The Grand Slam…
It seems no one hunts squirrels any more. Maybe we are too preoccupied with whitetail deer nowadays. Hunting small game may sound boring after experiencing the heart pounding excitement of pursuing those big bucks, but squirrel hunting holds an attraction of its own.
Squirrel hunting is a great way for a youngster or beginner to gain some valuable hunting experience. The enthusiasm of a beginner is contagious. In fact, I think we need a little of a kid’s enthusiasm to enjoy hunting to the fullest. For some fun, find a kid to take squirrel hunting. I guarantee you’ll have just as much fun as he does. My 11 year-old grandson, Chance, and I often spend an afternoon enjoying the outdoors by squirrel hunting. Even experienced hunters would do well to remember the lessons learned in the squirrel woods. Many of today’s best big game hunters cut their hunting teeth on squirrels.
Due to the long squirrel season in Michigan, they can be hunted under a variety of changing conditions. The season opens on September 15th, with green leaves on the trees and just a hint of the coming fall in the air. It continues through glorious fall weather and into winter, with snow on the ground and bare tree branches rattling in an icy wind. Squirrel season closes on March 1st, when the snow is melting and there might even be a hint of the coming spring in the air. Squirrels are tough! They seem to thrive under any weather conditions.
There is no shortage of squirrels here in central Michigan. The woodlots are full of them. Almost any woods that have large oak trees or are bordered by a cornfield will hold several well fed, fat and happy squirrels.
In an unhunted woodlot they may seem almost dumb…almost, but not quite. If they do seem too easy, an experienced hunter can switch from a shotgun to a .22 rifle to make it more fun. Or, try hunting them with your bow and arrow for even more of a challenge.
I often stalk squirrels on my way out of the woods after leaving my morning bowhunting stand. Of course, when using my bow, I try to get shots at squirrels while they are on the ground. Sometimes I get lucky and get one. I fondly remember one early October day when the acorns were dropping. I eased slowly along an oak ridge on my way back to the truck. A stiff breeze rustled the fallen leaves as the squirrels scurried through them looking for acorns. The rustling leaves and the squirrels preoccupation allowed me to get within bow range of several of the little critters. I don’t remember how many shots I took but I did manage to dull all my broadheads while connecting on two nice fox squirrels. Both were cleanly taken with well placed shots at a distance of only 10 to 15 yards. My hunting buddy’s jaw sure dropped when I walked out of the woods carrying my recurve bow and two squirrels.
One popular hunting method is using a call to locate squirrels. Personally, I’ve never had much luck with the various squirrel calls I’ve tried. That is, until I saw some home video of a couple of guys with longbows calling squirrels that came to them on the run. They stood there laughing and shooting arrows at squirrels that just wouldn’t leave. With a little detective work, I discovered that the call they were using was a Mr. Squirrel, squirrel whistle. Chance and I have had some fun with that squirrel call! It’s supposed to be a squirrel in distress type call. I blow it just like a predator call. I just take a deep breath and start whistling on the call until a squirrel comes, or I run out of air, whichever comes first. They do come on the run too, sort of like attack squirrels. All they lack is a deep growl. If squirrels did that it would really be scary!
One sunny day last October, Chance and I quietly entered a farm woodlot near home and found a fallen log to sit down on. A cool breeze blew softly through the colored leaves on the trees around us. It seemed good just to relax and enjoy that magical, fresh smell of the fall woods.
After a few minutes of silence Chance turned and whispered, “Blow the squirrel call.”
Thirty seconds of non-stop calling brought results. “Here comes one! Get ready!” I hissed, as a big fox squirrel came running full speed straight at us. Chance jumped to his feet, turned toward the advancing squirrel and raised his single shot .410 to his shoulder. The squirrel came even faster, bouncing straight toward us almost aggressively. Until…Bam!
That day two out of three of our calling attempts brought fox squirrels running to us. The time spent with my grandson made it a memorable hunt for me as well as for him. As we walked home from our hunt, Chance mentioned, “I’ve got six fox squirrels now, but I’d really like to get a black squirrel.”
“I’ve seen several blacks over by the river where I bowhunt,” I mused. “Hey, if you get a black all you’ll need is a grey and a little red squirrel for a Squirrel Grand Slam.”
After a pause Chance cautiously asked, “Is there really a Squirrel Grand Slam?”
“Sure! There is if you want it to be.” I answered.
“When can we go squirrel hunting over by the river?” Chance asked.
See what I mean about the enthusiasm of a young hunter?