(Authors note: Don’t forget that squirrel season is in till the end of February in West Virginia.)
Time was when most hunters east of the big muddy started on squirrels. Too bad this tradition has fallen off some in recent years. Besides being just plain fun, learning to stalk squirrels sniper style will make you a better hunter for any other game. The squirrel sniper has much in common with the military sniper. He must get as close as possible to his target, undetected, and then he must make the shot. First though, you gotta find ‘em.
Go where the food is. If you really think about it most wild animals spend almost all of their time looking for something to eat. If there is no food around they probably changed their address. This is absolutely true for squirrels. For most of the country squirrels will be found in an oak-hickory based forest. There is no doubt that squirrels love hickory nuts and will leave most other forms of natural food (mast) to eat them. Hickory nuts mature in late summer early fall. Squirrels will find them and not hesitate to start feeding on this thin shelled nut.
Once the hickory is gone the usual move will be to some type of oak mast. White oak acorns are prized by deer, bear, turkeys and squirrels. If white oak is not available, squirrels will eat most any acorn, usually one of the red oaks. You may find squirrels for a short time in soft mast like dogwood berries, ash or maple seeds, or even some apples. Don’t forget the black walnut tree, squirrels love walnuts and will eat them all winter. In most areas however, it is acorns that get squirrels through the late season.
Make a call. It doesn’t seem like you hear much about squirrel calling anymore. I don’t put calling squirrels on the same level of effectiveness as calling turkeys, but it is certainly part of my arsenal that I want to have with me. Any bellows type squirrel call deployed around squirrels will help you take more tree rats. You may not actually draw squirrels closer to you but you will usually discover squirrels and pinpoint their location.
Squirrels depend on one another to keep the neighborhood apprised of any danger or suspicious activity. Making the standard barking, squirrel chatter on the call will cause other close by squirrels to sound the alarm and give you candidates to begin a stalk on. The distress cry of a young squirrel will usually put squirrels in the area into high gear and you can get their location, some may actually advance in your direction. Sit tight and let them come to you.
A different and very effective type of call can be made by simply imitating the sound of a squirrel “cutting” on a hickory nut or an acorn. Several items can be used for this but the simplest may be two quarters. One is held flat in the circle made with the thumb and index finger, the palm of the hand with the other fingers curved over it make a sound chamber. Now you simply tap on this quarter with the other coin to make the chipping, cutting noises of a squirrel having breakfast.
Make the shot. Accuracy with any rifle calls for the shooter to be able to hold the weapon steady. Most of the time the squirrel sniper will take a rest on a nearby tree when sighting on his quarry. Sometimes a tree is not handy for the shot offered. If not, another method may be in order.
Mac English is a well-known squirrel shooter in South Carolina that developed an unorthodox method of making the high angle shot typical of squirrel hunting. The shooter lies down, rolls slightly on his right side (right handed shooter) and keeps the right foot flat on the ground. Now you lift the left leg and cross it over your right leg. The left ankle rests on top of the right thigh. (See pictures) Shoulder the gun and press the left elbow into the bend of left leg. The left forearm will rest against the left shin. This sounds harder than it is and with a little practice will make you a deadlier squirrel sniper when no other rest is available.
Where to go. Any forested area will likely hold squirrels, especially if the forest is mainly oak-hickory based. The Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia is almost one million acres in ten counties. The Monongahela offers hundreds of miles of trails and gated forest roads to walk and hunt on. In Pocahontas County, West Virginia, just one of many places you may want to try is the Paddy’s Knob Road in the southern end of the county. You may enter this road on the south end near area known as Rimel, on Rt. 39, or on the northern end near the community of Frost, West Virginia, off Rt. 84 near the Virginia state line. For most of its 22 miles the Paddy’s Knob Road is the boundary for Virginia and West Virginia. You can hunt either state depending on which side of the road you are on. (Make sure you have the proper hunting license for the state you are in) Numerous trails and gated Forest Service roads give you access to thousands of acers of squirrel woods. The US Forest Service Office at Bartow, West Virginia, can help with directions and general information. (304-456-3335)
Bluestone Wildlife Management Area in southern West Virginia consists of 18,000 acres along the New River and is often underutilized. One of several areas on Bluestone is Mouth of Indian Creek, approximately 20 miles from Hinton, West Virginia, off of Route 12.
The George Washington National Forest in Virginia boasts over a million and a half acres, in parcels extending up the spine of the Appalachians roughly from the Tennessee state line following the northwest Virginia boundary with Kentucky and West Virginia.