It’s fall, time for squirrel hunting season. Beginners and experienced squirrel hunters to get out in the woods. As a new squirrel hunter, it can be overwhelming to know where to start.
During my upbringing in the southwest, I developed a passion for squirrel hunting. Such joyful memories were created as my entire family, including Mom, Dad, and brother Ethan, would join me on these hunting adventures.
That’s why I’m here to help you get started with squirrel hunting! Small game hunting is where you can go out and hone your skills for bigger game in preparation for deer hunting.
In this ultimate guide to the everyman game animal, squirrels, you’ll find everything you need about squirrel hunting.
We’ve covered you with these nine tips to help you have a successful squirrel hunt. So, please sit back and relax as we take you through this comprehensive guide.
1) Know your state laws and regulations
Most states have strict laws for squirrel season and when you can hunt squirrels. It is important to familiarize yourself with the regulations before you get started. In most states, there are long seasons and bag limits anywhere between four to squirrels per day.
Look up your local game and fish regulations to ensure you are hunting in the right season with allowed firearms.
2) Know the Squirrels in Your State
The following squirrels can be hunted in North America but may not be legal in your state. Always check your local state regulations.
It is no fun to a successful hunt and run into a game warden and find out that you harvested the wrong squirrel.
Eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)
These squirrels are typically 16-20 inches in length, and they can weigh up to 1.5 pounds. Their fur is predominantly gray fur, but it can have a brownish color.
They have a usual white underside compared to the typical brownish-orange underside of the fox squirrel.
Western gray squirrel (Sciurus griseus)
The western gray squirrel (Sciurus griseus) is a tree squirrel found along the western coast of the United States and Mexico. It is the largest tree squirrel native to the Pacific Northwest.
Western gray squirrels are typically 18-24 inches in length, with a long bushy tail that makes up about half of their body length.
They have steel gray fur on their back and white fur on their belly and throat. Their tail is also gray, with white-frosted edges.
Eastern fox squirrel (Sciurus niger)
The eastern fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) is the largest species of tree squirrel native to North America. It is also known as the other squirrel dog Bryant’s fox squirrel.
Eastern fox squirrels are found throughout the eastern and central United States, west to the Dakotas, Colorado, and Texas. They are also found in northern Mexico and southern Canada.
Eastern fox squirrels have a variety of fur colors, depending on their location. In the western part of their range, they are gray above and rust-colored on their undersides. In the southern part of their range, they are black and brown with a white stripe on their face and a white tip on their tail.
Arizona gray squirrel (Sciurus arizonensis)
The Arizona gray squirrel (Sciurus arizonensis) is a tree squirrel that is endemic to the canyons and valleys surrounded by deciduous and mixed forests in eastern Arizona and northern Mexico. It is threatened by habitat loss.
Arizona gray squirrels are typically 16-20 inches in length, with a long bushy tail that makes up about half of their body length. They have gray fur on their back and white fur on their belly and throat. Their tail is also gray, with white-frosted edges.
Mexican fox squirrel (Sciurus nayaritensis)
The Mexican fox squirrel (Sciurus nayaritensis) is a tree squirrel native to the Pacific slope of western Mexico. It is closely related to the eastern fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) but is smaller and has a more reddish-brown coat.
Mexican fox squirrels are typically 16-20 inches in length, with a long bushy tail that makes up about half of their body length.
They have reddish-brown fur on their back and white fur on their belly and throat. Their tail is also reddish-brown, with white-frosted edges.
3) Find Squirrel Food In Your State
Squirrels are omnivores, but their diet primarily comprises pine cones, seeds, and fruit. They also eat insects, eggs, and small animals. Favorite food sources killed squirrels are those of the white oak acorns and red oak acorns.
4) Locate Squirrel Habitat
Tree squirrels thrive in dense woodlands, constructing their lofty nests amidst the soaring treetops. These captivating creatures are fond of red oak and white oak scrub, often found near their delectable food sources.
Found in mountainous regions at mid-elevations, they gracefully inhabit riparian habitats, particularly those adorned with broadleaf vegetation.
Search for small nests of leaves and twigs nestled high in tree forks. These nests resemble crow nests but appear more scattered and leafy.
Look for signs of squirrel activity, such as indentations in the ground or snow where they store or retrieve nuts.
Additionally, fox squirrels can be observed gnawing on the husks of tree nuts either on or near stumps or horizontal logs, which act as convenient feeding platforms.
When foraging on corn, fox squirrels demonstrate their voracity by consuming whole kernels, while gray squirrels tend to feed on the germ end and discard the rest selectively.
Interestingly, when traversing through the snow, gray and fox squirrels’ tracks appear in pairs, distinguishing them from the tracks of rabbits, where the front prints align side by side.
6)Choose the Right Equipment
Regarding firearms, the 22 caliber rifle is widely preferred for squirrel hunting. It’s best to aim for the squirrel’s head and precise headshots with your 22 rifle for a clean kill. This will ensure that the meat remains intact and ready for the enjoyment of the entire squirrel.
However, some hunters prefer using a 20 gauge shotgun or larger caliber rifles. A compound bow or recurve bow is suitable for squirrel hunting if you’re using archery equipment such as a bow.
Some states allow hunting with an air rifle.
Practice makes perfect. Get ready to head to the woods. Practice, practice practice using whichever firearm or archery equipment you choose is important.
7) Hunting During the Right Time of Day
Determining when squirrels are out and about depends on the time of year. In the warmer seasons, squirrels tend to be most active during the early morning and evenings. In the cooler months, squirrels can be later risers.
Finding squirrels in the late summer and early season, check the tree canopies at sunrise and right before the sun goes down.
Squirrels don’t like blustery weather. Head out as the weather warms up, and you can hunt into the early afternoon. There won’t be much chance of finding squirrels in gale-force winds.
8) Wear Camouflage
During squirrel hunting season, wear camouflage clothing to blend in. Some states require you to wear blaze orange.
9) How to Move – Be Stealthy
Take it slow. If the squirrels hear you rustling leaves, they will be highly alert. It can be boring sitting on a tree stand or sitting on a pad.
Many hunters feel like they need to get up and move, but that doesn’t mean you must go for a Sunday stroll. Take a step, listen, and wait. Repeat. Every so often, lean against a tree.
10) Squirrel Dogs
If you are passionate about squirrel hunting, consider investing in squirrel-hunting dogs. These remarkable companions provide a significant advantage in the woods, greatly improving your chances of success.
These specially bred canines possess exceptional olfactory and visual abilities, enabling them to track squirrels adeptly, even within dense vegetation. Moreover, they expertly locate treed squirrels, saving you substantial time and effort.
Here is a list of popular squirrel hunting dogs.
- Mountain Cur: Traits – Intelligent, trainable, strong hunting drive.
- Treeing Cur: A medium-sized dog that is bred specifically for squirrel hunting. Traits: Small and Fast.
- Treeing Feist: The Treeing Feist is a smaller version of the Treeing Cur. Traits: Able to tree a squirrel. Small and Fast.
- Jack Russell Terrier: High energy, hunting drive. Small and fast.
In conclusion, squirrel hunting in can be a fun and rewarding experience for new hunters. However, it’s crucial to know the laws and regulations regarding squirrel hunting before you start.
Ensure you have a valid hunting license and understand the bag limits and hunting season.
You can use firearms, bows, and arrows, or air guns to hunt squirrels, but never traps or snares. Remember always to practice safety and stay within the legal guidelines while hunting. Happy hunting!
Would you like some help planning your next hunt? Gray would love to help you with all the hunt planning and logistics.