HuntnFish has spent his life in the great outdoors, hunting, fishing, and foraging, year round, rain or snow, all season long.
Small Game Hunting at Its Best
Squirrel hunting is a particularly entertaining sport. Many people might imagine these little creatures to be an easy quarry, but this couldn't be further from the truth. Besides being a small target, squirrels move very quickly, and will freeze motionless when they sense danger, making them very difficult to spot.
Why you should give squirrel hunting a try:
- A great challenge!
- Long seasons and generous bag limits in most states (check local regulations)
- In many states, squirrel hunting lines up well with big game scouting seasons, making scouting a bit more enjoyable.
- Inexpensive, as there is very little necessary gear
- A great chance to practice spotting and stalking game
- Exciting way to introduce new hunters to the outdoors
- For food, of course
- The tails are awesome for dressing out treble hooks on all your spinners and other fishing lures.
Squirrel Hunting Guns
There's a lot of debate over what's the perfect gun for squirrel hunting. I'd say the majority of hunters either carry a .22 caliber rifle or a shotgun. Let's weigh the pros and cons:
.22 Caliber Rifle
- A greater challenge
- Allows longer shots
- Allows better shot placement
- Much cleaner kills
- Preserves more of the meat
- Ammo is much less expensive.
- A greater challenge (it goes both ways I guess)
- Rifles are not always allowed in all areas due to their much longer range.
- Easier to hit target
- Allows for quicker shots and moving shots
- More expensive ammo
- May ruin the meat
If you're choosing a shotgun, I would suggest sizing down to your 20 gauge or even a .410 gauge if you have one. Smaller gauge loads have more than enough pellets to bring down a squirrel, and will do less damage to the meat.
I generally make sure there is at least one shotgun and one .22 rifle in my hunting group, although the shotgun is generally saved for the occasional forest grouse and rarely for squirrels.
Another great option is a .177 or .22 caliber pellet rifle. Pellet rifles have the cheapest ammunition, require you to line up your first shot more carefully, and have a greatly reduced deadly range as compared to traditional rifles, making taking shots upward into trees less of a hazard.
The Pellet Rifle I Couldn't Live Without: RWS Model 34
Ammunition for Squirrel Hunting
For a lot of other types of hunting this section would get a lot more attention, but for squirrels I find it doesn't matter as much, so I'll try to keep it short.
For rifles, my only suggestion would be a slower-moving round. This might go against what you might think but I find they have better knock-down power, and in my experience they do a better job of bringing them down out of the trees. And speaking from experience, there's nothing less fun than climbing 50 feet up a gnarly pine to retrieve a squirrel that just happens to roll into the fork of two branches. Hollow-point bullets will also transfer more energy leading to better knock-down power, but will also do unnecessary excess damage to the meat.
As for shotguns, again, anything will work, but I'd say 6 shot or 7 1/2 shot are the two I use most.
Like I said earlier, squirrel hunting can be done rather inexpensively, and camouflage is one thing you can certainly do without. It can help to break up your shape in the woods and make you less visible to squirrels, but it's certainly not required.
Instead, I usually opt for some hunter orange and a comfortable pair of hiking pants. You're going to be walking a lot after all. I figure that extra safety factor far outweighs the possible spooked squirrel now and then. Any vest, jacket, or hat will do fine. You will want to check with local regulations, as certain states require hunter orange during certain hunting seasons.
Squirrel Hunting Tips
There are two ways to locate a squirrel: either you will see it, or you will hear it.
Squirrels can be very difficult to spot. They tend to run much before you see them, then freeze motionless until they feel the danger has passed. Training your eye to instead see motion rather than the squirrel itself will increase your hunting effectiveness. A common example is a tree branch moving much more than the rest of the tree. Sit still and scan the nearby area and wait for the squirrel to present an open shot.
The other way to spot them is to look for their shape. When a squirrel senses danger, it will often freeze motionless. The only way to find them now is to look for any unnatural-looking shapes sitting on limbs, trunks, or on the ground. Squirrels camouflage themselves very well, so shapes are much easier to spot than color. Under the dimmed light of the tree canopy, a squirrel can easily appear to be nothing more than a burl on an old tree branch, or a knot on the side of a trunk. Binoculars are a big benefit here.
Squirrels can also be located by their vocalization. Every squirrel sounds a little different, so it is definitely helpful to have someone with experience in the field to help you identify a squirrel call. Usually, the easiest to identify is a high-pitched chatter. The difficult part though, is once you hear them, it's probably because they have spotted you first!
To stalk a vocalizing squirrel, walk about 30 meters towards the sound, then sit and watch in all directions. Even if you have spooked a squirrel nearby, if you remain motionless longer enough, it will decide the coast is clear and make a move, offering you a shot. Typically, we wait for about 5 or 10 minutes, or until we spot another squirrel.
Squirrel Stalking Tips
A couple thoughts on stalking squirrels.
First, watch where you step. It's nearly impossible to be silent, but try to avoid dry sticks, pine cones, things that generally go "crack" when you step on them.
Second, if you do spot a squirrel, either unaware of you or motionless on a branch, and feel you need a closer shot, do not walk directly at the squirrel. This goes for nearly all game animals. If you instead angle away from the squirrel slightly and make it seem as though you will pass right by, they will be much less wary of you than if you walk straight at it.
I hope you have found this short rundown of squirrel hunting to be helpful. Just remember to always check with your state's hunting regulations before planning a trip. (Sometimes a phone call can be more time effective than the online regulations.)
So find someone to take hunting, be safe, have fun, and get outdoors!
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.
Steve Spry on September 23, 2017:
Nice informative article.I enjoyed it.When squirrel hunting here,it's mostly fox squirrels.I personally will use my Benjamin Marauder PCP pellet rifles for squirrels.I have (2) .25 caliber MRods,and one .22 caliber.All are effective on bushy tails.Our season here doesn't open until Sep. 1 every year.Really love these guns,as they are tack driving,powerful,quiet, squirrel harvesting tools.
Archie Elliott on July 10, 2017:
I find that a .22 air rifle is perfect for shooting squirrels
Tylor on June 13, 2017:
For squirrels I hunt with a pellet gun it's light an easy to shoot free hand(no rest) and I killed a squirrel 50 yards on scope power 3 so I wouldn't waist my money on boxes of ammo for a 22. Or shotguns when I can buy a pellet gun for 500$ plus 500 shots for half or even a quarter of the cost for rifle/shotgun ammo also pellet guns r just as deadly to a squirrel. Thx for ur time hope I have good advice/ways to help u
and good luck when u go back out hunting.
LiamAlfred on February 26, 2017:
I just hunt with a 1500 fps .177 caliber pellet gun
We don't have many grey squirrels because the darn cats ate them but that is fine because red ones taste the best.
Carl Eastvold from Duluth on April 14, 2016:
Good hubpage on squirrel hunting. I'll be looking it over again. I've hunted all my life and squirrels and grouse were my first game meat. I used to get squirrel and my mother would make squirrel pot pie - something I still prepare from time to time. When I was young I had a single shot .22 Remington Model 510 - followed by a .22 Remington Model 341 repeater. About 20 years ago I came across another .22 Remington Model 341 and it is as good a squirrel gun as I remember. This one has an original equipment scope. As the model was only produced between 1936 and 1940 - it is odd to run across two of them. Most squirrels I shoot nowadays are those I don't want in my house or out-buildings. I shoot them with a 410 shotgun out of deference to the neighbors. When I go in the woods after them - I use the model 341. Red squirrels are not protected here and may be shot year round. Greys are protected and may be shot during season. Greys are better tasting, but if they are getting into my buildings - are considered pests and may be shot year round.
Ed Palumbo from Tualatin, OR on January 26, 2014:
Most of my rifles are chambered for .22 centerfire cartridges, and I enjoy varminting or pest control. My activity is conducted primarily in a high desert environment. I enjoyed your writing and find it helpful. Best wishes in the year ahead.