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Squirrel Hunt is Good Training

I know archery deer season is just getting underway, and it won’t be long until we are pursuing the rest of the “big three” — bear and turkeys, but you don’t want to overlook the small game potential either. I still do some rabbit hunting, an occasional grouse hunt, and I’m willing to chase after

I know archery deer season is just getting underway, and it won’t be long until we are pursuing the rest of the “big three” — bear and turkeys, but you don’t want to overlook the small game potential either. I still do some rabbit hunting, an occasional grouse hunt, and I’m willing to chase after some pheasants if I can find any, but I’ll be honest — I haven’t hunted squirrels in a number of years. It wasn’t always that way; when I was a youngster just getting into hunting, chasing after squirrels was one of my favorites, and I went every chance I got. One of the reasons I liked it so much was that I almost always had success — much to my mother’s disappointment because she ended up cooking them for supper.

As a kid, my love for the outdoors was rekindled every time I hiked out into the wooded hills behind our home in western Pennsylvania. I learned a lot about the outdoors and hunting in those formidable years with patience being one of the most important. Many a time, I would spook a squirrel up a tree, and then I would have to sit patiently for an hour or more until he presented me with a shot. I also learned to move quietly and with stealth frequently stopping to scan the woods around me for any signs of movement — we call it “still hunting” today, and it works in a lot of hunting situations.

Probably one of the greatest lessons of those early years of squirrel hunting was being observant; in other words, you have to actually “look” in order to see. Sometimes even these days, I forget or get in a hurry, and I’m not really looking, and then I hear a snort, and the deer is gone. Those early days taught me to not just look up into the trees but to carefully study the branches looking for a small, gray, furry bulge around the edge of the tree or maybe just part of the gray, furry tail wrapped around the tree. Sure, you’re not always going to see the game first, but moving slowly and carefully scrutinizing the woods around you increases the odds in your favor.

What a great way to teach a youngster the ins and outs of hunting. A squirrel hunt will not only provide the opportunity to ascertain those things already mentioned, but it’s also a great way to educate new hunters in gun handling and safety. Squirrels can be hunted successfully with both a .22-rifle or a shotgun, so training can be provided in both disciplines — loading, safe handling in the field, and unloading. While both types of guns can be used I prefer the .22-rifle especially with a scope. Using the .22 teaches a new hunter how to aim with a scope and how to steady the rifle for a good shot; here’s a chance also to teach one to squeeze the trigger and not pull or jerk when firing off a round. This training will come in handy when it’s time to steady a much larger caliber while aiming at a trophy buck.

In case you get a chance to get a new young hunter out this season, remember that all small game hunters must wear a minimum of 250 square inches of fluorescent orange on the head, back, and chest at all times while hunting. A camo pattern hat does not meet the required 100 square inches of orange — it must be solid orange. I don’t think the orange color is a big deal in squirrel hunting; if anything, it’s probably movement or noise that is more of a detriment. Squirrel season statewide begins on Oct. 19 and runs to Nov. 29; it opens again from Dec. 16-24 and from Dec. 26-Feb. 29. There is also a junior hunt from Oct. 5-19.

You’re allowed six a day, so have at it. I’m sure the wife will be glad to cook them up for supper.

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