Updated: Mar 28, 2020
By: Chad Snyder
Photo Credit: wsj.com
Squirrel hunting is one of life’s simple pleasures. Many days of my youth were spent with a .22 in hand and my neck craned up at the hardwood canopies above me. I would spend hours trekking through the woods with just my dog and my rifle. The jury is still out on whether hunting with an untrained dog did more harm than good, but what she lacked in training she made up for enthusiasm. Many a squirrel met their fate as she howled and circled anxiously at the base of the tree where they had run to take refuge.
We were a dynamic duo and it was times like these that cemented my love of squirrel hunting.
The world outside of the woods grows increasingly complex, but inside squirrel hunting remains simple. Gone are the tasks, responsibilities and competing interests. When I head out into the woods all that is left is me and my bushy tailed pursuit. I think it is the possibility of escape that appealed to me as a young hunter and still appeals to me now. While squirrel hunting does not afford the same opportunity for trophies as some larger species, neither does it require the advanced planning and funding that some big game demands. Pursuing squirrels is hands down one of the most easily accessible forms of hunting. Often the only thing between a hunter and an escape from the outside world is a short drive to a stand of hardwoods.
Squirrel hunting is a way for me to test my skills, a wide-open laboratory in which I can explore. Small game was one of my first forays into hunting and taught me many important lessons such as how to stalk quietly through the woods and to shoot with precision. However, as my passion for pursuing whitetails and other big game has grown, the old bushy tail was pushed to the background. I find myself squirrel hunting less frequently these days, but every time I do I am reminded how much I enjoy its simplicity. So if squirrel hunting brings back fond memories for you or if it’s a totally new experience, here are the top reasons why you should get out into the squirrel woods.
#1 It’s cheap
Photo Credit: Field and Stream
Hunting is occasionally critiqued as an activity with a high cost barrier to entry. However, with squirrel hunting that isn’t the case. I would hazard to guess that most of us have a .22 caliber rifle at home leaning in the corner, collecting dust. Whether this is the hand-me-down single shot from your grandfather or the semi-automatic you got for Christmas one year, there is a decent chance that you already own the optimal squirrel hunting weapon. Not a fan of the .22? No worries, some hunters opt for the knock down power and versatility provided by a 20 gauge shotgun. Paired with the right shells, a 20 gauge proves to be a formidable squirrel slayer and provides you the versatility to shoot any small game you might encounter. Beyond the firearm that you likely already own and a box of shells, all you need is a pair of blue jeans, some blaze orange, and your trusty stomping boots. Additionally, in many states, small game licenses are the base license required to purchase other tags. Which means you likely
have the tags folded up in your wallet right now. Since most of us are fully equipped to hunt squirrels the only thing we need is a reminder of just how fun it can be.
#2 They Taste Great
Photo Credit: practicalselfreliance.com
Squirrel tastes great. It’s the other, other white meat. There’s a reason they call it chicken of the woods. Well maybe they don’t call it that, but they should! Anyone who says they don’t like squirrel has probably never tried it. I will admit that one year as a teenager I brought squirrel stew to Thanksgiving dinner and it was met with mixed reviews. However, I think the lukewarm reception was from a combination of overly critical relatives and the rudimentary culinary skills of a 13 year old. These days I have shored up my squirrel preparing chops. With the help of a slew of easily accessible recipes on the internet, anyone can turn their harvest into a feast. One of my favorite preparations is a sweet and sour squirrel using a crock pot and some teriyaki sauce. The result is falling off the bone squirrel goodness.
Don’t limit yourself, squirrel can be used to make anything from hearty stew to delicious nachos. All that to say, keep an open mind and an open stomach and you might be pleasantly surprised by the fruits of your labor.
#3 It’s a Great Activity for New Hunters
Photo Credit: dec.ny.gov
With a combination of ample opportunity and low barrier to entry, squirrel hunting is a great way for new hunters to get exposed to the sport. Small game hunting was my first real experience in the woods and it sparked a lifelong passion for me. My dad took me to the state land by our house to teach me the ropes and from then on I was hooked. Over the years I have found that whenever I have friends who I want to teach more about hunting, I start with squirrels. The main reason is squirrel hunting’s high probability of success. It takes a committed hunter to sit in a tree for hours waiting for a buck to walk by and that might not appeal to everyone who is hunting for the first time. Instead, take someone out, point them at the closest squirrel and let them learn through some good old fashioned trial and error. No matter a hunter’s skill or experience, they should have the opportunity to bag a couple squirrels by the end of the day. A case of early success might be just what a novice hunter needs to get them plugged into the sport in earnest. If you are new to hunting, give squirrels a try. If you are a little more experienced, take someone out squirrel hunting with you and I bet you dollar to donuts they will asking to go again sometime soon.
#4 Less False Alarms
Photo Credit: unsplash.com
Picture this. You are sitting in your tree stand on a crisp November morning and you hear crunching coming from behind you. Your heart starts to pump and you reach for your bow. Slowly, you turn your body to get a better look at the bruiser buck you are convinced is making his way towards you. As you finally get your head around you scan for antlers but instead of a rutting buck, all you see is a dumb fox squirrel rummaging around in the leaves.
If you have spent any amount of time in the woods deer hunting I would bet you have been in the exact situation I am describing. You get your hopes up just to be disappointed over and over again by playful squirrels. So do yourself a favor and cut down on the false alarms. Shoot more squirrels so this fall you can save your adrenaline for when the real deal walks by.
#5 It’s Just Plain Fun
So for all those reasons, along with many more, move squirrel hunting to the top of your to-do list. Get some friends together and have yourself a squirrel tournament or wander out on your own and see if you still have what it take to put a head shot on a bushy tail as he leaps from branch to branch. Either way, it’s hard to feel that time spent squirrel hunting isn’t time well spent. Next time you find yourself counting down the days until the next big game season, remember your old friend the squirrel, dust off the rifle leaning in the corner and go have some fun!
By: Chad Snyder