Small Game Hunting: Tips for Squirrel Hunting at the End of the Season

squirrel in the snow
Even when it’s cold, the squirrels will be on the move, and not just on the ground. Steve Hendricks/Alamy

When winter comes, all thoughts turn to whitetails. Or maybe rooster pheasants, Canada geese or breaking mallards. And that’s a shame, because some of the best squirrel hunts of the season occur after temperatures drop and snow covers the hardwoods. But it’s not the same game you played in September and October: the snow squirrels are tricky. Here’s how to tackle more bushy tails in the white matter.

1. Hunt with the sun
Freezing temperatures can send squirrels into a state of semi-hibernation. But they still have to eat, and on the first sunny day after a stretch of snow and clouds, they’ll be on the move. Focus on well-lit parts of the wood: edges, openings, and the sides of two-way or logging roads. And go ahead, sleep in: your best chance to see squirrels sunning themselves on tree branches is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

2. Watch out for nuts
Black walnut trees don’t drop their entire mast until well into the winter months, and you might have success targeting the treetops by mid-morning. If the squirrels aren’t feeding or warming themselves in the branches, they are most likely low, looking for fallen nuts. Look for a large number of tracks to determine where the squirrels have been feeding most often.

3. Walk the Corn
In farmland regions, an area where wood meets harvested corn can be a hot ticket. Equipped with a tremendous sense of smell, squirrels will target waste grains here, even if finding a meal means digging through a foot of snow for a partial ear of corn. But watch out for the exceptional sight of the bugs. Wear snow camo if you don’t have cover and carry lightweight binoculars to spot bushy tails from a distance.

4. Scope with a Rimfire
Leafless conditions make longer shots possible. A .22 rimfire firing pin that will put everything inside a 50-cent piece at 50 to 75 yards, plus the ability to shoot that well, will put more bushy tails in the bag. But be careful when shooting a .22 at ground targets, as slow-moving bullets can ricochet off frozen ground. For more of a challenge, try a .32 caliber muzzleloader.