A view from the backroads: The Art of Stalking Squirrels

Squirrel hunting success depends on woodsmanship. There aren’t any high-tech, new-fangled devices to make it easier. I don’t know of anyone hanging game cameras near likely squirrel haunts. Nope, it all comes down to knowing squirrel habitat and habits.

Squirrels like nuts, and their favorite by far is hickory. An active tree is easy to find, simply look for discarded shells and hulls with gnaw marks from big incisors littering the forest floor. Oaks are a draw, too, with white oaks getting the nod as the favorite due to less bitter tasting tannic acid.

JOHNNY SAIN/THE ARKA TECH
JOHNNY SAIN/THE ARKA TECH

Overlooked food items are pine cones and black gum berries. Pinecone seeds are sometimes favored over hickory, and a relatively isolated stand of pines is sure to have some squirrels in it. Black gum berries are top choice for squirrels as well. Finding a tree with ripe fruit can net a limit of squirrels in short order.

Black gum trees are easy to find because the foliage is some of the first to change color in fall. The brilliant crimson leaves are easy to find in a sea of green, and can lead the alert hunter to an otherwise overlooked squirrel hot spot.

Weapon choice is up to the hunter. If you’re looking for a quick limit, a shotgun would be your go-to gun. A squirrel is often in stealth mode after it sees you — which always seem to be before you see it — and a scattergun is best for shots in the dense foliage of early season. The shotgun also comes in handy when a squirrel decides to run and leap from branch to branch on its way to a hollow tree sanctuary.

On the other hand, if you happen to be particularly lethal or are more interested in the challenge as opposed to the kill, a .22 rifle might be your choice.
Regardless of all the hype that surrounds killing a big deer, there is no better gauge of a hunter’s skill than to fill a limit of squirrels with a rifle.

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