Scraping and scourging through the backyard, spiraling their way along the length of the tree, each one of us encounters this frisky, bushy-tailed creature at least once a day—the humble Squirrel.
Squirrels are one of the most familiar rodents, known across geographies. The tree squirrels, in particular, are the ones that we come across now and then.
For the admirers sitting on their couches, squirrels are the beautiful tiny creatures that grab all the attention with their energetic actions and gestures. For the ardent hunters, both novice and seasoned, these agile creatures have become an active pursuit.
Squirrels come under the small game animal category and share the advantages of being a simple, affordable, and viable pursuit. Squirrel hunting demands minimal gear and can be pursued for leisure. Chasing such dynamic critters is a thrilling experience.
The whole experience is a sensory stimulated one, which requires the trappers to activate their senses and see, listen and feel. It is a game that relies on intuitive abilities. More appreciably, squirrel hunting has been a favored pursuit because of its accessibility to those new to the process, thus becoming a game for everyone.
It also caters to preserving the ecological balance by keeping track of the growing squirrel population. Squirrels in the urban and suburban provinces can also pose a risk by being pests. Thus, they need to be eradicated for the sake of health and sanitation.
Additional commercial pursuits for using the meat, skin, and hides also make these nimble creatures a fascinating pursuit. Species like squirrels are also a way to introduce youngsters to hunting skills and learn the tactics to pursue big games. Food experts also think that squirrels can make an excellent feast to savor.
It has been recognized as healthy and sustainable meat and is thus promoted as a ‘back to nature meal’. Therefore, in the distant future, squirrels have the potential to be recognized as staple meat and hit the dinner menu more often.
To Hunt Or Not To Hunt?
Red and Gray squirrels are categorized as game animals that hunters target for food consumption with terms and conditions of course; many states in the US forbid the use of pellet guns to kill squirrels that are to be eaten or skinned.
Archery is also a valid method for hunting in most US states. Though squirrels don’t classify as endangered species and can thus be hunted, many states have regulations to hunt them. Therefore it is essential to review the legal terms before setting out on the chase.
For example, states could need hunters to obtain permission from the owner before hunting on private properties. Moreover, different states put different categories of squirrels open for the hunt. They could protect others by law for conservation.
In Missouri, where there are plenty of oaks where squirrels reside, the daily limit for hunting and trapping is 10. In Olney, Illinois, tagged as the “White Squirrel Capital of the World,” the white squirrels have the right of way on all streets in the town, thus attracting a fine for hitting.
Texas, which houses eight species of squirrels, recognizes only two, namely the gray squirrel and fox squirrel, as game animals.
Best Time To Hunt Squirrels
The active squirrel hunting season begins during the month of fall. This time of the year, squirrel activity is at a peak as they come out on a feeding spree.
For instance, the autumn hunting season is popular with Texas squirrel hunters. Like their fellow humans, squirrels enjoy a clear, calm, and sunny forecast to come out for play. Damp, misty conditions can also be an ideal scenario to come across squirrel herds in different locations. Thus, winters, stormy and windy forecasts are not suitable for bagging the bushy-tailed mascots.
In very cold weather, squirrels may be stationed in their tree holes. Throughout the day, squirrel activity is highest during dawn and dusk. Usually, hunters can find the tiny creatures circling the base of trees, especially those that produce nuts. Thus, a knowledge of mast production will help the hunters anticipate the presence of the squirrel population.
It’s common to find squirrels scrapping and nibbling amidst the thick carpet of nuts beneath the tree. Squirrels usually nest in and around the nut and fruit-bearing trees, and close to water resources.
Thus, locations that promote ample opportunities for foraging for squirrels are considered ideal for boosting the chances of finding game.
The Humble Squirrel Hunt
As simple as the idea of squirrel hunting may seem, it is an art of the skilled and strategic.
The way to master this art lies in the virtues of patience, silence, observation, and sound gear. Though squirrel hunting is humble when it comes to the gear, it is highly dependent on choosing the right equipment for a precise killing.
The primary gear is, of course, the license. Any hunt deems necessary the procurement of a license, but certain states might require additional permits for squirrel hunting. The next choice is between the kind of equipment.
Shotguns are the dominant choice as they are considered to provide high accuracy, wide range, and a sophisticated kill. It is also a safe option, especially in populated suburbs, for the pellets aren’t lethal when shot long from a distance. Carrying a vest to keep one’s shells would enable the hunter to be organized.
On the downside, they can be noisy instruments with the potential of distressing the squirrels and making subsequent hunts difficult. Moreover, post-hunt, one has to go through the tedious process of removing the pellets out of the meat, so that one doesn’t encounter them while feasting on the same for dinner!
Shotguns could be an ideal choice, but they require some high-end target practicing and cautiousness before making the aim. Moreover, the hunters need to review the state regulations on maximum allowance of shotgun shells in the shotgun.
The other option is the rifle, much revered for precision killing, affordability, and accessibility. The .22 CALIBER RIFLE is an all-time choice among avid hunters for its automatic reloading feature and a good warm-up before the onset of the big game season.
They are usually straightforward to operate, and their effectiveness can be further amplified with the usage of the scope for enhanced vision. They also allow one to shoot squirrels higher up in a tree. Additionally, this keeps the meat undamaged.
Many hunting folks prefer the respectful bow and arrow to be closely connected to their hunt. Moreover, the search is a challenging yet rewarding experience. Choosing a bow designed for small but brisk targets could ensure a successful hunt.
The key to a successful hunt also lies in using baits at the right opportunity. Usually, sweet-smelling food and nuts serve as irresistible temptations for them. Squirrel calls are also used to prompt squirrels to respond, thus giving out their site.
Binoculars are an additional asset to have to enable the hunters to scan the distant forest and assist scouting. Sometimes, having a partner also helps cover more ground and increases the chances of catching the small game. It is in the interest of the hunters to opt for shades of attire that can easily blend into the environment.
The methodology for hunting could either be a passive route or an active route. While the former suggests finding an ideal location, usually at the hardwood bottoms and then waiting for the target to emerge, the latter is a combination of tracking and stalking.
Still, hunting, particularly, is an effective way to ease slowly through the woods while scanning and observing the environment for potential targets. It consists of maintaining a still pace and working on intuition. A general hunting tip would be: to take it slow and silently.
Thus avoid carrying bags or items that are noisy, be on a light foot, and avoid walking amidst dry leaves or damp surfaces that could signal to squirrels about the potential threat.
Moreover, be aware of the surroundings, and look for signs. Nut husks, seeds, nibbled berries could indicate the presence of squirrels.
Hide & Seek With The Dogs
An exciting aspect of squirrel hunting could be using our fiercely loyal four-legged friends, the dogs, more specifically known as the “treeing dogs” (howling under a tree pointing at the squirrel on top).
While most breeds could be trained for fast-tracking, scenting, and signaling, some canines are innately built to perform the task. Dogs that are bark pointers (bark at the presence of the hunted prey) with high-performing stamina can also be good partners for the young who are just setting out for the chase.
Supreme breeds like Terriers have strong instincts to hunt, pacing along trails, determining what areas to forage. Other squirrel hunting breeds are Mountain cur, Treeing Walker Coon hound, and Fiestas. Most of the time, these breeds can participate in the hunt for bigger animals.
As any hunter would vouch, squirrel hunting may sound like a juvenile pursuit, but it engages one to develop the right strategy and tactics to be successful and handle oneself on the field.
While most attention is on the big games, squirrel hunting has its share of recognition in being an effective off-season sport, an excellent warm-up for the big game season, and more importantly, a nice piece of meat to carry back home to relish!