I’ve been living and hunting in Indiana for about ten years now, and have spent a lot of time in the field not only hunting, but fishing, mountain biking, kyaking, and generally rambling around. But not only have I never seen a ground squirrel here, I never heard anybody mention them. So when my frequent hunting buddy Brian Beck called and asked if I wanted to do a pest control shoot for ground squirrels I was all over it.
Going online to do a bit of background work, I found that there were two species of ground squirrel in the state, the Frankiln Ground Squirrel which has limited distribution and is protected, and the thirteen lined ground squirrel, which has a fairly wide distribution and is a pest species that can be taken anywhere at anytime. There was a big popuation at a local sport field that had been digging holes all over, and Brian had gotten us cleared with local law enforcement to shoot them with airguns. We pitched up on a very hot morning around 10:00 am, and found these little rodents runing all over the field. There were a few mounds with squirrels sitting on their haunches prairie dog style, but for the most part the holes were dug into the ground without a mound, and you couldn’t see them until almost stepping in to one. Often the squirrels would move while staying very low to the ground. They were popping up and down, Brian said it looked like one of those arcade games where you have to bop the weasel.
The gun I selected for the day was the .25 caliber Benjamin Marauder with a Niko Sterling scope, using JSB King round-nose pellets. I opted for this gun because it was one of the quieter rifles I had and it was dialed in and ready to go. Next time I’ll probably take a .177 for the flatter shooting characteristics. These animals are much smaller than prairie dogs, but the shots were usually closer as well, in the 30-60 yard range.
These are strikingly marked ground squirrels when compareed to the gray digger I grew up hunting in California, but it’s amazing how well they blend in. They are very hard to spot when holding still.
We were shooting from whatever position was available, standing, sitting, prone, and using whatever support was handy. I didn’t have a bipod on my gun but will next time. Between the two of us we culled several squirrels within a couple hours, which was good because the temperature had climbed to over a hundred degrees by noon, and we gave out before these striped gophers had.
This was a real find, I’ve been traveling out west to shoot prairie dogs and ground squirrels, never realizing that I could be in some great varminting territory and hour or two from home!
We also did a local service clearing these pests from an area where they were creating a real hazard. As we started asking around we have been finding that there are several farmers in the area that are experiencing crop damage that would like us to shoot them out…. we just need to find the best way to do it in wide open fields.