How to hunt grey squirrels with an air rifle

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Mat Manning shares 10 top tips to help airgun hunters bag more bushy-tails.

Mat lines up the Walther Rotex RM8 UC on a grey squirrel he caught making its way towards a pheasant feeder

1. Set up a feed station

Grey squirrels quickly home in on an easy meal, and you can create a hotspot by making your own feeding station. Fasten a hopper to a tree in an area you know to hold squirrels, load it with peanuts and the bushy-tails will soon be queuing up.

2. Keep concealed

Grey squirrels are clever animals and won’t hang around if they think danger is lurking – even if you’re offering them a free meal. Set up a hide and leave it in situ so you have readymade cover that squirrels take for granted.

3. Exploit the autumn banquet

Find the things that squirrels like to eat and your quarry will never be far away. Autumn is the prime time to catch greedy bushy-tails filling their bellies, and you can expect to encounter them wherever there is a good supply of acorns, beech mast or sweet chestnuts.

Head out as the light begins to fade and you can expect to encounter grey squirrels feeding at dusk

4. Stake out pheasant feeders

If you share your permission with game shooters you can expect to find lots of squirrels raiding the pheasant feeders. These readymade feeding stations quickly become squirrel hotspots and can be a great place to set up a hide.

5. Hone your marksmanship

Grey squirrels are tough little critters, and it usually takes a strike to the head to ensure a clean kill when using a sub-12 ft-lb airgun such as Mat’s Walther Rotex RM8 UC. Practising on paper targets is a great way to ensure that you and your combo are on the mark when chances arise.

6. Use the right pellet

Matching your airgun with the right pellet is an important factor in achieving precise kills. Quality domed ammo, such as Bisley Magnums which have a reputation for good performance with a wide variety of air rifles, are a good place to start.

7. Try a roving approach

Although ambush tactics can produce good bags of grey squirrels, keeping on the move enables you to cover more ground. Remember to stop every few paces and scour the trees all around you, and don’t forget to keep an eye on the ground as grey squirrels spend a lot of time rummaging for tasty morsels in the leaf litter.

8. Give them a squeak

Trying to get a clear shot at grey squirrels as they clamber around in the treetops can be very frustrating. Make a squeaking sound or click your tongue when a squirrel is out in the open and it will often freeze as it tries to locate the source of the sound.

A zoom scope such as this model from Richter Optik lets you turn up the magnification for long shots and wind it down when you need more light

9. Get your timing right

Squirrels tend to be very active just after daybreak and then again as dusk approaches at the end of the day. Timing your outings to coincide with these prime periods can save you from wasting a lot of time when squirrels aren’t on the move.

10. Wind down at dusk and dawn

It can be tricky to spot squirrels through your telescopic sight when hunting in low-light conditions. If you use a zoom scope, turning down the magnification will improve light transmission and brighten up the sight picture.

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Posted in Features, September Shooting Special

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