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Squirrel hunting with shotgun or rifle ?


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Which is the best to use to get squirrels in your opinion ? I am talking about shooting them to eat so I don't want to tear the meat up very much but I do want to get as many as I can. I've only used .22LR in the past and its very hit and miss with the .22LR. If you use shotgun , then what gauge do you use and why ?  Any information is appreciated.

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I've used 410, 12 gauge and .22 on them depending on the time of year.  We used shotguns when the trees were full of leaves and moved to 22 when the leaves dropped.  If you can get head shots or mid body with the 22, you'll do less meat damage.  I don't remember there being a lot of pellets in them though when we used shotguns.  What kind of 22 setup are you using on them and what distance?

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1 hour ago, Shorty said:

I've used 410, 12 gauge and .22 on them depending on the time of year.  We used shotguns when the trees were full of leaves and moved to 22 when the leaves dropped.  If you can get head shots or mid body with the 22, you'll do less meat damage.  I don't remember there being a lot of pellets in them though when we used shotguns.  What kind of 22 setup are you using on them and what distance?

All I have ever done was use a Marlin model 60 in .22LR with iron sights. The distance will range from 35 feet to 80 feet up in the trees. 

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You fellows that use shotguns , do many pellets get lodged in the meat ? I get paranoid about lead being in my meat that I'm gonna eat. When I shoot deer , I just cut around the shot area. But with these little guys , I dont want to lead them up LOL. 

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Last time I hunted squirrel for meat instead of pest control was 50+ years ago with my grandfather. He always used a shotgun, I thing 12g and I would use a .22 with shorts. He would kid me about it constantly. He would always get enough for supper, I got nothing. I do remember the occasional shotgun pellet but not many so my Grandfather must have been good at finding them. I remember pan fried squirrel as being very good but never learned to dress them out and my wife said she would only cook them if I cleaned them. I would be afraid to use .22 long for tree shots, the bullet can travel a long ways unless you are in a very isolated area.

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I've not hunted squirrels seriously in years but, when the leaves were on thick always used a shotgun. Either a 16 gauge or 12 gauge with usually 6 shot. In the Fall/Winter loved using a .22 with hollow points.

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Hunted with shotguns for years and tried for head shots only,but would shoot them up at times and hated it.  A buddy got me into .22 rifle hunting and never used anything else,in fact if it was anything but a clean headshot he would refuse to help skin it. Two things needed Decent rifle with good trigger,need to be able to hit walnut size target at 20 yards.  Ruger makes a drop in light trigger for the 10/22 perfect set up.  Ammo Standard Vel .22 LR solid ,no hollow points. Very quiet and if your off a little

destroys less meat.  Lot of Youtube vids how to clean by stepping on with no hais stuck on.  You may have a few a year get away that you could have peppered,but normally sit still and you almost always get a shot.

And a good cheap 1" scope is the way to go.

Edited by Will
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I grew up hunting squirrels in West Virginia.  There everyone used shotguns.  I started using a .410 single shot, then moved to 20ga and eventually got an 870 wingmaster 12ga for my 12th birthday.  we would have to pick a few pellets out every now and then but not many, and we never had any in the meat after cooking.  The biggest thing was my dad taught me to aim at the tip of their nose or just beyond to avoid too many pellets in the body.  of course thats a good theory when they're not moving.  Also to note, we had BIG squirrel up there Red and gray, sometimes crossed.  The Tennessee squirrels are like runts in comparison

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I only ever used a pellet rifle for pest control. Tried for head shots whenever possible. As mentioned, shooting a .22 up in the air isn't the best idea unless you're very attentive to the backstop.  I'd think a 12ga would blow them to smithereens. 

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You always want to be extra careful when hunting with a .22 rifle. If your hunting near a town do not use one.  If your out in the

middle of a woods still  still remember some one else may be near. Straight up shot is going to stick in a limb or drop to earth.

A tree is normally 2 to 4 foot wide if you miss the target. Fifty years of hunts with dozens of buddies,no problems.  As always

you are responsible for that bullet and if your not cautious and comfortable do not hunt with one.  I would venture to say 90 percent of hunting accidents are caused by shotguns.  

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Hunted with a .410 then 12ga growing up. If I went now, I would pull out a .410. Plenty of power as long as you watch your range. I am a decent shot, but lack if practice makes me unsure of a headshot with a .22 consistently. 

My FIL uses a .17 (HMR I think) because his shots are long to get to the squirrel tress from his porch. lol

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I've probably hunted & killed a metric ton of skwerls in my life. Mostly in England. 99% with a .22 air rifle where head shots are imperative. A body shot will flat out not kill them. The other percent is a 50/50 mix of .22lr & a .410 single shot. I don't skwerl hunt much these days, but when i do, I have my .410 in my hand & a scoped Marlin .22 slung over my shoulder. I honestly think that both are essential. Squirrel hunting is far more successful if it's done in pairs. One with a shotgun, one a rifle. 

Edited by Handsome Rob
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2 minutes ago, Will said:

That is why the Savage Over/Under ,410.22/ was a big hit back in the day with the old school tree rat hunters.

I have the Steven's Model .22-.410 that was the predecessor to the Savage Model 24 you are referring to. Light, easy pointing gun. 

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1 hour ago, Ronald_55 said:

I have the Steven's Model .22-.410 that was the predecessor to the Savage Model 24 you are referring to. Light, easy pointing gun. 

Should you ever want to get rid of it................................................:whistle:

  • Haha 1
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5 hours ago, xsubsailor said:

Should you ever want to get rid of it................................................:whistle:

Then it would miss its family members in 30-30/20, .223/20, and .357/20.. :)

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  • Haha 1
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Shotgun for maximum numbers faster.  Allows for easy shots on squirrels that are running and ability to take multiple squirrels from one tree more easily.  I always used a 12 gauge with #6.  As long as you don't shoot them close no issue with meat loss.  For pure fun and loss of no meat, .22 head shots.  I have not used a shotgun for squirrels in years and prefer a .22 but I am not going for my limit in the shortest amount of time either. 

Edited by DBTN
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When I hunt squirrels with a shotgun, I use #5 or #6 shot. Gauge never really seems to matter but a full choke helps. You will find a few shot in the meat from time to time. If you missed it cleaning the squirrel, simply spit it out.

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Several mentioned air rifles and it reminded me of a someone on a different forum say he used Aguila 22 LR 20 Gr Colibri Quiets. The fellow said where he hunted squirrels there was often several on the ground under nut trees at the same time. The Quiets were so silent that he could kill several before they noticed their friends were falling over. I have shot them a few times and in a rifle I could hear the hammer hit and the bullet hitting the target. They will not cycle a semi and they have a lot of drop to compensate for but they are fun. People have warned about squibs but I haven't had any problems. Very similar to CB caps.

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