Orange and red hues highlighted the chilly eastern horizon. My buddy, Dr. Andy Cline, and I sat in a long oak ridge, waiting. We had arrived before daylight to watch the woods come alive.

Orange and red hues highlighted the chilly eastern horizon. My buddy, Dr. Andy Cline, and I sat in a long oak ridge, waiting. We had arrived before daylight to watch the woods come alive.

The morning was pleasantly cool requiring long-sleeved camouflaged shirts. Leaves changing to gold and red were like an invitation for us. Squirrels become active during this period of change. They know winter is coming, and that day we knew the noisy critters would be actively feeding.  

The sun did not have to rise very high before their chattering started. I settled in on the rocks and sticks that made sitting almost unbearable, but the squirrels were moving. My comfort became a secondary consideration.

I heard the expected chattering of four young squirrels chasing each other up and down the big oak I sat against. Cline watched this and started grinning. He knew that I might have a squirrel biting my head or shoulder very shortly. Good camouflage makes that possible.

I gratefully watched the squirrels jump into another tree to my left. A young female angled out from me on a low limb. I took careful aim with my CVA .36-caliber black-powder rifle, tickled the trigger and sent a pumpkin ball flying. The lead found its mark.

I soon heard Cline shoot his black-powder rifle 20 yards up the ridge. He too had found a family chasing each other’s tails. Another young squirrel had barked at him while he watched the chase. A slow turn and quick aim made an easy shot for the old college professor. The day ended with four squirrels in our game pouches, meaning fried squirrel for dinner.

Here are some tips for hunting black-power squirrels:

WHERE TO HUNT: Almost all public areas in most states are loaded with squirrels that are seldom hunted. Squirrel hunting is only a challenge for those without patience. Late fall trees have dropped most leaves, making ground clutter even thicker. Squirrels are hard to spot if they are alerted to your presence, even in bare trees.

SNEAK IN: Wake up early and sit around walnut trees or cornfields before daylight. Mornings are cool and wildlife is moving this time of year. Sit, look and listen for squirrels and remember, you may hear squirrels before you see them. You might even enjoy the show of young squirrels chasing their kinfolk up and down trees.

STILL HUNT: Still-hunting is the term used for a dead-slow walk. Most hunters only move 2 or 3 feet in 10 minutes or longer. You don’t travel far fast, but you will definitely see more.

BUDDY HUNTING: Buddy hunting may be the best way to squirrel hunt. Still-hunting from tree to tree and about 10 feet apart is a standard technique. Study the trees you pass and look behind you occasionally. You might just get an easy shot. Squirrels move from one side of the tree to the other to escape danger.

GETTING STARTED: Most hunters shoot squirrels with a .32- or .36-caliber black-powder squirrel rifle. Loading the old-fashioned guns is simple. Start by pouring a premeasured amount of black powder or Pyrodex down the barrel. You will probably use between 30 to 40 grains of powder for squirrels, but this is best determined by spending time at a target range to find your rifle’s most effective load.

Next place a cloth wadding around a small lead pumpkin ball and use a small ball starter to push the load just inside the barrel. The cloth and ball are both lightly lubricated with commercial jells, but saliva will do in a pinch.

The load is then pushed down the barrel with a ramrod until it will push no farther. When you are certain the load will go no farther, mark your ramrod against the barrel’s end with a sharp knife to ensure that the load is all the way down every time. Occasionally a load will jam in the barrel creating a messy situation when the spark hits black powder.

When you are ready to start hunting, cock your hammer back to the safety position that is the clicking point just before locking the hammer back for a shot and insert a percussion cap over the nipple. The cap shoots a spark down to the black powder when the hammer drops by pulling the trigger.

You can use percussion caps to clear out the barrel of dampness or debris before loading. This is accomplished by placing a cap on the nipple, cocking the hammer back and pulling the trigger. First make sure the rifle is pointed in a safe direction.

Black-powder squirrel hunting is fun and challenging. Try it once, and you will likely leave your .22 rifle at home.