Sunday, November 09, 2008

Squirrel Hunting

Squirrel hunting is fun. You can go just about anyplace you can shoot and see squirrels. You can hunt squirrels with all sorts of guns although you might have to be a bit adaptable. You can eat squirrels. You can even shoot several squirrels every day (here it is 6 per day). Lots of fun.

For those who don't know, there are two common types of squirrels in this part of Virginia, the fox (first photo) and the gray. There is also the tiny red but we don't have those here, at least not in noticeable quantities. When I was a kid we did all our squirrel hunting with shotguns. I'm not exactly certain as to why but that's what we did. I for one didn't like finding a #6 shot in my dinner. Maybe I'm just picky. Anyway, I switched to a .22 LR gun. At first, I had only my dad's M72 Winchester. Fitted with the factory peep sight, this gun was good enough for squirrels out to 50 yards or so. Honestly, headshots had to be at 10-25 yards. I didn't trust myself not to overshoot at 10 yards so I'd shoot them in the chest. It isn't all that hard to get close to a squirrel. I think the biggest reason I switched was to avoid the lead additives in my food! You do have to watch your backstop, or lack of backstop, with the rifle(s).

In the old days, the .32 and .36 muzzleloaders were the ticket for small game. These work really well on squirrels when loading a round ball over 15-25 gr. of blackpowder or suitable substitute such as Pyrodex. In fact, my favorite squirrel rifle is my .36 caliber Thompson-Center Seneca. Gifted to me on my 18th Christmas, this is gun didn't even get shot until 8 years of service in the US Army passed. I then fell in love with the gun when used on squirrels and rabbits. Why are they so effective? Well the mild charge of powder and light weight of the ball combine to minimize recoil which contributes to pleasant shooting. Also, the ball is of the correct size to be effective (it as big as any expanded .22 LR bullet will ever be on such light game) and still accurate at these relatively short ranges of not more than 50 yards or so.

To squirrel hunt I take my tool of choice for the day and go to a place where I both have permission and there is food for squirrels. They are everywhere there's food for them and after a relaxing sit-down at least one will make his presence known. Many times, especially if you pay attention to where you sit, you won't even have to get up to take your limit. I have done so even while wandering around with chatting kids in tow.

After you take a squirrel, you need to move him from the forest to the dinner plate. The first step in that process is skinning the little buggers. That can be a chore and it was for me at times. Fortunately, Mr. Squack produced a video of a neat method to quickly and cleanly remove the overburden from some squirrel gravy (although I'm not a gravy guy, I stir fry mine!).

After washing and deboning the meat, your next step is to discover a favorite recipe. All the better if your partner/spouse already knows one. Bon appetite!

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