They’re abundant, often provide steady action, and provide food for the wild game supper table. Why not hunt squirrels? Courtesy photo.
By Steve Hickoff
YOU NEED TO HUNT: They call it “small game” because it is. Still, targeting such game animals keeps you busy until the deer, moose, and elk seasons arrive in hunting country. Many states offer early squirrel seasons.
YOU WANT TO INTRODUCE YOUR KID TO HUNTING: Squirrel hunting action includes stand hunting, still hunting, calling, waiting patiently, identifying game, taking a good shot, and cooking what you kill. It’s a “Hunting 101” instructional tradition if ever.
YOUR HEALTH DEMANDS IT: I grew up hunting the Pennsylvania ridgetops for gray squirrels, and the occasional trophy black squirrel, a color phase variant. Fox squirrels (my Midwestern buds hunt them) weren’t available. Wherever you target these and/or grays, they provide an anti-couch-potato opportunity.
YOU LIKE TO CALL GAME: Like to call your wild game? Me too. Squirrel calls, from standard plastic single-reed options to modern bellows-type calls, both work. Squeak. Bark. Make that weird clicking you hear from squirrels. It can pull one into view, sometimes from behind a tree where it had been hiding — ideally in range.
YOU LIKE TO EAT WELL: Got an older edition of “The Joy of Cooking”? You’ll find culinary squirrel wisdom inside. Does squirrel taste like chicken? No, but it goes well in Brunswick stew recipes. Many game cookery titles offer some.
YOU ENJOY THE WOODS: Ease quietly into the woods. Move either with a slow stalking rhythm, or simply sit with your back against a tree the way you would turkey hunting. Both work. Mix it up.
YOU LIKE TO MULTI-TASK: When does squirrel season open in your state? (Maybe it is?) Mark that date. Hang treestands for November deer while hunting squirrels now.
YOU LIKE A GOOD MYSTERY: Find food preferences. It pays to learn where the game eats, as with other forms of hunting. Look for nut-rich woods, with shagbark hickories, white oaks, and beech trees. Sit nearby. Chances are squirrels that spooked on your approach will reveal themselves within the hour. Lurk near den trees. Dens are those leafy basketball-sized dwellings you see sitting at the tops of oaks and such. These reflect squirrel activity (old and new).
YOUR DOG WILL LOVE IT: I enjoy all kinds of hunting using dogs. Like-minded canines can find, chase, and tree squirrels until you, the hunter, arrive shortly after. Early season is a good time to use this tactic as squirrels often bury nuts then, and can be found on the ground doing it.
YOUR LOADS NEED USING: Shotguns (No. 6 loads are favored by many), and .22 rifles can be used. Check your lawbook for firearms regulations in your area.