Squirrely Solutions

7

This Volquartsenized Ruger is loaded with embellishments making a
superbly accurate pistol. Burris 2-7x handgun scope and Lapua Center-X
ammo augment accuracy.

Small-game hunting is often overlooked and unappreciated by many handgun hunters. Squirrels and rabbits don’t take the glamor spot compared to big game but do provide a great opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors. Squirrels can be most challenging — and downright humbling — to hunt, especially with a rimfire handgun.

Small Game Benefits

In many states, seasons are long, lasting several months as opposed to a few days like big game seasons. Here in my home state of Missouri, opening day of squirrel season begins Memorial Day weekend and runs until February 15th. That’s over eight months to enjoy some quality time in the woods. You can hunt them in the early season when the green leaves are in full production until the fall and winter months without any foliage. The cost of a small game license is minimal compared to a lot of big game tags.

Access to land is another factor. The same property owner who doesn’t allow deer hunting may very well grant permission to hunt squirrels. You don’t have to own a huge amount of property and public land is usually not as crowded during small game seasons.

Another benefit of hunting small game is specialized, expensive equipment is unnecessary. You can stalk the timber with a Ruger Single-Six with iron sights, your favorite semi-auto with a red dot, or a single-shot with a scope if you desire. Heck, you have ample time to hunt with as many rimfires as you own.

The Ruger 22/45 Lite makes a handy rimfire for walking the woods.
UltraDot sight and CCI Green Tag ammo enhance the experience.

Small Game Tips

I’ve spent a lifetime hunting squirrels. In my younger days, I never needed the aid of optics, always using open sights. Today, if I expect success, optics are mandatory. Red dot sights work well, and I like the 2 MOA dot size or smaller. Headshots are preferred so as not to waste any meat, so the target is quite small. Let’s put it this way: There is a lot more room around the head than inside, so accuracy is your friend. Scopes are another option. Normally I lean toward variables like the Burris 2-7x.

Without some sort of rest, I normally don’t have to worry about skinning too many squirrels. Fortunately, there are tree limbs and other natural support options nearby in most situations. For me, it’s imperative to attain a good, steady rest of some kind; otherwise, I’m probably just wasting ammo. Squirrels can be shot from a lot of different angles, from up high in the tree all the way to ground level. These diverse shooting angles add to the challenge, forcing you to position yourself accordingly.

This Anschutz .22 rimfire wears a Sightron rifle scope with Murphy
Precision 20 MOA base. Lapua Super Long Range .22 LR ammo is
deadly accurate from the now discontinued Anschutz Exemplar.

Squirrel Guns

Like many squirrel hunters, I have a few favorite rimfires. Until recently, I grew emotionally attached to a Freedom Arms Model 83 with a 10″ barrel and Burris scope. It’s superbly accurate and a joy to shoot. Prior to that, I hunted with a Ruger upgraded with a Volquartsen treatment with barrel, competition bolt, trigger and grip. It, too, was scary accurate with the Burris scope. Both of these handguns shoot a lot better than I can hold.

With a rimfire competition match forthcoming, I got the bright idea to procure an Anschutz Exemplar in .22 LR. These bolt-action handguns are now discontinued, so I was searching for a used model. Anschutz is synonymous with accuracy in rimfire circles. When I purchased a 10″ model, it came with iron sights. Immediately I replaced the sights with a Murphy Precision 20 MOA base that would accommodate some long-range target work expected in the competition. I had a Sightron S-TAC 3-16x scope demanding attention, so I mounted it. Yes, this is not your typical small-game handgun. It’s darn near impossible for me to shoot off-handed, so a rest is essential. Lapua has just introduced their new Super Long Range ammo and it seemed fitting for the upcoming shooting event — and squirrel season.

With Anschutz in hand, my wife and I hit the range, and there were no surprises. At 25 yards, five-shot groups punch out one ragged hole. I’m not sure if the quality of the barrel or the two-stage trigger enhances the accuracy; perhaps it’s a combination of the two. Obviously, it is designed for target shooting, so the trigger is light — less than 1-lb. pull. At 50 yards, all five shots were touching — just a tad inside 1/2″. I was ready for squirrel season.

Opening morning at daylight, I was in the woods with the Exemplar. I managed to get five gray squirrels before 7:30, and that’s all I needed. I cleanly missed two shots, but overall it was a great morning to be a handgun hunter. Now if you will excuse me, I must whip up some biscuits and gravy to go with the fried squirrel.

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