All You Need to Know About Squirrel Hunting
Squirrel hunting is challenging enough for an experienced hunter but simple enough for a beginner.
Squirrels are a small target and they move extremely fast through the trees. Additionally, squirrels will freeze without moving if they sense any danger. This makes them very hard to spot in the woods. Expect your first squirrel hunting experience to be a great, yet, challenging when it’s all said and done.
That said, squirrel hunting is an ideal place to start for new hunters. Squirrel hunting is actually better with a partner and is perfect for taking along kids or new hunters. Squirrel hunting teaches you to move through the woods quietly and it keeps your shooting skills shart.
Additionally, squirrel hunting provides a chance to enjoy a tasty meal with family at the end of the day. You can find several great recipes for squirrel that kids will even like.
Let’s dive right in and have a look at essential squirrel hunting tips, shall we?
Must-Have Gear for Hunting Squirrel
One of the main reasons why people learn how to hunt squirrel is because there is little gear involved. All you need is some good boots, a pair of binoculars, the right gun and a few free hours. Here are a few items to make your afternoon of squirrel hunting even better.
Field Bag / Belt
A squirrel hunting field bag or belt is convenient as it holds everything you need for a successful hunt. You want a bag that will hold the squirrels you take and the minimal gear and ammo that you need to take into the woods.
Bird hunting belts are a good option and used by many hunters for squirrel hunting too.
It is worth mentioning that you can either use a rifle or shotgun for squirrel hunting.
The shotgun is easier, but it’s more likely to ruin your meat. I recommend using a #5 load with most shotguns so you have enough weight to penetrate the squirrel and not ruin the meat with too many pellets.
A rifle has cleaner kills, but it can be difficult to hit a squirrel for kids or newer hunters. If you choose a rifle, then a .22 is the weapon of choice for many hunters. Just be careful when shooting a rifle up into a tree as the bullet will travel a long way if you miss.
Heading out for your hunting expedition with a pair of compact binoculars at hand would certainly be in your best interest.
Squirrels can freeze motionless for extended periods if they sense danger and this makes it really hard to spot the bushy tails.
Having a good quality pair of binoculars can help distinguish between a bump and squirrel. Not to mention the bird-watching benefits in-between breathers.
Some days, the squirrels stay hidden and it looks like you are going home empty handed. This is the perfect time to use a squirrel call to pull them out of hiding.
Squirrels respond to calls just like deer or turkey
Squirrels are very cautious creatures in that they tend to freeze motionless waiting for danger to pass. However, mimicking squirrel noises can convince the others to come out and investigate.
Calls designed to produce an array of squirrel-enticing sounds can save a day of hunting. It’s worth keeping a small squirrel call in your pack.
Here is a video tutorial about using a Squirrel Call:
How to Use a Squirrel Call
Protect your pack from bloodstains after making the kill. Carry three or four plastic bags to hold your game before throwing them in your bag. This is a simple tip but a great hack to make your gear last longer.
Steps on How to Hunt Squirrel
As earlier mentioned, the prepared always end up successful and with this etched in mind, you want to begin your squirrel hunting odyssey by researching all you can about the bushy tails. In some states for instance, you are allowed to hunt grey squirrels but not the rare fox squirrels. Only until then can you proceed to follow these steps.
1. Identify the Perfect Place and Time to Hunt
Fortunately, squirrels are most active during the day. It shouldn’t be a hassle spotting a bushy tail in the morning and afternoon hours.
Remember, squirrels love munching on acorns, beechnuts, and hickory nuts. Keep a special eye out for hickory, beech and oak trees for activity. However, squirrels eat a variety of other things like mushrooms and berries so be ready to spot a squirrel anywhere in the woods.
2. Listen for Squirrel Sounds
When hunting for squirrels, listen for obvious giveaways such as cutting or barking.
Cutting – Generally speaking, bushy tails tend to cut the husk off the nuts they feeds on. You’ll either hear noises of the little creatures munching on the nuts or better yet, see the husks falling through the leaves before hitting the ground.
Barking – Squirrels make a very distinct barking sound that you can easily identify in the woods. Barking typicallys sounds like a “kuk, kuk, kuk” noise. It is sometimes followed by a longer “quaa” sound. You can see and listen to a grey squirrel barking in the video below:
3. Mimic Squirrel Sounds
Using a call to mimi squirrel sounds is really a last ditch effort.
Staying invisible and silently stalking a squirrel is always the preferred choice. However, a squirrel call can help you pull the squirrels out of their dens on a slow day.
As earlier mentioned, bushy tails tend to freeze in position if they sense any danger, making them extremely hard to spot in trees. The only way you can convince these clever creatures to resume their nut-eating is by simply mimicking noises of other squirrels eating.
There are several squirrel calls you can purchase. However, you can use this hack if you are on a tight budget. Try rubbing two quarters together – one using the ribbed edge and the other flat – to replicate the grinding sounds of husk cutting.
4. Practice Patience
Generally, there are two main hunting techniques used in squirrel hunting: waiting or still-hunting.
Waiting requires great patience similar to deer or turkey hunting. You can almost always guarantee a productive hunt by setting up shop in the perfect spot and waiting for your game to come around.
Still-hunting is a more active form of hunting squirrels, but you still need to be patient and move slowly. When still-hunting, you should slowly walk through the woods taking 5-10 minute pauses every 20-30 yards to listen and look for squirrels.
The bottom line is that patience is certainly the name of the game when it comes to squirrel hunting. Spend a lot of time scanning the woods with your binoculars and you will have more success.
Take your time and enjoy the day!
5. Select Your Shot Wisely
Unlike hunting on the ground, shooting at squirrels on trees means firing upwards. With this in mind, safety should clearly rank tops on your list of priorities. If possible, you want to ensure that the bullet hits the tree in case you miss.
Safety aside, head shots serve as your best bet when it comes to hunting squirrels. Aiming for the head not only preserves a good chunk of your meat, but also ensures you kill the game in one shot.
Squirrels are quite tricky and hitting parts other than the head provides a chance for the injured prey to jump into a hole or go further up the tree. Be selective to ensure you have a head shot and minimize the chances for just injuring the squirrel.
6. Hunt with a Partner
Squirrel hunting is better with a partner. More eyes will help you spot more squirrels. This is the perfect hunt to take along a friend or child.
One of the biggest advantages of squirrel hunting with a partner is when a squirrel is circling a tree. It happens all the time. You see a squirrel but it constantly circles the tree so you can’t get a shot. With a partner, you can freeze the squirrel on the tree, which will allow you to get a clean headshot.
Squirrel Hunting Tips
As you may have gathered, squirrel hunting is very unique with its own challenges. Here are some essential squirrel hunting tips to keep in mind before heading outdoors.
- Spotting bushy tails on trees can be really challenging. They are extremely fast and tend to freeze as a camouflage tactic in case of danger. You therefore, want to train your eye to identify motion rather than the creature itself. For instance, start by trying to scan for moving tree branches instead of searching for a bushy tail in leafy canopies.
- Another effective way of pinpointing squirrels is by simply looking out for their body shape especially when you are certain that your cover is blown. In this case, the bushy tail will hold in a motionless position meaning you’ll have to keep an eye for unnatural looking parts sitting on trunks or branches. The bottom line here is, these creatures have mastered the art of camouflage. You are better off looking for unnatural shapes than colors.
- Hunting squirrels is easier if you are experienced in vocalization. Some squirrel chatters are high-pitched than others and it can get a little confusing especially for beginners. However, worth noting is that identifying squirrel calls is usually not a good sign as it typically means your cover has been blown.
- If you’ve spooked a bushy tail within sight, you are better off freezing still on the ground as you patiently keep an eye out for motion. Generally, they’ll make a move after a while and decide the coast clear.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q. What is the recommended squirrel hunting clothing?
A. As mentioned earlier, the whole beauty of squirrel hunting is the inexpensive gear required. In fact, you can do without camouflage even though it comes in handy to some extent. Go for a hunter orange vest or jacket, a pair of hiking pants and comfortable hiking boots for those intending to play the still-hunting game.
Q. Which is the best squirrel hunting gun?
A. The perfect gun usually depends on a number of factors such as your expertise level. Similar to other hunting applications, a .22 caliber rifle or shotgun with #5 load should do just fine. With the rifle, you can expect neat kills, longer shots and inexpensive ammo. Shotguns provide easier kills but you will likely have some pellets in the meat.
Wrapping It Up
As you may have gathered by now, squirrel hunting is certainly not for the faint-hearted or for quitters. It is extremely exciting especially if you are just getting started on hitting the rough. When learning how to hunt squirrel, it is paramount to always watch your step as this may easily blow your cover. Sure, it is almost impossible to remain silent in the woods with all the pine cones, twigs and sticks in your way. However, do your best to avoid things that go “crack” when you step on them.
Also, never walk directly at a motionless squirrel as chances are you’re cover has been blown. Rather, angle away from the bushy tail slowly to convince it that it’s not in any danger.
Always begin your hunt by scouting for the perfect area where large numbers of bushy tails are found. This means setting up close to their preferred eating “joints” such as around hickory nut, acorn and beech trees. Practice walking slowly in two or three steps at a time with the sun against your back.
At the end of the day, the squirrel hunting tips listed above will help ensure a successful hunt.