Squirrel hunting can be a lot of fun, and because squirrels are so plentiful in many areas there’s a pretty good rate of success, making it the perfect type of hunting for beginners.
In the following article we will outline and explain several squirrel hunting tips for beginners, from choosing the right weapon and hunting gear, to some tips for identifying and locating the different types of squirrels.
Preparing for the Hunt
There are many things you will need to do as you prepare to go out and hunt squirrels for the first time. Here we have outlined just a few of these steps to help get you started.
Choosing Your Squirrel Hunting Gun
Squirrel hunting is a sport that can be accomplished using a number of different weapons. Experienced hunters will often hunt with a .22 caliber rifle or even a pistol, as this gives them an ideal chance of hitting the perfect shot—a shot in the head or the shoulder, which preserves the meat on the remainder of the squirrel’s body.
However, for beginners just starting out with squirrel hunting, we recommend you go with a 12-gauge or 20-gauge shotgun. Most squirrel hunting is accomplished from just a few yards away, and shotgun varieties such as these give you the best chance for a successful shot.
When using a 12-gauge or 20-gauge shotgun, you will of course have to choose a shot size that offers you the most advantages. For this we recommend either the number 6 shot or the 7.5 shot.
Both of these are large enough to take a squirrel down, but not so large that they destroy or tear up the lion share of the meat. However, if you already have shot as big as a number 5 or as small as a number 8, both of these types will also work in a pinch.
Squirrel Hunting Gear
As someone new to squirrel hunting, you may worry that you’ll have to spend a lot of money on specialized gear. This is not necessarily the case. Compared to other types of hunting, squirrel hunting is one of the most affordable passions you can pursue.
We recommend that you have at least some type of camouflage when hunting squirrels, such as a camouflage shirt or jacket, but when it comes to items that will conceal your smell and the like, these are not really necessary.
Keeping a safe distance when shooting a squirrel is seldom a problem, and because these animals are fairly accustomed to being around people they don’t scare as easily as some other animals.
A good pair of hunting boots is a must when doing any type of hunting, and if you plan to hunt around water those boots should be at least water resistant if not waterproof. Other items you may want to hunt with when looking to bag squirrels include:
- A knife. This is essential, especially if you plan to field dress the squirrels you harvest.
- Maps. When hunting in territory unfamiliar to you, a good set of maps is essential.
- Flashlight. Flashlights can help you peer into heavy brush where many squirrels may end up after a kill.
- Compass. Should you get lost while squirrel hunting, a high-quality compass can help you find your way back, especially when hunting in areas where cell service is out of the question.
- Matches. Waterproof matches should always be carried when engaging in any outdoor pursuit—just in case you get lost and need to build a fire for warmth.
Get a Hunting License
Depending on the state and region in which you live, chances are you will need to have some type of hunting license or permit before you engage in squirrel hunting. Being properly licensed and always carrying that license with you is a must for any good, honest hunter. Hunting without a license not only can lead to some very hefty fines and even jail time in certain situations, it is also quite unethical. Always follow the rules and you will enjoy your hunting experience that much more, without having to always look over your shoulder.
Hit the Range
If you are just starting out with hunting, your very first shot should NOT be the one you take at a squirrel during your first hunting session. Instead, you will need to become familiar with your shotgun or rifle before ever heading out to the field.
Practicing with your weapon will help you do a lot of things right, such as acclimate you to the kick of your gun, practice gun safety, and test your sights for accuracy. The range is also a great place at which to zero in your hunting scope, making sure your aim is true.
Squirrels are a very small target and unless you know how to properly use your weapon you could be in for a very long and unsuccessful day of hunting.
Squirrel Hunting Tips and Techniques for Beginners
In the sections that follow we will highlight some of the most basic squirrel hunting tips and techniques for beginners, beginning with identifying the different types of squirrels.
Identifying Different Types of Squirrels
Not all the different types of squirrels we mention here will be found in your particular area. For that reason, it is imperative that you do some research to find out what types of squirrels usually inhabit the area in which you intend to hunt.
While doing this research, you can study the particular physical and behavioral characteristics of the different types of squirrels, which will then allow you to spot them and track them more easily, enhancing your chances of success.
Among the many different types of squirrels you are bound to run across in your research, be sure to spend some time learning about all of the following:
- Gray squirrels
- Fox squirrels
- Pine squirrels
- Albert’s squirrels
- Tree squirrels
- And more…
Where to Find Squirrels on Your Hunt
Now that you have identified and studied the different types of squirrels in your area, you are ready to learn where to find squirrels on your hunt and scout out a few locations. Of course, the exact area for finding squirrels might vary from one region to another, so this is a very important step. Simply put, if you can’t find squirrels there is no way you will ever bag one.
Squirrels tend to congregate near water sources, such as ponds, lakes, creeks and streams. Any animal, regardless of type, will eventually have to hydrate, so always be sure to look for squirrels around the water’s edges or at least close enough to water to periodically drink.
Squirrels are also likely to be found in areas where there are a lot of trees and leaves. Squirrels, as you know, are excellent climbers, and this cover provides them with food and protection from other predators. If you plan to hunt in the winter when there is snow on the ground, squirrels can often be found in dry patches and clearings.
Lastly, another great plan for searching out and stalking squirrels when hunting is to check near trees that are nut-bearing, such as white oak trees and pines. A good portion of a squirrel’s diet is made up of nuts from these trees—trees that may also include pecan trees, butternut trees, walnut trees, and beechnuts.
Bring Your Patience
Although squirrel hunting can have a high level of success, if you are not a patient hunter the odds are high that you will come up empty. A lot of squirrel hunting is about being still and waiting.
Squirrels tend to move about when the area they are in is calm, so when walking up on a location in which you think squirrels may be hanging out you should stop for about 30 seconds to a minute between every 10-20 paces you take.
Although your movement may be enough to flush them out of their hiding spaces, they are much more likely to move when you are being still. This will give you a better chance of getting off a clean shot for a quick and humane kill.
It would be a vast understatement to say that squirrels are fast. Because of this, the chance of getting a perfectly aimed shot is not very likely when you are a beginner. Instead, you will need to learn to snap shoot when a squirrel is flushed from a tree or the underbrush.
A squirrel, due to their speed and agility, will almost never give you more than just a blink of an eye to make your shot. This is what makes squirrel hunting so fun and challenging. When hunting squirrels, there will be no real time to swing through your target. Instead, you will need to pick up the squirrel on the run, shoulder your shotgun quickly and fire the gun rapidly.
As you can see, there are a lot of important elements that make up quality squirrel hunting, but with a lot of patience and even more know-how you should be able to master the art of squirrel hunting in no time at all.