John's Journal...

Boating for Squirrels

Day 5: Screaming to 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 ViewI've learned you can take more squirrels by talking and walking to bushytails, rather than by sitting and waiting on them. Instead of moving into an area where I've seen cut nuts and uneaten nuts and sitting and waiting on one or possibly two squirrels to appear, I aggressively walk, hunt, call and cover a lot of ground to find large groups of squirrels. Squirrels often travel in bands with as few as five to as many as 20 squirrels moving and feeding together. Hunting areas with larger numbers of squirrels allows me to take more bushytails in a shorter time. I call to the squirrels, listen for them to call back and then stalk in closer, before I start calling again. If you can hear a squirrel, then you usually can pinpoint its location. Squirrel calling can add a new dimension to your bushytail experience and actually increase your odds of finding and taking more squirrels. The many-new tactics that have been developed and the new calls on the market have made the sport of calling squirrels much more fun, exciting and productive than ever before.

Squirrels make two different types of screams – a contented call and a distress call. The contented scream often will be heard at the end of a bark or after excited playing. Squirrels may give this call just at dusk and dawn. A contented scream is slow and very quiet – much like the meowing of a satisfied cat. Click for Larger ViewThe distress scream is the cry a squirrel makes when it’s caught by a predator. Just like some people who will go out of their way to see a wreck or look out of their windows to view a shooting, some squirrels will move from their hiding spots when they hear a distress call. Shannon Talkington, the inventor of the Mr. Squirrel call produced now by Haydel Game Calls, taught me the value of using the scream for squirrels when he explained, “When a hawk or owl catches a young squirrel in its talons, the bushytail screams for its life. The scream is loud at first followed by several smaller screams with less volume. At the same time the squirrel is screaming, the bird is beating its wings against the ground to maintain its balance as it kills the squirrel. When the other squirrels in the area hear this life-and-death struggle, they often will run out of their holes and nests, begin to scream and bark.

“I learned this tactic by watching a hawk kill a squirrel and listening to how the squirrels in that section of the woods reacted to what was happening. After the hawk flew away, I went to the place where I had heard the squirrels and bagged a limit.” With this knowledge, Talkington returned home and began to build a whistle out of bottle caps to try and imitate the screams of a dying squirrel. Finally, he refined the call that today is known as Mister Squirrel. To make bushytails bark, blow a call like a dying squirrel screaming and whip the ground with a leafy limb. The limb resembles the sound of the hawk’s wings, and the call sounds like the dying squirrel. Repeat the call twice, and listen. If you don’t hear any squirrels barking, move 100 yards, and call again. This call is most productive after 9:00 a.m. when the squirrels already have fed and are lying up on limbs or inside of hollow trees. I have used the distress screams of Mister Squirrel to pull bushytails out of hiding and into the sights of my riflescope.


Click for Larger View“When squirrels eat nuts, they must first cut the hard, outer shell of the nut away from the meat of the nut with their teeth,” Brad Harris, nationally-known hunter, mentions. “This sound is very distinctive and often can lead hunters to bushytails. However, a hunter imitating this sound was difficult. But now there is a cutter call, which I have used on many occasions to take more than one squirrel out of the same tree. When you shoot the first squirrel, don’t retrieve it but instead, stand still. Then start using your cutter call. When squirrels hear the crack of a rifle or the blast of a shotgun, most of the time they aren’t aware of what has happened. But they will be frightened and will run to hide. When they hear that cutting sound made by feeding squirrels, they often will come out of hiding thinking danger has passed and begin to feed once again. Using a cutting call, you may bag a limit out of a couple of trees in a short time.” To make the cutting call, simply move the plastic pallet down the screw-type sound chamber of the cutter call, using the same rhythm you hear squirrels make when they cut nuts. Click for Larger ViewRemember, if you’re hunting an area with soft nuts like white oak acorns or water oak acorns, give the call lightly. But if you’re hunting a hickory ridge where bushytails must cut hard to break shells away from the nuts, call louder.

The canoe or a flat-bottomed boat provides an excellent vehicle for stalking squirrels, shooting squirrels, driving squirrels or providing transportation to squirrel woods. Hilly or mountainous terrain is the area where I feel that a boat or a canoe provides the most benefits. If you ever have had to climb hills and hollows to take bushytails, you can really appreciate the advantage of sitting quietly in a canoe or a boat and paddling down between the mountains while hunting squirrels. I still enjoy stalk hunting squirrels by land. And I love a good hunt with a topnotch squirrel dog when I can find one. But I have to admit in recent years that canoeing for bushytails has enabled me to hunt squirrels during dry weather conditions that would have been next to impossible without my canoe. If you are looking for something more challenging and more enjoyable when you go into the woods to take the aerial acrobats of the hickory nut and oak trees, take your canoe or boat along. You too may become a boating squirrel-hunting addict.

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 5