There are few joys nicer than taking a nice walk alone in the woods. That’s improved, however, by packing a gun or rifle and popping a few squirrels for dinner.
One beauty of hunting small game is that they’re quick and easy to clean. Squirrels, in particular, are fun to hunt and anywhere from three to six of them can make a solid meal for a person.
Solo hunting for squirrels is a bit different than hunting in a pack—and can often net you even more tree rats. Here are a few tips and tricks.
Hunting solo for squirrels is—in my opinion—actually better than hunting in a small group. Squirrels can be a little hesitant when you’re in the woods. A little movement and they get shy. I trust myself to not step on sticks and send a shattering crack echoing across the holler, but I don’t always know that I can trust my hunting partners to do the same.
My method for solo squirrel hunting is just still hunting. Take a few steps, stop, and look around and listen. Stand for as long as ten to fifteen minutes in one place—or longer if you hear something hopping around in all the dead leaves. Find a path you’re comfortable with and work your way around.
I carry a good pair of medium distance binoculars with me when I’m squirrel hunting alone. I’ve got decent eyesight. But when you’re hunting a squirrel that’s up high in a treetop, it’s usually easier to get a look at it with specs than you can with your bare eyes.
Shotgun versus .22 Caliber
This might be a hot topic among some squirrel hunters, but it breaks down to something simple. You’ve got two good options for a squirrel gun: a shotgun or a .22 caliber rifle.
With a shotgun, you get spread and impact that can knock a squirrel right out of a tree. A .410 shotgun is ideal with long-range shotshells, but if you’re really a beginner, a 20-gauge packs the right amount of punch without decimating the little things (of course, depending on how close you are). You may have to deal with a few pellets when you’re cleaning, but I rarely find the meat torn up or so many pellets in the meat itself that I feel worried about eating it.
A good .22 caliber rifle is ideal—if you’re a good shot. With most squirrels, you’ve got a target about the size of a walnut if you’re aiming right (for the head). Being a good shot with a .22 takes practice, but if you’ve got it and you’re efficient, they’re better in general for hunting because they come with a lot less bang to spook any other squirrels in the area.
What to Wear
Squirrel hunting isn’t rocket science, nor is dressing for the job. Because you’re moving, it’s not necessary to pack on the layers like you would in a tree stand. And camouflage is obvious—as is your blaze orange.
A nice, light jacket or coat are perfect if it’s cool out, or even a hunting vest just to keep the core warm. For my blaze, I wear either a sock cap or an orange vest, depending on the time of year—sometimes both.
A good pair of waterproof hunting boots are a must as well. No one likes wet feet.
As you’re killing squirrels, carrying them can get a little burdensome. Doing it alone presents even more of a challenge. But lucky you, you have options.
My go-to trick is to find a strong, young stick and thread it through a cut between the critter’s back leg and lower tendon (like the Achille’s) with my hunting knife. Then I thread that stick through a couple of my belt loops.
Otherwise, many hunting vests come complete with game pouches. These pouches are usually polyester to make sure any blood doesn’t cake on or soak in.
Squirrels are generally pretty quick and easy to clean. That’s if you know what you’re doing, of course. After cleaning six or seven all together you’ll get the hang of it.
Using your very sharp knife (because you’re a smart hunter that knows a good knife is paramount to hunting), cut the hide around the waist of the squirrel—all the way around. Then work the hide off both up toward the head and down toward the tail, stopping when the hide reaches the ankles and wrists.
There’s a very good step-by-step photo guide available here.
A good soak in saltwater pulls out the blood and lightly brines your game. Then, it’s time to cook—and better yet, eat.
Ready to go squirrel hunting? Check out the full selection of hunting gear at Gander Outdoors.