Every hunter has their favorite game that they love to pursue. Whether that be elk in the mountains of Colorado or the hogs of Texas, everyone has a particular species they live to chase. My personal favorites have to be the elusive gray and fox squirrels of the good ol’ Ozark Mountains.
For as far back as I can remember, my grandfather and my father would take me out into the woods to stalk the sneaky bushytails, hoping for a limit but never disappointed if we fell a few short. I think that the main reason that I love to squirrel hunt is because it’s much easier than chasing whitetail and a way to get out and just relax and let whatever happens just happen.
I learned how to hunt by walking through the woods with my family; they would teach me new things and show me clues to look for while hunting these critters. I always tried my hardest to pay attention and remember these tips but like most young kids, I wasn’t focused too much on learning, I was just out having fun in the woods. But as I got older I began to understand the importance of the advice I’d once been given as a kid and found it useful to use as I began to hunt on my own and with my friends. It can be easy to overlook the importance of these simple tips even though using them can definitely make for a much more successful hunt.
The time of the year and weather can affect a good squirrel hunt just as much as it can affect a whitetail hunt. When the temps are high the squirrels are going to eat early in the morning and late in the evening. In my experience the best days to hunt on are days where temperatures are between 60 and 70 degrees and there is a light drizzle, wind does not seem to bother them. When there is no wind, that makes it just a little easier to hear them.
Probably the most common and easiest way to hunt these critters is to find a big ol’ white oak and just sit and wait for them to come down to feed. Yes, this is simple to do, but if you’re not at the right place at the right time your hunt can quickly turn to another morning of just sitting in the woods watching the world go by. You can also try the spot and stalk and calling methods. Most small game hunters do not know that you can actually call squirrels out of hiding, presenting you with either a quick shot or at least the location of the squirrels.
I incorporate all three of these styles when I go after bushytails. I will start out in a big oak bottom where I can see roughly seventy-five yards all around, then I sit patiently and just listen for leaves to rustle. If I’ve sat there for more than an hour and have not heard or seen a squirrel I’ll get up and hit my squirrel call. The call is used to mimic a hawk attacking a baby squirrel. Any call that you buy will come with clear instructions on how to use them and what times that it will work the best. If that doesn’t bring them out of their nests I go into spot and stalk mode. I will creep slowly along the tops of ridges watching the bottoms and hillsides for movement. Walking ten to fifteen yards and stopping and listening for rustling and watching is the best way I have found. Listen for them to bark and whistle to get a better idea of their location.
These are just the tactics that I use for myself, and like I said above, everyone has their personal favorite species to pursue. Hopefully my simple tips can help take your hunt to the next level, or maybe just help you finish those last two or three for a full limit! Take a youngster along with you and introduce them to bushytails whenever possible! I know that I was never dead set on killing a bunch, it was more about being out in the woods and enjoying it. I wouldn’t change it for anything, because it transformed me into the outdoorsman that I am today.
Photo: Robert Taylor