• Winter Squirrel Hunting Challenge

    January is the last month for squirrel hunting in Wisconsin. In my opinion this is the best hunting of the year. The thaw or warm days above freezing are best. The woods are clear of most of the leaves on the trees, and with this cover missing holes and nests are easy to locate.

    Narrowing down a place to sit depends on sign, such chewed as nuts and of course tracks in the snow if you have this condition. In the morning try to keep the sun at your back staying to the southeast side of the woods. Snow cover makes for quieter walking, increased visibility and for finding squirrel foraging areas.

    On cold days an early morning hunt may be the best time to get a shot. Squirrels have a habit of relieving themselves within an hour after sunrise. This is an opportunity for a shot when they come out of their hole or nest for this daily ritual. Even during this cold weather hunt, young squirrels will be active. (Detecting movement is much easier with the woods open and free of foliage.)

    With winter now present most hunters have cleaned their guns so the woods are free from pressure. Several of the farm woods I hunt are not available until late in the season. Many farmers hunt turkey or deer with bow & gun and they don't allow squirrel and rabbit hunters until the end of deer gun season.

    Many years I have had the advantage of having a corn field with a standing crop which is a magnet to both squirrels and rabbits. Squirrels travel from tree to tree and by ground provided there is not deep snow.

    One factor of small game hunting is how hardware and clothing has improved greatly over the past 40 years. Rifles, and for that matter handguns have become more effective tools for making clean head shots at greater distances.

    When I was twelve years old my first hunt was with a 12 gauge with a 1 1/8 oz load of number 6 shot. After the first day of hunting my father said, "you watch me clean my squirrels and then you can do yours." I soon discovered why he used a 22 rifle.

    The many small lethal little holes which brought my quarry falling out of the trees was now a mess to contend with while dressing this game. After this game cleaning experience it was the last time I used a shotgun ever for squirrel.

    My father picked up a used single shot Winchester bolt action which worked well with my young eyes. In my 20's I shot many meals of head shot squirrels with a Smith & Wesson Target Masterpiece Model 17 K22 rimfire with an 8 3/8 inch barrel. Now in my 50's and wearing prescription glasses a scoped handgun is a blessing. The S&W Model 647 in .17 HMR (Hornady Magnum Rimfire) with a Burris 3X12 Handgun Model scope is my new replacement. No other manufacturer except Burris can claim being the World's Leader in handgun scopes.

    Over the past three years I have taken advantage of the newly manufactured .17 caliber rimfire cartridges. The two available 17 caliber rounds both came by necking down the cases of the 22 long rifle and 22 rimfire magnum. Both of these 17's were developed by Hornady.

    The most recent addition is the 17 Mach2 rimfire from the 22 long rifle case. The bullets in both these rimfires utilize a 17 grain V-Max bullet. The Mach2 has a 2100 fps velocity and the 17 HMR has a 2,550 fps velocity. The Mach2 is nearly 70 percent faster than a standard-velocity .22 LR.

    ELEY known for it's unbeatable accuracy in 22 match and small game 22 Sub Sonic ammunition manufactures a superb Mach2 cartridge. It has a ballistic tipped jacketed bullet which shoots tight groups and it is ideally suited for squirrels and rabbits or your vermin of choice.

    Either of these 17's deliver explosive results to a squirrel or rabbits head. I have shot starlings which virtually disappeared in a puff of feathers. There is no recoil so when looking through a good clear scope it is easy to see the bullet hitting!

    Long shots are common during a winter hunt. The 17's do an incredible job at shooting flat out to 100 yards. Savage Arms manufactures one of the most accurate rifles of all 15 companies producing guns for these 17's. Savage has both right and left hand models in a variety of stocks in blued or stainless barrels.

    The Savage model Mark II-BVSS 17HM2 rifle in the article image comes with a 100 yard test target. Their company slogan is "The Definition of Accuracy." This is a true statement judging from the .270 thousands of an inch three shot group which is just over 1/4 of an inch. Incredible!

    This rifle will have the AccuTrigger for 2006, which gives the shooter the flexibility to set the trigger pull to individual preference without having to pay a gunsmith to adjust it. Also, even when adjusted to its lowest setting, the AccuTrigger is completely safe and cannot accidentally discharge during normal use from being jarred or dropped when maintained and adjusted as intended. A newly designed teardrop safety is an additional feature that will be found on rifles with the AccuTrigger. It provides for better acquisition of the safety button and operates more smoothly and quietly.

    This Savage bolt with the Burris Fullfield II 3X9 scope is an effective combination for hunting squirrel and shooting over 100 yards. Head shots in the winter are often between 50 to 80 yards. With this Savage and scope combination these long shots are possible with regularity.

    Good luck if you choose to take advantage of this excellent time for hunting squirrel.

    A very simple recipe for squirrel is to shake the meat in a bag of flour and brown in a frying pan. Place this browned meat in a roster pan with an inch of water, carrots, potatoes, onions, salt and pepper. Preheat oven to 350. Place in covered roster and bake for 1.5 hours. For me it is hard to beat this wild game table fare.

    Submitted by Todd Koehn

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