles in oak tree trunks are signs that Mr. Squirrel is close by. Your biggest heartbreak will come if they spot you first as you ease into their back yard and race to their safe hole, leaving you with no easy shot.

This year I was able to enjoy a warm evening hunt with Doc and his young son T-Bone. T-Bone has the eyes of an eagle so us old dudes let him find the grays and reds for us. Doc was using a H&R 12 gauge signel shot shotgun and I had my trusty Marlin 25MN .22 WMR bolt rifle out for a walk in the timber. The leaves were late in turning colors and dropping so it was tough to see anything low in the dense ground cover. The evil wind also fought against us, blowing the huge oak and hickory treetops around all afternoon. I've found on windy noisy days like this that most animals lay up, they just don't like keeping track of all the motion and commotion.

The population also seemed a bit low in the area where we normally hunt around Plato MO with Doc ending up with one gray for the pot at camp.Try as I might with den trees all around me I never even saw a squirrel.

Here in SoCal we're not allowed to hunt tree squirrels, something that just made me scratch my head when I moved here. Some "Save The Squirrel Society" always blocks any attempt to start a season for them here. I could travel a few hours north to be able to hunt them in the next county and I may do so again this year, it would just be so much more convenient to hunt them here. I can't imagine being a kid here in this county and not being able to get home from school and head out for an evening squirrel hunt.

How's your squirrel season going so far?

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