With one of the longest hunting seasons in Missouri, more hunters have found that hunting squirrels in the winter can fill the gap until the spring turkey season begins in April. The squirrel season that began May 26 will continue through February 15 with a daily limit of 10 and a possession limit of 20 bushytails.
Harry Jackson, now 80, recalled how he used to start hunting squirrels around Memorial Day, when ticks, flying insects and thick brush made hunting difficult, but a few years ago he discovered that hunting in the winter months you can succeed without fighting the above drawback. He pointed out that the fact that the leaves are gone offers a better view in the forest so he can spot the squirrels more easily. He said: “In the winter months, you have the advantage of seeing squirrels without heavy cover, and you don’t have to fight ticks or mosquitoes. You don’t have to wear camouflage like you do when hunting waterfowl, deer and turkey.” … I usually find a good spot where I can see active squirrels and be ready when they’re in range.”
I went on my first winter squirrel hunt the day after Christmas when I found a .22 single shot rifle under the Christmas tree. My brother took me to a place that he had hunted and was always successful.
It was a great day for winter as the temperature was in the 50’s with little wind. We found a spot near a stream where we could see 100 yards into the woods. It wasn’t long before my brother pointed out a red squirrel moving through the leaves on the ground. I watched as he approached, rifle at the ready. About 30 meters ahead, he stopped and I fired. We had the first bushytail of the day with my new gun.
Before the hunt was over, we had six red squirrels, and I was hooked on squirrel hunting in the winter.
My brother had hunted squirrels for a long time and knew the best places to find them. He said: “The best time to hunt them is early in the morning, and don’t bother going out if it’s really cold and windy because the squirrels stay in their den, but when it’s hot, like the day we went out, they can stay active. most of the day.I noticed you’ll see more on the ground than the trees so act accordingly.If you’re hunting in a place where the squirrel population is high, like where we were, you don’t need to move around the forest. Be observant and watch what they do and eat. They respond differently to the weather and the food available. Just find a nice comfortable spot and be prepared.”
In the days when we hunted winter squirrels, there were mostly red squirrels, but today there are more gray ones. It was rare to even see a gray one. The red ones are a bit bigger, so they have more meat. A neighbor loves to eat squirrel, so when he brought him a couple he was always happier when he had red squirrels than gray.
Another advantage of winter hunting is that when the temperatures are cool, you don’t have to worry about preparing them in the field because the meat doesn’t spoil. When we got our six squirrels home, my mom was ready to make breakfast, so we made the game and then she made chipmunks chipmunks with biscuits and gravy. She hit the spot after an early morning hunt.
After gun deer season is history, many hunters put away their rifles until fall, but more and more hunters are finding that chasing small game like rabbits and squirrels can prolong hunting season and add some good meat to eat in your freezer.
Ken White writes about hunting and fishing for News-Leader. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.