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Hunting bushytails with shotgun can be challenge

By By BEN NORMAN
Outdoors Columnist
If you are like most Alabama hunters there is a good chance that the first game animal you harvested was a gray or fox squirrel.
I'll never forget the first squirrel I bagged with my new .20 gauge shotgun at the ripe old age of 10. It was on a cool October afternoon sitting under a big oak with my father. Memories like these are not erased with the passage of time.
There is no better time than the first few weeks of October to take an outdoorsman's walk down memory lane by revisiting your old squirrel hunting woods, or if that is impossible, find some woods as similar to them as you can. Take that "first gun" with you if you still have it. Many of us have a .410 or .20 gauge single barrel stored in a closet, long replaced by more modern automatics, pumps and doubles.
Some years ago, a few outdoor writers wrote articles advocating that squirrels should be hunted only with a .22 rifle, and insinuated that hunting squirrels with a shotgun is unsporting. They are entitled to their opinion, but I wonder if they have ever really tried to hit a running squirrel with a .22 as it jumps through the top of a 100 year old oak. Squirrel hunting with a .22 rifle or pistol is one of the most challenging forms of small game hunting. Some of today's "accurized" .22s, equipped with good scopes are capable of shooting a flea off a squirrels' ear at 50 yards, if the squirrel is sitting still. But some squirrel hunting situations call for a good shotgun.
Interest in squirrel hunting is experiencing a revival. Alabama's extended squirrel season, beginning Oct. 14 and extending to February 28, enables hunters to get into the woods early and combine deer scouting with squirrel hunting. .
Most any shotgun will do for squirrel hunting if properly choked. When several hunters are walking through a forest of moderate height trees and "shaking vines" to run Mr. Bushytail out of his lair, an improved cylinder or modified with no. 6 or 7 1/2 will suffice. When the trees get taller and the distance increases, a modified or full choke with a load of no 5 or 6 shot works better. No. 6 shot is probably the best compromise for all-around squirrel hunting. Hi-power shells are not usually required unless maybe for the .410 or 28 gauge. Field loads in 12, 16, and 20 gauges are adequate except in cases where extreme range is involved.
Hunting squirrels with that new scope sighted super zapper .22 with its' inch thick accurized barrel, or that new scope sighted pistol is a challenge to anyone's shooting ability. But, if you've got a hankering to turn back time to your youth, if just for a few hours, grab that old shotgun and go chase a bushytail or two- it will make you feel like a teenager again!