While their popularity has slipped in recent years with the rise in deer and turkey numbers, many sportsmen still pursue gray and fox squirrels, especially as deer seasons wind down in winter. Squirrel seasons extend through February in many states, and others hold seasons in spring and summer as well. It’s easy to see why this small game favorite still draws thousands of hunters into the woods each year.
So Many Reasons Why Squirrel Hunting is Popular
- Unlike deer hunting, where you might go days or even seasons before bagging your quarry, bushytails offer excellent chances for success every day you venture out.
- They can be pursued with a variety of tactics to suit your hunting preference, from sneaking slowly through the woods to stand hunting near a hickory tree, from floating rivers in a canoe or jon boat to hunting with dogs.
- Squirrels are widely available throughout the country and offer an excellent quarry for teaching hunting skills. Like introducing a youngster or newcomer to hunting safety, how to handle a gun and learning to good marksmanship. And don't forget patience!
- Squirrel hunting seasons are long for example, Missouri's squirrel hunting is from May to February. Each state, county or region will be different. Check your states hunting regulations for hunting season details.
- Squirrels are delectable and if handled and cooked correctly, offer some of the finest wild game eating. Serve them barbecued, fried or simmered slowly in a hearty Brunswick Stew.
12 Practical and Essential Hunting Tips for This Quick-Moving and Scurrilous Small Game Quarry
1. Don't Expect to See a Whole Squirrel Every Time
Be alert. You won't see a whole squirrel every time you search for game. Look for an odd hump in a branch, a twitching tail hanging off a limb, leaves shaking in a treetop or movement on the forest floor.
2. Squirrels Are Abundant Where the Food Is
Find the edible vegetation of the forest. Look for edibles such as acorns, hickory nuts, beech nuts, pecans, and walnuts. Then concentrate on areas that have the most massive nut crops in a particular year.
3. Look for Other Foods Squirrels Feed On
|Cornfields can have productive hunting along their edge if they border hardwoods with nuts that also attract squirrels.|
Don’t neglect the other foods squirrels also feed on such as fruits and berries as well as crops such as corn. Search along the edges of cornfields where they border mature oak forests. Those areas offer the double attraction of corn and nuts—a squirrel buffet!
4. Listen for Squirrel Talk
While you’ll often detect your quarry with your eyes, use your ears as well. Squirrels make lots of revealing calls that give away their location to the smart hunter just like a turkey gobbling or an elk bugling. Listen for their sounds such as cat-like meowing, muffled barking and the most easily detected call--angry scolding when they sense danger or an intruder.
5. Be Alert for Other Giveaway Squirrel Sounds.
Besides their vocalizations, squirrels make lots of different noises as they go about their daily lives that can alert you to their location. Listen for the sound of shaking leaves and rattling branches in trees as they jump from one limb to another or the rustling of leaves as they scamper through the woods searching for acorns. You might also hear the sound of sharp teeth crunching on a nut or the pitter-patter of shell fragments falling to the forest floor.
6. Call the Game and Try Squirrel Calls
|Hunter's Specialties Squirrel Call|
Try squirrel calls like the Hunter's Specialties Squirrel Call. Hunters love to call the game, from rattling in bucks to bugling for elk. Try some of the squirrel calls on the market, and you’ll find they help you locate your quarry and also bring it out in the open. Tap, shake or squeeze them to produce alarm barks or mating squeals. Both sounds can incite vocal responses or movement from squirrels, giving you a chance for a shot. If you forget your call, try this trick: tap two hickory nuts together or shake a few small rocks in your hands.
7. Where to Focus Your Search for Squirrels
|During the mornings look for squirrels lower in tree trunks and on the ground searching for food.|
During the fall, early in the morning look for squirrels in low branches of trees and also on the ground gathering nuts and searching for grain, berries or fruits. From mid-morning to mid-afternoon, look higher in the tree tops for squirrels heading back to their dens for a midday nap. Late in the afternoon, focus on lower limbs again and on the ground. In the winter, the warmest midday hours are often best.
Some states offer a spring squirrel-hunting season, usually in May and June. Hunting squirrel during the spring requires a different approach. First squirrels don't move much during the heat of the day. Focus on hunting early morning shortly after sunup 2-3 hours. Find areas protected from the sun or hunt on an overcast day. Scan the trees for active bushytails, but do not forget to look eye level or the ground. When feeding, squirrels will search the ground for buds, seeds, berries such as mulberries and insects.
Spring temperatures can be dangerous for hunting. Don't overdo it and always stay well hydrated. If you're hunting with a squirrel dog, remember to bring along extra water and a bowl. Also very important, heat will affect your dead squirrels. Field dress them right away and put them on ice as soon as you can.
Tip: Learn how to field dress / skin a squirrel with this step-by-step picture guide.
8. Be Patient After You Shoot the First Squirrel
If you’re stand hunting in a prime area, don’t jump up to retrieve the first squirrel you bag. Just mark it carefully with a tree, stump or other landmark and wait. In a few minutes, other squirrels in the area will calm down and start moving again. A few barks on a call will help lure them back out. After you’ve downed two or three squirrels and the activity cools off, go claim your prizes and move to a different area.
9. You'll Be More Successful Using the Right Hunting Gear
|RedHead ThermaCELL TrueTimber Mosquito Repellent with Refill|
Choose a 12-28 gauge shotgun with size 4-6 shot or a rimfire rifle where legal. Camouflage hunting clothing or at least dull colored clothing helps you avoid being detected. Also, wear a hunting vest or coat with a big game pouch to hold both squirrels and a hearty lunch. In the fall to keep your feet warm, be sure to don a sturdy pair of insulated, waterproof boots.
|ForEverlast Snake Guard Shields|
Clothing in the spring heat requires other precautions. Besides the biting insects such as mosquitoes, chiggers and flies or gnats, ticks are abundant and carry serious diseases such as Lyme disease. To fight these pests, wear appropriate clothing. Use insect repellents like RedHead TheraCELL Mosquito Repellent on your clothing as well as your skin. Wear high boots such as snake boots as protection from areas that my inhabit venomous snakes. Snake guard shields or snake guard chaps also add production.
Tip: 12 Great Ways to Fight Mosquitoes and Ticks From the Skin Out
Tip: What You should Know About Ticks and Lyme Disease
10. Move Slowly When Still Hunting Squirrels
Pace yourself move slowly much like you would pursue deer. Pause often and do most of your scanning for the game and listening while you’re standing still. Once you’ve scoured an area with your eyes and listened intently, move forward 50-100 feet or so. Then pause again and search the new spot.
Tip: As you still hunt through hardwoods, stop and listen as you scan for your quarry. Sometimes you'll hear them before you see them.
|Hunter prepares for a float trip. This is a very rewarding and exciting way to pursue squirrels. Always wear a flotation device and carry a change of clothes in a waterproof container.|
11. Plan for The Best Time for Stalking or Still Hinting Squirrels
The best time is after a light rain or snowfall, or on a damp morning with heavy dew. These conditions allow you to walk silently. If there’s snow, you can actually track squirrels. On the other hand, if the woods are dry and crackly from lack of rain or snow, still hunting can be tough. Try another tactic instead.
12. Try Float Hunting Squirrels for Excitement
An exciting way to take squirrels is by float hunting. You can use a canoe or jon boat. Wear a flotation vest for safety and bring a landing net to retrieve squirrels that fall into the river. Have one hunter do the boat handling from the rear while the person in the bow watches for squirrels along the bank or scurrying up and down the trees along the water’s edge.
No, a squirrel scurrying across a limb won’t bring the adrenaline rush of a trophy buck stepping out of the brush. But when deer seasons close, and right through spring and summer in some states, they offer a great way to get outdoors and cure those “cabin fever” blues. Give them a try and see if you don’t agree.
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