Tuesday morning I entered a Manchester woods just as the morning sun rose. A limit of gray squirrels was my primary objective, but I also hoped to pick out a good spot to sit over during the early three-day muzzleloader deer hunt that concluded yesterday.
This particular woods straddles a ridge with cornfields on either side.
The place is loaded with whitetails and the hunting pressure is relatively light thanks to an out-of-the-way location. Most of the people who hunt the property totally ignore the superb squirrel hunting prospects, which is fine with me.
I began my hunt by following a long forgotten, barely visible logging road for about 50 yards before glimpsing my first squirrel it raced down the trunk of a tree and through the thickening carpet of fallen leaves. The squirrel was about 40 yards from the edge of the road and a shot was impossible because of the thick vegetation.
I left the road and managed to get close enough for an easy shot from my scoped .22 autoloading rifle, but the squirrel must have spotted a last-moment movement or sound and raced off to safety.
Back on the road, I managed to put the scope's crosshairs on a squirrel sitting on a stump. After the shot, I stayed put beside a mostly dead oak tree for a couple of minutes and was rewarded with another shot a few yards to the right of the stump. I was now nearly a mile from my starting point.
After getting another squirrel within my sights an hour later, but missing cleanly with two pulls of trigger, I left the road and worked my way down the gentle south slope of the wooded ridge. When the land leveled out, I tried to stay within 50 yards of the adjoining standing cornfield in hopes of intercepting corn-raiding squirrels.
If you have a tough time locating squirrels, (though there seems to be plenty in Carroll County this year, thanks to a super nut
crop), try your luck on the fringes of wood lots bordering cornfields. Move slowly along the edges, keeping a sharp lookout for squirrels feeding on fallen ears of field corn. They also will boldly venture a few yards into an open, cut cornfield to feed on scattered kernels and half-shelled cobs left by cornpickers.
A third squirrel was added to my game bag as it paused between jumps from a tall oak's limbs. My Weatherby Mark XXII rifle accounted for the fourth and final addition to the bag.
I have long favored a .22 rifle for the bulk of the squirrel hunting. Luckily, I seldom am forced to hunt areas near to homes, but when I am, the shotgun is my only consideration.
If you opt for the shotgun, any gauge will do nicely on squirrels, from the little .410 up to the standard 2 3/4 -inch chambered 12 gauge. Some scattergunners like #5 shot, but give me #6 every time. A modified or full choke is about right.
An accurate .22 is a joy to carry into a squirrel woods. It should be scoped. I have used any number of scopes on my .22 rifles over the years and believe a straight 4x is about ideal. Such a scope gathers lots of light and sports ample magnification in a setting were 25 yards is a long shot.
Over the years I've tried just about every .22 load from expensive match grade offerings made here and abroad to the various hyper-velocity rounds such as the CCI Stinger and Remington Yellowjacket. The old, standard velocity .22 long rifle hollowpoint is the best squirrel choice.
The squirrel season continues through Jan. 31 in all Maryland counties and the daily bag limit is six.
Fall trout stockings
The Department of Natural Resources' fall trout stocking has been completed in Carroll County. Local waters receiving attention were Piney Reservoir, which got 1,000 trout; Taneytown Rod & Gun Pond, 300 trout; the Bennet Cerf Pond, in Westminster, which received 200 trout; and the Farm Museum Pond, also in Westminster, which was stocked with 700 trout. Statewide, the DNR stocked more than 440,000 trout this fall.