Thursday, July 29, 2004
Bill Cochran's Mailbag: Hunting for cabins, squirrels
Bill Cochran's Outdoors
- Virginia’s hunting totals produce mixed results
- A good trade: Virginia trout for Kentucky elk
- Forget the odds-makers; Salem’s John Crews believes he can win the Bassmaster Classic.
- The good and bad of the 2012 saltwater fishing season
- Column archive
Bill's Field Reports
- Virginia General Assembly goes soft on outdoor issues
- Quail Unlimited calls it quits
- Field reports archive
Do you know anywhere I can look for maybe privately owned cabins and land that people rent out in Virginia?
COLEEN: Finding a rustic cabin on private property where game is abundant is a difficult task. I wish I could send you a list to choose from, but I am not aware of any organization that compiles a directory of such accommodations. I searched my resources and only came up with Hunters Paradise in Bath County. It advertises cabin rentals, along with organized hunts. The phone number is 540-996-4134.
A cabin along the national forest isn’t a bad idea. The forest doesn’t get the hunting pressure it once did and in many cases offers good deer, turkey and bear hunting. You also might want to check with the Department of State Parks. Some parks offer hunting and cabins. As you travel through the backcountry this summer, stop at country stores and gun/tackle shops and inquire about cabins. Maybe a reader will send information on cabin rentals that I can forward to you.
Wish I could do better for you, but that all I have.
BILL: I am an outdoor writer working on an assignment for a magazine. I need information specifically on team hunting for squirrels. I understand that some hunters work in teams from opposite sides of the tree to prevent the squirrel from using the tree as a barrier by moving to the backside of the tree. While that may be effective it sounds dangerous to me. What are your thoughts? Have you team hunted or know about it? If so, how is the safety issue handled?
ED: While squirrel hunting is considered a solitary, contemplative sport by many, I frequently enjoy teaming up with a trusted companion in a buddy system that can be highly effective. The basic approach is for two people to still-hunt by moving parallel through squirrel habitat while about 30-yards apart. When a squirrel attempts its favorite trick of sliding around a tree trunk or limb to avoid detection by one hunter, it frequently exposes itself to the other hunter.
You are going to see a lot more squirrels with this technique for two reasons. Fewer of them are going to avoid detection, for one thing. Secondly, the buddy system lets you cover more territory. The latter doesn’t mean you should be in a hurry. Move slowly when you are in good squirrel habitat. Take two or three quiet steps, then pause to look and listen. Let your eyes and ears do the hunting for telltale signs of foraging squirrels. You are out to detect the gnawing of sharp teeth on hard nut shells; the rustling of leaves either in the tree tops or on the forest floor; the patter of nut shells hitting the forest duff; the sound of claws scratching against bark; the swishing of limbs or bushy tails; barking.
The better you know the terrain you hunt the more successful you will be. Get out for preseason scouting.
The buddy system is best applied the first and last hour of daylight, especially in the early fall. Try to organize your hunt so the sun is at your back illuminating the cover to your front and skylighting squirrels. Late winter, switch to midday for the best results.
Notice I said this is to be done with a trusted partner. I can’t over emphasize the safety angle. Team up only with a person who is safe and who has good woodsmanship knowledge. Good teamwork means you know how to read your buddy’s body language to sense the presence of a squirrel. You also must develop methods to alert your partner that a squirrel is moving in his direction. These can be a soft whistle, a hand signal, a head nod.
At no time do you get ahead or behind your partner. You remain parallel. One hunter moves a few steps forward while the second hunter watches. Then the second hunter advances a few steps while the first watches. Shots are to be fired only at a safe upward angle. Never compromise safety by taking a shot that could lead to trouble. Pass it up. If you can’t be safe, forget this technique.
I use a scoped .22 and shoot only for the head of the squirrel.
While the team method will work in the deep woods, it is at its best in open areas. Look for ridges with southern exposure that contain regenerating hickory trees and oaks and for fence rows or creek bottoms that harbor mast-bearing trees; for clumps of hardwoods in meadows; for the productive edge along swamps and forests. With this technique, you can move rapidly through non-productive habitat and concentrated on the spots where squirrels feed and den up. It is especially productive for fox squirrels, which are noted for their ability to hide in order to let a single hunter pass.