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A while ago we posted the story of a hunter who had taken North America’s Squirrel Slam in a single season. I thought it was one of the coolest stories we ever ran, but a lot of readers could not see past the fact that the hunter used a shotgun.* Comments ranged from condescension to outrage.
I can understand that someone might prefer to shoot squirrels with a rifle–I have shot them with .22s, air rifles and muzzleloaders–but I don’t get the hate for shotguns.
If I were going squirrel hunting tomorrow (which is not a bad idea), I might take my 10/22 but I would be just as likely to pack a shotgun, especially as the season is young and there are lots of leaves on the trees. I would unscrew the turkey choke from my 20 gauge 870, put in a Modified and shoot field loads of 5 or 6 shot. I might even leave the red dot on it.
For one thing, I like the safety aspect of shooting squirrels with shotguns. I had it drilled into my head from an early age that .22 LR bullets can travel 1 1-1/2 miles and you aren’t supposed to shoot them into the air. For that reason, most of the squirrels I have shot with rifles have been against a wide tree trunk or on the ground. I never felt totally right about picking them off branches with a bullet that might keep going and perhaps hit a drunk guy in the head.
I don’t ever recall mangling a squirrel with a shotgun either. If they are close, you hold off the mark and hit the squirrel in the head with the pattern fringe. Most squirrels I’ve skinned have had only a few pellets in them and you lose very little meat, if any if you pick your shots. I also don’t recall any squirrel I’ve hit with a shotgun doing anything but falling dead to the ground.
And, while I don’t care much for .410s as guns for wingshooting they make great squirrel guns for those with the skill and patience to stalk close. (There, I said it, hunting squirrels with a shotgun takes patience and skill.)
*_Although he stated in the story he used a shotgun on advice from his taxidermist, as he wanted to mount all eight squirrels in the slam._