Squirrel hunting is fun, testing, energizing, and, most importantly, an exciting way for beginners to acquaint themselves with the outdoors as they hone their hunting and shooting skills. Of course, most hunters start their hunting life with elusive game animals like squirrels and rabbits.
As a convention that ranges a long way past the historical backdrop, squirrel hunting is not all about enjoying the fun of hunting but also a great way to put food on your table. With squirrel’s unpredictable movements and gigantic leaps, squirrel hunting offers an enlivening challenge for beginners and enthusiasts alike.
Here is a complete beginner’s guide to squirrel hunting, along with tips for beginners:
What is great about squirrel hunting?
Squirrels are a perfect small game quarry for novice hunters to pursue. First off, squirrel seasons are long, and bag limits are incredibly generous. You don’t need a lot of equipment and gear to go hunting, plus there are a lot of opportunities to use your weapon as long as you’re in the right place at the right time.
Hunting squirrels is an excellent way to acquaint yourself with your weapon as you learn how to shoot a living thing. As it has been in the past, hunting small game animals helps novice hunters to hone their hunting skills in preparation for more serious hunting. That said, squirrel hunting improves your agility, patience, and accuracy.
What is better, you learn to shoot and get delicious meat, which motivates novice hunters and enthusiasts to keep hunting these elusive games. Squirrels are delicious – reminiscent of chicken, though tougher, darker, and more fully flavored.
Considering that squirrels raid farmlands to destroy different harvests, hunting them is a great way to control their populations and ward off potential issues they could cause.
What are the different species of squirrels that you can go hunting?
Squirrels are extremely shy, territorial, and curious creatures. Although different squirrels exist and can be legally hunted, two species are the most popular among hunters. Each species is identifiable by unique physical characters.
That said, here are the different types of squirrels that you can go hunting:
1. Eastern grey squirrels
This is arguably the most common squirrel among hunters. Adult squirrels grow up to 9-12 inches long, excluding their tails, which can be around 9 inches and weigh up to 600 grams. Their body is grey with a white underbelly, which is the only significant way to differentiate them from fox squirrels.
Grey squirrels are sneaky clever with strong ears and sharp eyes, which makes them hard to hunt. They are active in the morning and a few hours before sunset. They enjoy living in evergreen forests with plenty of food sources and build their own nests known as drey.
2. Fox squirrels
These squirrels are identifiable with their brownish-orange underbelly. They are the largest, weighing up to 1000 grams, and have up to 28 inches body length. Like their peers, they build nests but also live in tree dens or attics. Fox squirrels are diurnal animals and like foraging on the ground. All the same, they are skillful climbers able to jump long distances, which makes them very tough to shoot at.
American red squirrels: As the name suggests, this species has a reddish-grey body and whitish underbelly. They are very small, and their weight varies from 200 to 250 grams. Like other tree squirrels, American red squirrels can build their house or live in tree cavities.
3. Albert’s squirrels
Also known as a tassel-eared squirrel, these squirrels are identifiable by their rust-colored streak down their back. They have a gray body and whitish underbelly. On average, they weigh about 550 grams. Adults grow up to 29 inches long, including tails. Notably, Albert’s squirrels like eating the young twigs of ponderosa and make their nests at higher branches.
Is squirrel hunting legal? Where can you hunt squirrels?
Whether it is legal to hunt squirrels or not depends on your state and other hunting laws. That said, you need to consult your State Park Department about what permits you need before you can go hunting. The criteria for obtaining a squirrel hunting license vary from state to state.
After obtaining a license, you can go ahead to experience nature as you familiarize yourself with hunting-chasing techniques. But where can you exactly hunt squirrels?
Needless to say, squirrels are tree-dwellers found in considerable numbers in almost all states. They populate areas where food, particularly nuts, seeds, acorns, and berries, is abundant. You can easily find squirrels in densely wooded forests with nut-producing hardwoods like Oak and Hickory. All in all, they are masters of evasion and require unique tactics to hunt them successfully.
When is the best time to hunt squirrels?
In most states, squirrel hunting season is usually one of the longest, spanning from late August or early September through mid-winter (January or February).
Although these small game animals can be found all year round, squirrel hunters must abide by the legal hunting season no matter what. Squirrel hunting season is, more often than not, specific to your state.
In terms of daytime, squirrels are most active early in the day and a few hours before dusk. Although the exact time can vary depending on species, you will find them foraging within the first 2-3 hours after sunrise and 2-3 hours before dusk.
What gear do you need to hunt squirrels?
During the legal hunting season, you can head out to a local public hunting spot any morning wearing your T-shirt and jeans, then tread through the beautiful forests and come home with meat.
So, is that how simple squirrel hunting is? Maybe yes, maybe no.
Squirrel hunting is simple and doesn’t necessarily need head-to-toe camouflage. Although it is almost certain that a squirrel will see you before you can see them, having camouflage clothing can increase your chances of going unnoticed when hunting. Of course, squirrel camouflage clothing is a must-have if you elect to do passive hunting.
To increase your chances of success, here are some of the things you need:
- Squirrel hunting clothes (camouflage clothing) – They help to go unnoticed.
- Hunting binoculars – These are powerful tools that help you to locate squirrels with ease.
- A pair of hunting boots
- Squirrel call mimicker
- Hunting knives
- Squirrel hunting scopes
- Warm clothing (when hunting late in the season)
For tools, you can use almost anything as long as your state’s hunting laws permit.
What weapons can you hunt squirrels with?
Regardless of your skill level, the right weapon choice can make the difference between a successful hunt and going home empty-handed.
Here are some of the commonly used weapons:
Shotguns excel shooting at moving animals, including squirrels. They are beginner-friendly, where the large spread of the shell increases the chances of hitting your target without damaging the meat significantly. Shotguns are also safer when hunting in semi-populated spots.
Shotguns with .410-gauge shells have less impact on fur and meat, plus they offer a good deal of accuracy. Other options to consider are 12-, 16-, and 20-gauge shotshells. Beware that shotguns are noisy, which is likely to scare away other squirrels hiding nearby.
2. .22 caliber rifles
This arguably the best weapon for hunting squirrels but suited for experienced squirrel hunters. It offers an ideal challenge for novice hunters looking to hone their skills like pros. .22caliber rifles offer unrivaled accuracy, allowing for precision kill shots with minor damage to the body
3. .22 LR pistol
The biggest appeal of the .22 LR pistol is the flexibility it offers. They are beginner-friendly and offer a better degree of accuracy.
Beginners and seasoned hunters are not limited to firearms when trying their hunting skills. You can use the following types of bows to shoot your shot, provided that they have the necessary draw weight:
Hunting squirrels with a bow is by no means easy. Considering that squirrels are clever, less than a foot long, and make unpredictable moves, you must be prepared for a test of your aim and accuracy. Also, you need to be keen not to pin your meat to a tree.
When going squirrel hunting, you may also need to carry a rope, baits, and hunting backpack.
What are the different squirrel hunting techniques?
There are only two techniques to hunting squirrels: the stalking method and the sit-and-wait method. Both methods are effective, and all species of tree squirrels can be successfully hunted by either method.
1. Stalking method
Also known as the spot-and-stalk method, this is a more active technique where the hunter moves through the woods quietly and slowly while surveying both canopy and surrounding terrain to locate a squirrel. You should be keen to detect sounds of squirrel feeding activity.
Once you locate squirrels, you need to approach them very carefully and aim for a headshot. In most cases, the stalking method works best when hunting with a colleague. That way, one can flush the squirrel as the other takes the shot.
After growing your skill, you can use a closely related technique known as walking and shooting, where you don’t need to conceal your walking sounds.
2. Sit and wait
This is a passive squirrel hunting technique where you spot an ideal place to sit and wait for squirrels to show up, then aim for a headshot whenever they show up.
Well, it sounds easy but has its own challenges. The most challenging part is finding an ideal spot and then struggling with your patience.
With the sit-and-wait method, you have to remain unnoticed, meaning camouflage clothing is a must-have. To increase your chances of success, you can use a squirrel call to attract them. You can also use two coins to mimic the squirrel’s sound.
How can you increase the chances of success when squirrels?
Squirrels are everywhere, but hunting them can actually be very tricky. As a novice hunter, it is best to go hunting throughout the squirrel hunting season so you can get accustomed to different conditions.
Hunting in the early squirrel season (the fall) means treading through lots of green, which makes it challenging to detect squirrels. Even so, hunting during this time is easier than in the late season because squirrels are active in foraging.
During the late season, trees are bare, and squirrels have limited sources of food. Although these little creatures are more active and vulnerable in winter than during the fall, it is more difficult to hunt them because they notice you and hide before you can see them.
With that in mind, here are tips to increase your chances of success:
1. Be patient
Squirrels are not the easiest animals to hunt. To avoid going home empty-handed, you need to be very patient. That said, don’t shoot at a moving squirrel; just wait until the target stops.
2. Move quietly
Generally, squirrels have powerful ears to identify any strange sounds. They are also skittish by nature, and any alien sounds send them back to their nests very quickly. To bypass their nervousness, you need to tread very carefully to avoid making significant noise to scare your targets.
3. Wear camouflage clothing
Camouflaging is one of the easiest ways to trick targets when hunting. Squirrel hunting is no exception. Wearing camouflage or neutral clothing makes you less noticeable so that you can prey easily. All in all, depending on where you want to go hunting, you may be required to wear highly visible orange vests for safety.
4. Learn to listen carefully and look
When squirrel hunting, you need to stay focused. In most cases, you will need to use your ears more than your eyes. All squirrels make unique sound patterns like scratching, chattering, and the sound of objects tumbling to the forest floor. You can easily hear these sounds as long as the surrounding is quiet.
5. Locate squirrel nests
Nest trees give a good point to start squirrel hunting because they return to their nests several times a day. In most cases, nest trees are large dead trees with several holes in the truck. If the holes have smooth rims and/or appear worn around the edges, it is almost certain that they reside there. Nest trees make an ideal spot if you use the sit-and-wait method.
6. Squirrel calling
There are different sounds that can attract squirrels. Interestingly, they are just simple. You can draw them closer using two coins or even two pebbles.
Whether you are squirrel hunting to hone your skills or enjoy the thrill of chasing them, it is an excellent way to put food on your table and help manage their populations. Even with these tips, success in hunting comes down to practice and experience. Even the most skilled marksman was once a novice hunter.