Squirrel Hunting Gun Help


Brand H
December 29, 2013, 01:32 PM
Hi Everyone. This is my first post but I've been browsing for a while. I just got back from squirrel hunting and have a question...
I'm in my late 30s now but grew up squirrel hunting with a .22 LR. I would go for head shots as to not ruin the meat. If I missed a few, so what? Now I live in an area where they won't allow you to use a rifle. I have nothing but 12 gauges. I have been taking my 870 Wingmaster and shooting high powered 6 shot. My gun has a full choke and 30 inch barrel. I bought it for deer hunting with buckshot. It holds a very tight pattern. My problem is that I've had to toss a couple of squirrel because they were blown to bits. It really kills me to waste like that. Do you have any recommendations on how to use a 12 gauge and not destroy the meat at closer ranges? I have a browning with adjustable chokes. Should I use that with an IC or should I keep using the 870 fixed full and choose a different round? Thanks in advance.

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December 29, 2013, 01:39 PM
If you backed off to an IC choke I think you would have a lot better luck. A full choke will result in a lot of shot hitting the squirrel which is unnecessary, because a squirrel can be killed with one shot from a pellet gun. For shot you could probably use 4 to 6 shot steel. If you go any higher it will be way harder to pick the shot out of the meat. Not an expert, just my opinion.

December 29, 2013, 01:47 PM
A full choke at close range will destroy the tree rat like you have found.

If you reload you can shoot a lighter shot weight like 7/8 or even 3/4oz. This would cut down the shot density pattern more toward a 20 ga. A 20 ga or 410 would be a better choice. Maybe find a cheap single shot to use.

December 29, 2013, 03:04 PM
.410s work very well. The ammo is more expensive, which makes no sense, but you can find a single shot .410 very affordably priced. I like them for squirrels because they generally don't leave as much for your teeth to crack on as a 12 or 20 ga.

December 29, 2013, 03:10 PM
I agree with Court, get a 410 single shot. Very inexpensive.

Brand H
December 29, 2013, 03:15 PM
Thanks for all of the feedback. I didn't really want to buy another gun but it looks like that may be my only choice. I love squirrel hunting but feel guilty about blowing them up and not being able use them. I'll start hitting the pawn shops for a cheap .410 or 20.

Brand H
December 29, 2013, 03:35 PM
Also, for the 410 or 20, what choke should I get? Most shots are within 30 yards with average about 20 yards.

Icky The Great
December 29, 2013, 04:08 PM
I use a 410s for squirrel (full choked) as well as 22s and 17s. To be completely honest I like the 410s. I use them for turkey on occasion. Full choke is best, imho, as you have far less pellets than a 12. Keeping a tighter group only helps taking game cleanly. A single shot could be had for a reasonable price and you could use it on all small game and even use it on deer with slugs (cyl or imp choke) as a sub 100yrd gun. He is my most recent outting for bushytails or as we call them, Tree rats. Both of these critters were taken with head shots at about 10 and 23 yards. The smaller one had one pellet that passed thru a lung and got stuck behind the hide. I did have one back in Oct I had to toss because he jumped as I shot and ended up rupturing his bladder. I had 5 others so it wasn't a big deal but I am certain the coyotes are thankful.

Brand H
December 29, 2013, 05:17 PM
Very nice, Icky. I'll take all of that into consideration.

December 29, 2013, 05:46 PM
I prefer to hunt with a .22 pistol, but take a few now and then on my woods walks with my 20 gauge SsS choked I/C-mod and it does a good job with 6 shot. I've taken quite a few in my youth with a .410, too. I preferred to take my rifle, but there were rabbits in those woods, too, and I could get a better percentage on running rabbits with the little .410. Unfortunately, I no longer have that gun, traded it off nearly a half century ago.

Yeah, all you really need is a H&R .410 single shot. :D

red rick
December 29, 2013, 07:01 PM
I have killed more squirrels with a Crossman 760 BB gun than anything else . I have even killed them with a hand made slingshot that my grandfather made me . That was many years ago though .

December 29, 2013, 09:00 PM
I think before I bought a new gun, I would consider going with low brass game loads instead of the high powered loads and at close ranges aim past the head of the squirrel instead of right on it. This way the squirrel would be hit in the head/front with the edge of the pattern. Sometimes when folks use a shotgun for small game, they get less precise about their aim. Hunt like you did with your .22 and be picky about your shots. Wait till all you can see is the head. Again, instead of pointing at the middle of the squirrel try to catch it in the edge of your pattern so it takes less of the shot charge. Besides, a missed squirrel is better than throwin' one away that's blown to bits. Also, a replacement barrel for your 870 would be less expensive than a new gun.

December 29, 2013, 10:14 PM
Reloads some 12 gauge 3/4oz loads as mentioned above. Easy recoil, works fine.

December 29, 2013, 10:22 PM
Just buy a different barrel to install on your 870. Say a 24 inch that uses screw in chokes and can use steel shoot.

December 29, 2013, 11:03 PM
I find the cheap Remington lead game loads in #6 through a Modified choke are just fine through a 12 ga. Like Buck460 said, I point ahead of the head, to catch the squirrel with the edge of the pattern.

1911 guy
December 30, 2013, 01:18 AM
Use the Browning with a less restrictive choke. Start with #6 and pattern it. I'd change choke before shot size to get what you want. If it's still too dense, open the choke a bit and go to #5, one variable at a time. Going smaller will mean more pellets in a given load and you'll have a harder time getting them all out. I shot a squirrel at relatively close range (about 10 yards) with a full choke 20 ga. and #8 shot. That was a mess to pick shot out of.

Marlin 45 carbine
December 30, 2013, 05:23 AM
as johnathan and buck. use low brass and aim a bit in front of the head. taken many cornfield squacks w/that load/technique.
squack w/dumplings will always be a favorite dish of mine when the weather cools. fryed cabbage for a side.

December 30, 2013, 03:55 PM
I grew up shooting squirrels with a .410, an old Iver Johnson single shot. The only buckshot trouble I had was if I forgot to aim in front of the squirrel if he was close. I don't think I ever threw one away due to shot damage. Nowadays I occasionally shoot squirrels with a .410 just for fun. I picked up a vintage Winchester model 20 single shot at a gun show and have really enjoyed my hunts with it with the added advantage that I can hit them running.

December 30, 2013, 06:22 PM
Try your 12 Ga. with #6 shot & an IC choke before you invest in another gun. Aim at the nose & I think you will do OK even on relatively short range shots.

December 30, 2013, 07:02 PM
Here in Arkansas we use 12ga with #6 high brass. We have tall trees and seldom have a really close shot. But when we do, we just pull off a little.

Brand H
December 30, 2013, 08:46 PM
Thank y'all very much. All of the info is very helpful. I had the chance to get out for a couple hours this evening after work. I brought my Browning with a modified choke. I used some "low brass" #6 shot. I managed to get two and didn't blow them up. I took the advice for aiming at the nose. All shot were in the head and shoulders. Both were less than 15 yards though. I'm going to pattern the gun with this combo to get a feel for different ranges. I also am going to look into a single barrel .410. I shopped around a little and didn't realize how affordable they are. In the mean time I'll work with what I have.

I love hunting pics and since Icky shared one I thought I would too. This is my Christmas pig. I went squirrel hunting last week and this guy nearly ran me over. Came within 6' of me. That's the 870 that caused the thread. I shot the hog with those high powered #6 that I was talking about. Shot right in the side of the head and all pellets went in a hole about the size of a quarter. Didn't take another step.


December 30, 2013, 09:16 PM
My original Stevens 22\410 with Tenite stock. 22 short followings and 3" 410 #6s. Quiet rifle (std vel) and not too many shotgun pellets.

der Teufel
January 3, 2014, 08:26 PM
I can't say how well this will work, but I once had a friend (honest, I really DID have a friend!) who was taking a taxidermy course and wanted a squirrel to practice on. I shot one out of a tree using #10 shot. It was about 30' up in a tree, and the shot barely penetrated the skin. I think it basically knocked the squirrel out of the tree and the fall to the ground killed it. At any rate, could you use a shot size smaller than #6? I wouldn't seriously recommend #10 shot, but maybe 7 . . .

If this is a bad idea, I'm sure someone will say so and why. I'd be interested in hearing the answer myself.

January 3, 2014, 09:14 PM
The smaller the shot you use, the more shot the meat will have in it to break all your teeth when you cook it.


January 3, 2014, 09:15 PM
You should be able to pick up a Rossi single shot in .410 for about $110.00 New. I have seen them used in the local gun shops for $65.00

dagger dog
January 4, 2014, 12:41 PM
"He who eats the most squirrel and dumplin's, eats the most hair and shot"

I can get out most of the shot, but it's all that hair that the shot pushes into the meat that's tough, but it all comes out in the end.:D

January 4, 2014, 12:49 PM
I use a Mossberg 500 20 Gauge with #6 shot in a Modified Choke.

This is my first season. So far the squirrels I've harvested have only had one or two pellets stuck in them and they were against the skin on the far side, NOT in the meat.


January 4, 2014, 01:02 PM
To keep the hair out soak the whole squirrel in water before you skin it. It will be wet and the hair will stick to the the skin instead of the meat when you skin it.

January 4, 2014, 01:59 PM
I would buy a .22lr.

January 5, 2014, 11:43 AM
d2wing, depending on the state this may not be an option. I can't use a rifle on squirrels in NJ.

edit: In fact, in the original post on this thread OP states he can not use a rifle where he lives.

Captain Capsize
January 15, 2014, 10:27 PM
My favorite squirrel gun is this Savage model 24 .22 mag over 20 ga. It also came in handy when a flock of turkeys walked by while I was squirrel hunting.

January 17, 2014, 09:42 AM
I use a 16ga. For rabbits and squirrels. I use either #4's or #6's. For these big fox squirrels 4's seem better. Those are both Ithaca 37 16ga guns, just build date of the receiver is 22 yrs apart. The older Ithacas only weigh a little over 6lbs. You have the ease of carrying like a 20, and almost the power of a 12ga.

I have not had to toss one yet, but as you can see, these are big squirrels.

I have gotten these 6 over the last 2 weeks.




January 18, 2014, 11:06 AM
"He who eats the most squirrel and dumplin's, eats the most hair and shot"

I can get out most of the shot, but it's all that hair that the shot pushes into the meat that's tough, but it all comes out in the end.:D

Over the years, I have bitten into too many shot pellets. Larger pellets are easier to find than small pellets. Small pellets are just as hard on teeth as large pellets. Most everything I shoot with a shotgun(other than Turkeys) gets the meat pounded out flat with a meat mallet before being cooked. Shot and shot trails are simple to find when the meat can be seen thru. Most pellets "bounce out" when the meat is pounded also. I've yet to be that hungry that I need to eat the "holes" also.

January 18, 2014, 12:33 PM
Wouldn't a cheap mini metal detector help find the shot?

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