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How to Pick Ammo for Squirrel Hunting

Holle Abee has long experience fishing, crabbing, and hunting in the Southern US.

Gray Squirrel

Gray Squirrel

Best Squirrel Guns and Ammo

Years ago, before I developed nerve damage, I enjoyed hunting, including deer hunting, quail hunting, rabbit hunting, and duck hunting. I lived in a fairly remote rural area, and we had thousands of acres of woods, pastures, and lowlands that held a variety of game and game birds. My husband and I hosted and attended scores of dove shoots over the years.

One type of hunting that I found especially relaxing and enjoyable was squirrel hunting. We had pecan orchards, along with a booming squirrel population. I loved being out in the autumn woods that surrounded my home, and my family enjoyed eating squirrel recipes, so my squirrel-hunting excursions were both enjoyable and productive. If you’re a beginning squirrel hunter, you might find the following tips useful.

Understand Your Purpose in Hunting Squirrels

Before you load up and trek into the woods in pursuit of “bushy tails,” ask yourself why you want to go hunting. This is important because it will help you choose the best gun and the best ammo for squirrels. Why is your purpose important? If you’re into survival hunting and your main purpose for hunting is to procure meat for your family, you’ll want to take full advantage of guns and ammo with the best knock-down capabilities and the broadest coverage. On the other hand, if you’re mostly shooting for sport, with the meat as just an added bonus, you’ll likely want more of a challenge.

If you're hunting near people or livestock, consider the range of your squirrel gun.

If you're hunting near people or livestock, consider the range of your squirrel gun.

Where You’ll Be Hunting

Where will most of your squirrel hunting be done? Consider this when choosing guns and ammo. If you have neighbors or livestock near your hunting grounds, a shotgun might be the best choice because of its limited range. You won't have to worry about a stray shot hitting a human or farm animal.

But if you’re going to be hunting in a remote area where you don’t have to worry about accidental shootings, a .22 will be a safe choice.

If you're not hunting on your own land, be sure you have permission to hunt from the landowner. Even if he or she tells you that you can hunt there any time you want, you still need to let the owner know each time you hunt that you'll be in the woods.

My trusty old Remington 870 Wingmaster 12-gauge shotgun

My trusty old Remington 870 Wingmaster 12-gauge shotgun

Using a .22 Rifle for Squirrel Hunting

The two best guns for squirrel hunting, from my experience, are shotguns and .22 rifles. Each type of gun has its advantages and disadvantages. A shotgun is going to give you a better chance of hitting and killing a squirrel because your aim won’t have to be as precise. The downside to using a shotgun is that the squirrel meat will be embedded with shot. If you’re not careful about removing the shot when you’re dressing the critters, you’re sure to bite down on some of the little metal balls when you’re eating your quarry.

With a bullet from a .22 rifle, you can avoid shot penetrating the meat, but you’ll need to be a better shot to hit a small target with a single bullet. Of course, a rifle with a scope will increase your chances significantly.

Are you going to be hunting for meat to use in squirrel recipes?

Are you going to be hunting for meat to use in squirrel recipes?

Best Shotguns for Squirrel Hunting

Shotguns come in different gauges, including the 10-gauge, 12-gauge, 20-gauge, 28-gauge, and .410. The larger the gauge, the more power the gun packs. Unfortunately, more power means more recoil or “kick.” Any of the aforementioned shotgun gauges would be good for shooting squirrels, but the size of the shotgun needs to be matched with the size of the hunter. Among adult hunters, the 12-gauge shotgun is the most popular for squirrels, but a .410 would be a better choice for a child, a young teen, or a small adult.

Choose the right shotgun loads for squirrel hunting.

Choose the right shotgun loads for squirrel hunting.

The Best Ammo for Squirrel Hunting

Once you’ve decided on a squirrel gun, you’ll need to select the right ammo for squirrels. For a .22 rifle, use high-velocity hollow-point cartridges. The wound that results from these shells will usually be fatal, providing for a quick kill.

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If you’re going to be using a shotgun, you’ll need to use the right load. The higher the number of the load, the more pellets there are in the shell. BUT you also have to consider the “knockdown” power. For example, #9 shot shells have a higher number of pellets in the shells, but they won’t pack enough punch to bring down squirrels effectively. For that, you’ll need #5 or #6 shot.

Squirrel Hunting Tips

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Nathan on October 23, 2018:

I hunt woods, hay and bean fields in SE Pennsylvania, My savage 17 HMR is a laser with a nikon 4x scope, but my black mouth cur often flushes pheasant from the hedgerows and field edges so I usually use a 12g. #4 usually fully penetrates or leaves the shot stuck in in the exit side of squirrel skin. # 6 patterns best in my gun at 25-35yds. So i put a #6 in the top barrel and #4 in the bottom. If I see a squirrel a hard hit with the palm of my hand to the butt plate trips the selector to the bottom barrel. if you have a fancier gun you may ave a selector switch for barrel #1 to #2

Chad on September 28, 2016:

Squirrel is really good to eat. Fried or in gravy over biscuits. Lots of different ways to cook them up.

I usually use 12gg 3" #6, seems to work the best for me where I hunt in Louisiana.

Darrell Kindley from Fort Worth, TX on April 04, 2016:

Great hub! Very necessary to know.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 09, 2014:

DawnRae, thanks for stopping by!

Dawn from Maryland, USA on November 09, 2014:

We haven't had squirrel for about a year. You've made me hungry for squirrel.

Ed Palumbo from Tualatin, OR on March 15, 2014:

I enjoyed your Hub! My field priority is varminting (pest control) and I spend some of my time eliminating Columbian and Belding's ground squirrels, as well as jack rabbits on an alfalfa ranch. Best of luck in the field.

moneytoplist on May 13, 2012:

Wow, I had no idea that people eat squirrels. I have traveled around most of the Europe countries but I have never seen squirrels in the menu. Good inspiration :)

Chicken Schlegel on April 03, 2012:

Holly Sh**t! I love ur pics! they're like totally awesome, dude.

50 Caliber from Arizona on April 03, 2012:

Holle, great write, squirrel is tasty and a good way to spend a day. Sorta like fishing, some days you catch them and others you don't. Up north here in Arizona we have the Alberts and Kaibab squirrels a couple of odd breeds that are much different in color and have perky fuzzy ears, black undercoat and a kinda grey/black tail that nest in the upper limbs of the Ponderosa pines that might be a 90 foot shot standing under the tree. 22 rifle works best for them,


Mmargie1966 from Gainesville, GA on April 03, 2012:

Well that was quite impressive. I've never had squirrel meat, but I heard it was good.

Great Job!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on April 02, 2012:

Many, many thanks, Rox!

Horatio, my girls loved fried squirrel when they were kids! We often hunted for meat: squirrels, rabbits, deer, ducks, geese, etc. I think hunting animals for food is more humane than the slaughterhouse process.

Horatio Plot from Bedfordshire, England. on April 02, 2012:

Humm. Not sure about all that eating squirrels marlakey.

Over this side of the pond some bloke got fined £1,550 ($2,4000)for drowning a squirrel in a bucket in his back garden a few years ago. I think we can kill them humanely if we consider them to be pests, by whacking them on the back on the head, but drowning them causes suffering, so I'm not sure about shooting them. I'm sure farmers can do it.

Interesting, none the less.

Roxanne Lewis from Washington on April 02, 2012:

Very interesting and yet another perfect hub for my father in-law! Thanks

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