Preparing for bushytails


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dburkhead
September 5, 2008, 09:48 PM
I'm planning going hunting for squirrels tomorrow morning--first time hunting for squirrels, second time hunting in my life (first time was duck, better than 25 years ago). Today, at the range, I tried some preparation practice.

I had printed out a bunch of squirrel "picture targets"--a squirrel sitting on a limb eating a nut--very archetypical squirrel--that worked out to about 1/2 to 1/3 scale given the "typical" sizes of an adult squirrel I've seen listed (I've never actually measured one in real life). Since the indoor range is limited to 50 feet, this is approximately like shooting 30-50 yards (my rifle, with it's scope set up, is sighted to produce +/- 1 inch using high velocity ammo from 5 to 70 yards, provided I read the ballistics tables right).

Normally, I put the rifle to my shoulder, inhale, let it out, hold, fire, inhale, let it out, hold, fire, etc., until I've fired off one magazine (10 rounds). In addition to the new target, this time I did something different. I held the rifle in a "ready carry" (modified so the barrel was pointed downrange rather than to the side), lifted it to my shoulder, got a sight picture, held my breath at wherever it was in my breathing cycle at that point, and fired relatively quickly. The idea was to mimic what might happen in the woods. I spot a squirrel, and I don't have a lot of time to take aim and take the shot. I also changed my foot positions from time to time, again, on the basis that I wouldn't have time to set up a perfect stance while hunting. The squirrel would be gone before I could get set up.

I shot 100 rounds, of which about 60 hit the squirrel pictures somewhere in the body, not great, but I figure not horrible either. I noticed that I had a strong tendency to hit in the haunches, probably because my eye was drawn to this larger area. This is something I need to be aware of should I get the chance to shoot "live."

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cliffy
September 5, 2008, 10:00 PM
You have a new Ruger 10/22, good choice! What scope are you using, and buy a better one. Any scope using under 1" diameter mounts is a loser from the start. Six out of ten deadly hits is not a good ratio. Of course, practice is most crucial yet good glass is required. THIN crosshairs are required for close-range shooting. Also try CCI Velocitor ammo for great accuracy and deadly strikes. A duplex crosshair scope is the ONLY way to go for protecting your nuts. cliffy

dburkhead
September 5, 2008, 10:15 PM
The scope is an Alpen Kodiak 3.5-10X50. With the rings I have, scope centerline is 1.5" above the bore centerline. That's actually tight enough that the end cap covers don't quite fit over the front and the result is a nice fit with cheek to stock putting my eye right where I want it for the scope.

I usually shoot much tighter than that but this was the first time I tried using a "hunting approach" where I don't have all the time in the world to take the shot so I kind of expect to do worse than usual.

Mind you, I don't claim to be the greatest shot in the world, but this was something different from what I've done before.

buck460XVR
September 6, 2008, 10:25 AM
I shot 100 rounds, of which about 60 hit the squirrel pictures somewhere in the body, not great, but I figure not horrible either. I noticed that I had a strong tendency to hit in the haunches, probably because my eye was drawn to this larger area. This is something I need to be aware of should I get the chance to shoot "live."




most of us that hunt bushytails with a .22 and intend to eat them, go for head shots. Sometimes that may mean waitin' to shoot till the opportunity arises. You may have to walk a little slower and maybe sit and wait till the squirrels reappear and give you a good shot. Ain't no fun cleanin' gut-shot treerats and makin' burger outta them is best done after they're dead and cleaned.

Okiecruffler
September 6, 2008, 11:01 AM
You'll probably have more time to get your shot off than you think. If they don't think you've seen them they'll hold tight ans still to that tree trunk. For eating, head shots and standard velocity ammo (hey, the head ain't always available and you have to make do) are good. Hyper-velocity HP's are bad. If you don't plan on eating them I guess it doesn't matter what you shoot them with, but I got 2 yesterday and turned them into stew, I can't imagine why you wouldn't eat them.

Zip7
September 6, 2008, 12:38 PM
Still hunting for squirrels is about 85% sneaking up on them, and 15% shooting.

Usually you spot the squirrel well before you are in range (unless you are toting a 17hmr squirrel sniperizer like I sometimes do).

I hunt squirrels with dogs, which is totally different - it's about 5% waiting, 20% running, 50% looking for hidden sq. and 25% shooting.

HB
September 6, 2008, 12:58 PM
Use a tree to brace your rifle up as well, and don't pepper them all over their body. Just take one good shot at their head, I wouldn't even load more that 2 rounds. It sounds like you are a little trigger happy :) One breath, one squeeze, one hit, repeat.

Watch your backstop too

HB

dburkhead
September 6, 2008, 10:14 PM
Interesting stuff. I've never hunted squirrel before and the one's I've seen in urban and suburban environments never seem to sit still for very long. That's why I thought I had to get the shot off quick.

My _intended_ point of aim was heart/lung area. However, I noticed that despite that intention my shots were actually going more to "center of mass" of the image. This was something I figured I needed to pay more attention to even at the time.

Some have mentioned "head shots" and, actually, now that I think about it, on squirrels, a head shot is little, if any, smaller a target than the "vitals" shot that I see recommended for hunting. I'll try that more.

For the most part, I practice shooting offhand (although occasionally putting the sandbag on the shelf to shoot from). I figure, if I can shoot well offhand, I can shoot better with support but the reverse doesn't hold.

In any case, I went out on my little venture this morning. I heard (I think) several squirrels "barking." I Set up as covered as I could get and waited a good half hour but nothing came into view from where I think the barking was coming from. I did see a tree limb flexing in the distance to one side (kind of glimpsed between limbs of nearer trees) and think I caught a quick flash of a squirrel moving through it, but that may only have been my imagination. No time to even move on my part, let alone get a shot (and I probably wouldn't have tried at that range anyway).

Several things I learned from this trip:

First, make a checklist of what to take along. There were several things I wanted (my binoculars, a camera in case I got lucky) that I didn't have.

Second, I hadn't bought camouflage yet but I did dress in "subdued" clothing (a kind of dull green "plaid" long-sleeve pullover and jeans). I think good camo is next on my list of things to acquire.

Third, the trees were a lot taller than I was expecting, not spreading to crowns until quite a ways up. This suggests that any shots I make would have to be at a longer range than I had originally expected.

Fourth, I really wasn't used to the kind of walking I had to do--stepping over obstacles, much steeper grades than you generally face in the typical urban environment, etc. Be the end of the morning, the muscles around my ankles were tired and sore, and this was wearing boots that I thought provided good support.

Fifth, I found reserves of patience that, quite frankly, I never knew I had (that half our wait, hoping Mr. Bushytail would come out to play). Okay, maybe to a seasoned hunter or a Ranger Sniper or something like that, it's trivial, but it means something to me.

In any case, that's the result of my first squirrel hunt.

mio
September 6, 2008, 10:41 PM
invest in a squirrel call they are cheap and effective

Griz44
September 6, 2008, 10:48 PM
go for head shots.

NO! I love squirrel brains and scrambled eggs. That will ruin them for sure.

Yea, I know I'm warped, but it was the way I was raised, And I like 'em!
!

deerhunter61
September 6, 2008, 10:59 PM
It seems you had a good time today. It is a lot of fun to squirrel hunt. I have done so quite a bit. I have not gone in quite a while but come the 11th of Oct I am going with my father-in-law and a buddy. We are really looking forward to it.

To have success you need to first be quiet, listen and watch. Then if you see them in the distance close the gap slowly until you get close enough for a shot. Do not wait to see if they will move to you...you move to them! If they disappear when you get close do not worry just wait a few minutes and they will usually start moving again. Do not rush to get a shot off. Take your time and make sure the shot you take is a good one.

Good luck in the future!

dagger dog
September 6, 2008, 11:14 PM
When you get into the woods, find out what they are cutting,there will be hickory nut or black walnut shavings and half chewed nuts lying all around the base of the trees and even out to the drip line. If your lucky enough to find one of these ,you need to remember where it is and sneak in before daylight and set up where you have a good shooting area. The squirrels will move in as soon as there is daylight enough for them to start moving.

If you set tight with little movement
you might be able to limit out without moving! Taking two or more from one of these good locations is more normal. By moving in in the dark and setting up , the squirrel doesn't know where the shot is coming from, or even if he does locate you he can't tell what you are and may even challenge you by barking.

The ambush situation is the most productive. Then if you tire or the squirrels don't come in to the ambush, you have the opportunity to listen and watch the surrounding tree tops. If you happen to spot or hear activity you can spot and stalk. This is where the squirrel has the advantage, his eyes and whole nervous system is set up to percieve movement. The stalker has to be on his toes and only move when the quarry is busy , or maybe when there is a slight breeze where the movement of the leaves can hide the hunters motion.

On the hot dog days of summer, even old busytail has the common sense to take a well needed nap when the heat starts to build. Take a break go back to the car or truck and have a bottle of soda and a sandwich, clean and ice down what you you were lucky enough to take that morning, and have a little snooze. Then you'll be ready to have another go at the little buggers in the cooler evening hours.

deerhunter61
September 7, 2008, 12:08 PM
"The ambush situation is the most productive. Then if you tire or the squirrels don't come in to the ambush, you have the opportunity to listen and watch the surrounding tree tops. If you happen to spot or hear activity you can spot and stalk. This is where the squirrel has the advantage, his eyes and whole nervous system is set up to percieve movement. The stalker has to be on his toes and only move when the quarry is busy , or maybe when there is a slight breeze where the movement of the leaves can hide the hunters motion."

But the stalk is the most fun to me and it is also the best way to hone your hunting skills. You will have the opportunity to learn how to move in the woods and not upset your quarry! That is also the game that brings the most satisfaction when you succeed!

EatBugs
September 9, 2008, 10:38 AM
I love to snipe squirrels with my 22 later in the season. I usually like to hide near a good squirrelly spot with a good rest for my gun and pick them off. Sometimes I get caught in the open on my way there or sometimes just feel like moving to another location.

My strategy.... I like a steady shot and a gun rest when shooting with my 22 and I know the feeling of being caught with squirrel in sight and not wanting to screw the shot up.

My creation: I found a nice walking stick that was sturdy and tall (taller than me)and light to carry. I took many long screws and screwed them part way into the stick at a little under 1 foot intervals at an angle to create a "y" on the side of the stick all the way up and carved a notch at the very top of the stick. I took electrical tape and taped up the the nails for extra support and to cover any noise or metal on metal contact. and TaDa!!! I have a light walking stick for swatting spider webs, avoiding thorns, balance, and an instant gun rest for many angles whether I'm sitting on the ground or walking through the woods.

Other hunters often laugh when they first see it but leave looking for walking sticks of their own.

wleggart
September 10, 2008, 05:12 PM
find water flowing stream is best. look along that water for nut bearing trees. this time of year squirrels are eating hickory nuts, black walnuts, pecans, and pine nuts. you can tell what they are eating by looking at the ground as you scout. IF you area has muscadine grapes or any other fruit bearing vines they are very attractive to squirrels as well. Don't get discouraged: the path is just as much fun as the destination. There are several good videeos on how to skin a squirrel on web. They are also excellent table fare. If smothered means anything to you that's how. Don't get greedy 2 makes a large meal. Small grey squirrels are better eating than old red squirrels. If they are old red squirrels and they smell rank they are awful to eat, stink up the house, and ruin the rest of the small grey squirrels you are cooking. By the way I use a .17m2 Marlin 917 with Lupold M6 scope. I did have the muzzle crowned and the trigger stoned (speak to your gunsmith if you thing that your 10/22 isn't accurate enough or there are strays in the groups you shoot. Best regards. Bill

dburkhead
September 13, 2008, 11:00 PM
And my second trip was even more of a learning experience--I got lost.

I made two major mistakes which led to that:

1) I cued on terrain features. In particular I knew that I had to cross a ravine/dry creek bed to get back to the fire trail where I'd parked (and, once there, it would be a right turn back to the car.

2) Once I realized I wasn't going the right way, I checked my compass, but (and I'm a physicist; I should know better), for quite some time I didn't set down my gear and step away from it so the metal screwed up the compass readings.

I've reconstructed where I probably went on this little "treck" here:

http://i57.photobucket.com/albums/g206/dburkhead/DBTrek091308JPG.jpg

A couple of other things I noted while I was out there:

On some of the softer spots on the fire trail on my way home, I saw deer tracks, probably doe. I also saw tracks of what looks to be a remarkably large cat: main pad and four "toe" pads but no claw marks as one would find with canines. These tracks were a good inch and a half to two inches across. I'm not sure what made them, but I'm pretty sure I don't want to meet.

At one point when I was stopping to take a compass bearing, I also spooked a turkey.

Another thing I learned is that my hydration pack was a lifesaver, possibly literally. By the time I finally hit pavement again, I was completely exhausted, but at least I was hydrated. I was back in the care and halfway home before I finally finished the last of the water.

In the end, I didn't have to break into the emergency kit stuff, and I didn't have to call for help (I was carrying my cell), so I guess it's all good.

Oh, I saw exactly two squirrels--both after I'd returned to my car and was driving home. :(

wleggart
September 14, 2008, 04:02 PM
Like I said the journey is as much fun as the destination. As you look back at it the thrill of being lost is pretty cool AFTER you find your way out. A GPS will solve any fears you have of getting lost. Just mark your starting point and you can return to it by your backtrack or straight line. It is very simple, and cheap. Exta batteries are important. So, did you find squirrel sign i.e. nut cuttings, squirrel nests in the trees? How many ticks or chiggers did you get on your last hunt? The possibility of anything actually hurting you while you are hunting is very remote. You have a much better chance getting hurt going to the convenience story around the corner from your house. Don't worry, enjoy yourself.

koja48
September 14, 2008, 05:00 PM
Practice from all positions is important & I commend you for doing so, but DON'T hold your breath and always use a rest whenever feasible. Snap-shooting off-hand should be a fluid motion . . . no changes in the way your body functions other than "acquire sight picture and squeeze (not jerk) the trigger." It's much easier to "come up" on your target when shooting off-hand & coordinating the trigger squeeze than it is to find, attempt to hold steady (watch the crosshairs wander), then try to shoot at the squirrel/target.

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