Decades ago, squirrels were a very popular game species. I once flew to Mississippi to hunt squirrels with Mr. Fox, the patriarch of the Mossy Oak family, a hunt I’ll never forget. Mr. Fox belonged to a hunt club where members bagged a limit most days of the season and graced their tables several times a week.
Today, many youngsters don’t begin their hunting career trying to sneak within range of a wily grey or fox squirrel. Instead, young hunters take a deer as their first game animal, partially because of the excitement and abundance of the species. Squirrels teach woodsmanship and we’d all be better at our craft if we had to bag a limit at least once each year. The furry buggers have good hearing and eyesight, like wild turkeys, that make them difficult to stalk and their elusive tree-to-tree travel can leave a hunter sitting by one trunk as a sly squirrel sneaks away among the treetops.
Squirrel hunting is fun and challenging with one drawback. The rascals can be very difficult to skin unless you know a secret which I’ll get to in a moment. I’ve killed squirrels with bow and arrow, yet the equipment cost is significant and can reach $40 per pound. A shotgun is your best bet in which ever gauge you shoot well. My first animal was a squirrel taken with a .410, a memorable trophy. Because squirrels are elusive, you’ll need number 5 or 6 shot from a shotgun with a full choke. The wide pattern of the shotgun allows you to make moving or running shots as squirrels rarely stand still.
If you hunt in late muzzleloading seasons, don’t pass up a fat fox squirrel that’s foraging for nuts. Today’s in-line rifles are accurate enough to make a head shot which saves valuable venison. I once killed a doe in deep snow and as I field dressed the deer, a fox squirrel made the mistake of passing by. Each fell to a flintlock.
If a rifle is your choice, consider the .22 long rifle or the 17 HMR. You’ll need a good scope on par with a big game optic and a shooting sling for those times you can’t get a rest from a tree. Air guns are also an option and possibly allow you to hunt in urban areas where squirrels are often a pest, but be sure to check your local regulations.
From Tree to Table
Some states offer spring squirrel seasons that allow hunters to harvest the first batch of young born in the new year. Unlike deer, you don’t want the biggest beast in the woods as older, large bodied squirrels, can be tough and often require a pressure cooker to prepare well. Young squirrels, on the other hand, can be easier to stalk and make excellent table fare.
Skinning a squirrel is the down side of the sport. My father and I each killed a limit of squirrels and after returning home spent two hours skinning them. He vowed never to do that again. Once a squirrel is cold and stiff, skinning it is difficult, while if you skin them when first killed the skin comes off easily. Be sure to carry a knife and a few plastic quart-size freezer bags with you and you can return to your vehicle with game that’s ready to cook. The following video shows you how to skin a squirrel in about a minute and its even easier if the squirrel is still warm. Check out this video and get ready for a challenging hunt and great table fare: Click Here for Video