Keep a shotgun handy
Even though it seems that fewer folks are squirrel hunters now, the season is open in most East Texas counties as of May 1. Out in the Hill Country, there is no closed season for squirrels. Hunters that enjoy still or stand hunting during the Hill Country deer season will normally see numerous fox squirrels. East Texas offers both fox squirrels and gray squirrels, depending to the type of terrain where you are hunting.
With so much green vegetation now on the trees, seeing a squirrel may be difficult. That’s especially the case when it lies flat and holds tight to a big limb. Windy days are especially tough on hunting. During dead still mornings or afternoons it is possible to locate the bushy tails at fairly long distances. Whenever they are active on still days, it is possible to not only see the squirrels move but also the leaves shake. Many times I have heard them in the trees long before I could see them.
For the outdoors folks that enjoy both hunting and fishing, and there are a good number of us, it is possible to enjoy either fishing at dawn or dusk and hunting during mid-morning or mid-afternoon. On the other hand, some folks might choose to be squirrel hunting at dawn and then heading afloat. Either way there is plenty of action available now.
Deciding what type of firearm to use can depend upon the type of area that you plan to hunt in. Over the years, the .22 rifle has been a choice squirrel stopper. They are relatively inexpensive to shoot, and youngsters can enjoy using them. The .22 caliber has no recoil to speak of. I’ve had good success hunting squirrels using all of the three bullets offered. Shorts, long or long rifle ammo are all squirrel getters. Even some of the low velocity bullets do fine. I do prefer to use hollow points when using a .22 caliber for small game. The hollow points seem to make more clean kills. The .22 caliber magnum is much more powerful than the regular .22 caliber. Ammo is much more expensive to buy, though. When a .22 magnum hollow point hits a squirrel, it will definitely be instant lights out. That hot bullet might be just a little bit overkill, but is works fine.
I do not recommend using any rifle other than an air rifle if you are hunting on public land. Those little .22 bullets can travel a long distance and become a hazard to others that are in the woods. It does not make for a pleasant hunting trip to hear whining ricocheted bullets coming from nearby. The answer to this problem is the use of either one of the new powerful air rifles or a scattergun. The shotgun has long been the more popular choice for squirrel hunting. That’s especially the case where the little .410 or 28 gauge is selected. Both of these guns are great, especially in leafy woods, for taking squirrels. Larger gauges do fine. It’s just that they have many more pellets than are necessary to kill a squirrel. I prefer to use No. 6 shot, 3-inch .410 ammo for squirrels. For the younger hunters, the short brass ammo will do just fine with little recoil.OK, so now it’s time to head into the woods in search of some squirrel stew, dumplings or just plain fried squirrel.
There are, however, several woods dwellers that could make your hunt uncomfortable. There are those banana spiders that build their webs across walking trails. I don’t believe that they will actually harm you, but they could make me harm myself trying to get them off me. There are also plenty of ticks and chiggers (redbugs) out this year. Deer ticks are known carriers of Lyme disease, which is a bad scene. I recommend spraying any opening in your clothes with a strong repellant such as Off.
Last, but certainly not least, is that the snakes are on the move. Wooded brush areas should be checked closely before walking through them. Also check closely before reaching for a dead squirrel to retrieve it. Sometimes those big rattlesnakes eat squirrels. Copperheads are much more common in the woods, but there could be cottonmouth water moccasins around creeks and sloughs. Any wooded area that holds water may be good places to check closely before crossing.
I can’t finish this article without notifying the flounder anglers that a fair run is taking place in and around Lake Sabine. Lead-head jigs with grubs, plastics and tipped with shrimp are good choices. The new Nearly Alive has come to the front as a fluke catcher.
Billy Halfin can be reached by e-mail at bhalfinoutdoors [at] aol [dot] com.