Squirrel Hunting with a Suppressor

Larry Case

Larry Case

In this segment of Larry Case’s series on hunting with silencers, he delves into the often abused and belittled tradition of squirrel hunting. Only this time, he goes squirrel hunting with a suppressor.

“So, do you squirrel hunt?”

I can see the doubt and patronizing look on the guy’s face, and I reply, “Yep, most of my life. I love it.”

I prepare to educate another non-believer, someone that is a hunter but maybe thinks that all hunting consists of is sitting in a tree stand hour after boring hour.

And then, he continues, “Well, is shooting squirrels really all that hard, or is it very exciting? I mean we see them all the time when we walk in the park.”

To which, I allow myself an inward sigh and start the lesson.

SAVAGE 64 FV-SR .22 RIFLE, VORTEX DIAMONDBACK SCOPE, SILENCERCO WARLOCK 22 SUPPRESSOR
The set up is made of a Savage 64 FV-SR .22 rifle, a Vortex Diamondback scope and a SilencerCo Warlock 22.

Squirrel Hunting is … Cool

Squirrel hunting is really cool. I say that because since the first brave settlers crossed the Alleghenies going west, squirrel hunting has been a staple in the eastern mountains and much of the south. Pioneers fed their families in hard times with the often-plentiful squirrel population. As time went by, squirrels became the traditional first game for young hunters.

Squirrel Woods 101

Think about it. Almost all we need to learn about hunting in general we can learn in the squirrel woods: How to find the food that attracts game, looking for a sign that the game is present, the all-important learning about being quiet and how to move silently, and last but not least, how to sit still. All of these and a dozen more hunter basics we learn stalking the lowly gray squirrel.

Many times, I have heard hunting guides and experienced hunters say, “Show me someone that grew up squirrel hunting and I will show you a good deer or turkey hunter.” Squirrel hunting is the woodland classroom for hunter training; it’s Hunting 101.

Squirrel hunting is more than just a training ground, though, it is a lot of fun in its own right. If you are not a squirrel hunter, here are some reasons you should start.

 

WV SQUIRREL HUNTER RICHIE MILLE R AND SEMI RETIRED SQUIRREL DOG CALLIE
Here's Callie, who claims she's semi-retired, but always ready for a good squirrel hunt, along with the author's friend, Richie Miller.

Why You Should Go Squirrel Hunting

In a time where everyone is too busy to do anything, squirrel hunting gets you outside where you should be. Squirrel hunting does not require a lot of complicated preparation – such as setting up tree stands, checking trail cams, or placing bait or other attractants. Foresters estimate that east of the Big Muddy alone we have more than 384 million acres of woodlands. In most places, if you have woodland, you have squirrels.

A lot of this woodland acreage is on public land. On private land, you stand a good chance of getting permission to squirrel hunt. Landowners are much more likely to let you squirrel hunt than they are for deer or turkeys.

You may get a look like, “Squirrel hunt? Really?” But chances are, you will get permission. The first thing required to be a successful hunter is a place to go, so with a little legwork, and a pleasant demeanor, you should find lots of squirrel hunting spots.

SQUIRREL HUNTER TAKES AIM WITH SAVAGE MODEL 64 AND SILENCERCO WARLOCK 22 SUPPRESSOR
Richie Miller takes aim.

Be a Squirrel Sniper

Let’s be honest, spot-and-stalk hunting is fun. You advance slowly and quietly through the woods. On a nice quiet day, all of your senses are tuned to the sights and sounds of your quarry. The swish of branches overhead or the gritty, chipping sound of a squirrel cutting on a hickory nut or acorn grabs your attention and you are tuned in like the Star Trek Enterprise on a Klingon cruiser.

Slowly, one careful step at a time, you attempt to cut the distance to the squirrel chattering away high in the treetops. Often, walking through leaf litter on the ground is like walking on potato chips. Your stalking skills are put to the supreme test.

In many areas, this method is called “slip hunting.” You are trying to “slip up” on a squirrel. More on this later. Make no mistake, it is not an easy task; this is not the squirrel in the park that begs for peanuts. It’s not the same one that your poodle chases every day. This is a wild squirrel that survives by being extremely wary, because every hawk, fox, coyote and any other predator is trying to have him for dinner.

squirrel on plate
Fried squirrel with gravy and cornbread. (Kevin Murphy, Small Game Nation, photo)

No, It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken

Properly prepared, squirrels are absolutely delicious. I know, I know, if you don’t come from a hunting family and culture that hunts and eats squirrels, this sounds weird to you. Squirrel meat is mild and flavorful and can be used in any number of recipes. The standard usually consists of parboiling or pressure-cooking the quartered squirrels to get them nice and tender.

The pieces are then rolled in your favorite seasoned breading and fried golden brown. Traditionally, gravy often is made in the skillet after the pieces are removed. In truth, the squirrel can be used in everything from tacos to a potpie. You are only limited by your imagination, and if you need more recipes, check with our managing editor. She turned down a chance to be in the World Squirrel Cook-Off one year because she saw that minted squirrel brains had been on the menu in the previous year.

The Ultimate Cool Squirrel Hunting Tool

While there are many more reasons to get you into the squirrel woods, let’s talk about this.

Using a suppressor will up your squirrel (or any other small game) hunting expertise way over the top.

So think about the spot-and stalk kind of squirrel hunting we talked about earlier, slip hunting. Whether we are moving quietly to get in .22 rifle range on a squirrel, or just sitting and waiting for squirrels to appear, the object is to be as quiet as you can. The crack of a .22 Long Rifle will often send squirrels into hiding, sometimes for long periods. Using a suppressor, such as the SilencerCo Warlock 22, will lessen the noise of the .22 greatly. In fact, it’ll take it down to about 114 dB with supersonic ammo (muzzle velocity greater than about 1100 feet per second). With subsonic ammo, I would estimate the sound of the rifle is roughly that of an average pellet gun; it’s pretty quiet.

West Virginia Squirrel Hunt dogs
In this photo, the dogs have the squirrel treed.

Gone to the Dogs

There is another type of squirrel hunting that bears mentioning. Long ago, hunters in the southern Appalachians started using cur dogs, feists and various mixtures of breeds to squirrel hunt.

In short, a squirrel dog runs the woods ahead of the hunter and finds squirrels by scent, sight and hearing. Then, the squirrel-crazy canine tracks them to a tree. Once the dog is sure it is the right tree, he begins to bark to alert his hunter.

When arriving at the tree, a hunter may have to take some time to locate the squirrel, as these rats with good PR are past masters of hiding. Once located, it is the job of the hunter to take a steady aim and bring down the squirrel for the game bag. Hunting with squirrel dogs is at the other end of the zenith from slip hunting. It is often noisy and lively with the dogs barking treed, but it can be a heck of a lot of fun, and I have maintained for years it is the best way to introduce new hunters to the sport, whether young or old.

Using the suppressor is also advantageous in hunting squirrels with a dog. When training young dogs, it is better to introduce them to the sound of a gun gradually.

Older experienced dogs will usually show no concern for a .22 rifle or shotgun shot over their head at treed squirrels. When training a young dog, however, using a suppressed rifle is definitely a good idea. The young trainee soon learns that the gunfire means he may be grabbing a squirrel, and the gentler report of the suppressed rifle gets the dog used to all of this slowly, and soon the dog will pay no attention the report of the gun.

SQUIRREL IN GAME VEST WITH SILENCERCO WARLOCK 22

The Human Factor

As I have pointed out before in this series, hunting with a suppressed firearm has numerous advantages for the hunter. Furthermore, as our hunting areas shrink across this nation, the sound of gunshots – even .22 rifle reports – sometimes are not desirable for various neighbors. A suppressed weapon (rifle or shotgun) may go a long way in keeping the peace with those around us.

Another factor is the effect of noise and recoil on the shooter. There is no doubt a suppressor lessens both. New shooters will be more comfortable with less recoil, which is usually their main concern, and less noise also helps. Older, experienced shooters may have a hard time admitting it, but a suppressed weapon will improve their shooting as well. At the end of the day, I believe the record will show that we will all shoot a gun more accurately that makes less noise and has less recoil.

DOTZIE THE MOUNTAIN CUR SQUIRREL DOG ON THE TREE
Here's Dotzie, doing her thing and treeing another squirrel.

Waxing on the Warlock 22

The Warlock 22 has an exceptional weight-to-strength ratio and is one of the lightest .22LR silencers on the market. Due to the notoriously harsh nature of rimfire ammunition (it often produces a lot of residue in barrels and suppressors), this product features CTA (Click Together Assembly) baffles. These baffles ensure the silencer remains easy to clean — even after long days at the range. Thanks to its high-strength baffle design and lightweight aluminum construction, the Warlock 22 weighs only three ounces and reduces rifle report sound to an average of 114.6 dB.  

OK, class let’s review. Want to have a heck of a bunch of fun this fall and winter? Want to do some hunting that will polish your stalking skills and marksmanship? How about doing this on a budget where you don’t have to deal with expensive leases and a lot of preparation? If all of this sounds good, you need to get to the squirrel woods. You are going to find out that squirrel hunting is cool, and squirrel hunting with a SilencerCo suppressor is really cool!

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