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  • How To Squirrel Hunt (2021) | Tips & Gear Reviews

How To Squirrel Hunt (2021) | Tips & Gear Reviews

How To Squirrel Hunt (2021) | Tips & Gear Reviews
January 28, 2021

Hunting squirrels is one of the most action packed hunting trips you can go on! Marcus Gray came to Gearbox Talk to explain how to find squirrels to hunt, how anybody can squirrel hunt, which shotguns and which 22's work best for squirrel hunting, whether to call for squirrels or not, the advantages of squirrel hunting with dogs, how to track squirrel dogs, and the best recipes for cooking your squirrels.

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Gear Mentioned:
2 ¾ inch 20 gauge shotgun shells

3 inch 20 gauge shotgun shells

Marlin Model 60 .22 rifle

Browning SA .22 rifle

Federal .22

Winchester wildcat .22

Garmin T9 Collar for Astro 900 Dog Tracking System
GARMIN Alpha 200i/TT™ 15 Dog Tracking
GARMIN Alpha 200i/T 5 Dog Tracking

Show Notes:
Gearbox Talk About Garmin Dog Collars

Marcus Gray's Website

Gray's Mountain Feist Social Media Accounts
- Facebook

- Instagram


Brad: today we're talking about something that's a little shifty it's a little nuts and it can take a 12-gauge shot to the body fall 30 feet get up and still evade you no it's not your ex-wife we're talking about some of the most fun game to chase in the woods in my opinion squirrels Marcus gray's been chasing furry tales for almost 30 30 years he's a wildlife biologist and his family is nationally known for their squirrel dogs the grey mountain feist today he's going to pull from all the experience and teach you how to locate squirrels gun selection shells hunting tactics his approach to calling squirrels seriously how dogs can help change the game and what kind of collars he's putting on that fancy line of pups before we move on let's go ahead and subscribe really quick i have some epic shows coming up i'm talking about everything from spear fishing to bear hunting and lots and lots of turkey content all rolling out over just the next few weeks do not miss it but for today it's all about one thing let's bust into a bushel of furry tails this is Gearbox Talk with Marcus gray


marcus Gray welcome to Gearbox Talk man we're gonna hit a topic that i love which is squirrel hunting how's it going

Marcus: i'm doing all right thanks for having me Brad

Brad: absolutely dude it's been far too long we've had way too many episodes not about squirrels so i'm ready to talk about them today

Marcus: sounds great

Brad: you you're an interesting guy and you've got a lot of really good philosophies on on getting people into small game hunting and i'm right there with you i think it's something that gets overlooked it's something that you know people used to do back in the 80s it was hugely popular and we've lost a lot of this purely because of entertainment i think a lot of people have other options now as families there's used sports there's just more entertainment at our fingertips than we've ever had before and people don't small game hunt as much however i know you've made some good points when we've discussed in the past i think you have some really smart observations about people that should consider squirrel hunting first i just want to ask you who who's a good candidate squirrel hunt

Marcus: well the short answer for that is they're exactly right but also anyone you know we have a population that has gotten used to having all these opportunities and all these you know what i call distractions but really getting back to the basics and and getting on the squirrel woods is a great opportunity for anyone especially as hunters age out of other forms of hunting because there's an ability to keep them in the in the population longer buying licenses teaching kids how to how to hunt their grandkids how to how to read sign in the woods and things like that so i think there's definitely opportunity for every one of all backgrounds but it seems like there's a particular space for hunters that may be getting up in years just just to stay active

Brad: yeah i love it for that you brought that up and i think that's really really good observation i think squirrel hunting is really fun you know i think some people that have chased big game you know if you've been doing sheep and elk it might not seem like it is but i i really love it because it's high action if you get into a good crop of squirrels you you can have hours of entertainment it's just like constant too it's not like that one big moment you know i also really like it for newbies because if you miss it's okay man like just sit down wait a few minutes the squirrel's got adhd like me they're going to come back out they're going to forget what's going on they forget about that big blast and you kind of get a do-over and i think that's really important you know you're a biologist so i wanted to talk to you about this it's you can just walk out in the woods and hope you see a squirrel but there's smarter ways to go about it and i wanted to talk to you about you know how do you find an area that holds squirrels better than maybe another area that you just kind of blindly walk into for that beginner what are they looking for what what's what's an indicator of good squirrel habitat

Marcus: well i mean the first thing anymore there is so much development you want to make sure you know your surroundings you know if you're new to a place if there's a where you'll find out where the roads are any houses buildings things like that just to make sure you take a safe shot any more and more places are becoming shotgun only but in terms of the timber itself and the forest itself you want to find things that you know a stand of trees that has a good mass supply so hard mast in terms of oaks you know acorns walnuts pecans hickories that sort of thing even some pines mixed in because the more diverse the stand is the more food items are available for the squirrels and the big thing you can have all those species but if they're not mature enough to have den trees you'll end up having you know maybe squirrels be there seasonally but and building nests but they won't be there all the time so you can walk into a stand of trees and go oh this is really great but really it might not hold them at that particular moment

Brad: interesting interesting good good advice all right let's talk a little bit about how to hunt squirrels you know shotguns are really popular i know some people use rifles i think you prefer a rifle let's start with talking about a shotgun though what do you recommend for somebody that's getting into it what kind of shotgun are you using and what's your recommendation

Marcus: so what i use is a remington 870 express you know and you know we all know that that the manufacturers may or may not be available at the time depending on what their personal situation is but yeah so i use this for a shotgun i use this like i said 870 express here to pump fairly easy to use 20 gauge it's really all you need i mean there are some people that hunt with a 12 gauge especially if they're you know some place like the mississippi delta where the trees are really tall you know they might use the same same gun for ducks that they might use for for squirrels but you know i i just use you know standard run in the middle shells you know i sit here and i use you know what's available you know two and three quarter inch shells if the leaves are on you can use a little bit more you know bigger shell maybe a three inch shell but most the time you don't really need that and you know with regulations changing you know you might want to go with a non-toxic shot say something that's not lead based zinc you know coated copper or or tungsten you know basically think of duck loads so if you're going to switch to a non-toxic shot the general rule of thumb is to go with size larger or smaller number that you're going to use for the shot size on that squirrel the squirrels have a pretty tough hide especially fox squirrels so you can end up knocking a squirrel out of the tree with a shotgun it'll run off

Brad: oh i've been there i once shot a squirrel twice because i thought it was a different squirrel it was the same squirrel I had just shot off a tree

Marcus: oh i mean i've i've skin squirrels and had pellets in the hide that didn't go all the way through

Brad: yeah totally yeah especially at a distance with a shotgun and they they land you would think 30 feet would you know do something in but those things will bounce up and run off no big deal

Marcus: yeah that's right and and yeah you see all sorts of things in the in the woods too when you're out there and that's that's the other benefit of squirrel hunting is you just get to spend so much time in the woods every season i mean we we're out there six or eight months a year depending on the state we will buy licenses in multiple states and travel around and hunt sort of like these score hunting nomads but you know there's just a lot of opportunity where there may not be say big game might be a lot of competition or it's hard to get into hunt club a lot of these places are approachable after deer season like right now and that's when you can really get on the timber and things like we do with our squirrel dogs that's their time to shine is that late season yeah i definitely want to ask you about the dogs in a minute what what's your preferred gun for you i know you you have a shotgun but i believe you have a different gun that you're using for yourself

Marcus: yeah so i've got a couple different 22s like this one's it's probably the most common 22 of all time the marlin model 60. tubular magazine you know holds holds 10 or 12 shells so don't don't tell anybody about you know those buzz words about the capacity of these things but it's semi-automatic and that's just enough to carry shells in your pocket you know but if you do i like to carry you know something in a plastic container just because i'll separate out you have to go digging through a box especially if a squirrel is running you need to reload you don't be digging through loose shells but you know i've also got a browning s8 22 which is a lot nicer gun so there's a range of things that you can get into this you know very inexpensively get an old single shot rifle or you can get into gear as much as you possibly want to whatever your preferred method of squirrel hunting is there's something for everybody

Brad: yeah and talk about the advantage if you're going to hunt with a buddy you know of kind of having both options

Marcus: oh yeah well there's a benefit of one not hunting by yourself because squirrels have a tendency to spin around the back side of the tree from you and so if you have multiple people in your party it's good for one person to have a shotgun one person have a rifle just to give you that versatility because invariably if you have a rifle they're gonna run that day you know and you have a shotgun they're gonna sit there and look at you so you definitely wanna have the ability to mix up your your tactics

Marcus: yeah and one thing i wanted one thing i wanted to ask you about is calls you know some people this was totally foreign to me because i grew up we didn't we didn't use calls at all you find the squirrel habitat you find where a good crop of squirrels is you sit there for two hours you know you get your mess of squirrels go home talk a little bit about do you need calls and if you want to use a call maybe what what what that tactic is

Marcus: yeah so i mean we get this i can ask this a lot and you know it's no offense to anybody that loves them there's a place for them but you know as a still hunter growing up you know i in my experience when you use a squirrel call you're alerting every squirrel in the area in the timber that you're there and in and what tends to happen is that the old sal the big old female crock pot type squirrel she's tough but it's been around a while she'll come down start barking at you and that is a signal to every other squirrel to go hide so it might work once or twice you might get the older squirrel that's scolding you barking at you but you know you're just you're just educating everything else that's around

Brad: yeah yeah i'm a big advocate of still hunting too for squirrels and kind of like i said earlier like even even when you're still hunting and you're shooting if you miss school you know just wait it out they'll come back around you don't need to necessarily lure them out if you're in the right spot

Marcus: well yeah and we do that too like if you're if you're stand hunting and you're you know you walk a little bit stop walk a little bit stop go sit on a log or lean up against the tree at your back and just wait for a while you know 15 minutes if you go you can walk back right where you went through you know and and they'll be back out you know what the birds come back out and then the squirrels come back out i mean i think if you spend time in a deer stand you know that rhythm for sure 30 minutes everything starts to come back and come back and and act like you're not even there

Brad: yeah for me and this is most hunters you know when you're when you're deer hunting you hear squirrels when you go squirrel hunting you have turkeys come in you're like i'm not turkey hunting today

Marcus: that's right that's how it always is and you know like we've talked about before that you know what what's going on with the town squirrels in your yard it's not what the real wild ones are having to deal with especially if they have a lot of hunting pressure right you know if they don't have that food source in the wild you know your numbers are going to be a lot lower than it'll be in town so everybody thinks oh it's so easy to squirrel hunt yeah go try it let me know

Brad: yeah no doubt no doubt man one one thing you and i have talked about i told you this i i didn't know squirrel hunting with with dogs was really a thing that's just not what we did growing up and steven rinella did it on his show it's first time i had actually seen somebody do it and and i know you you've gotten proficient at squirrel hunting with dogs you're obviously i saw a dog you got a dog there i think i can see a picture one in the background you like your dogs right so i want to talk about a little bit of you know the advantages to hunting with a dog first you know what what what's that tactic like what advantage do you think you're getting you obviously prefer this tell me tell me tell me about it first of all and then we'll dive into some of the gear you're using

Marcus: yeah i mean i i grew up still hunting and stand hunting you know just being as quiet as possible if you step on a twig you'll get a look from the older guy that you're hunting with you know you definitely don't want to make any noise at all can't talk you know even anything above a whisper you know i've seen squirrels just leave the country through the treetops so the benefit of the the dogs are along those lines to me you know they're really great way to get kids into hunting because they don't have to sit there they don't have to be cold they can walk and talk throw sticks within reason when you're training a young dog they need quiet so they can kind of bump into squirrels but an experienced dog will get out from underfoot it's similar to hunting racoons with a coonhound you know you cast the dog out into appropriate habitat and they'll either treat a you know quarry game or they'll come back to you and so that's sort of how they hunt it's almost like quartering like a bird dog they'll go out run a circle about 150 200 yards you know and then if they don't find anything they'll come back they do find something they treat and they hold the game there and so there's there's benefits along the lines of introducing children but also in the late season when it's difficult to pinpoint a food source you can you can find oak trees hickories you know a lot of that mast is gone or buried already so you know turkeys may have come through cleaned it up if you live somewhere with feral hogs they definitely cleaned it up so you definitely have this advantage of the late season where it's hard to pinpoint a food source you have likely looking timber you know standard trees you think might hold squirrels you can find out pretty quick if they're moving or not if you cast the dog into that and and you can cover more ground that way you know people that rig hunt from a you know four wheeler or a pickup have the dogs run out front they'll strike off the box in the back of the truck just like some bear hunters might have done in the past so there's all sorts of ways to make this fit in your personal style and how you want to how you want to do then say your mobility issue you can rig hunt these dogs easily enough

Brad: how many dogs are you hunting with

Marcus: so usually you know we hunt between one and three dogs at a time pair of dogs is kind of fun especially if you're piggybacking of each other like you're saying if it's you know hot and heavy action by the time you get to the first dog and shoot it squirrel the next one will be treeing so you go and you shoot that squirrel and so you just keep together like that and you know it's it helps your odds in the late season you know and that balances out where in the early season where you can pinpoint food so like in states that are open during mulberry season in may like missouri you can sit there and get your limit at a tree you don't necessarily need a dog try that in october no berries are gone so you need to be on the hard mass january when the squirrel numbers are low it's hard and so that's where the dog comes in and in appalachia where these dogs are held on i say they originated this is where they were left that's because the mass production so spotty in the mountains because of frosts and you know different microclimates of temperature and precipitation things like that that people didn't have time to sit by denture all day they needed the meat so they're going to have a dog that's going to treat the game or they're not going to have it done yeah

Brad: how difficult is it to train for squirrels versus like upland hunting

Marcus: yeah it's there's a lot of similarities and people get into those habits if they come from that world like a lot of beagle guys are getting into this or you know raccoon hound guys you know they don't want to chase a dog for a mile you know they're switching to squirrel dogs and you know there's a lot of similarities but not nearly they're not as cold-nosed as some of the hounds are so they're more hot nosed they use all their senses their eyes their ears and their nose to find squirrels depending on the conditions so you'll have something that'll win the layup that never came to the ground just like a bird dog will get air scent you know and then others will chase them up the tree just like any old lab will you know and then sometimes they've got to they've got they'll hear them they'll stop looking listen and there you see their ears going and they'll jump over a hill and surprise the squirrel and catch on the ground that sort of thing so there's there's just a lot of versatility to these dogs that people are probably gonna be familiar with and they can learn about anything you want to learn so i use them to flush birds they'll they'll run a rabbit they'll catch around you know so they'll run rabbits toward each other so you end up you end up saving some shells in that way

Brad: yeah and when you're doing dogs specifically do you always hunt with your marlin

Marcus: yeah i do i it's that seems my go-to just it's a very consistent reliable gun in terms of the loads for the the 22 i mean there's so many options out there you know every brand imaginable this is federal winchester makes them you know the old wild cats you know there's just a lot of options out there and you know target loads you know for plinking are perfectly fine perfectly adequate for most people but you know if you if you really want to take longer shots you have the ability in your area you want to use a scope i i don't i use iron sights but if you want to shoot with a scope you're more into the marksmanship aspects of it then yeah you can get higher quality loads for for 22. i know some people for a while 17 before the ammunition kind of got out of their comfort level with the price but that's still an option but hollow points really aren't necessary i use i use solid points headshots only anyway but it's just less of a mess

Brad: right right yeah and a little more meat left on after than a shotgun up close that's right

Marcus: you got to get them close sometimes yeah that's true of anything you know that's the hardest thing in quail hunting or anything else is to let that person get far enough away

Brad: yeah for sure i i have been known to blow a squirrel in half a time or two from getting too excited on that first one

Marcus: yes yes i shoot near him a lot yeah just trying to knock him unconscious okay well the dogs catch him they bail out of trees dogs i mean the action is just like phenomenal yeah a lot of cripples for cripples you know and yeah they'll catch them on the ground they'll get them when they bail out of the tree it's just it's just a lot of fun

Brad: yeah man i can totally see the the appeal to it you know any hunting dog is an investment and when you're out in the field you want to keep track of that so i'm sure you've got some kind of system you're running what's your caller and gps system that you're running on your dogs

Marcus: yeah so you know you're exactly right in terms of training you definitely want to have a tracking collar on a dog anymore yeah this this system here it's getting a little age on it's actually the second one that i've had but this is the collar for the the garmin astro and they've had multiple iterations of this the alpha is also another option you know these are in the five or six hundred dollar range so yeah they're they're definitely you know it's it's quite an investment but you think about the time you put into the dog or you have multiple dogs you travel around the country buying licenses and doing vet care and feeding them and gas and lodging you know it adds up so you know when you're training a young dog it's good to know where they're at all the time because they may not be trained yet you know you're taking the timber a few times a week you know at least for an hour at a time getting them used to riding in the truck getting used to gunfire socializing them to people you know try to get with other people and hunt and other dogs as much as you can that sort of thing but yeah you just want to this is just indispensable because there's old fences out there they could cross a road you know might end up in somebody's yard doing who knows what you know it's just good to know where they're at and it's fun to watch too it's if you're a gear head you know you can sit here and watch the dog run around on lane you know like oh well my dog went 300 yards or you know my general rule of thumb especially when i'm running the gps is the dog better run three times more than i want okay that's sort of my general rule of thumb and that's because they're running those circles you know they'll quarter away from you go out come back check in go out come back again so yeah definitely there's there's the first one i had the the garmin the first garmin astro was sort of like a robo dog it had a hard antenna that stuck up on it was a little backpack thing yeah we were actually involved in evaluating those and providing comments and the first thing was like get rid of that hard antenna because it was getting caught and brush

Brad: oh yeah yeah dude that that have you seen the new alpha system

Marcus: yes yes

Brad: slick i've seen it in person it's really nice i actually i'll drop links for anybody listening i'll i just interviewed the garmin team about their products we talked about their whole lineup and i'll put a link to that because they talked about the alpha and and what's new about it they showed the new system because i don't i don't think they make the astro anymore do they do you know

Marcus: no i think they're still available but yeah i think they're being phased out yeah i like that but the the double duty these things do is this is your navigation system you can mark the mark the vehicle and know where you're going especially if you're on a familiar place or it's getting dark yeah

Brad: i've gotten lost in places i've hunted a hundred times you get in a row of mountain hallows they all look the same you know because i hunt appalachia we lost our four-wheeler one time for hours it was an hour i think we looked for an hour trying to find it and we had come down we we went in in the dark and so when you're coming back out you're like where the heck did i park this thing you know so i mean even even if you don't have dogs it's good to have a a system like that but i'll i'll put a link to that in so people can check that out i heard a story one time of of a guy who before he got a gps he's been running dogs for 30 years and on his own property he lost a dog one time and never could figure out what happened to that dog and he years later with a garmin one of the alphas was out and he could see the dog on the gps and he's like it says he's right here what is going on the dog had gotten into a cave system that he didn't even know was there and he found his old dog's collar that other dog that had died had gotten in there and couldn't get back out and and so like i mean it's just an amazing story of of like with that garmin the garmin literally saved that second dog's life because same scenario he had lost it in and there's so many garment those guys got i mean they talk to people that run these collars all the time there's so many stories of people losing their dogs i mean you're losing the investment but let's be real i mean you're just sitting here in your house with you these are your pets right you don't oh yeah it's worth it in this scenario

Marcus: definitely worth it and i have personal stories you know i've lost a dog before and so we're like i'm never gonna do that again because when you're first starting out you think oh i don't need that thing but it only takes the one time but i knew i know a man actually in the west western part of virginia that had a dog that was chasing a bear and they got it ran up on a stob on a log and skewered himself on that you know got he got stabbed on that on that stob and he was able to find it and get to the vet in time and save the dog's life you know if it was in the past you didn't have any tracking system that dog would have died

Brad: yeah man i i'm i think if you're gonna you know it's it's really out of whatever the system is whatever you're buying like out of respect for your dogs really you should be tracking them and because they do get into stuff man i did a show with anthony ferro it's in upland you know he talked about the stuff that his dogs get into out west i mean you know these dogs are work horses and and they are gonna chase something so hard that they can get themselves into trouble so definitely a smart thing to have no matter whatever system you're buying you got to track them you know all right man i am a big advocate on cooking anything you know whatever you're going after you got to cook it squirrels i think are an overlooked protein so i got to ask you here you shoot a lot of squirrels what's your favorite squirrel recipe

Marcus: oh i've had everything you could possibly think of from the traditional fried or you know pressure cooker i've had everything from pizza and calzones to pasta and basically any recipe that you would you would have chicken or rabbit in you can substitute squirrel but actually the best thing that we actually have we took a family reunion of all things is we had garlic parmesan squirrel legs that we took to their oven oh my gosh they were so good but we actually did a a fundraiser one time for an outdoor club in in the northeast and we did almost like a squirrel cake it's kind of like a crab cake type deal that was baked and it was just really good using the pull pulled squirrel meat it was it was fantastic

Brad: two things i've never thought about doing that's awesome yeah man all right awesome well dude for my first Gearbox Talk squirrel episode you definitely delivered this is a great intro i think even for people who maybe have tried it and haven't tried the dog route i think you taught even a veteran squirrel hunter a thing or two thanks for coming on and give us a little bit of your time today any direction you want to point people to for your content or or anything how do they find you if they want to ask more questions

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