Sharpen Your Skills with Squirrels

Squirrels have sparked the hunting spirit of many young hunters. Interest in squirrel hunting,however, often wanes as hunters grow older. Bigger game, such as white-tailed deer, takes center stage.

Nevertheless, squirrel hunting can be just as exciting as ever, and it's a superb way to sharpen your deer-hunting skills.

Building Patience

The amount of waiting inherent in hunting white-tailed deer demands more patience than most people have. Our culture demands immediate satisfaction. When we want something, we expect to get it right away. This attitude runs counter to nature's pace and to the mindset needed to successfully hunt whitetails.

Developing patience requires practice, and a great time to practice is while squirrel hunting.

Squirrels are abundant in Missouri. The squirrel season is long, and limits are liberal. Any tract of timber larger than 10 acres with mature, nut-producing trees will usually contain lots of squirrels. Good squirrel hunting is easy to find, and it's an excellent way to escape the "have-it-now" tempo of the modern world.

Squirrel hunting, requires that you slip back into nature's pace. You may have to wait an hour or so for a squirrel to re-emerge after ducking into a den tree. You may have to stand in one place and
look skyward for 15 minutes. You'll find that you have to travel through the woods in discreet, five-step increments. The patience that you acquire in squirrel hunting will make you a better and more successful deer hunter.

Shooting Skills

For any hunter, the rifle range is a fine place to practice marksmanship. However, few deer or squirrels are taken by hunters shooting at marked distances from a bench rest in full sun. At the range and in the woods, proper breathing, trigger control and follow through are the same, but that's about it. Deer hunters face an array of shot angles from a variety of shooting positions under varying light conditions. To further complicate matters, shots must often be made within a narrow window of opportunity.

Squirrel hunting provides frequent shooting practice under the same conditions you'll face when deer hunting. To fine-tune your marksmanship for deer season, hunt squirrels with a .22-caliber rifle similar to the design of your deer rifle, and use the same type of sights that you use while deer hunting. If you hunt deer with a muzzleloading rifle, squirrel hunting is even more helpful.

Muzzle-loading rifles, from flintlocks to in-lines, are highly reliable and accurate. Level of reliability and accuracy, however,