Now that we have the equipment covered, it’s time to deal with the fun part-hunting. I could talk forever about this subject, and I intend to. I also intend to break it down into Spring, Summer/Fall, and Winter hunting, as they are very different from one another. I’m only comfortable writing about Summer/Fall hunting for now (when it’s hot and the leaves and nuts are still on the tree). Here we go…
Weather/time of day
As far as weather goes, it’s easiest when there is zero wind. This is the most important factor in successful hunting as it makes squirrels easier to hear and see. The best time is just after daybreak and just before dark. Squirrels seem more active during this time. Coincidentally, there is typically little or no wind at dawn and dusk. All that being said, I’ve shot several squirrels in the middle of the day as well. To go along with this, it is best when the leaves are wet from a heavy dew or rain. You’ll be able to sneak easier and can hear squirrles jumping from limb to limb much further than you would otherwise be able to. Every other consideration is unimportant.
I read an article many years ago in Outdoor Life about a 10/10 rule. 10 mast bearing trees (oak, hickory, beech nut, walnut, pecan, etc-learn to identify these trees) with 10″ diameter in one acre. This is obviously prime squirrel habitat, but squirrles will eat anything including baby birds. You can find them literally anywhere. So when you’re walking through the woods keep it in the back of your mind that they can pop out any time.
Observation- it seems squirrels will hit one particular tree hard for a few days then move onto another. If you hunt on a near daily basis, you can make a mental note for the next hunt if you spook them.
There are 2 main techniques for hunting: waiting and stalking. In waiting, you’ll find a good spot where you’re likely to see squirrles and you… wait. This is a good method to consider, as you may have spooked a squirrel without your knowledge. When a potential threat is presented to a squirrel, it will often crawl to the other side of the tree. If you clear out the leaf litter at the base of a tree and wait 15-20 minutes, it may just expose itself for a shot. Worst case scenario is you will hear a squirrel in the distance and can make your move.
Stalking involves sneaking through the woods pausing every 10 yards or so to scan tree forks/branches and listening for your quarry. When you stop, be sure to stop next to a tree. It’ll give you a shooting rest and can offer a significant amount of concealment. When stalking, pay attention to the lighting (shadow movement/sun position), loud twigs you may step on and cover from treetrunks and overhead leaves. Every single step must be well thought out in advance. Stalking is an art that will constantly be tested and perfected.
I prefer a combination of both. I’ll set in a good spot for 15-20 minutes or until I hear a squirrel. Then I will begin a stalk.
Now that you’re in the woods with a dozen mast bearing trees with a foot diameter at daybreak after a heavy dew, now you can start looking for squirrles. You’re best bet for taking squirrles is simply listening. There are several sounds that can easily be identified by you ears (ranked from most obvious to possibly ambiguous)-barking, cutting, tree trunk climbing, limb jumping, nuts/cuttings falling, and hopping on the ground. Learn to identify these sounds-especially tree trunk climbing and cutting.
The next easiest way to locate squirrels is to look through the canopy for leaves moving erratically. This can be deciving if there are birds or a light breeze.
If you see green nuts, or portions of nuts on the ground, or cut nuts/branches squirrels are nearby. The hickory nut was green when I found it.
In the center of the photo is a squirrel nest. I don’t pay much attention to these, as they can be old. It’s not a guarantee for success, but something to pay attention to.
Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, if you are certain there is a squirrel in the distance-GO! Squirrles can cover a great distance, in a short amount of time, and can do so fairly quietly. Granted, you want to be as stealthy as possible while making a stalk, but taking your time may result in a missed opportunity.
If you follow these steps, it will work…most days. Some days are simply bad days and it’s not worth going out learn to identify those days.
On to the next topic…