I don’t claim to be an expert on squirrel hunting, and I’m not. But, I have hunted bushy tails since I was 12 years old hunting them with a JC Higgin 20 gauge purchased with money from the newspaper trail, and since then I have hunted the live animals from the bottom of the Ohio River to the woods near Lake Erie and many places in the middle. If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that his habits never change. What they did 40 years ago is the same thing they will do during this chipmunk season, especially the first part.
One thing that has always been obvious is that gray squirrels are a very different animal from their cousins, the fox squirrel. Grays are found throughout Ohio, but their main territory is in the heavily forested counties of southern, southeastern, and southwestern Ohio, places where tall wood often stretches for miles and more up and down than flat. They are jumpy, nervous little creatures, prone to jumping and usually wary of anything unusual in their environment. Shoot one and miss it, and it will collapse onto a high branch, and stay there for hours until you leave.
Or jump out of your breakfast tree instantly and head to distant places. If you don’t move after shooting, they may forget in half an hour or so and start moving gingerly again, allowing nuts to drop and giving you a second chance to bag them. So on hunts in the southern part of the state, I’ve always tried to do a little scouting the night before and try to find a grove of shagbark, shellbark, or pignut hickory trees that still have nuts and fragments under them. show that the squirrels are actively cutting them. Then be back before dawn using a flashlight to find my way and sitting patiently as the first gray rays of daylight illuminate the horizon.
Grays often come to the feeding spot several at a time, and I can usually count on getting the first one there, but when I drop one, I don’t do the amateurish jump-and-run move to secure my prize. I make sure it’s dead, then wait until another one or more are already in the tree to start moving again. They hear loud noises frequently, whether it’s thunder or falling branches, and if you don’t move, they’ll start moving again. Trying to get on a gray squirrel dinner is a difficult proposition as they are highly alert and the often dry forest is noisy. That’s why I hunt them sitting down.
The fox squirrel is also found throughout the state, but its stronghold is the small wooded patches and wooded stream bottoms of central and northern Ohio. They are lazy animals, so I don’t need to be there at first light, just early morning or late afternoon, though usually in the morning when it’s cool and sometime frosty, and mosquitoes are minimal. My technique for hunting these is to take a few steps and pause, listening for the patter of falling nut shards, the rustle of branches as they move from place to place, and the occasional small talk they make in small fights up there. .
No need to sit, just listen, move slowly, and watch the treetops and the ground alike. If anyone sees me, I go very still, and in about ten minutes they will start feeding and moving again, very different from their creepy gray relatives. Where do I look for them? Both species of squirrels love sweet hickory nuts and chop them up until there are none left. They will also make occasional forays into beeches, eating dogwood berries and wild grapes, nibbling on ears of corn in the fields next to the forest, and later in the season turning to white oak, burr oak, and pole oak acorns to bury nuts. . for winter food.
Given their habits, you can guess what I use to hunt them. I prefer a 12 or 20 gauge shotgun for greys, as they don’t sit still for more than seconds, and a .22 scope for lazy squirrels looking for a shot to the head or ribcage so as not to spoil the meat. And in either of the two animals that meat is very good. Daniel Boone once said that the only food better than squirrel is cougar, and while I have never eaten cougar, I have enjoyed squirrel many times. And he will do it again.
Dick Martin is a retired biology teacher who has been writing articles outdoors for over 30 years. You can reach him at [email protected].