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Squirrel Hunting... What is MY accuracy requirement?

Discussion in 'Hunting' started by Doc7, Dec 13, 2012.

  1. Doc7

    Doc7 Well-Known Member

    Hello all!

    I recently obtained my FIRST firearm, a Marlin Model 60 .22LR, in the Birch stock. It is a very fun rifle through the first 250 rounds I've put through it. I also plan on acquiring a Marlin XT-22 Bolt Action .22LR when my gun money fund is big enough.

    As a new shooter, I hope to spend a lot of weekends on the range this summer, working on my accuracy (including visiting an Appleseed course), with both the Model 60 and the XT-22. The XT-22 in particular will be the only gun I can legally hunt with in Pennsylvania, where the lake house is located. I can't use either rifle in NJ.

    My goal is to go on my first hunting hike through the woods ever, next fall (I will be 28, a late starter in life as I have no family into firearms or hunting! and squirrel season opens up right around the weekend of my wedding, so it will be a fun post-honeymoon present to myself).

    In terms of working on my own marksmanship accuracy, as well as deciding if I would like to make gun modifications such as pillaring the stock, bedding, etc, which I read about on "accurizing" posts and videos, what is my goal for accuracy to humanely and effectively take out the tree rats? 1" grouping at the specified distance? 1/2" , etc?

    I have read various posts discussing group sizes people get with their rifles, and then other posts discussing the size of a squirrel brain, and just want to make sure that before I go into the woods with my safety course knowledge, permit, and rifle in hand, that I at least can prove to myself on paper that I have the accuracy skills required for the distance of the shots I may take. If I can only prove that to 25 yards, then that's my distance. If I can prove it to 50, that's possible too then. If I can't prove it at any range...then, I will be calling on the coming-soon Mossberg 500 20 gauge :)

    Thanks for any advice!
  2. 1911 guy

    1911 guy Well-Known Member

    whatever range you can hit a golf ball, that's about it for head shots. But also keep in mind that you can put a .22 solid right through or just behind the front shoulders and still have most of the meat. That gives you an aiming point twice the size of the head.
  3. Naybor

    Naybor Well-Known Member

    You have gotten a good first rifle.
    Also you seem to have a good head on your shoulders about how to proceed.

    Learn your maximum range ~ the golf ball sized target is a good idea ~ also remember a .22 will go up to a mile or mile and a half so try to make sure you have a tree limb for a background when shooting up. You may want to invest later in a shotgun for squirrels and rabbits.

    Woodchucks (ground hogs) will give you good practice on head shots with your .22 if they are in your area. I've taken HUNDREDS of them with my Model 60.

    Stay safe and good hunting.

    BTW, welcome to the forum.

    Edit: the second rifle is a good idea. I went with a Marlin Model 25MN in .22 magnum and use both .22s about equally for groundhog. Also, the .22 mag has taken it's share of coyotes in Oklahoma.
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2012
  4. Mencius

    Mencius Well-Known Member

    Never really thought about it. When I was first starting out deer hunting I figured I could shoot a deer at whatever range I could pick up my gun, cold, and put a bullet on a pie plate every time. I have never missed or lost a deer.

    Obviously a squirrel head is a good bit smaller than a deer. One way you might want to consider is to get some of those 1"-1.5" round stickers and put a few of them on a piece of paper. Start out at, say, 5 yards until you can put, maybe, 4 out of five in the circle. Then take a step back and shoot again until you can get 4 out of 5 in the sticker and keep moving back. Obviously, do this from the position you are going to be shooting from in the woods (standing I am thinking).

    I don't usually start squirrel hunting until after deer season ends (January 1). I always look forward to it, though. Good times.

    Just a thought and good luck.
  5. Captcurt

    Captcurt Well-Known Member


    Welcome to the wonderful world of hunting. You have been given good advice but one thing is missing. Practice, practice, practice. I don't mean from a bench rest. I mean offhand, sitting, standing, with and without a rest. I use a tree or rest anytime I can, but sometimes you can't so it pays to practice from any positions. It will pay off in big dividends.

    Squirrel hunting is a great primer for deer.
  6. Blue68f100

    Blue68f100 Well-Known Member

    22's are very sensitive to ammo. I would suggest trying different mfg and loads and find what your gun like. My ATD like the America Eagle AE22 38gr HP. It will shoot one ragged hole at 25yrds if I do my part. If your shooting with a scope you will then need to learn how to compensate at different distance for what your sighted in at. For most a gun sighted in at 25yrds will be on at 55 yrds too. Then you need to know how much you need to compensate at distances other than those.
  7. Doc7

    Doc7 Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the advice here!

    After Christmas, I will have my Mod60 set up with peep iron sights, and the bolt-action with a scope. I'll take them both to an Appleseed in the spring, and practice on golf balls and Appleseed qual targets over the summer. Whichever sighting system I feel good with by next fall will go on the bolt gun for my first squirrel hunts. The scope seems more precise but does add a lot of weight to an otherwise very light gun, which seems to make off-hand shots more difficult. I'm sure those shots will get better once I develop good practice techniques.

    Sent from my BlackBerry 9650 using Tapatalk
  8. shiftyer1

    shiftyer1 Well-Known Member

    I never really thought about it before concerning squirrels. My .22 targets are used bottle caps, shotgun shells and cig lighters from 50 yards or so.

    A .22 is very easy to shoot accurately in my experiance. If your eyesight is like mine......get a scope to help you:)
  9. DurangoKid

    DurangoKid Well-Known Member

    The best all around hunters I have known started out hunting squirels. You have been given good advice on shooting. I would add learn how to skin a squirel before you harvet one.:uhoh:
  10. Sniper66

    Sniper66 Well-Known Member

    I started out hunting squirrels whe I was a pup around 6-7 years old, which means I have hunted squirrels for 60 years. The distance you shoot will be self limiting by conditions, circumstance, and what you get comfortable with. Most of us rimfire guys work for head shots so the golf ball is the right size to think about. Helps to get good at estimating range. I used to not hesitate to take 60-70 yd shots, even an occasional 100 yarder, but now, I wait for closer shots...not as young and restless as I used to be. Butm now I have better equipment which helps. Hop[e ypou become addicted. It is great fun. Makes me want to load up and go right now.
  11. Blue68f100

    Blue68f100 Well-Known Member

    Learn to call them too. It will be something you will enjoy. I like the Knight & Hale caller the best and I us 2 quarters as a caller too. Just set and call them, you don't have to go tramping through the woods. Find a spot that gives you good cover and hopefully your back side is not woods so they want slip up on you. I'm disabled so tracking through the woods are not an option for me. I setup one of the chair blinds and call them too me. If your patient enough you can get them close enough to shoot with a pistol like I did one year. I used a scoped Ruger MKIII and was able to pop them out to 40 yrds. I prefer using a dot sight because it's easier to track them moving.
  12. birddog

    birddog Well-Known Member

    I'd go with the golf ball suggestion. I used to be really passionate about early season squirrel hunting, and picked it up again this year (Marlin bolt action .22mag).

    As an above poster said, don't limit to head shots. A behind-the-front leg shot is easier, and will kill them just as dead.

    For ammo, in either .22lr or .22mag, stay away from hollow points. They cause needless damage. Solid points in both calibers are the way to go. Try a head shot with a hollow-point .22 mag if you don't believe me. MESSY.


    I like to walk for 5 minutes, sit for 5 minutes. If they're nowhere in sight, just sit for a bit, near a crop field edge, oak or beech trees, or anywhere you see a decent concentration of squirrel leaf nests or mature trees. You'll get them! Here's a photo from September.

  13. Doc7

    Doc7 Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the advice so far! I am getting really excited about just shooting some golf balls the next time I get to the lake house...wish I had some affordably quality range options here nearby but don't really. I will be practicing some positions (I'm thinking offhand, kneeling, and possibly sitting will be most common) from the M1 Garand video on the internet, and get to an Appleseed event once it is spring.
  14. jmorris

    jmorris Well-Known Member

    Post #2 is what I would say. How far can you drive one out with the first shot every time, from the position you will shoot from. Then you have your answer.
  15. cottswald

    cottswald Well-Known Member

    You're looking for groups that fall within minute-of-squirrel-head. Take away the skin and fur and you've got an area roughly the size of a quarter. The majority of your shots will be between 20 and 45 yards. I use subsonic hollow points. There are many good ones out there, CCI and Aguila to name a couple. They have plenty of umph, but are quiet enough not to scare the bejeebers out of other potential targets, giving you multiple opportunities without having to change locations. Bullet expansion on an hp will cause more damage, which if your shootin em in the noggin can never be too much. It'll also reduces ricochet's which the .22 is notorious for.

    As mentioned above, find the ammo that gives you the best groups, then stick with it throughout the duration of the hunting season. If you do decide to change ammo, make sure you sight it in at the range before using it in the field.

    *Just one more thing. I don't know anything about you or your bride to be, but I know a little bit about women. -- Don't go squirrel huntin on your honeymoon unless you're willing to take wifey with you!

    Good luck and good hunting!
  16. Doc7

    Doc7 Well-Known Member

    Sounds like I have quite the spring and summer of work ahead of me to make a successful hunt a reality. Maybe I won't be up to speed by next fall with only a day or maybe 2 a month where I will be able to go to the range and practice. I sure wish someone had stuck a .22 in my hands when I was still a kid (although that likely wouldn't have helped much, living in NJ I still wouldn't have had hardly any practice!)

    LOL - AFTER the honeymoon, man! And she loves using the rifle as well, though I don't think hunting is in her future, 'specially as I doubt I will buy more than one PA-hunting-legal bolt-action rifle before building up some other parts of my "collection" first, like a 20 ga and probably a .22 pistol. Maybe she could use the 20 ga though and join me on a squirrel hunt.
  17. cottswald

    cottswald Well-Known Member

    You should be alright by then Doc7. Try to fit in at least 5 or 6 groups of five per visit at the range. Using a rest, start at 20 or 25 yards, once your groups are 1" or less extend it to fifty. Your rifle will be capable of 1" groups at fifty. A few trips to the range and you'll be doing it. If your range allows it, try shooting from a verticle rest (post) using it to rest your forend hand, it will steady your shot (make sure your hand is on the rest to cushion the recoil and not the rifle). This simulates finding/using a tree as a verticle rest in the field, which in the eastern woodlands is not too difficult. Off hand is your weakest shooting position and I wouldn't even bother with it for now. I take maybe 1 off hand shot per year and that's at close range and only if I know I can take it cleanly.

    Be sure to scout your potential hunting grounds. With the foliage down, now and through the end of winter is a good time.
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2012
  18. Harrod

    Harrod Well-Known Member

    I have to say I just love squirrel hunting, but have yet to take one with my 22. The ones I have taken have all been with my shotgun that I take in hopes of seeing rabbit on the way to the woods.

    I am going to work on my accuracy with my 22 more next year and carry it more i think. Either way nothing better than a day out in the woods, weather you get something or not. I like to sit with a buddy and have a stogie while we look for tree rats.
  19. saltydog452

    saltydog452 Well-Known Member

    I think that I remember that, with a .22 Mini-Mag in a rifle, if it prints 1" lower than line of sight at 15 yards, it will also print 1" low at/close to 60 yards.

    Depending on population density, you might want to consider Std Velocity or22 Shorts. Where I used to walk with my Papa, it is now a Condo Complex.

  20. Blue68f100

    Blue68f100 Well-Known Member

    For me it became a lot more fun when I learned to call them. I even used my MKIII pistol one year to hunt them. I got good enough I call them in to 10 yrds at times. I was able to shoot some as far out as 40 yrds with my pistol.

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