Squirrel Hunting Tactics for When All the Chips Are Down

Use these tactics and methods when you're ready to go squirrel hunting.

Maybe the best reason to do a little gray squirrel, fox squirrel, and especially red squirrel hunting is to get your shooting eye ready for the moment of truth when a big buck finally shows himself.

One of the best times to go squirrel hunting is just before deer season. Clearing the woods of a few bushy tails can be just what the doctor ordered for your deer hunting area and for your mental health.

Not only that, but with the vast amount of squirrel recipes available, a hunter can be eating like a king in short order.

As small game squirrel hunters everywhere can attest to, hunting squirrels is one of the many ways to keep a sharp eye through your scope and squirrel meat on the table. With the treetops full of squirrels and the forest floor full of acorns and hickory nuts, it's only a matter of time until you come across one of these critters in the squirrel woods.

Plus, chasing these chattering little buggers is one of the best ways to introduce a youth hunter to the woodlot.

Let's discuss some tactics and tips to hunt squirrels, plus the gear you may need. After all, it's just a little squirrel and you should be able to fill your bag easily, right?

Not so fast, you squire of the squirrel hunt.

Squirrel Hunting Techniques

Chasing wild tree rats, as some fondly call them, is more than just a pastime for sportsmen. It's forever been a way to charge our batteries for hunting other species.

Honestly, we've never gotten tired of chasing the little fur balls and having them over for a VIP invitation to dinner.

Squirrel hunters in the United States have learned over time that to have a successful hunt they're going to have to brush up on their tree identification. Can you tell the difference between a red oak and a white oak?

Not that a squirrel won't eat the acorns from a red oak, but like whitetail deer and seemingly every other animal out there, the "fruit" of the white version is highly preferable. Knowing these tidbits can pay off big time.

Squirrel hunting can be done by still hunting or hunting from a stationary blind, but the objective is the same: stay relatively quiet and hidden, find a squirrel, steady your shot, and pull the trigger.

In states like New York for instance, the squirrel season opens on the first of September. With an early bow opener of October 1 for deer, you can feasibly get in a few hunts without resoundingly upsetting your favorite deer woods.

Or if you want, wait until deer season is over to hunt those crafty little tree-weasels, as the deer won't care and your tags are hopefully filled anyway.

Squirrel Hunting Tips

As said, these little vagabonds of the forest have a way of finding any and every nut that has fallen in the tri-county area, so that's where you're going to start your search: the nearest nut producing tree.

Remember, the white oak is their favorite. White oaks and red oaks have similar leaves, but the most obvious difference is that the white oak leaves are generally much larger and have rounded edges, where red oak leaves look more serrated, or sharp-edged.

Since there will most likely be some downed trees or logs laying about, look for feeding activity such as spent husks and shells of used nuts. Scan limbs for nests, and listen for the sounds of squirrels before you lay eyes on them.

If you are a deer hunter, then you know full well that sitting down and relaxing can mean only one thing: the squirrels are coming. Their activity has driven deer hunters crazy for generations. Just when you think the noises you're hearing are from a big buck, the squirrel making all the racket reveals itself.

In the event that the spot you've picked out doesn't seem to have any activity, then by all means try some still hunting. You'll have to move slowly and with a purpose, or else the sharp-eyed beasts will bust you and start in with their danger call to keep every other creature in the woods alert, and keep you annoyed.

Again, deer hunters know for a fact that these little denizens of the deep woods will appear at the most inopportune time. They crunch and snap their way through the leaf litter at first light like a 10-point buck, except it's only a 10-ounce tree rat.

Head shots make for the best meat preservation, but the target is small and often doesn't stay still for very long. Focus on making quick decisions, locating the squirrel swiftly in your crosshairs or sight, and remembering firearm safety measures. Make sure you know what's behind your target, and that you refrain from shooting until it's completely safe to do so.

Squirrel Hunting Gear

Whether you grab a rimfire or an air rifle, the squirrels are out there waiting on you, daring you to chase them. So what are you waiting for? 

There are so many good choices for a squirrel gun that it would be hard to list them all, but for whatever reason the Ruger 10 series, particularly the Ruger 10/22 seems to pop up like a squirrel trying to get to the other side of the tree. The Ruger 10/22 is a semi-automatic rifle chambered in the .22 Long Rifle rimfire cartridge, and it uses a patented 10-round rotary magazine for plenty of follow up shot opportunities.

Air guns in the .177 caliber series work well, and the GAMO Whisper Fusion MACH 1 air rifle has a ridiculous 1,420 FPS muzzle velocity that will keep even the quickest bushy-tailed scamp nervous.

Shotguns are great squirrel guns as well, and the 20-gauge or .410 seems to do the trick. Even small game handguns can be effective on squirrels, and they'll really test your shooting skills.

Even if you've chosen a good gun with a decent optic, you should still have a pair of binoculars to let you see into the tree canopy better, particularly when you're looking for movement. As any hunter knows, if there really is a predatory threat such as a hawk, an owl, or a bobcat around, squirrels will stop in their tracks and freeze until they feel likes it's safe.

For the relaxed squirrel hunter, a simple turkey hunting seat pad works well for long sits. Even better, the amazing Beard Buster seat has a jumbo three-inch cushion.

A decent day pack or a lightweight backpack with game pockets is great for the serious squirrel chaser who plans to be in the woods longer than an hour or two.

You'll certainly want to consider wearing some proper camouflage, since you are hunting keen-eyed animals after all. There are some good squirrel calls that you can use to mimic the territorial barks, squawks, and screeches that squirrels use to defend their home area. Just be sure to read up and understand what each sound indicates, and practice before heading to the forest.

Eating Your Squirrel

We can think of a plethora of great recipes to cook up your hard-won squirrel and the great meat that comes with it. There's baked squirrel, fried squirrel, country style squirrel, squirrel sausage, and even Belgian squirrel.

They say that squirrel tastes somewhat like a cross between rabbit and chicken but with a nutty flavor, and truthfully it is considered one of the best wild game foods to eat by a lot of outdoorsmen. 

The basic is the oven fried version and goes something like this:

Pat the meat dry with a paper towel to remove all of the moisture. Dip the squirrel in egg. Combine bread crumbs and flour, and dip the egg-covered squirrel into the mix.

Cover the bottom of a skillet with olive oil and canola oil, add some butter, and brown the meat for about 20 min. Put the finished squirrel into a baking dish and pour the contents of the skillet over the meat. Then bake for one hour at 375°F.

Putting some fresh squirrel on the table never fails to please. As a wild game animal, the squirrel couldn't be a more basic creature, but when it comes right down to it, it's still one of our favorites.

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