Believe it or not, you don’t have to be from Kentucky to hunt and eat squirrel. Often associated with hillbillies and hobos, these “chickens of the trees” are super fun to hunt and good eating too. As a matter of fact, squirrel has become one of the hottest things in the United Kingdom in recent years, often flying out of the meat case faster than it can be ordered.
There are basically four types of tree squirrels; fox squirrels (the largest), gray squirrels (including the eastern and western), Albert’s squirrels, and pine squirrels, which are the smallest (and loudest) of tree squirrels. In California’s foothills and mountains, western gray squirrels are everywhere. Often, they lope across the highway and when they get about half way across, change their mind and head back the other way, causing challenging driving obstacles and nervous wives.
But they are a blast to hunt. Here are some tips for hunting gray squirrels:
Spot and stalk
A good tactic is to drive slowly until you spot one and then stalk it. Move quietly and slowly, keeping behind trees so he doesn’t see you, kind of like cat and mouse. This technique has worked quite well for me. Just make sure you keep safety in mind if you get a shot.
Sit and wait
This is a good technique for those times when you’re on foot and you are in an area where you know the squirrels are. Simply sit quietly (make sure you have good cammo on including your face) and wait for them. Chances are good that they will start moving around through the trees and on the ground. This is by far my favorite (and most productive) strategy.
Stir up the leaves
Gray squirrels make a heck of a racket in the woods looking for food. But when predators approach, they get very still. An old timer told me to put my hands in the leaves and stir them up, making noise that sounds like a squirrel feeding. Often, this starts the ball rolling and other squirrels will join in. Do it in intervals and take a shot when you get a chance.
Rub two quarters together
Believe it or not, rubbing two quarters together mimics the sound of a squirrel feeding (the same old guy told me that). Once again, do it in intervals and then wait until you get a response. Then you can either wait or try to stalk in for the kill.
Choosing the right gun
I hear people talk about shotguns but they have a tendency to destroy too much meat and take the sport out of it. I like my trusty Ruger 10/22 because it keeps it challenging and helps me work on my marksmanship. I have also killed my share of squirrels with my pellet gun, which works just fine too. I also love to shoot them with my small primitive bow (made it myself). Archery season opens up almost a month before the general squirrel season here in California so I get an extra month (just like deer season) to get some game—and it keeps me in practice.
The bottom line is that squirrel is an excellent animal to hunt and they are pretty darn tasty as well. They taste like a combination between duck and lamb and are usually pretty tender. They can be roasted over the fire, barbecued or put in the crock pot (my favorite) with some carrots, onions and potatoes for a fine tasting (and healthy) stew. Try it and I bet you’ll be hooked!
Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons