The Ceiling Can’t Hold Us
- June 7, 2023
If you did a survey, particularly of older hunters, I bet most began their hunting days by tramping the woods searching for squirrels. They were certainly an upland game that I targeted in my early days of hunting. Today, there seems to be less interest in spending time hunting squirrels, yet there remain many good
If you did a survey, particularly of older hunters, I bet most began their hunting days by tramping the woods searching for squirrels.
They were certainly an upland game that I targeted in my early days of hunting. Today, there seems to be less interest in spending time hunting squirrels, yet there remain many good reasons to hunt them.
While dove season and the early geese season began earlier this month, the squirrel season in Pennsylvania began on Saturday, September 11 — giving hunters an early opportunity to spend time hunting in our hardwood forests. Any time you can be in the woods in pursuit of the old bushy tail, you can be scouting out places to hunt for fall turkeys, deer, or other game as well. Squirrel hunting is one of the greatest opportunities to mentor youth or introduce a new hunter to the sport. Finally, when you are lucky enough to bring home a few squirrels, they can be mighty tasty on the dinner plate! So, let’s take a look at a few things to keep in mind as you head out.
Squirrels are tree dwellers that can be found throughout our Northcentral Pennsylvania hardwood forests. While they will eat the nuts of a beech tree, their preference as a food source is the acorn, with white oak acorns being their favorite. Unfortunately for farmers, they also can readily be found raiding nearby cornfields. If you can find a spot at the edge of a stand of white oak trees that lies next to a cornfield, you will be in a prime spot for squirrel hunting. Combine those two factors with a small stream meandering through, and you should have good success.
Gray squirrels often begin moving about before sunrise and are active throughout the day. Always alert to possible predation, they rarely stray too far from a nearby tree where they can quickly climb to safety. If you are sitting nearby, occasionally rustling the leaves with your hand or a stick will simulate a turkey scratching or a squirrel digging in the leaves and will tend to convince them that the coast is clear and help lure them out into the open.
Sitting in a grove of white oak trees or next to a field of standing corn can be productive throughout the day, and the method of spot and stalk can be very effective as well. Take your time as you ease through the woods, often stopping to survey the area or listen for nearby squirrels. Hunting squirrels is all about patience. You don’t need to rush and shoot at a moving target; wait until the squirrel stops before aiming. Carry a few small rocks in your pocket. If you know there is a squirrel on the backside of a nearby tree, toss a rock beyond the tree — on the side where the squirrel is staying — and he just might scurry around to your side of the tree presenting a shot opportunity.
Since the preferred methods of hunting bushy tails are either sitting or slowly walking as you spot and stalk, mentoring youth while squirrel hunting will provide an excellent chance to share time talking about firearm safety, ethical hunting methods, woodsmanship, and all the many facets of spending time in the woods that make hunting such an enjoyable and rewarding pursuit. For a mentored youth, one of the ideal firearms is a .22 rifle topped with a 4-power scope. The lack of recoil makes it a preferred introductory weapon, and they are highly effective in taking a squirrel.
Finally, bringing home several squirrels for the dinner table can be quite tasty, particularly when using this recipe for squirrel pot pie:
Ingredients: one large onion, coarsely chopped, several stalks of celery, coarsely chopped, one large garlic clove, minced or pressed, 6 cups of beef broth, fresh ground pepper and salt to taste, two squirrels, cleaned and quartered, one 12 ounce can of mixed vegetables, one tablespoon of cornstarch and pastry for a double-crust pie.
Combine the onion, celery, garlic, broth, pepper, salt, and squirrel in a large pot and bring to a boil; simmer until meat is very tender and easily removed from bones. Debone the meat and set aside; reserve one cup of cooking liquid.
Fit the bottom crust into a pie pan.
Combine the meat, vegetables, and reserved broth, and cornstarch in a bowl and mix well; spoon the mixture into the pie shell.
Top with the second crust, press the edges to seal, and cut vents in the top for steam to escape. Bake at 350 degrees until crust is browned, about 1 hour.
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