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High Plains Outdoors: Hunting Squirrels

Luke Clayton
Jeff Rice with a couple of fox squirrels he took with his trusty .22 six-shooter.

Looks like the whitetail rut has peaked across much of the northern portion of Texas but the breeding season is just getting underway down in the South Texas brush country.

I spent the weekend hunting with my friends Jeff and Demi Rice at their Buck and Bass Ranch in north east Texas and although the ranch is teeming with deer and hogs, hunting was slow. The peak of the whitetail rut has passed and bucks simply were not chasing does like they were the past couple weeks.

The oaks were loaded with acorns this year and deer and hogs simply didn’t have a reason to be on the move. I’m sure they simply walked a few yards from their bedding areas to the nearest oak tree and eat their fill of freshly fallen acorns.

After an afternoon sit on stands without seeing a single deer or hog, Jeff and I decided to do a spot and stalk hunt the next morning. When game simply is not moving, slowly slipping through the woods can be productive.

We slowly still hunted through the ranch, heading from feeder to feeder but all we saw was squirrels, lots of squirrels! Squirrels breed twice each year and during their ‘rut’ they are up and moving, just like whitetail deer. As we slipped through the woods, we encountered male (boar) squirrels chasing female (sow) squirrels all over the woods. We were definitely hunting during the peak of the squirrel breeding season and just like deer, the squirrels had abandoned their usual caution during the rut and, caught up in their courting ritual, allowed us to walk within a few yards on several occasions.

Jeff and I film a weekly outdoor show called “A Sportsman’s Life” that is hosted on YouTube and we are always looking for a new adventure. As we headed back to camp after the morning hunt, we were thinking the same thing, “Why not film a squirrel hunt and in the process, get some fresh squirrel meat for a big pot of stew?”  Almost back to camp, Jeff stopped and asked what I thought about the idea and I replied that I was just about to ask the same question.  There was obviously no better time to hunt squirrels than right now, during the peak of their breeding season.

But I didn’t bring my .22 rifle or PCP air rifle, I didn’t even have a shotgun to use for squirrels. Jeff said he thought he had a scoped .22 back at camp. We were off to camp to arm ourselves for what promised to be the squirrel hunt of a lifetime!

Jeff rushed inside while I get our camera gear prepped only to come out with what we both considered bad news. He had taken his .22 home and there wasn’t even a shotgun there at camp. But, says Jeff, “I do have a .22 6 shooter revolver with a long barrel. What do you think about using it on a squirrel hunt.” I thought it a marvelous idea.  It had been a while since Jeff had shot the pistol and we both though it a good idea to take a few ‘test’ shots at about 30 yards to insure the little handgun was ‘on’.  A few shots at a target proved it to be dead on and we were soon back in the pin oak where a few minutes earlier, we had seen no less than 12 squirrels in the midst of their ‘rut’, oblivious to our presence.

There are easier things to do than harvest squirrels with an iron sighted .22 pistol but Jeff was up to the task. When using a scoped rifle, shooting squirrels from the treetops is a very ‘doable’ thing but with a pistol, shots need to be much closer. We slowly eased through the edge of the big pin oak flat where the cover was a lot thicker and located squirrels chasing each other on the ground.

They would occasionally run a few feet up in trees and then hit the ground running again. Jeff would use a sapling as a rest to steady his pistol, wait until the mating squirrels stopped and make the shot. After spending an hour or so hunt, we had a good ‘mess’ of squirrels for our stew and some good footage for our upcoming show.

Our success was attributed to Jeff’s  expert shooting skills with the handgun and the fact that we were ‘hunting the rut’ during a period when our quarry was much more interested in procreating their species that worrying with a couple of humans that invaded their patch of woods.

Squirrel birthing and mating season occur twice a year. Squirrel breeding season happens once between December and February, then again in late June through August. With the gestation period lasting 38 to 46 days, female squirrels will give birth in early spring (February through April) or late summer (August/September).

The winter Outdoor Ren-de-voux in Greenville will be held Saturday, Dec. 14 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on four wooded acres adjacent Carquest (Henley Auto Supply) on Stonewall St. a few blocks north of downtown Greenville.

Luke will host the event and be there to visit with old friends and make new ones.

Admission is free and booth space is available. Several campfires will be blazing providing a great setting for hunting and fishing talk. Booth space is available.

For more information, contact Randy Koon at Henley Auto Supply (903-456-3048)

Outdoors writer, radio host and book author Luke Clayton has been addicted to everything outdoors related since his childhood when he grew up hunting and fishing in rural northeast Texas. Luke pens a weekly newspaper column that appears in over thirty newspapers.