John's Journal...

Boating for Squirrels

Day 4: Using Binoculars, Riflescopes and Calls for Squirrels

Editor’s Note: Boat hunting for squirrels is hunting the crowds never find. It’s quiet, productive, and more fun than regular hunting ever can be. Many states have a small-game season during February. One of my favorite ways to hunt squirrels is by water.

click for Larger ViewSquirrels tend to concentrate in certain areas. Much of the time these regions will be close-to or along streams. The rifle hunter can paddle his canoe or boat to a position where he finds a large number of squirrels, pull his boat to the bank, tie the craft up and move to a place where he’s spotted numbers of bushytails. When the woods once again become quiet, and the squirrels reappear, he may bag several tree rats from his stand without having to get-up. Once he’s collected the downed animals, he can return to his canoe, paddle to a new spot and repeat the same process. If you can hear a squirrel, then you usually can pinpoint its location. If you can locate squirrels, then you should be able to see them, if you have the proper equipment. Lightweight, compact, waterproof binoculars enable you to quickly and easily spot a squirrel you may not have been able to see with your naked eye. Also because these binoculars are brighter than many-other binoculars on the market, they allow you to pinpoint, even at great distances, squirrels feeding, often in the shadows of trees. Instead of using a 4X scope as many squirrel hunters do, I like a 2-7X riflescope that's clear and bright and increases the distance at which I can see the squirrels and the size of the image at which I'm aiming. By using quality optics to stay further away from the squirrels when you shoot, you drastically increase your odds for being able to bag more than one squirrel out of an area.

Click for Larger ViewCalling often forces game to respond. Although a duck hunter can bag quacks without a call, and a turkey hunter can ambush a longbeard without making a sound, a call adds more challenge and excitement to the hunt. A call lets you know where the game is and actually may make that game come to you. In recent years, I’ve learned that squirrel calling can be as exciting and challenging as calling either ducks or turkeys. In most states, squirrel season lasts longer than either duck or turkey season and often into February. By learning to call squirrels, I can enjoy the sport of calling and hunting for a longer time each year. If you imitate the several different sounds of squirrels, you can locate squirrels. Here’s some of those squirrel sounds:

barking - A squirrel shows excitement, alarm and location by barking. Squirrels often will bark to mark their territory or just for a form of communication to say, "Hey, I'm over here. Is anyone else around?"

screaming - This excited call calls squirrels and denotes distress. Squirrels, like people, will come out to view an accident or a disaster. They often scream or bark at what they see or hear.

cutting - When a bushytail eats, he’s noisy – squeaking and popping his teeth against the shells of nuts. This cutting sound is much like ringing a dinner bell for other bushytails. When a squirrel that isn’t feeding hears another one feeding, the squirrel often will come to the place where it hears the cutting sound to see if it can't find a nut to eat. The cutting sound also is an all-clear call. Squirrels don't feed when danger is present. However, when that danger passes, the squirrels will return to their previous feeding activity.

Click for Larger Viewleaf rustling - Squirrels make noises when they walk in leaves. They often will hop two or three times, stop, make one to two hops and pause again. If you listen closely to the pattern of hops a squirrel makes, you can imitate the sound of a squirrel's walking through the leaves. Squirrels also dig in leaves to find nuts. By raking leaves with your hands or feet, you can simulate these sounds.

According to Brad Harris of Neosho, Missouri, a well-known outdoorsman and skilled outdoor videographer, "The barker probably is the best call to use to locate squirrels. If you're hunting in new woods and don't know where the nut trees or the den trees are, you can use a barking call to make the bushytails talk to you and give-away their locations. Also a barker will stop running squirrels. If you hear squirrels running out in front of you but can't see them, bark at them. Many times they will jump up on the nearest tree to bark at you. With some barkers, you can take the rubber bellows off the back of the calls, make the barking call and follow that call with a scream to add more excitement to the call. Often squirrels will scream without barking to give away their locations to other squirrels."

Click for Larger ViewAnother important application of the barking call is to utilize it when squirrels are running around or through the trees and won't stop to present a shot. One day I was slipping along a woods road when I spotted leaves falling off a tree 40-yards ahead of me. I assumed squirrels were eating, playing or mating in the tree. With my binoculars, I found the rampaging tree rats. I quickly took my bellows call out of my pocket and bumped the back of the call four or five times. The squirrels stopped running. One bushytail scurried out on a limb to sit-up and to watch to see from where the barking had come. Bringing my .22 to my shoulder, I looked through my 2-7X scope, spotted the squirrel and zoomed the scope from 2X to 7X. When the crosshairs settled on the bushytail's shoulder, I gently squeezed the trigger. The squirrel fell. Although the second squirrel hadn’t seen the first squirrel fall, it had heard the crack of the rifle and the lever action of the .22. With the skill of a gymnast, the second squirrel bounced from limb to limb headed for a den tree. Again, I barked on the call, and the squirrel stopped to look behind, as it whipped its tail back and forth excitedly. Replacing my call in my pocket, I raised my rifle, braced against the tree and fired. The scope was accurate, and the second squirrel tumbled. I waited three minutes before barking again on the call, but nothing happened. After sitting still for 5 minutes, I barked lightly. As I was putting my call back into my pocket, I heard toenails against hardwood and saw a squirrel climbing up a sapling not 15-yards away. When the squirrel went around the tree, I raised my rifle to shoot and screwed my scope back from 7X to 2X. When the squirrel went around the tree, I raised my rifle to shoot and screwed my scope back from 7X to 2X. When the bushytail reappeared, his image filled the scope. The crosshairs settled on its head just before I squeezed the trigger. I had taken three squirrels in less than 15 minutes. Barking at squirrels and shooting accurately had paid off.

Tomorrow: Screaming to Squirrels

Check back each day this week for more about "Boating for Squirrels "

Day 1: Choosing the Right Boat for Hunting Squirrels
Day 2: Equipment and Boat Position to Hunt Squirrels
Day 3: Strategies for Taking Squirrels
Day 4: Using Binoculars, Riflescopes and Calls for Squirrels
Day 5: Screaming to Squirrels

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Entry 651, Day 4