John's Journal...

Hunting Squirrels with Calls and Dogs

How and Why Squirrel Calls Work

Editor’s Note: Many states continue their small-game seasons through February and even further. This week we’ll be discussing squirrel hunting.

Click to enlargeShannon Talkington, inventor of the Mr. Squirrel whistle, explained to me that as he and his friend hunted one day some years ago, they watched a redtail hawk snatch a young squirrel off a limb, take it to the ground and squeeze the squirrel with its talons to kill it. To maintain its balance, the hawk fanned its wings against the ground and made the same noise Talkington had made using the leafy branch. The captured squirrel squealed and gave off the same sound Talkington had reproduced with his Mr. Squirrel whistle. "My friend and I noticed that other squirrels came out of their holes and barked at the struggle," Talkington reported. So Talkington and his friend went home and welded two RC Cola bottle caps together to make a whistle. But their whistle didn't work as well as they'd hoped. Next they captured a live squirrel, took it to the University of Mississippi, squeezed it and measured the frequency of its squealing. Once they determined the frequency of the squirrel's squeals, they went home and re-engineered their bottle caps. They created a whistle that produced the exact frequency of a young squirrel's distress call when captured by a hawk. After some time, they finally manufactured the squirrel whistle out of different types of aluminum. They not only produced an effective squirrel call, but they also taught other hunters how to use it. I'd never heard of a squirrel-in-disClick to enlargetress call until I saw Talkington's Mr. Squirrel whistle. However, ever since the invention of the squirrel whistle, many other manufacturers have duplicated the sound. When I hunt with a squirrel whistle, I always beat the ground with a leafy branch to get the desired effect.

The Squirrel Barker:
Over the years, many hunters have used squirrel barkers to talk to squirrels effectively. I’ll tap the bellows on the end of this call with the palm of my hand to cause the call to give off the sound of a squirrel’s barking. If you've ever hunted squirrels before, you know that other squirrels will come out from hiding and start barking after they've heard another squirrel bark. When a squirrel barks, it gives away its location. Then you can get in close enough to take a shot.

Most hunters squirrel hunt alone and use a single barker. However, a few years ago, I hunted with a friend of mine in Florida. We each carried a barker and a .22 rifle. We found a spot where we thought we'd locate squirrels and then moved 50- to 60-yards away from each other. My buddy barked with his squirrel call, and I barked back to him to make the sound of two different squirrels barking at each other. We learned tClick to enlargehat by using this technique, we could lure more squirrels out of their holes to bark at us than when we only used one squirrel barker. After we took the squirrels that barked back at us, we moved 50 to 100 yards in the woods, spread out again, waited 10 minutes and began the same barking strategy. We discovered that this technique worked well to call and take squirrels, and we both took our limits rather quickly. We also found that this strategy allowed us to more-thoroughly enjoy hunting together.

The Cutter Call:
Many squirrel hunters don’t know about the cutter call, which lures squirrels out to feed after you've spooked them by either stalking too close or by taking a shot. After the squirrel has spotted you and returned to its hole in the tree, sit down, wait about 10 minutes, and then use your cutter call. A cutter call consists of two parts: a plastic screw and a plastic paddle similar to a tongue depressor. By applying pressure on the paddle against the screw, the paddle drops from one thread of the screw to the next thread of the screw, creating a sharp, popping noise. This sound resembles the noise a squirrel makes when eating a nut. For this reason, this call causes spooked squirrels to consider an area safe and clear for them to come out and feed.

You Should Use These Calls:Click to enlarge
Early in the morning and late in the afternoon, you simply can stalk through the woods, look for squirrels and then get to a shooting position. However, after 8:00 or 9:00 am, mostsquirrels usually will retreat to their holes and den-up for the rest of the day. But when you use squirrel calls – like the squirrel barker, the cutter or the squirrel distress whistle – you can entice squirrels to come out of their dens later in the morning. When I hunt squirrels, I prefer to hunt all day or at least until I get my limit. Squirrel calling allows me to continue my hunt long past the time I normally will have had to quit. Squirrel calling also produces a second shot when I often won't have had the opportunity to take one. Too, squirrel calling satisfies my desire to talk to the animals. With the leaves off the trees, stalking in close enough to get a shot can prove difficult – especially if you don't know where the squirrels have hidden. But if you use squirrel calls, the squirrels will give away their positions. Then you can plan your stalk and have a much-better chance for success. To learn more about squirrel calls and see instructional videos, you can Google the words and come up with more than 4600 hits.

Tomorrow: The Greatest Squirrel Dog

Check back each day this week for more about "Hunting Squirrels with Calls and Dogs"

Day 1: How My Squirrel-Hunting Career Began
Day 2: How and Why Squirrel Calls Work
Day 3: The Greatest Squirrel Dog
Day 4: Where Have All the Squirrel Dogs Gone?
Day 5: How to Buy a Squirrel Dog


Entry 548, Day 2