Squirrel hunting prospects bright

OUTDOORS

November 08, 1992|By LONNY WEAVER

Squirrel hunting prospects are great throughout Anne Arundel County this fall. The season began on Oct. 5 and continues through January, making it Maryland's longest small-game hunt. The generous bag limit is six a day.

Squirrel hunting is a special sport for many hunters. Bushy-tails are often the first game animal sought by novice hunters. Yet, a limit of gray squirrels is one of the most consistently difficult bags to fill.

Given a good mast crop, such as we have this year, squirrels are abundant nearly everywhere. The exception this year, said Department of Natural Resources Forest Game Project Manager Golden, is Western Maryland.

"We're still recovering from the gypsy moth problem of a few years back and do not have a very good mast crop," he said. But Golden said grouse hunting throughout the new-growth areas "looks like it's going to be terrific for at least a few years into the future."

I took advantage of a misty morning to bag a limit from a wood lot not far from home. Of all the times to hunt squirrels, I have always favored wet mornings when the idea was to fill my bag with a minimum of trouble. Sodden leaves allow me to move quickly and quietly through the woods and approach the ever-alert squirrels well within shotgun or .22 rifle range. Also, it is easy to locate their tree top movements as they jump from tree to tree.

Because the trees still were wearing most of their leaves, I carried a full-choked 12-gauge pump loaded with a full 1 1/4 ounces of No. 6 shot. This is a favorite choice of bushy-tail hunters who must shoot through heavy tree foliage or near homes.

The .22 rifle is my choice when stalking within shotgun range is all but impossible due to dry leaves carpeting the ground. The mild little rifle is ideal for squirrel hunting -- quiet, accurate and inexpensive.

I have hunted this wood lot for a number of years and knew of the locations of a couple of den trees, so I picked a comfortable stump near one and waited for the activity to begin.

I had chosen my stump well and in a little less than an hour had four gray squirrels in my game bag -- enough for a tasty stew and another November morning to tuck away into my memory.

Though I did not use a squirrel call on this hunt, I frequently use one when hunting a strange wood lot or when I am hunting with a camera and need a close-up or two. Calling is an effective and often overlooked hunting technique.

Most popular squirrel calls have a short wooden or plastic tube with a rubber bellows attached to one end. These inexpensive calls are easy to master and should be a part of any bushy-tail hunter's gear. To use the call, simply hold the tube with one hand and tap the rubber bellows with the palm of the other hand.

The safety on a couple of my shotguns as well as a .22 rifle I once owned could be counted on for drawing squirrels into range by simply clicking on and off. The clicking sound resembled the sound of other squirrels cracking the shells of nuts. Try it sometime.

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