Theodore Roosevelt called shooting small game while hunting big game the cardinal sin for hunters.
But with squirrel season opening in October around the South — and with archery seasons for deer also open this month — the temptation to shoot a bushytail while deer hunting is ever-present.
Sometimes the urge proves too strong, and when it does, hunters need to be as quiet as possible to avoid scaring away any deer in the area. Fortunatley, with the right equipment, archers can shoot squirrels quietly from a tree stand while waiting for a big buck to stroll past.
Making the bow quiet is the first consideration. Use a string suppressor and sound dampeners to eliminate excess noise caused when the arrow fires. Suppressors are the rubber-padded “sticks” extending back from the riser to meet the bowstring. As the bow fires, it stops the string at the resting position — preventing the extra forward movement that normally occurs as the string pushes the arrow forward.
Major manufacturers like Hoyt, Mathews and Elite are beginning to make this a factory feature. Those with older models can buy the accessory and attach it to the reverse side of the riser from the stabilizer. It doesn’t make the bow silent, but it does go a long way toward stopping the slap of the shot.
If possible, wait until a squirrel gets directly under the stand before shooting. The sound will travel down with the arrow instead of out into the woods following the shot. Again, the shot won’t be silent, but the sound will be muffled.
Pick your shots carefully. Hitting a stray rock under the leaves will make a shot ring through the woods. Make sure to only take shots that you know will kill the animal quickly, preventing the squirrel from calling out or rustling leaves when it is hit.
Some states, including North Carolina, allow archers to carry a .22-caliber pistol afield to finish off wounded deer. Loading this with subsonic .22 Long Rifle — or .22 Shorts if the gun allows — can let a hunter plunk a nearby squirrel without too much sound. This also allows for tree shots where an arrow would get stuck.
Killing squirrels does more than kill time between deer sightings: It’s an enjoyable archery opportunity that just happens to fall inside another popular hunting season.
And quietly doubling up on species lets bow hunters have the best of both seasons.