(Author’s note: Sometime ago Hunter Elliott asked me to contribute some hunting content to Rangehot.com. I fully admit that I failed him miserably on this. In my defense part of it may be that I didn’t know exactly what kind hunting content his readers at Rangehot would most like to see…..Hunter has told me repeatedly to not be concerned about this, submit whatever I like. It is a little disconcerting, I know Rangehot has loyal fans and many of you are well versed in the gun world. I have decided that I will just let it fly and contribute hunting related stories and articles about hunting guns and the chips can fall where they may. Any input from readers about what you would like to see on these topics would be very welcome. I think there is a huge contingent of you out there that might want to try some form of hunting, but just may not know how. (and we desperately need you as hunter numbers are failing) I see the squirrel story as an attempt to help you get started.
Thank You the readers and thank Hunter for having me at Rangehot! We have a lot of trail to cover! Cinch them boots up tight and let’s go!)
I grew up squirrel hunting. I killed my first squirrel when I was in the fourth grade, which made me what, seven or eight 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 fifty 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 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 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 am certainly a dyed in the wool turkey hunter, spring and fall, but doesn’t anyone just go hunting anymore?
You do if you are a squirrel hunter.
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 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.
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 tree stands, 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 acers 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, with a little legwork you should find lots of squirrel hunting spots. Remember, the first priority is just to get in the woods, and 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. Camo 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 super cool .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 is supposed to be fun. How about spending a day in the woods without worrying about how big a bucks horns are, (I know they are antlers, I just like to say that) how old that deer is, where should I put my tree stand, 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. (More on this later)
The woodlands are there, the squirrels are there, what’s keeping you? Get out there and go huntin’!