Squirrel hunting in winter is a great way to enjoy the outdoors

When January and the rest of winter roll around, I automatically start to reflect on winter squirrel hunting, which is an underutilized outdoor hobby. I very much enjoy every opportunity to go squirrel hunting and have my favorite spots on public and private land, not only in my Thumb area, but in other parts of the state, such as the oak-filled hardwood forests on public land in the area. Baldwin’s, One of my favorite places for this pastime.

One beauty of squirrel hunting is that you don’t have to travel far to find ample opportunities anywhere in our great state of Michigan. And with plenty of public land available, it’s a very affordable winter hobby that doesn’t cost a fortune (the basic license covers all small game hunting, which I personally appreciate). Once January rolls around, and with deer season over, a proper and courteous approach can often result in access to private property.

I’ve found that cold windy days aren’t very conducive to a good squirrel hunt, but when the wind calms down a bit and adds a bit of sunshine, I’ll often be out in the woods looking for “bushy tails” which are great to eat with lots of recipes to use. (Squirrel meat is just as good a “hasenpfeffer” as rabbit meat, and a variety of hasenpfeffer recipes can be found online. We have our own family special, a great winter taste.)

Being residents of hardwoods, squirrels are tree rodents that live primarily on a wide variety of nuts, berries, and cocoons. They take advantage of caches of food (usually a variety of nuts) that they have made in the forest for the winter.

Wherever you find trees that produce nuts, you should be able to locate plenty of squirrels.

With no leaves and often snow on the ground, winter squirrel hunting is a very different atmosphere than the early fall season and comes with its own share of distinct challenges. While it is easier to see squirrels in the winter landscape, it is also easier, for the same reason, for sharp-eyed squirrels to detect the movements of hunters. Being prey animals with a wide variety of predators after them, squirrels are quite alert, and hunting them down during the winter is usually no easy matter.

However, one advantage of winter squirrel hunting is due to the caches of nuts that are usually found on the ground. Most of my shots of squirrels during the winter are actually about squirrels traveling on land or feeding. Because of this, I prefer a .22 rifle most of the time, which allows me a bit more range on wary winter squirrels. And I appreciate the white, snowy background for these types of shots.

When it comes to shotguns for this atmosphere, I prefer small gauge ones like the .410 and 28 gauge fed with #4 lead shot (I don’t like my squirrel meat getting splattered with shot). In addition to a variety of “twenty-twos” (some scoped, some not), I also use a variety of air rifles and a .32 caliber muzzleloader. (When using a squirrel rifle, I always try to make sure there’s a safe stop for the shot. A .22 rimfire round, for example, has a range of over a mile, so shooting a scurrying squirrel in the sky overhead through flimsy branches is very unsafe).