Like so many other hunters, my introduction to the sport came in the squirrel forest. My first successful hunt, resulting in the capture of a large fox squirrel, occurred just a couple of hundred yards from the office where I am sitting as I write this article and if I look out my office window I can still see the squirrel bent and twisted. branches of a century old white oak where the squirrel was sitting when I took that shot.
Despite living so close to the woods where I hunted squirrels so frantically all those years ago, I rarely grab a rifle or shotgun and spend time waiting for bushytails. Having a wife and young kids certainly takes up a lot of my day, and maybe I’ve moved on to bigger game: tasks like checking trail cameras, planting food plots, hanging stalls, and practicing with a bow or rifle. They do a lot of the chores. hours I used to spend just sitting under a walnut tree and waiting for gray squirrels or foxes to show up. I always intend to spend a few days in September hunting squirrels, but I rarely get around to it.
So it was refreshing to attend the Gamo Squirrel Master Classic in Alabama this year. At the Squirrel Classic, teams from around the country come together for what is arguably the largest organized squirrel hunt in the country, and with thousands of acres of Alabama pines surrounding the Southern Sportsman Hunting Lodge in West Tyler, the venue competition, there was ample room for each team to chase squirrels. Our team hunted behind a team of mountain dogs, and even though we didn’t win the competition, attending the Squirrel Classic was something of a wake-up call for me. There was no internet, there were no deadlines to meet, and the central focus of each day was simple: spend time in the forest looking for prey.
I think it’s time for a squirrel hunting renaissance. In recent decades, hunter numbers have declined in many areas of the country, with small game hunting experiencing some of the largest declines. Maybe that’s not just a coincidence. Here is a list of five important reasons why you should spend more time in the squirrel forest.
1. Access is not a problem
I have seen prime hunting land around my home gobbled up by deer leases over the last decade. That’s not all a bad thing: White-tailed deer remain the most popular game animal in the country, and white-tailed hunters and the licenses and tags they purchase are critical to supporting conservation projects across the country. But as more and more land is leased for deer hunting, access to hunting land is shrinking, particularly for new hunters. While it can be difficult for hunters to find a place to hunt deer, it is easy to gain access for squirrel hunting. It also doesn’t require a large amount of property; a handful of acres of forested habitat is enough for a squirrel hunting season, and it’s not hard to find productive public land to hunt squirrels.
2. Squirrel hunting is affordable
I sweat when I think of all the money I’ve poured into deer hunting over the last decade, but squirrel hunting is perhaps the most affordable of all outdoor activities. You don’t need any special equipment (a single-shot rifle, shotgun, or airgun will suffice), and a resident small game hunting license is generally all that is required to legally hunt squirrels. For an investment of a couple of hundred dollars, you can hunt squirrels for the next decade, it’s a sport that all hunters can enjoy.
3. It is ideal for introducing new hunters to the sport
Squirrel hunting is a natural springboard into hunting other animals, and squirrels are ideal prey for new hunters. The sport doesn’t require the same early mornings and long hours in the woods that deer hunting demands, and squirrel hunting success rates are high enough to hold the attention of even the most concerned young hunters. It’s an exciting, low-impact way for new or young hunters to get outdoors, which will be critical if hunting is to continue well into the future. The friends you invite to go squirrel hunting may never take up the sport, but at least they’ll be exposed to the outdoors and appreciate the hunt. Such an experience can help negate the negative press hunting receives from animal rights groups, and something as simple as an afternoon squirrel hunt can motivate them to vote for legislation that supports hunting-based conservation. in the future. Additionally, chasing squirrels teaches the basics of stealth, patience, ethics, and marksmanship that are the foundation of all hunting.
4. It’s the easiest way to unplug
Over the past decade, researchers have identified two disorders that are having a significant impact on American children: electronic screen syndrome and nature deficit disorder. And while these two problems may seem trivial and fabricated, Americans are becoming increasingly aware of the side effects of our unnatural reliance on electronics, which can lead to everything from vision problems to depression. This constant need for stimulation affects adults, but it is especially detrimental to children during their early stages of development. The truth is, we all need to unplug, even for a few hours, and squirrel hunting is a great way to do it. If you’re too busy to take your kids squirrel hunting and let them take advantage of all the sporting offerings, you’re simply too busy.
5. It’s fun
Squirrel hunting is not competitive (unless, of course, you participate in the Gamo Squirrel Master Classic). It’s just a fun, low-key hobby and a great way to enjoy nature. It can be as simple as sitting under a walnut tree for a few hours after work. Or, if you prefer, you can hunt with squirrel dogs. I have called the squirrels with a distress whistle, which is also very effective. Whichever method you choose, you’ll enjoy some low-key time in the woods with friends and family, and if you’re successful, you’ll have some wild game for the freezer. Isn’t it time you redevoted some attention to squirrel hunting? This year, invite a new hunter to tag along, fill his vest pockets with .22 ammo, and escape into the woods for a few hours. You’ll be glad you did.