Thursday, September 13, 2012

Squirrels: The Next Big Game

In general, I'm into "big" game.  Its what I think about, its what I read, its what I dream about.  Fishing is fun as is bird hunting but a rod and reel or shotgun has never excited me nearly as much as a rifle.  Maybe it is the precision required to make a good, solid shot.  Maybe it is the appreciation for a finely tuned rifle or the adrenaline rush when you slip off the safety in the field after making a good stalk.  Perhaps this is why I like baseball better than football or basketball.  I find intense spikes in activity more enjoyable than lots of action...

There is a problem though.  With the exception of chasing the much hated feral hogs, big game hunting is a rather limited affair.  Depending on where you live and how you hunt, deer season is usually 2-3 months long.  If travel to another place is required, your window of opportunity might be narrowed down to a few weeks or even a few days with the associated budget being inversely proportional to the time in the field.  (If you are from East Texas, that means it gets more expensive even though you are spending less time doing it.)

Even though it IS hunting, most small game hunting has not interested me as much either.  I think part of this is the "body count" factor and lack of a way to compare animals or share a good tale.  Ask a deer or elk hunter how they did or what they saw and you'll hear comments about points, and racks and mass and scores of the bucks and bulls they saw or killed.  You might hear a comment like "I didn't see anything this morning but ol' Jim killed a dandy buck.  Looks like it'll score over 140".  Ask a bear hunter and they will talk about the size or weight of a bear or the score of the skull.  Ask a rabbit or a squirrel hunter how he did and he'll say something like... "Got 3".  Not exactly material for legendary story telling around a camp fire.

This is a shame.  The time has come to elevate the status of certain small game.  What is needed is a scoring system so non-big animals' attributes can be compared.  Like the Boone and Crockett system for scoring a buck deer, bull elk, bear, walrus or musk ox (yes, they have a scale for those too), what is sorely missing in the shooting world is a scoring system for squirrels.  (Yes, he said squirrels.)

As I've come to fully appreciate in just the past few years, and as un-politically correct as it is in some circles to shoot, kill and eat small furry things with big, cute eyes, squirrel hunting is an absolute blast.  When you limit yourself to head shots only, it is shockingly challenging to sneak up on and cleanly kill one.  Countless neck injuries have occurred over the years in hunters who spent 30 minutes looking up into the canopy of a tree for a squirrel that simply disappeared.  It is both exhilarating yet very, very frustrating.  AND, unlike most big game hunting, you can do it more often and will likely have several opportunities for shots over the course of a day or season.

So, what would the Nut and Chatter Squirrel Scoring system look like?  Perhaps a review of other established scoring systems is in order.  All following images are taken from various B&C publications:






Musk Ox

As should be painfully obvious, typical scoring systems focus on the head of the animal.  Being a trained biologist, I have a unique observation which may have been missed by some of my fellow woodsmen which I will share now:  "buck" squirrels do not typically have antlers, horns or teeth which usually set them apart from other male squirrels.

This leaves us with a conundrum (problem if you are from East Texas).

After careful anatomical observations of living and dead squirrels, it seems there is but one obvious choice.  While this might make some people uncomfortable, it seems the best, most consistent way to compare the trophy quality of buck squirrels would include testicular mass or circumference.

Yes, testes.., testicles.., "the boys".., cojones.., 'nads... along with a variety of other colorful names, testicles seem to be the unique characteristic on which we should focus.

Now I realize the fine folks at Boone and Crockett might need to have a professional artist update the following sketch but the diagram shows how the Nut and Chatter scale works.

A = length of buck squirrel, forehead to tip of tail (mm*)
B = length of head, behind the ears to the tip of the nose (mm)
C = testicular circumference (mm)

A + B + C = your squirrel's Nut and Chatter score

*Yes, I know millimeters are a sissy way to measure anything except some bullet diameters but it will allow for a combined manly score in the hundreds versus in the teens.

A big squirrel might be 16 inches or ~400mm long, have a head length of 80mm and a testicular circumference of 80mm and would generate a score over 550.  A monster would exceed 600.  I suggest a score of 530 to be considered a "book" (record book) squirrel.

So now, a squirrel hunter does not have to hang his head in shame or answer "Got 3" to the inevitable question about his day in the field, he can proudly tell a story leading up to the taking of his trophy.

"There I was, sneaking along the edge of Cedar Creek... when I heard him.  First it was a little scurrying in the leaves but then I could literally feel his scampering on the forest floor.  I eased a bit closer and slid the safety off my rifle, not knowing what to expect.  When I peeked around this gigantic live oak... there he was.. ol' Bushy, legend of the woods.  This squirrel had out foxed me for 3 years now but today the tide was about to turn.  I continued my stalk until I was about 40 yards away.  His head snapped in my direction and for several moments, I thought I was busted.  Frozen in mid-step, sweat trickled down my nose.  A mosquito landed, filled her tank and took off in a stupor but I dared not move.  The minutes crawled by before Bushy turned back to his digging.  Through a small opening in the brush, I had a tight, unobstructed window and threaded a 22 grain bullet home.  I knew he was big but when I picked him up, I started shaking.  I honestly think he'll go 600... maybe 610."

A Man in the Woods


  1. Hi,

    My name is John and I have a quick question about your blog! Could you please email me?

    Thank you,


  2. Sure John. I added you to a Google Circle. Please reach out that way.