Squirrel Hunting: THE Best Game

If you were the argumentative type, you could make a pretty good case that squirrels offer the finest stand hunting of any North American game.

Consider: Deer offer morning and evening hunting and place a premium on good gunnery … but one in the bag is the usual limit. It’s the same with elk, antelope and moose. Sheep, goats and other denizens of the far north are incredibly expensive to hunt, and so remote the average hunter can’t even dream of hunting them.

Here is the prey, a gray squirrel.

However, the eastern gray squirrel range covers about the Eastern half of the United States before the treeless plains shut it out. The eastern fox squirrel is a bit more tolerant of open areas and its range extends as far west as Colorado.

Gray squirrels can weigh to a pound-plus, while fox squirrels can reach three pounds.

Hunt Grays Early, Late
The best time to hunt gray squirrels is early morning, though the last hour of daylight also is good. They’ll be more active all day on cloudy days. On the other hand, fox squirrels like more light and will be active on bright, sunny days.

A gray squirrel is more easily alarmed and seldom waits to see what the problem is, while a fox squirrel may run up a tree and bark at a hunter — not an intelligent reaction.

You don’t need camouflage clothing to hunt squirrels, but dull-colored clothes are a good idea. Areas with den trees and nut-bearing trees are ideal places to hunt. Look for signs of squirrels feeding atop logs and stumps (squirrels like to jump up on them while eating so they can keep a better watch for predators).  Keep quiet. Squirrels have excellent vision and motion in a still woods is instantly noticed.

Some squirrel hunters prefer stalking, but if you do, move slowly. Take two or three steps and stop, look, and listen. Walking quietly is much easier when leaves are damp, but crunchy leaves don’t necessarily mean still hunting won’t work. Squirrels themselves make noise in the leaves. The secret is to make noise the way they do: “crunch, crunch, pause” — “crunch, crunch, pause.”

The author keeping an eye out for squirrels, bolt action .22 in hand.

Many Places To Aim
Many still hunting shots are at running animals and that calls for a shotgun (or a deadeye rifle shot beyond the capabilities of most). Some small game hunters opt for head shots (although there are those pioneer types who eat squirrel brains and won’t take a head shot.) A .22 long rifle bullet in the chest is quick and clean … and there are no pellets in the meat to pay for the family dentist’s next Caribbean cruise. Most old time squirrel hunters use open sights, but if you do scope your rifle, a two-power is about right.

Another shot is Daniel Boone’s vaunted “barking” technique. You shoot just under a squirrel, killing him with concussion. It would take a big bore rifle to create that powerful a concussion and if you shoot a tad high, you’ll have squirrel stew before it goes in the pot. Chances are, “Dan’l” shot a .36 caliber muzzleloader or larger, a hefty, slow ball that would have far more concussive power than a fast .22.

Some hunters use dogs. A good squirrel dog isn’t bred for the work; they just take to it naturally. They joyfully chase the little animals up trees and bark at them, which is a homing beacon for the hunter. Some hunters park themselves and try to outwait the squirrel. Others pitch something beyond the tree, hoping it will spook the squirrel around to the hunter’s side of the tree.

Once in the bag, a squirrel is the raw material for much fine table fare, especially stew. And everyone eaten is one less on the possession limit … and one more potential for tomorrow’s bag.

Great Squirrel Recipes
Avoid frying old ones — they have the consistency of a garden hose. Here is a recipe that will work with any age squirrel:

Squirrel Pie: Slow cook pieces of several squirrels (four legs and back) with a bit of pork until meat is tender. Remove meat from bones and put squirrel meat and lean pork meat in pie crust, salt and pepper to taste, dot with 2-3 tablespoons of margarine, sprinkle with 2-3 tablespoons flour, fill pie 2/3 full with meat broth, add top crust and bake 350 degrees. Make gravy by browning flour and margarine, then simmering with squirrel broth until it thickens. Pour over pie.

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2 Responses to “Squirrel Hunting: THE Best Game”

  1. Loan Phuong

    Dear Ms. or Mr.
    I like to shoot the dog if he like to attack me
    Do you have any idea to shoot a dog without kill them by using an arrow to shoot a ball to them, or using spray attack to their eyes: such as: Pepper spray ? Do you sell its.
    I like to order its: Pepper spray special for the dogs or any animal like fox, wolf, bear attack me if I am alone I need protect by myself.
    Thanks for guiding me.

    Loan P.

  2. Matthew Carroll

    I had never heard of the concussive kill method. That is quite the impressive idea!