In fact, squirrel hunting just might be the most underrated type of hunting out there.
Small game hunting used to be a staple of almost ever hunter’s experience. Many hunters first start out by hunting squirrels or rabbits as young kid, but with people tend to outgrow it and focus on hunting bigger things and the generational popularity of small game hunting has been declining for decades.
Squirrel hunting is a fantastic option if you’re looking for something new to cure your cabin fever or for a way to reconnect to your hunting roots. Or maybe you’re introducing one of your kids to hunting for the first time, then consider doing some squirrel hunting this fall.
One of the best parts about squirrel hunting is that you don’t need a huge piece of property to have a big adventure while squirrel hunting.
If you need a reminder of how great squirrel hunting can be, then check out this video from Steven Rinella, Janis Putelis, and Mark Kenyon from The MeatEater.
They teamed up to hunt squirrels on a small piece of property in Michigan called “The Back 40.”
Though these men have had the privilege of hunting all over the country, the little 40-ish-acre plot they hunt in this video is similar to the parcels of land that most hunters readily have access too in their own neck of the woods.
Squirrel Hunting Tips
If you want to be a successful squirrel hunter, it’s important to understand that there is more to it than simply going into the woods looking for squirrels to shoot.
Squirrels typically freeze in their tracks when they sense a predator approaching, so if you’re set up on the ground under some oak trees then it’s helpful to occasionally rustle some leaves and brush on the ground with your hand to imitate the sound of a squirrel combing the forest floor for acorns. This subtle noise in the understory of the forest can convince other squirrels the coast is clear and help lure them out into the open.
If you can find a creek or a stream bordered by hardwoods, then you’re likely to find squirrels too. Especially if the area includes oak, hickory, sycamore, or ash trees. In some states it’s even legal to hunt squirrels from kayaks or canoes, so hunting from the water can be a great way to sneak up on squirrels that aren’t used to any threats coming off the water.
Spot and stalk methods can be a particularly productive method for squirrel hunting, especially in the morning and evening. Find an area with squirrels in it and practice methodically walking through the woods, pausing every few steps to survey your surroundings and listen for squirrels. It’s not the fastest way to cover ground, but it’s the most efficient way to explore an area without scaring the squirrels away before you have a shot at them.
Some of the most dedicated squirrel hunters use dogs, which certainly adds another element of excitement to squirrel hunting. Squirrel dogs hunt by site and scent, and typically begin a series of short, choppy barks once they’ve got a squirrel treed. Squirrels will instinctively try and position themselves on the opposite side of a tree from a threat, so having a dog circling the base of a tree is an excellent way to push squirrels out into areas where open shots can be taken.
While pretty much every state offers squirrel hunting opportunities, seasons and bag limits vary greatly across the country. Always be sure to check in with your state’s official Fish and Wildlife or Natural Resources agency to verify your next hunt is in compliance with all rules and regulations. Aa valid hunting license is typically always required.
Squirrel Hunting Guns & Gear
A few pieces of gear are essential to squirrel hunting. You’re going to want a good set of optics to scan the trees and ground with while looking for squirrels. Since they’re a smaller quarry and move quick, you’ll miss a lot of potential squirrels without binoculars.
A solid backpack is essential too, so you can keep your gear organized while moving about the woods, frequently changing hunting spots, or getting up and down off the ground. Plus you’ll want something to store the squirrels you harvest.
You’re also going to want a gun that’s strong enough to drop a squirrel from the tree tops but not so large that you blow it to pieces and ruin the meat. Arguably no rifle is more perfect for squirrel hunting than a Rugged 10/22.
It perhaps the most popular small caliber rifle in American history and many shooters have honed their skills with this rifle. It’s also the best possible caliber for squirrel hunting and it’s a tremendously quiet and accurate shooting gun.
You’ll want a sharp fixed blade knife to skin those squirrels too.
Our friends at Bass Pro Shops have all the gear and guns you need to get set up for your next squirrel hunt and more, but here are some of our favorites:
It may come as a shock to you, but people do indeed eat squirrel meat. The meat is comparable to dark meat chicken, and perhaps the best way to cook up squirrel meat is to treat their hind legs like you would chicken wings. With this recipe the legs are actually fried TWICE so you know they’re good.
Brush up on your squirrel cleaning skills and learn how to no cook up some buffalo hot legs with the two videos below.
Buffalo Squirrel Legs
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