There’s nothing spookier than a squirrel that has been spooked, but
Mr. Bushytail’s “wily” tendencies can put such an animal in the skillet
if the hunter has a trick or two up his sleeve.
My first exposure to this sort of hunter trickery came long before I
was old (big) enough to carry a gun.
My dad, the late Jacob W. Scifres, was administering one of my earliest
squirrel hunting lessons in a woods west of Crothersville, my old hometown.
We, actually my dad, saw a squirrel on a hickory tree well out of the
range of his hard shooting Winchester Model 97 shotgun. But we still had
to get close enough for a shot, and before that happened the extra noise
I made had spooked the squirrel.
The squirrel was keeping the trunk of the tree between us. But when
we were in range, we just stood quietly in the brush for several minutes.
Finally my dad told me to walk slowly to the other side of the tree.
I had taken only a few steps beyond the trunk of the tree when the shotgun
exploded, and the prime ingredient for a fried squirrel dinner plopped
on the forest floor.
The ideal situation is to stalk so slowly and silently that the hunter
gets a shot before the squirrel knows he is about. But this doesn’t always
Thus, over the years, I learned a number of tricks that would (still
will) trick squirrels into showing themselves. Incidentally, most of these
tricks will not work on gray squirrels because grays tend to vacate the
premises when spooked. But fox squirrels are less wily, not to mention
being more numerous in Indiana, except in the big hill woodlands of the
southern third of the state. This, of course, is what makes gray squirrel
hunting more difficult.
I have known hunters who carried a ball of fishing line (even grocery
twine) in their hunting coats for creating noises on the far side of trees,
but my favorite method of getting shots at spooked squirrels involved nothing
more complicated than a few hickory nuts.
I simply pick up half a dozen or so hickory nuts and keep them in my
pocket. When a squirrel has been spooked, I sit quietly for a few minutes,
then toss a nut to the far side of the tree in a manner that will cause
it to roll through dry leaves on the forest floor. If I am well concealed
and have been quiet, this will do the trick.
Nuts remaining in my pocket at the end of the hunt are used for target
practice. One at a time, I flip them 10 to 15 feet in the air and crack
them in flight with my little rifle. This sounds like a game of great skill,
and I am sure I have impressed many fellow hunters with my shooting skills.
But the trick of this shot lies in the shooter’s ability to catch the nut
at the apex of its straight-up flight. Actually, it is no more difficult
that shooting a nut on a tree limb.
Although the wariness of squirrels is a most noted characteristic, curiosity
(like that of the proverbial cat) will often be Mr. Bushytail’s undoing.
Jack Cain, one of my older outdoor “perfessors,” many years ago gave
me a lesson in using a spooked squirrel’s curious nature to get a shot.
Jack and I had been hunting solo (as we almost always did) when I saw
him sitting to watch a hickory tree. In sign language, Jack told me there
was a squirrel on the hickory and that I should watch from a distance.
I sat down quietly and watched. Ten or 15 minutes later Jack fished
his old “Barlow” from his pocket, cocked his rifle, and rested it against
a tree that hid most of his body. He gently rubbed the tip of the knife
blade against the rough surface of the rifle bolt to create a gentle scratching
noise similar to the sound a squirrel makes in cutting through the hard
shell of a hickory nut.
In a few seconds Jack’s rifle cracked and out came the squirrel.
Jack explained that the spooked squirrel had flattened its body out
on a large limb high in the hickory tree. All he could see was the tip
the squirrel’s ear, a bit of the hair on the back, and part of the tail.
When all was quiet, the raspy noise Jack had created whetted the curiosity
of the squirrel. It raised its head to locate the sound.
Incidentally, when squirrels are spooked and hiding, the hunter will
often locate the animals by looking for their tails. Spooked squirrels
often conceal their bodies well, but seem to forget about their Achilles
tails dangling for all to see.
It is, of course, highly unethical--not to mention unlawful--to damage
a squirrel den or nest.
Take A Kid Hunting Day
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is partnering with the National
Shooting Sports Foundation and Hoosier outdoor recreation organizations
of the state to organize the first annual “Take A Kid Hunting Day” on September
17. Although this year’s special hunting day for kids will be confined
to wild game species open to hunting on that day (dove and squirrel), next
year’s youth hunting activities will include a special youth hunt for deer.
Important, as this first kids’ day of hunting may be, in essence it represents
only the “tip of the iceberg” below the surface of Indiana’s outdoors waters.
Staged by the Fish And Wildlife Conservation Youth Committee, a group
of (DNR) employees, and the movers-and-shakers of many of the state’s
conservation/hunting-fishing organizations, this first day for the kids
will depend largely on organizations and individuals to take a kid hunting
on Sept. 17.
The rationale of this effort will be found in the fact that DNR studies
indicate that Indiana lost 31 percent of its outdoors types in 20 years
(1983-2003). The plan simply seeks to keep hunting, fishing, and allied
outdoors activities strong in the state by hands-on education for Hoosier
youth who have many other recreation opportunities.
Designed, organized and chaired by Steve Rilenge, of V.P. Construction
Company, and president of the Central Chapter of Safari Clubs International,
the committee met recently to start planning for the 2006 event for kids.
The Central chapter of Safari Club has sponsored numerous other hunting
programs, including a popular plan that urges hunters to donate part of
their venison to the needy.
In addition to members of the committee, this meeting was attended by
DNR Director Kyle Hupfer and representatives of The Sportsmen’s Roundtable,
the Indiana Bowhunters Association, the Indiana Deer hunters Association,
and the Indiana Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation. Future
work of the committee is expected to involve many other individuals and
organizations that can help make our youth more aware of hunting/fishing/outdoor
Rilenge noted at the recent meeting of the committee that some 40,000
flyers were distributed at the recent Indiana State Fair to launch the
promoting Indiana’s first “Take A Kid Hunting Day.” He added that five
Lamar Advertising Company billboards around the state will help make Hoosiers
aware of the program.
The billboards will be seen on I-70 west of Richmond, on the northwest
corner of I-465 in Marion County, on US 30 near I-69 in Fort Wayne, on
I-65 north of Clarksville in Floyd County, and on I-65 at Crown Point.
Indiana has had special youth hunts for waterfowl, pheasant, and dove for
several years, in addition to a free fishing weekend. Next year it will
join Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky in promoting special deer-hunts
on thumbnail image for enlarged view.
is the poster distributed at the State Fair to promote Indiana’s first
“Take A Kid Hunting Day” on Sept. 17. The same poster will be seen from
five Lamar Advertising billboards around the state. Big things are happening
for little people in Indiana.