Knowledge is power, but for squirrel hunting all you need to know is what they look like, what they eat, and where they live. If you know that you'll learn even more each time you go hunting. They are creatures that seem to amaze me every time I see one. Once you think you know everything about them, they will surprise you.
Welcome to the Nut House
Just about every hunter started out squirrel hunting as a child. As we grew older, we started pursuing bigger, more challenging game. Small game hunting has taken a backseat; it's slowly becoming a thing of the past in some places.
But squirrel hunting is not just for kids. It set the foundation of our hunting careers, and it can still be a challenge for even the most seasoned hunter.
This past squirrel season I found myself in situations that I've never experienced before. I quickly found myself searching for other tactics. I found that there aren't many web pages for the serious squirrel hunter. So I've decided to create this article with almost everything you might need. I talk about gear, safety, strategies, recipes, and resources. If you have any tips, comments, recipes, or maybe you just think I've left something out, write it in the comments section. I want this article to be written by squirrel hunters for squirrel hunters.
Welcome to the world of the bushy tails, the nut house!
Let Everyone Know What You Enjoy Hunting the Most
All You Need for Squirrel Hunting
Squirrel hunting is all about simplicity when it comes to gear. Almost everything that you'll need can fit in your pockets or a small bag. I have composed a list of the bare essentials that I carry into the woods on every hunt I go on. They are listed here in order of importance.
Gear for Squirrel Hunting
- A hunting license is the most important thing you need to have. Possible jail time and fines are not worth a single squirrel. Just keep it legal so you can keep having fun.
- Unless you plan on bagging squirrels with your bare hands, you're going to need a weapon of your choice. The great thing about squirrel hunting is that they can be hunted with almost anything. Rifles, shotguns, and pistols are very common choices in the pursuit of the bushy tails. I'm personally a fan of the classic .22LR. Bow-hunting squirrels is by far the most challenging way; here are some broadheads that work.
- Finding a place to hunt isn't always difficult. There are as many places to hunt as there are squirrels in the woods. They are all over North America. If you can't find private land to hunt, don't worry. There are millions of state and federal lands open to hunting. The NRA and National Shooting Sports Foundation can help you locate those places. You local Department of Natural Resources will also have information on state public hunting areas.
- What you wear really doesn't matter. You don't need to wear a ghillie suit for squirrel hunting, but wear colors that would naturally blend in. If your state requires you to wear blaze orange, then wear it. It's not a bad idea to wear it even if it's not required. Remember on colder days you can always take off clothing when it gets warm, but you can't put on what you never brought. It's a great idea to bring a rain jacket too. Just wear clothes that are comfortable and durable.
- A sharp knife is a valuable tool to have any time outdoors. You need it for field dressing your quarry or just for whittling some twigs when the squirrels keep hiding.
- Of course you're going to need a small backpack or waist pack for carrying your gear.
- Bring some snacks and drinks. Especially if you plan on being out more than a few hours. You will work up an appetite waltzing through the wilderness. Plus it's nice to have a snack and a cool soda or a hot cup of coffee.
- Binoculars! You will use them more than you think. There will be times during your hunt when squirrels will just tend to disappear in thin air. Chances are they spotted you and are hiding. It can be very difficult to pick out a squirrel that's lying still and flat against a branch or tree trunk. With a good set of binoculars you can easily pick him out.
- You'll need to bring something to carry the squirrels you've successfully harvested. Any bag, old pillowcase, or even a bucket will suffice. I usually carry a string, tie the squirrels together, and hang them from my belt or backpack. One great thing to have is an upland game vest. They have plenty of pockets for your gear and have one big pouch on the back to put game into.
- Keep the weather in mind in dealing with your harvest. If it's below 50 degrees you'll most likely be fine if you don't field dress them for a couple hours, because they will not spoil very fast. On a hot day, though, it would be wise to carry a cooler with some ice so you can dress them and keep them on ice. Spoiled squirrel doesn't taste or smell good.
Learn to Field-Dress Your Squirrels
Strategies for Hunting Squirrels
Here's where most squirrel hunters make their mistakes while hunting squirrels. The way you hunt must change daily. Most people hunt squirrels by just taking a walk through the woods. In most cases you can be successful with this technique, but there are other ways to hunt squirrels.
The sit-and-wait method. This is a very effective way to get your daily limit and probably the most relaxing way. There's nothing like just sitting in the peaceful woods. All you do is find an area that squirrels have made their home and sit and wait for them to reveal themselves. The key to this method is being still and quiet. They need to think you're not there until it's too late. You can also hunt them like deer from a tree stand using this method.
Now for my favorite tactic, the still hunting method. This is where you put all your skills together to get that squirrel. You must be camouflaged very well. The object is to be completely invisible while walking through the woods. It takes practice. You must move slowly and each step must be deliberate. It takes me an hour to cover about 50 yards of flat terrain and even more time to cover steep hills and mountains. This technique is best applied in areas where hunting pressure is low, thick forests, and when the ground is wet from recent rain, fresh snow, or morning dew. Crunchy leaves and grass will let them know you are there. Foggy and conditions will help out a lot while still hunting. When you see a squirrel in a nearby tree keep moving slowly and creep up to it. Now you are using the spot-and-stalk method.
Squirrel Hunting Safety
Safety is very important with any type of hunting. A trophy squirrel is not worth getting hurt over.
Be sure to check the weather forecast before you head into the woods. You don't want to be caught in a blizzard or severe thunderstorm. Be careful on hot days not to dehydrate. No need to risk heatstroke or hypothermia.
Take a hunter's education and firearms safety class. I can't say this enough. Most of the places I squirrel-hunt are near homes, farms, and other hunters. A simple .22LR bullet can travel up to 1 1/2 miles under the right conditions. Be sure of what you're shooting at and what is being your target.
Keep an eye out for other wildlife. Stay away from snakes and spiders.
If you get hurt and you're by yourself, having a little first aid knowledge can save your life. So take a first aid class.
How Squirrel Hunting Will Make You a Better Deer Hunter
No matter what you hunt, every hunter knows that to become a better hunter you have to hunt more often. Deer season may be over, but that's no reason to stop hunting. Most states have long squirrel seasons, with plenty of time you can spend in the woods before and after deer season. Here in Tennessee, our season lasts from the end of August to the end of February. We also have a spring season that lasts a few weeks in May and June.
Just as with deer hunting, you need to scout for squirrels. Find their den trees, nests, and food sources, and you'll find the squirrels. Chances are that you already know where they are because they spent all deer season pestering you at your stand. I'm sure every deer hunter has been "busted" by a squirrel alerting the deer to their presence. They make a distinct alert sound that will send all game running. You might as learn to read squirrel behavior while you are deer hunting.
This past squirrel season, I found many areas rich in deer activity where I never knew deer existed. Many of those areas are going to be deer stands for this upcoming season.
Hunting these bushy-tailed critters is great for still hunting practice. Squirrels are much more forgiving than deer because they will most likely come back to an area within minutes if they feel there is no threat.
The main difference between deer and squirrel hunting is the wind. You don't have to watch it as much.
Squirrels rely primarily on sight and sound to detect dangers in the woods. Because squirrels are usually in trees they can usually see and hear things at a farther distance than deer. Practice your slow movements and see if you can sneak up on a squirrel. It's harder than you think. If you can do it consistently, then you can definitely sneak up on deer as long as you use the wind to your advantage.
Scouting for Squirrels
Scouting is a very important part of hunting any game animal. The three things you need to look for while scouting are food, water, and shelter: the things animals need to survive every day. If you find these things out you will find the squirrels. Keep in mind that as the seasons change, so do the locations of food, shelter, and water.
Food sources vary from location and time of year. Early in the season squirrels eat berries, leaves, nuts, and other foliage. Sometimes they will even eat the occasional insect. In the later part of the season they will primarily eat nuts that they have buried throughout the year. The best food source you can find is an oak tree that produces a lot of acorns. Most likely there will be some squirrels nearby.
Unless you live in very dry areas, water isn't something to worry about when hunting. Squirrels get their water intake from many sources that are easy to find in the woods. Puddles, creeks, and even dew on leaves provide them all they need.
Know Your Squirrels
Squirrels native to the eastern US include the Eastern Gray Squirrel, Fox Squirrel, Black Squirrel (a color variant of the first two species), and the American Red Squirrel. In the Western US, look for the Western Gray Squirrel and Douglas Squirrel. Eastern species of squirrels have been introduced to the West and to Europe and in places have replaced native species.
Hunting Squirrels With Dogs!
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.
Share your squirrel hunting tips, links, recipes, and stories here
Carl Eastvold from Duluth on April 14, 2016:
Great hubpage on squirrel hunting. Will be going back over it. Most of the squirrels I've shot in recent years are - those I don't want in my house and out buildings. For some reason - this area attracts them (maybe that's why it's called Hunter Lake). Most often I shoot them with a 410 shotgun - so as not to take any chances with the neighbors. If I'm actually hunting squirrels - I have a model 341 Remington. Oddly, as this rifle was only produced between 1936 and 1940 - this is the second such Model 341 I've owned. It is an excellent squirrel rifle. Here, red squirrels, also known as pine squirrels, are not protected and may be shot year round. However, cooking them requires finesse - as they taste like turpentine - unless you take steps. Eastern greys are fast and taste great. I like to make squirrel pot pie out of them.
kswat07 (author) on August 27, 2013:
@anonymous: Any pellet rifle will work as long and you have proper shot placement. Ifif using a .177 caliber I'd recommend one that travels over 1000 fps but a .22 cal pellet rifle travelling at least 800 fps but would be best. Remember its all about shot placement
anonymous on August 26, 2013:
What's best pellet rifle to use
Ed Murphy from New Hampshire on July 29, 2013:
Like most hunters, I see game that I'm not pursuing, but never the game that I'm out for. Deer when squirrel, moose, or turkey hunting, moose when deer hunting, etc. I'll be out again in the fall, and this lens gives me a couple more things to think about.
kswat07 (author) on July 23, 2013:
@archangelptx: It can be very funny. I've seen squirrels do some crazy things. I even had one jump on my backpack while I was hiking one day. When you think you've seen it all they will amaze you
archangelptx on July 23, 2013:
Squirrel hunting sounds like a blast. I bet it would be pretty funny to watch people hunt squirrels also!
Bigwas from Philippines on July 20, 2013:
I live in a country where there is no squirrel but its nice to know something about it.