Hunting black squirrels with a bow

When I’m hunting deer in woods that are full of fox squirrels, I’m always on the lookout for a flash of black. Every year I take several normal red and gray squirrels with my bows when easy shots near the ground come up. However, along the Mississippi River and surrounding bushlands, some of the fox squirrels are black.

These large fox squirrels come in many different shades of gray, silver, brown, and jet black that make beautiful mounts and tan fur. I’ve lost quite a few arrows emptying my quiver into the treetops in pursuit. A few shots have connected and I have successfully harvested three black squirrels with my bows.

When I was a kid, squirrels were my favorite animals to hunt. There was an albino squirrel mounted in my camp that was shot long before I was born. Ever since I saw that albino, I also wanted a unique squirrel to ride one day.

black squirrels

After moving from small game hunting in the south to bowhunting mainly in northern parishes along the Mississippi River, I finally started seeing the prettiest jet black squirrels. Not only did I want to get one, but I made it my goal to accomplish this task with my bow.

After many years and many wasted arrows, I finally shot my first black squirrel on a 40 yard shot with my old treecreeper compound. That squirrel was standing near the base of a tree. It was so far away that I don’t think the squirrel even noticed that I shot the arrow. It was as exciting as taking down a deer.

Unfortunately, the taxidermist had lost the skin, so he was determined ever since to get another one to mount. In the years that followed, I had several other failures on these fast black squirrels with my recurves. I once cut some of one’s hair, but it escaped.

One year I was doing a primitive gun hunt and I filmed a black squirrel with a white patch on its forehead. I saw the same squirrel again the next day. Bowhunting was closed for those two days, so I only filmed the rare squirrel. Of course, when I went back once archery season reopened, I never saw that white-spotted squirrel again.

I’ve seen white-tailed red fox squirrels a few times, but they were while running down trails in non-hunting areas.

A squirrel mount

Finally, a few years later, I got another chance. I went to a small river island with my 13 foot Boston Whaler to look for deer and did a sunset bow stalk. The place had a decent big game sign, but the most they had were swarms of mosquitoes. Then I found out that someone had stolen my game camera that I had put on the island that preseason. I was frustrated and itchy all over from bug bites.

I still stuck to my game plan of stalking until sunset. The hunt finally turned in my favor when I noticed a quick black flash moving quickly across the ground.

As I got closer to the tree, I couldn’t place where the squirrel went. The light was beginning to fade and I thought the squirrel was gone forever. Suddenly, I saw him crawling through thick vines to the tree 15 meters away. I fired my Full Throttle compound and the black squirrel landed a perfect headshot. After running to catch the squirrel, I noticed a cottonmouth coiled up just 2 feet away. I was lucky it didn’t hit.

I found my arrow that had a lighted nock about 200 yards away in the fading daylight. That was a long boat trip sailing slowly across the Mississippi with all the floating logs. I remember how long it took to put the boat back on the trailer in the dark with just the fast current. The lost camera and countless bug bites were forgotten once I had my prized trophy for the wall.

I mounted that squirrel that came out spectacular. Squirrels generally cost less than $100 to assemble. In addition, I have also started self tanning the skins of the black squirrels.

Hard-fought wins

Tanning the skin is what I did with my next black squirrel. The month before, I had missed a huge jet-black squirrel with my 100-pound longbow three times on one hunt. They were all ground shots, and the squirrel kept jumping on the slow arrow. I found my arrows, but one of the Easton FMJ Dangerous Game arrows got bent.

The following month I saw another black squirrel that had a strange amount of shine. With the rising sun I couldn’t tell if it was black or just a red squirrel. I soon discovered that it was one of many colors. I was able to connect with my warbow as it moved through the branches only 12 yards away. The animal’s shades of gray, silver, black, and red were mesmerizing.

I never found that arrow, but I did find the arrow thrown from the next animal encounter. Several pigs ran through a thicket as they stalked. My 900 grain arrow may have been overkill for that squirrel, but that heavy combo helped get past the big pig all the way.

Even all the normal red and gray squirrels taken with my recurve bows are fun days when deer or pigs aren’t walking. Since I don’t throw too many squirrels each season, I really enjoy those few meals knowing I got that meat the hard way.


The problem with archery hunting squirrels is speed. With my compound bows, squirrels generally don’t have a chance to dodge the arrow traveling at over 300 feet per second unless they are aware of my presence. With my traditional bows, the squirrel has often jumped several feet before the arrow reaches 150 to 190 fps.

I find it best to shoot a squirrel that is preoccupied looking for food on the ground or in thick branches. A squirrel on alert almost always fails.

Using a lighted nock can go a long way in finding an arrow that has sailed through the branches. The arrows will fly another 100-200 meters away. Nowadays, I use reflective arrow wraps. It makes finding an arrow a bit more difficult, but with a strong headlamp at night, the reflective wrap can be seen sticking up on the ground over 50 yards away.

I see most of my large fox squirrels near the edges of forests along fields, marshes, swamps, and rivers. I have great luck near bitter nut ridges and acacia trees. In the middle of deep woods, most of the squirrels I see are the smaller gray squirrels.

This season, try your hand at woodcut hunting along the hardwoods of the Mississippi River bottom and you just might have a chance at a mount-worthy squirrel hunt.

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