Summer heat is fierce right now, but some of you may be bitten harder by the hunting bug.
I would not want to hunt throughout the day in July, yet early mornings in the woods are pleasant and cool by comparison to the recent 100 degree days. The key is still remembering to bring mosquito repellent with Deet for those stinking ticks. This is a bad year for both.
Squirrel hunting in the summer is a challenge. Trees are full of green leaves and ground clutter is thick. The creatures are hard to spot in the best circumstances and even more so if they are alerted to your presence.
The key is a quiet approach, definitely your advantage this time of year. Green vegetation is much quieter than leaves dropped in the fall.
Different veteran squirrel hunters approach summer hunting differently. Here are a couple of possibilities:
Catch squirrels in the morning — Wake up well before daylight, eat a donut or apple in route and position around walnut, oak trees or cornfields before daylight.
You will likely hear squirrels before you see them — a good bet for locating young squirrels chasing their kinfolk up and down trees.
You may be out of shooting range, but sit still and wait for your chance. The young fryers may move into easy shooting range. When you shoot one, sit, watch and listen. You will probably get a crack at the second or third.
I have known early-season squirrel hunters to shoot their limit of six from the same spot. They shoot and mark where each squirrel falls. Then pick up their limit and walk away with little effort. This requires mega amounts of patience and has never worked for me. I like to move, especially when my mosquito repellent is not working.
Still hunt — Still-hunting is the term used for a dead-slow walk. Most hunters only move two or three feet in 10 minutes or longer. You don't travel far fast, but you will definitely see more and perhaps spook more squirrels to lofty sanctuaries.
Watch each step to avoid cracking sticks or making any type of unnecessary noise. But if you do crack a stick or make some other type of noise, freeze and pretend you are a tree. I like to wear knee-high rubber boots and wade in creeks.
Water and sand bars tend to allow quiet movement. This is a good tip year round.
Squirrels have sharp eyes making a good case for camouflage. I prefer Realtree or Mossy Oak, but there are many excellent types on the market.
Just remember to move slowly and only move your eyes. You don't have to cover up like a turkey hunter, just wear a camouflage patterned hat and shirt. Drab colored pants are acceptable, but don't wear shorts. You will be fighting insects with long pants, just remember lots of bug spray.
Buddy hunting — Buddy hunting may be the best way to squirrel hunt during hot weather. Still-hunting from tree to tree, about ten feet apart and slowly is an effective method. Remember to study trees you pass and look behind you occasionally. You might just get an easy shot.
Squirrels move from one side of the tree to the other to escape danger. They are hidden by the tree, but during a buddy hunt, the squirrel will move around the tree to hide from one and become easy prey for the other. My brother and I have taken many squirrels using this technique. But beware of careless or even inexperienced hunters.
Make sure your partner is experienced enough to not shoot you. You should hold back a step to keep and eye on a new partner. But don't forget that even experienced hunters make mistakes. So be cautious. No wild game is worth injury or a life.
Squirrel medicine — A .22 rifle or pistol is excellent for squirrels. But many hunters like to use a shotgun when shooting at squirrels surrounded by thick leaves. Chances are you will only see part of the squirrel.
Sadly, 50 plus years of squirrel hunting has taught me that rifles or shotguns will wound a sometimes hard to kill squirrel. Remember there is no substitution for a one-shot kill.
This requires going to the shooting range to know exactly where your shotgun pellets are patterning or your .22 rifle is shooting. You owe a clean kill to the squirrel instead of letting it escape injured to suffer.