My Squirrel Hunting Techniques

One of the most common questions I get off my Youtube channel and the SHJ blog are questions about how to hunt squirrels, specifically what are my hunting methods. Everybody has their own approach or opinion about these types of things, but this is how I like to hunt squirrels.

Aiming at a squirrel

For the most part, I use 4 different approaches for pursuing tree rats, and here they are:

#1 – Still Hunting – Some people call moving through the woods “Still Hunting”, but for me, it means finding a good location and setting up there for a while. Everyone has their own way of doing things, but I like to find a spot that offers a decent vantage point, preferably around a food source, and then clear myself out a little spot. I prefer to sit on a padded cushion rather than a chair or stool as I find it easier to scan the tree canopy from this position versus sitting in a chair. I’ve got friends who use a variety chairs or stools so I completely understand that approach as well.

Once I’m set-up, I usually try to sit quietly at least 30 to 45 minutes. If I haven’t seen or heard anything at that spot after 45 minutes, I typically move at least 100 yards to another spot and then repeat the process. When I'm moving spot to spot while still hunting, I generally will make my movements slowly, and quietly to get to the next spot. You never know when moving spot to spot if you’ll catch some movement.  If no movement squirrel movement presents itself, it never hurts to try a squirrel call.  During early season especially, squirrels may respond to a young squirrel in distress call, a chatter call, or even a feeding call.  A feeding squirrel call can be made with two quarters that still have the serrated edges.  By scraping the edge of the quarter against the other you create the "cutting of a nut" sound that squirrels foraging make during early season. 

I try to hunt with my eyes and ears and keep my movements and noise to a minimum. I work off a kind of sniper mentality when squirrel hunting. If I take a shot and connect, I usually just visually mark the spot where the squirrel fell and stay in my position. My 45 minute period resets as well. Although my experience has varied over the years, I’ve had situations where I got my limit or close to it from one spot as long as I shot well.

I practice with both my rifle of choice and top most every rifle with decent glass. Based on my own personal preferences (and your comfort level may vary) and the gear that I happen to be hunting with that day, I’m typically comfortable taking shots with a .22 up to 60 yards or so. I do have some rifle/scope combos that I wouldn’t use for a shot of that range, while I have some that I would. If I’m hunting with the 17 Mach 2 cartridge, I’ll extend my comfort level out to about the 75-80 yard range as the M2 cartridge shots like a laser with little drop or point of impact change. I have taken shots with a .22 that exceeded 60 yards, but those are/were few and far between. Most shots are in the 25 to 50 yard range for me. While I like the challenges of shooting at longer ranges, ethically I don’t think it’s fair to the game if you can’t make a one shot humane kill. Again, just my opinion and your mileage may vary.

still hunting success

#2 Stalking – Stalking is the way I describe hunting on the move. In situations where the opportunities present it, I will take a stalking approach and move very slowly and silently through the woods in pursuit of the tree or ground dwellers. I normally take this approach if there are aspects of the land being hunted that allow me to move more quietly. Some examples of that would include a dirt road or path, a dry creek bed (one of my favorites), or a well worn game trail. In these situations, I’ll move very slowly and deliberately through the woods stopping to listen and scan every 10 steps or so. You may want to plan your stops or pauses so that you’re near a tree or limb that you can use as a shooting post if needed. I always carry a pair of Stoney Point Shooting Stix so I can plop down anywhere to make a shot if needed.

I find stalking to be effective in early season when there aren’t any fresh leaves to crunch on. In areas where there are paths or trails, I’ll move slowly and quietly down the trail until I hear or see squirrel activity, and then I work towards that activity to see if I can get a shot. This hunting style is certainly challenging and, in many cases, the squirrels possibly will see or hear you before you see them. I always carry a set of good binoculars as they are invaluable in these types of situations.  I can glass trees discretely without much movement on my part and frequently locate squirrels hiding or flattened down in trees. Over the years, I’ve lost count of the number of squirrels I’ve located with binos, that I probably never would have seen with either my naked eye or through the rifle scope. Trust me on this one, hefting that rifle up each and every time you need magnification will get old quickly.

There are scenarios where stalking is the most effective approach and then others where still hunting works better.

stalking success

 

#3 Dog Hunting – I grew up hunting squirrels over a bird dog that turned out to be a much better squirrel dog than a bird dog, so I really enjoy using dogs for squirrels. However, the squirrel dogs I use aren’t formally trained and “perform” quite like formally trained squirrel dogs. If you like squirrel hunting but haven’t ever hunted over a dog, give it a try. I find it to be a great way to hunt squirrels in scenarios where you have access to a large tract of land to hunt. While my main squirrel hunting dog, Sassy, isn’t formally trained in the strictest sense, there’s nothing she likes more than hitting the woods during squirrel season. She will tree squirrels on a regular basis, and I’ve killed a whole mess of squirrels over her to date.

Like stalking, I find a good set of binoculars invaluable when dog hunting as there are many times when the dog(s) will tree a squirrel without actually seeing or smelling it, so the squack just hides out waiting for you and the dog(s) to pass. I have major success glassing with binos in these situations and have located plenty of squirrels this way over the years. One of my hunting partners never carried binos until he started hunting with me a few seasons ago. Now he’s a believer and carries binos with him on every hunt. My favorite pair of binos are the Leupold Yosemite in 8X30mm.

Success with the dog

 

#4 Still/Stalk – Inevitably there will be times where I’m still hunting and come across squirrels nearby that are just out of shooting range. Rather than wait, I prefer to put the odds closer in my favor so I try to stalk in closer.

On the flip side, I’ll also run into situations in a stalk where I come across a number of squirrels in a small area so I’ll switch from stalking to still hunting if the situation warrants it.

Again, my ways certainly aren’t the only ways to hunt squirrel so I encourage you to do a little experimenting and find out what works best for you. Brad, who is one of my main hunting buddies, was taught to squirrel a little different than me. When still hunting, Brad always sets up somewhere with a small tree to use a rest for shooting. He then clears out a complete circle around the base of tree for his stool. This allows him to be able to position himself for 360 degree shooting using the tree as a rest and keep as quiet as possible while preparing for shots. We have a running joke that everywhere he hunts ends up with “crop”circles (known as “Brad Circles” within our hunting group) thanks to him. But, this is a very effective method for him and how he prefers to hunt.

still hunting success 2

These are just some of my methods. Give them a try, I’m sure at least one will work for you.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave September 1, 2014 at 3:06 pm

Great info, thank you! I’m also curious as to what gear you use and what you keep in your bag. I am on the endless quest to keep myself light-weight, yet have the essentials. I just got a bota bag for daily water needs, I have my rifle and shooting sticks. Where I go back and forth is whether to carry a backpack or just a small pouch on my belt with survival items. I’m not that far out in the woods, but if I should twist my ankle or something I figure I could be stuck a day before anyone comes looking. Always interested in seeing what others carry!

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Nate September 3, 2014 at 1:14 am

I keep some survival equipment in my Ribz pack. Fire steel, extra blade, small first aid, para cord, duct tape and some other small items. I keep my extra magazines and an ammo wallet. Gloves, face mask and some snacks. The reason I don’t like a backpack, and the reason I went with the Ribz, was because I couldn’t shoulder my rifle normally with the backpack strap in the way. I much prefer no interference with my rifle. I usually am hunting with someone or not very far from some civilization, but I’d rather have it and not need it. You know the rest of the saying.

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tim long January 19, 2015 at 3:04 pm

Hey I have read on here that you say you knock on the door. You are doing that on the nests but how are you doing it to get them to come flying out? I have seen them go into holes in trees and their nests, but have never been able to flush them out. Any help would be helpfull.
thanks Tim

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