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My View (the one that matters)
Posted by Michael Strahan on Dec 09 2004
JCR,

Thanks for your insightful questions on squirrel hunting in Alaska.  Though by your language you are apparently from another country, you are welcome here.  We have folks from all over the world here, and I have even a couple of friends from Okie-homa that occasionally write in here.

MY CREDENTIALS

Because I am indeed ten-feet tall, bullet-proof and THE foremost expert on Alaska squirrel hunting, I will be happy to stoop down and assist even you.  You're lucky you wrote in today, because I am here.

A GUIDED SQUIRREL HUNT?  CAN DO!

Though my license to guide squirrel hunters recently expired, I would be happy to send references of past squirrel hunters I've guided, and let you know that I'll be back in full swing for the upcoming season.  You may not be aware that I've been at this game since squirrels first began moving across the Bering land bridge, and have hunted them across the width and breadth of Alaska from Barrow to Ketchikan.  Why, I'm a virtual walking encyclopedia of squirrel hunting information.  All you have to do is ask… heck, why ask?  All you have to do is sit there while I type!  I may even tell you about the horrible mauling I once received back in '98 up in the Kobuk country when I had to follow up a wounded 13-inch buck red squirrel into the thick stuff with no backup.  He doubled back on me and hit me from behind.  If it wasn't for the Barney's Squirrel Pack I was wearing at the time, things would have been a lot worse.  As it is, I still bear the physical and emotional scars.  It was terrifying… the chattering… I can still hear it!  My whole life flashed before my eyes.  At first I thought it was a movie about Paul Bunyan, but it was just me, in all my glory.

I'M THE BEST RESOURCE ON ALASKA SQUIRREL HUNTING

I've recently completed a five-volume squirrel hunting library, which has been in production since before the Vietnam War.  We're ramping up for final production right now, and expect to have it out just in time for the spring '09 season.  But you don't have to wait, oh no!  If you're patient and ask the right questions, I'll give you the whole thing for free, one piece at a time, right here!  The library explores all the fine points of squirrel hunting in Alaska, including gear (get the kind I use, because all the rest of it is junk), suggested squirrel charter companies, attack avoidance (including how to interpret a false charge), squirrel color phases, skull size genetics in different areas of the state, calling tactics, camouflage, scent control, and much, (oh so much) more.

I also go into spot and stalk hunting tactics, using the high ground, baiting, calling, ground blinds, and (my personal favorite) tree stand hunting.  Some don't consider baiting ethical, but we talk about it anyway; primarily because I know what I'm talking about and, well, they don't.

Of course, the biggest draw of the library is the full exposure of 500 squirrel hunting hotspots.  We're not just talking just the forests, oh no.  I give you GPS coordinates of specific cone-cutting trees, denning areas (for spring hunts), bedding areas, rutting areas, migration corridors and feeding areas.  

SUBSISTENCE

I'm a big believer in deferring to local subsistence squirrel hunters.  These folks are just trying to feed and clothe themselves, and you do them a disservice to dominate traditional squirrel hunting migration routes and other hotspots.  You, on the other hand, have the capability of jetting in, bagging a few trophies, and leaving.  They have to live there all year, and it just isn't fair.  Be sure you fully explore the trespass issue too.  Many local folks will not allow non-local hunters to hunt squirrels on their land.  You should always be respectful of the land and who owns it.  I know that there are a few chuckleheads out there who don't agree with me on this, but eventually they'll realize that any view besides mine is idiotic, and they'll come around.  They always do.

SQUIRREL HUNTING ETHICS

The ethics of squirrel hunting are of particular concern to me, because I'm such an ethical guy, and I fully address this topic in my books (I'm concerned about it, so you should be too.)  In this section, feel free to unscrew the top of your head and just let me dump the ethics in there for you.  There, now.  That wasn't so bad, was it?  Few squirrel hunters have the high standards I have, and it will probably be less of a struggle for you if you just let me do the thinking on your behalf.  Avoid the temptation to use airplanes for spotting squirrels.  Airplanes should only be used for transportation to and from camp, and for meat hauls.  Many unethical squirrel hunters use GPS to identify specific squirrels, then land nearby and shoot them.  This is not in the true spirit of squirrel hunting, but is simply the lazy man's way of skimming the big bulls out of the herd.  This leaves only the inferior animals for ethical hunters like… well… me.  Never shoot a bull squirrel in a cone-cutting tree.  It's the next worst thing to baiting, and you could damage one or more cones, or possibly a twig.  My extensive research has shown that this activity is one of the factors limiting the spread of spruce forests across Alaska.  

Squirrels cannot be legally hunted until 3am the day following your fly-in day.  I'd wait until 5 or 6, just so you can be sure you're legal.  Talk respectfully about squirrels and squirrel hunting when you're in camp.  Sayings like, "If it's brown, it's down" or, "If it chatters, it better scatter" are offensive to others and show a lack of respect for such a magnificent animal.  Though trophy hunting is certainly welcome, be sure to salvage ALL the edible meat.  The Alaska hunting regulations define this as "The meat of the ribs, neck, brisket, front quarters and hindquarters, along with the backstrap" (Alaska Hunting Regulations #45, pg. 22)  I tossed that last reference in because it sounds real official.   Besides, it makes me look like an expert.  One final word on ethics: there's a well-known tactic of using two hunters to keep a squirrel from running around to the other side of the tree to escape.  This technique takes unfair advantage of the squirrel's limited intelligence and is just wrong.  Squirrel hunters should limit themselves to the intellectual capabilities of the quarry.  If you approach the tree and the squirrel runs to the other side, just walk away.  There are other squirrels in the woods.

MEAT AND TROPHY CARE

I advise against harvesting bull squirrels during the rut, because they ingest the urine from cows, rendering the meat unpalatable.  Look your squirrel over carefully for rubs before you pull the trigger.  Don't forget to check the belly area carefully too.  It's a little-known fact that some squirrels rub in this area from laying on spruce boughs.  Learn how to judge the overall size and trophy potential of your squirrel, keeping in mind that non residents must meet the legal 11-inch minimum length.  My books go into caping and skinning techniques, including turning the ears, toes and tails, splitting the nose, and of course fleshing and salting, so I won't describe that here.  I suggest leaving the meat on the quarters and ribs.  Few things are more tasty than teriyaki squirrel ribs for a camp treat, and don't forget those backstraps and tenderloins!  I recommend packing your squirrel meat some distance from the kill site to a meat cache, to avoid the chances of encountering a bear while you're working on getting the meat to camp.  Of course, most bears won't go near a squirrel kill for several days, but you can't be too careful.  Show a little respect at the kill site.  Nothing is more disgusting than trophy pictures of freshly-killed squirrels with hats on and cigarettes hanging out of their lips.  Nobody thinks this sort of thing is funny.  Besides, a friend of mine did that once and the squirrel was only stunned, and ran away with his last cigarette tucked in his lips.  It was lit, and started a small grass fire that took a couple of hours to control.  

TAXIDERMY

A squirrel makes a fine rug mount, but don't overdo it.  Nobody likes to see an entire wall or floor covered in squirrel rugs.  Consider a shoulder mount, or a pedestal mount if you cannot afford a full-body mount or space is limited.  They're very impressive, and really show the squirrel as he was.  Special taxidermy forms are available if you decide to go with the ears pulled back, lips curled into a snarl and the canine teeth showing.  Be sure the claws are showing if you go with outstretched arms in the attack position.  Avoid poses on a limb with a nut in his paws.  It makes the animal look wimpy and other hunters will not respect you.

CONCLUSIONS

Well, I hope this is helpful for you.  Please keep the questions coming.  I am an expert in this and so many other areas, and you are truly blessed to have me here, though I am an egotistical, opinionated, self-serving jerk whose vision is limited to his own perspective on everything.  Other than that, you'll find me to be a pretty nice guy.  Just ask around.

;-)

-Mike

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