By Steve Hickoff
In some states, you can squirrel hunt now; in others, later come fall. Either way, squirrel hunting is great for a bunch of reasons. Mark that opening date if it isn’t just yet.
Find food preferences. It pays to learn where the game eats, as with other forms of hunting. Look for nut-rich woods, with shagbark hickories, white oaks, and beech trees. Sit nearby. Chances are squirrels that spooked on your approach will reveal themselves within the hour. Lurk near den trees. Dens are those leafy basketball-sized dwellings you see sitting at the tops of oaks and such. These reflect squirrel activity (old and new).
Shotguns (No. 6 loads are favored by many), and .22 rifles can be used. Check your law book for firearms regulations in your area. They call it “small game” because it is. Still, targeting such game animals keeps you busy until the deer, moose, and elk seasons arrive in hunting country. Many states offer early squirrel seasons.
Squirrel hunting action includes stand hunting, still hunting, calling, waiting patiently, identifying game, taking a good shot, and cooking what you kill. It’s a “Hunting 101” instructional tradition if ever. You can ride from location to location.
I grew up hunting the Pennsylvania ridgetops for gray squirrels, and the occasional trophy black squirrel, a color phase variant. Fox squirrels (my Midwestern buds hunt them) weren’t available. Wherever you target these and/or grays, they provide an anti-couch-potato opportunity.
Like to call wild game? Yep, me too. Squirrel calls, from standard plastic single-reed options to modern bellows-type calls, both work. Squeak. Bark. Make that weird clicking you hear from squirrels. It can pull one into view, sometimes from behind a tree where it had been hiding – ideally in range.
I enjoy all kinds of hunting using dogs. Like-minded canines can find, chase, and tree squirrels until you, the hunter, arrive shortly after. Early season is a good time to use this tactic as squirrels often bury nuts then, and can be found on the ground doing it.
Got an older edition of “The Joy of Cooking”? You’ll find culinary squirrel wisdom inside. Does squirrel taste like chicken? No, but it goes well in Brunswick stew recipes. Many game cookery titles offer some.
By Steve Hickoff