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Why You Should Start Squirrel Hunting

Why You Should Start Squirrel Hunting

Two squirrel hunters looking up into the trees for their food.

Take a look at what squirrel hunting has to offer as a low entry level to hunting and extending your seasons

I grew up squirrel hunting. I killed my first Eastern gray squirrel when I was in the fourth grade, which made me what, 7 or 8 years old? I can see still that grey squirrel crawl out on a limb of a dead snag. I can hear my Dad say “Shoot at his head,” and I cocked that little Winchester Model 37 .410 and did just that. This was over 50 years ago. I may like squirrel hunting more now than I did back then.

We seem to live in a time where hunting has become very complicated. Most of the attention centers around big game, and in the East it’s all about deer and turkeys. Follow the scuttlebutt of whitetail deer hunting for the past several years and it would appear that to be a deer hunter you also have to be a farmer. You need to own or lease large quantities of land, plant various forms of food plots for different times of the year and deal with all of the necessary equipment to do this. Bucks are followed on trail cameras almost from birth and are named and judged as to age and antler size long before anyone releases an arrow or jerks a trigger. Now don’t get me wrong here, I’m all for deer hunting, and I’m certainly a dyed-in-the-wool turkey hunter, spring and fall. But doesn’t anyone just go hunting anymore?

You do if you’re a squirrel hunter.

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I submit to you that most of us need to get back to basics, especially if you are a beginning hunter. Squirrel hunting will get you there; it will teach you how to hunt. Most anything you need to know to stalk other game you can learn on squirrels. Here in no particular order are some of the reasons you need to start squirrel hunting. For the purposes of this article we will talk about stalking and still hunting. Hunting squirrels with dogs is an entirely wonderful form of hunting and I highly recommend it, but we will address dog hunting later. (If Project Upland will have me.)

Squirrel hunting gets you in the woods and hunting

In a time where everyone is too busy to do anything, squirrel hunting gets you outside where you should be, hunting. Squirrel hunting doesn’t require a lot of complicated preparation, setting up treestands, checking trail cams, or where legal, placing bait or other attractants. Foresters estimate that east of the Big Muddy alone we have over 384 million acres of woodlands. In most places if you have woodland, you have squirrels. A lot of this woodland acreage is on public land, and for what is not public you stand a good chance of getting permission to squirrel hunt.

Landowners are much more likely to let you squirrel hunt than they are for deer or turkeys. You may get a look like, “Squirrel hunt? Really?” But chances are, you will get permission. The first thing required to be a successful hunter is a place to go, and with a little legwork you should find lots of squirrel hunting spots. Remember, the first priority is just to get in the woods, go hunting.

Squirrel hunting is 101 for all hunters.

Whether you are a novice hunter or an experienced hand, squirrel hunting will teach you something. If you are hitting a baseball, casting a dry fly, or swinging a shotgun on flying targets there are basic fundamentals to be learned. For any type of spot and stalk or still hunting, the squirrel woods are where you train.

Scouting for squirrels is very similar to scouting for deer: find the right food sources, usually an oak and hickory based forest, and you should find squirrels. Squirrels leave signs that betray their presence like most animals. Cuttings where they have fed on hickory nuts, acorns, or walnuts are the most obvious. When it comes to the actual hunting, who among us could not use some brushing up on our stalking skills? Sitting quietly in a hickory grove and waiting for a foraging squirrel to come into .22 rifle range, or better yet, attempting to slip up on that squirrel in dry leaves will just plain make you a better hunter.

Squirrel hunting doesn’t require a lot of special gear

If you have a .22 rifle or a shotgun and a pair of boots you are ready to go squirrel hunting. Camouflage clothing may help but is not absolutely necessary; wear your old jeans and a sweatshirt. If you have a turkey vest they are a great way to carry squirrels and whatever gear you chose to take plus they supply a seat cushion. Any small game or bird vest is also handy.

Any .22 rifle that you can shoot accurately out to 50 yards will do as well as most any shotgun. Want to use your grouse gun on a squirrel hunt? Why not? If your shotgun has screw in chokes you may want to throw in a full or modified choke. In future articles we can discuss special firearms for squirrel hunting and believe me, there are some great .22 rifles out there to step up our squirrel game. Right now, we just need to get you in the woods.

Squirrel hunting is fun

Here is a news flash for you: hunting should be fun. How about spending a day in the woods without worrying about how big a buck’s horns are, (I know they are antlers, I just like to say that), how old that deer is, where should I put my treestand, and do I have the right scent control? How about some time roaming the woodlands, tuning in to the sights, sounds, and smells, and putting a stalk on a pair of grey squirrels cutting hickory nuts? You will score on some, spook a lot more, and enjoy every minute. Plus you get some of the best wild game fare to be had. We will explore that more in the future.

By my, count nine states have spring squirrel seasons, and many of these are going on right now — Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, eastern Texas, Virginia, and Kansas. (Check your local regulations.) If your home state offers no spring season, most states start early for squirrel, usually September, and stay late, often till the end of February.

The woodlands are there, the squirrels are there, what’s keeping you? Get out there and go huntin’!

View Comments (2)
  • Great article, squirrel hunting kicks off my season here in New York on September 1st. It’s been a passion of mine for many, many years. Unless the various wildlife management units I hunt dictate otherwise, my go to gun is strictly a .22. Thanks again for a great read.

  • Excellent article…! Actually had my ten year old nephew read it as well…. We do a lot of big fancy duck hunting and deer hunting here in eastern North Carolina and he gets caught up in that, and to be honest so do I…. But just last week we went squirrel hunting randomly one after behind my house in the small block of hardwood woods…. For the first time in 20 years for me, and the first time in their lives for my nephew, daughter and yellow lab……With nothing but a break barrel pellet gun carried by my right hand man /hunting guide / dog worker/duck caller & everything outdoors loving, age 10, nephew Koen Toppin. I walked 15 yd or so behind him with my beautiful, intelligent-quick witted 15 month old daughter in my arms, Finley Tilda Toppin…. Last but certainly not least, my physically aging, puppy at heart & soul, 11 year old yellow lab, Ellie Mae chasing every squirrel in sight, bringing a stick back for anyone up for it to throw… By nightfall we ended up with one squirrel in the bag…. During the entire experience I couldn’t help but notice my mind keep thinking how enjoyable the simplicity, stress free, low prep quick afternoon outing it had become for all of us! Personally thinking how much joy and happiness I was feeling from that beautiful little moment of my life walking around the woods with some of my closest loved ones… anyone outside looking in would call it squirrel hunting…. But in my eyes it was so much more than just squirrel hunting!! Out of all the big fancy hunts and successful duck hunts, goose hunts, swan hunts etc…, I’ve been on in my life, this little stroll in the woods behind my home,will without a doubt be one of my top 5 hunting memories of my lifetime…!!! Whoever May read this after reading the article, get out in the woods with your children, grandchildren, niece/nephew or maybe even the kid from down the street that knows nothing of hunting….. Because it may be the one act of kindness/learning experiment, in that child’s life to awaken a passion for the outdoors as strong as yours and mine..!! I assure you’ll be doing yourself a favor, it’ll make you feel as good, if not more happy/accomplished, than any of those big fancy hunting trips we’ve all taken ..! Thanks for your time reading this! Corey Toppin

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