A great way to keep the homestead freezer well stocked with meat is by hunting and if you’re going to go hunting there aren’t many animals to hunt that will bring you more success and more enjoyment than hunting squirrel. I’ve been hunting these bushy tailed creatures since I was 10 years old and 34 years later I still haven’t grown tired of it. However there are a few things you should know about hunting squirrel that will increase your chances of a successful and enjoyable hunt.
What Equipment Will You Need?
The Best Guns To Use:
This is always a matter of opinion of course but after years of hunting squirrels I have a few of my favorites.
Shotguns are great for a couple reasons. 1) accuracy isn’t quite as important and 2) ammunition doesn’t travel as far so it can be a little safer in some circumstances as I will discuss later. I love using a .410 shotgun for small game, the kick, the loud bang, you know all the things that make a man grunt. The downside of using a shotgun is when you process the squirrel you have to be careful to remove all the shot. The last thing you want to do is bite down on that at the dinner table, trust me I know.
.22 Long Rifle-
This is probably the perfect gun for hunting the trapeze artists of the woods. The downside of the .22 long rifle is that you will need to practice to get good and accurate with it. It’s a small bullet and a small target from usually a long distance but that just gives you a great excuse to go out and target shoot so I guess there really is no downside after all.
.22 Air Rifle-
Until recently I hadn’t considered using an air rifle for hunting squirrel, mostly because when I was a kid air rifles were not as advanced as they are now and quite honestly just wouldn’t do the job from any real distance. However the air rifles of today are a different story, I find the .22 caliber is a great gun for small game hunting. These guns have some real advantages such as being quiet and having cheap bullets.
Another piece of equipment you may want to consider on your hunt is a call. Over the years I have gotten pretty good at making squirrel barks with my mouth so I don’t carry a call anymore but you may want to consider them because they do work to get these tree hoppers moving and chatting back. There are primarily two different kinds of calls, a distress call and a bark.
The distress call works well to draw squirrels out of their nests and get them looking for whatever trouble they think the squirrel is in.
The squirrel bark is the one I like the best. This call gets the squirrel chatting and helps you to hone in on where they are in the tree tops. Besides that it’s just entertaining to use and get a conversation going on with a squirrel.
Depending on where you are clothing for the squirrel hunt can vary. Even where I am located in the Midwest the season is long and can range from summer like temperatures to below freezing so of course you have to dress for the weather. One piece of clothing you may want to consider no matter what the weather is like though is a hunting game vest. These are great for carrying the animals you shoot, your ammo, your calls and just about anything else you need quick access to.
WFS Upland Hunting Game Vest Tan/Orange (Large)
How To Hunt Squirrel
Depending on where you’re located, the weather and quite frankly your mood, there are a couple different ways to hunt squirrel.
This method works well if your good at it, what I mean by that is, if you can move gracefully and quietly enough to not scare them away. Advantages of hunting this way are that you are constantly moving into new locations where more squirrel live so you have opportunity to come in contact with more game. Also it’s just a fun way to hunt especially in the winter when moving helps you to stay warm.
This method will increase your chances of a successful hunt, if you do it well that is. Sitting quietly and without sudden movements will bring out the peacefulness of the woods and ease the minds of all the forest critters and within a little while of sitting the woods will come alive. As you sit and look into the trees you will become acutely aware of any movement or noise and help you to zero in on your targets.
I personally like to use a combination of these two methods where I will sit for a little while then move quietly through the woods every little bit. I usually time my movements after I have shot one and go to pick it up, I then just move to new spot not to far away.
In early season when the leaves are full on the trees spotting squirrel can be a real challenge. The thing to look for is bouncing limbs and shaking leaves high up in the treetops, this will help you to pinpoint them and wait for them to come into the clear for a shot. Seeing them in the later season is fairly easy when the leaves are gone as long as your looking for movement, their fur blends in well with the tree bark and makes them hard to see if they aren’t moving.
Hunting Regulations and Safety
You will probably be required you take a hunters safety course before you get a small game license to hunt squirrel. In many states you can take this course online, a list of online courses can be found for many states here http://www.huntercourse.com/usa/ if your state isn’t listed there you will need to contact your state DNR office to find out what you will need to do.
One of the main things you need to remember when your hunting squirrel is that you are shooting up much of the time and bullets from a rifle can travel quite far. So try to shoot when there is something behind your target that will stop the bullet. You may have to wait for the squirrel to start down the side of a tree before you take a shot.
You will need to be aware of your state’s rules and regulations for hunters safety such as requirements for wearing safety orange clothing. There are also regulations on when you can start and stop hunting during the day and when your weapon can be loaded. Make sure you are aware of the rules for your safety and also because it can be costly if you get caught doing something wrong.
Field Dressing and Processing Squirrel
Well you had a successful hunt and you bagged your limit, now what? You have to clean and process your meat. Skinning squirrel I must admit is not my favorite part of hunting but it’s necessary. They are in my opinion one of the harder animals to skin, the skin is well attached to the meat and the loose fur can get on the meat and it’s hard to get off. That being said, with some practice it does get quicker and easier.
You will need a good knife for this, these knifes from Elk Ridge are inexpensive and work well. I bought a set a while back for processing deer and I use them for skinning everything I hunt and raise.
Because skinning squirrel is something easier to learn by watching rather than reading about I’ve included a link to a video demonstrating how it’s done. This guy does a great job and makes it look easy so don’t be discouraged if your first few tries don’t go as smooth as this.
Field dressing the squirrel is only half the battle you will need to know how to cut the squirrel into sections for cooking. Here is a link I found to a great article showing the different cuts for cooking.
Here are some links I found to some great recipes using squirrel meat. One thing to keep in mind when cooking squirrel is that although it has great flavor it is a tougher meat than what you may be use to so use methods of cooking that help tenderize the meat.
These look like some great recipe’s, number 5 (Squirrel Country Sausage) is one I will have to be trying soon.
Simple and tasty! This is one I have had many times and it’s one of my favorites.
This one is a classic and a favorite. The gravy made from the squirrel really brings this dish together.
Shownotes for this podcast episode can be found at http://smalltownhomestead.com/32