Squirrel hunting is an amazing pastime.
It also offers a great way to add some great game meat to your dinner table.
Here are my tips for the beginning squirrel hunter.
Find a mentor.
The best way to learn the trade of squirrel hunting is to find someone who is good at it. It may be a family member or an old timer you know well. Real world apprentice in the wilds beats watching a video or reading a book for the lessons to be remembered, possibly for a lifetime.
Find a squirrel filled location.
Larger species of squirrels love tall deciduous hardwoods that are filled with nut bearing trees such as oaks, beech, hickory and many others. The smaller variety red or “pine” squirrels prefer pinecones and large conifer trees. Find a nice stand of those trees on public land or if you have permission on private land and sit down against a big tree. Stay quiet and don’t move. The woods will come alive and hopefully the scampering of squirrels in the trees or even on the ground will be along shortly.
Dress for comfort, quietness and to blend in.
Quiet material clothing will not scrape against tree branches and briar bushes during the hunt. Remember squirrels know the normal sounds of the woods and foreign ones stand out like a megaphone to those little ears. Dress in layers when it is cooler. Morning and evening temperatures are usually cooler than mid day. Earth tone clothing is a must. Camouflage might also give you an edge. Cover your face with a face mask made of netting for visibility and breathability. Maybe wear gloves too because a flash of light colored skin will cause squirrels to hide in a hurry.
Does blaze orange scare away squirrels?
Well I think if the material has a shinier nylon type sheen it can be noticed easier than the standard cotton hunting coat. Safety though should always be number one and be careful of other hunters and where you shoot always. Movement is more your enemy against the sharp squirrel eyes than blaze orange clothing in my experience. Once again, sit still or move ever so slowly and quietly through the woodlands.
What gun should I use?
A shotgun in early season is perfect due to closer range shots through dense foliage. While some say starting out hunters should use a .410 bore shotgun the small load of shot is better used by more experienced hunters. Many hunters choose the 20 gauge shotgun or the bigger 12 gauge variety. For shot size I have found #5 lead shot to be perfect in a 12 gauge load for high treetop squirrels and in 20 gauge #6 or the forementioned #5 is also my favorite. Smaller shot like #7.5 is used by some hunters but I really dislike picking those tiny pellets from the meat. Larger #4 shot has more holes in the patterning which might allow a squirrel to slip through the barrage on occasion.
A rifle, generally chambered for the .22 long rifle cartridge can be scoped for high accuracy under 100 yards in most cases. Head shots at 50 yards or closer allow meat to be saved. Some old school hunters like squirrel brains as a delicacy so they might find head shots to be absolutely unthinkable. Solid bullets or hollow point bullets? My overall thought is use the one that is most accurate in your specific rifle. Add a sling too for easy carry and practice often before season to master your marksmanship. Also always be aware to be sure you have a good backstop after the bullet exits the squirrel to avoid tagging another hunter or farmer down range.
What to bring for supplies.
Bring something to sit on that is comfortable for long periods of time. The cushions sold in hunting departments are perfect for that and many times has a belt loop allowing it to be out of the way when not needed. Make sure you have snacks and something to drink. A sharp knife and disposable gloves take care of the field dressing needs. I actually prefer to fully clean my harvested small game in the wilds to conserve weight, cool the meat and leave fur that might have fleas or ticks out in the woods for scavengers to enjoy. When I get home I just rinse the meat and it is ready for the pot or freezer. Oh yes, don’t forget your ammo!
Do your research as hunting is a lifelong quest for perfection in the wilds.
From watching videos online, to talking with other hunters all information can be processed in your mind. I really enjoy reading the vintage hunting books and magazines when technology was not a huge part of the hunt but the hunter’s skill was. Whether you are 15 years old or 95 you will always learn something new from the great sport of squirrel hunting and the great outdoors. Get out there and enjoy!
Do you like articles about the outdoors? You can follow him @ericthewoodsman on Twitter, The Classic Woodsman on Facebook, and @theclassicwoodsman on Instagram, The Classic Survivalist, and The Classic Woodsman YouTube Channel.