Squirrel Hunting Tips
Late winter squirrel hunting is the perfect way to keep fieldcraft skills sharp between the end of bow season and hunting turkeys in the spring.
Hunting these bushy tailed rodents during a deep winter is admittedly harder than in the early season, but that doesn’t make it less fun. Tramping through the snow-covered woods on a sunny and clear day immediately harkens back to childhood adventures and memories of hunts long past. The leaves fell from the trees months ago making visibility excellent, almost evening out the fact that while I see less squirrels in winter, when I do see them they are a lot easier to spot than during the early season.
The squirrels might be easier to spot, but that doesn’t make them easier to hunt. Food supplies are no longer abundant, predators have taken their toll and the bare trees mean they can see you just as good as you can see them. These squirrels are survivors.
Save your pre-dawn wake up calls for wild turkey and whitetails. Temperatures have dropped substantially since fall, and like most of us, squirrels are liable to stay cozy in bed just a little longer prior to getting out to look for any remaining mast that has fallen to the ground. Don’t sleep in to late though. Get into the field around 9 a.m. or so on a nice sunny day and when the squirrels do appear, you’ll be ready.
When Ol’ Bushy Tail comes out of his den, its likely he’s going down the tree, not further up it. By this time of year the mast has fallen and squirrels can most often be found on the ground of a hardwood stand, digging through the leaves in search of buried nuts or raiding a food cache.
Act Like It’s A Whitetail Hunt
The woods I squirrel hunt in the winter is the same one that I deer hunt in the fall. During my whitetail hunts, I take the time to do a little squirrel scouting as well. What I look for is big, brushy squirrel nests up in the trees, or dying trees with holes that provide cavities for squirrels to nest in.
Rather than spend my time walking through the woods on the squirrel version of a “spot-n-stalk,” I’ll often grab an early morning seat within shooting range of the den trees and wait, much like hunting whitetails from a tree stand. As the sun warms the woods, the squirrels will hopefully poke their heads out. Wait for them to completely exit the den and take your shot.
When You Move, Move Slow
Another lesson learned from deer hunting. If you are hunting on foot, move and try to focus on hunting at the same time. When you move, move slowly and noiselessly through the woods. Take a few steps at a time and then scan ahead. Look for the flick of a tail, or the rapid movement of a squirrel running along a branch or up the base of a tree. A pair of binoculars can be a great aid on making a move on a squirrel before they are aware you are there.
Don’t Forget Field Edges
Another observation I’ve made while deer hunting is seeing remnants of corn cobs tucked into the woods, sometimes 50-100 yards from the nearest corn field. Late in winter, especially in areas without a lot of mast producing trees, squirrels will often rely on foraging what is left behind by the farmers fall harvest; waste corn and soybeans. If there isn’t a substantial amount of snow on the ground, a great place to hunt is along field edges, spotting squirrels who are leaving the security of the woods to look for food in the fields. Hunting these field edges have an additional benefit; they are a great place to kick up a rabbit or two for the pot.
In many states there is still time to head out into the woods and chase a few bushy tails. Get after them.