Five things to know about squirrel hunting in Texas

1. What species to hunt

Texas has eight species of squirrels divided into three groups: ground squirrels, tree squirrels, and flying squirrels. Only two species, gray or “cat” squirrels and fox squirrels, both tree squirrels, are classified as game animals.

Fox squirrels are the larger of the two, weighing up to 2.5 pounds compared to 1-1.5 pounds for the gray squirrel. These large squirrels with their tan/orange undersides are the most widely distributed squirrels in the state, from East Texas to Central Texas. They prefer more open upland forests that are home to large numbers of oak, pecan, hickory, and other mast-producing trees.

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Gray squirrels prefer dense forests such as those found in the wide lowlands along rivers and streams in East Texas.

East Texas has the largest population and concentration of squirrels in the state, with gray squirrels making up 75 to 80 percent of those animals.

2. When to hunt

In the 51 East Texas counties with the highest chipmunk populations in the state, Texas wildlife managers have established two hunting seasons, one in the fall and one in the spring, for these game animals. The dates of the 2018-19 season are from October 1 to February 1. May 24 and 1-31. Daily bag limit is 10 squirrels, grays, or foxes, total.

The fall hunting season is by far the most popular among Texas squirrel hunters.

In 157 Texas counties outside of East Texas, there is no closed season for squirrels, but the 10-bag-per-day limit does apply. Forty-six counties in the Panhandle and far west Texas, where squirrels are absent or in very low numbers, do not have squirrel season.

All persons hunting squirrels in Texas must have a valid Texas hunting license.

3. Which firearms are the best?

Most Texas squirrel hunters pursue their prey using still hunting, a tactic that involves moving slowly and quietly through the woods, stopping frequently, often sitting at the base of a large tree and carefully scanning the ground. forest canopy looking for squirrel movements. The most productive areas to hunt during the fall season are those with large numbers of red or white oaks and other trees that produce poles. Acorns and other hard masts, such as hickory nuts and walnuts, are the preferred forage for squirrels during the fall and winter.

A smaller number of Texas squirrel hunters hunt with canine companions. These squirrel dogs, usually feist, cur or small/medium terrier breeds, hunt along the forest floor, pick up the scent of squirrels looking for food, follow them to the tree the squirrel climbed when it left the ground and bark to tell the hunter that the dog is gone. wooded a squirrel.

Most squirrel hunters use a .22 caliber rifle with a telescopic sight. Some prefer a shotgun loaded with number 4, 5, or 6 shot shells; Shotguns are especially effective early in the fall squirrel season, when most trees still have their leaves on and it’s hard to shoot a squirrel moving through the leaf cover. At the end of the season, when most of the trees are bare of leaves and opportunities for unobstructed shooting are more frequent, the .22 rifle is the most widely used firearm by squirrel hunters.

4. Where to hunt

While most of the squirrel hunting in East Texas occurs on private property, the region offers plenty of public hunting opportunities. Squirrel hunting is permitted in large portions of the Sabine, Davy Crockett, Sam Houston, and Angelina National Forests. In addition, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s public hunting program offers dozens of tracts (state wildlife management areas, private leased lands, portions of national forests) where squirrel hunting is permitted to license holders. a $48 Texas Public Hunting permit.

More information on public hunting opportunities in national forests:

More information about the Texas Public Hunt Program:

5. How to cook and eat

Chipmunks have been a traditional, even staple, food in much of East Texas, and much of the southern US, for generations. Sometimes called “limb bacon” or “limb chicken,” the squirrels’ lean, dark meat lends itself to a number of traditional recipes.

Quartered young squirrels, especially young gray squirrels, are most often fried in a cast-iron skillet, much like fried chicken, and traditionally served with homemade biscuits and gravy.

The larger or older squirrels are most often cooked in a stew or as the main ingredients of a pot of squirrels and meatballs where slow, long cooking tenderizes the sometimes tougher meat of the older squirrels.