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Heartland Outdoors turkey hunt Illinois may 2018

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Shae
SHAE
BIRKEY

Versatile Hunter

Squirrel Day Has Arrived

Thu, August 16, 2018

19th annual squirrel day was a hit with friends and families as always.  It’s amazing how our focus and interests change over the years to family as young ones reprioritize our lives.  That’s no excuse as to why we can’t still enjoy the great outdoors—we just do it in a different way now and the focus is all about them. . . .

My son, Brooks and I hunted our usual haunt on the north side of the farm on the first Saturday of August. The boy awoke eagerly for his second straight squirrel hunting year.  At 4, he enjoyed every minute of it but at 5 he is now calling, picking out dropping nuts, and stalking squirrels like a pro. We brought along the youngest drahthaar, Aldo for picking up squirrels and for a chance to teach some obedience while hunting.  He walked well through the woods on heel, silently creeping along with us and whoa’ing in place when I asked him to so that I can close some final yards during a stalk.

We hit up our usual hickory and walnut groves and they didn’t disappoint as always.  First shot from my fully choked Vinci dropped one big Fox Squirrel and sent multiple squirrels high tailing it through the trees in all directions.  This area is full of black gray squirrels and it’s always neat to see them and try to harvest one or two.  Most of our harvest on this farm consists of the typical Illinois “giant” fox squirrels.  When I show the pictures of these squirrels to people in other states they are shocked at their size.  The boy holding them up makes them look even bigger!

Here are some of the tips and tricks I’ve picked up from 27 years of squirrel hunting in the Midwest.  I’ve hunted with .22’s, .410’s, 20 gauge, and 12.  They all present their own challenges and opportunities.  I prefer the .22 for the sheer challenge but early in the season that is exactly what it is because of the dense foliage in the trees.  You’re better off finding some hickory and walnut trees that are producing nuts and sitting still rather than stalking (although I’ve harvested my fair share with a .22 that way also).  Shotguns are better at getting numbers early on.  Full chokes are necessary IMO given foliage and sometimes having to reach up into the treetops where they spend most of their time eating. 6 shot is my preference—squirrels are tougher than people give them credit for and if you don’t drop them clean you will either lose them in the trees or on the ground.  Calls may seem like a gimmick but trust me—it’s no different than deer hunting with calls—sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t.  Knowing when and how to use calls is important.  I use a plunger style Olt barker paired with a Mr. Squirrel distress whistle.  A perfect example of how these calls SOMETIMES work in the woods went like this: my boy and I sat down near a hickory grove and as he barked I whistled and beat a branch against a honeysuckle bush.  We stayed behind some cover just in case a bushytail was out of our sight and so that they didn’t catch us moving.  Within about a minute a big Fox came flying out on the edge of a branch no more than 20 yards chattering away at us.  He succumbed quickly to our game bag.  I’m told (and it makes sense) that the sound is that of a squirrel being attacked (think dying rabbit) while another squirrel chatters at the attacker.  In nature, this could be a hawk attack for example.  All makes sense to me and if I haven’t seen it work I may just call BS!

Get out there and hunt—squirrel hunting is another excuse to get into the woods early in the season, improving on your stalking skills, shooting skills, and overall woodsmanship.  Even better—do it with your little ones and a well-trained dog to pick up cripples and find any downed in dense woods.  With the little ones, keep the hunts short and keep them interested by way of letting them lead from time to time and teaching them about other wildlife and plant/tree life along the way.

 

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