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How to Hunt Squirrels — 8 Basics Tips & Tricks

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Among all game animals, squirrels probably aren’t the first to come to mind. However, they are one of the easiest animals to track down and kill. While some people may think that all you need to do is buy a gun and shoot them, there is more to it than that. 

If you want to have a successful squirrel hunting trip, here are some essential tips and tricks to help you. We also discuss some aspects surrounding the legality and the best time to hunt them.

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Things You Should Know Beforehand

The Legality of Hunting Squirrels

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Whether or not you can legally hunt squirrels depends on where you live. In the United States, each state has different laws and regulations regarding hunting. For example, some states allow year-round hunting, while others only allow it during certain seasons.

It is essential that you check with your state’s wildlife agency to see what the laws are in your area. You could be fined or even jailed if you break the law.

Additionally, some squirrel species may be protected under state law. Therefore, if you want to hunt these squirrels, you need to obtain a furbearer or small game license from your state.

The criterion for getting the license also differs across states. Some states may allow you to hunt only in specific locations, while others limit your hunting to a particular date or season. For example, Missouri only allows you to hunt gray squirrels during specific months.

Some states only let you hunt squirrels on park grounds owned by the state. Thus, if you want to hunt squirrels on private property, you’ll have to get permission from the property owner.

When Is the Best Time to Hunt?

The best time to hunt squirrels is during their active season, which is during the fall. During this time, they start stocking food for the winter, so they’re most active while they forage for food.

Squirrels tend to be more active during warm parts of the day, although you’ll also see them during dusk hours. But then again, the activity of squirrels also depends on their species.

For instance, gray squirrels are most active before sunrise. Therefore, you need to be up early if you want to hunt them.

Meanwhile, fox squirrels tend to be most active in the early hours after dawn.

What Is the Best Weapon to Hunt Squirrels With?

Choosing the right weapon is imperative, as it can make or break your hunting trip. The most common weapons used to hunt squirrels include caliber rifles, bows, and shotguns.


hunter shotgun aimin dawn dusk low light red dot sight
Image Credit: Volodymyr TVERDOKHLIB, Shutterstock

Since a shotgun has a large spread, it’s ideal for close-range hunting. It’s also a good choice to avoid damaging the meat. When using a shotgun, opt for one with a rifled barrel.

It can shoot slugs accurately, which is essential since you need to make a clean kill. You don’t want to wound the animal so that it suffers.


If you’ve got the skill and the accuracy, you can also use a bow to hunt squirrels. A bow is an excellent choice if you want to avoid disturbing other animals in the area.

Go for a broadhead that works well for hunting small game. A large broadhead can damage the meat.


Image Credit: robbrownaustralia, Pixabay

A rifle is a good choice if you want to hunt from a distance. It’s also more accurate than a shotgun, so you’re less likely to wound the animal.

The .22 caliber rifle is the ideal weapon for hunting squirrels since it allows you to achieve a precision kill shot. A pro tip is to aim for the squirrel’s head because it preserves the meat and the hide.

You can also use an air rifle since these are perfect for hunting squirrels, fowl, and rabbits. However, it will take a lot of practice to get a humane kill out of an air rifle.


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How to Hunt Squirrels – 8 Basic Tips & Tricks

Now that you know the right time and weapon to hunt squirrels, let’s discuss some tips to ensure you don’t go home empty-handed.

1. Locate the Food Source

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Squirrels typically prefer eating acorns, beechnuts, hickory nuts, and pine seeds. Thus, you’re likely to find them near these food sources. You can also try setting up a feeder to attract them to a specific spot.

If you find a tree with many nuts at its base, you’re likely to find a squirrel around. Sit and wait for them to arrive.

2. Be Patient

Patience is key when hunting squirrels. You need to be quiet and still as you wait for them to show up. If they spot you, they’re likely to bolt, and you’ll lose your chance of getting a shot.

3. Listen Carefully

You don’t necessarily have to visually spot a squirrel to know it’s there. You can also listen for telltale signs, such as twigs snapping and leaves rustling. These noises will give away their location.

When squirrels are climbing trees, sections of tree bark fall on the ground. If you hear this sound, be on the lookout, as they’re likely to be close by.

4. Use Bait

Squirrel and bird perched on tree branch
Image Credit: KellyNelson, Shutterstock

If you’re having trouble spotting squirrels, you can try using bait to lure them out. You can place the bait on the ground or in a trap. The most common baits include corn, apple slices, and sunflower seeds. However, keep in mind that it is illegal to bait squirrels in some states, so be sure to check your local laws.

5. Shoot at the Right Place

You should shoot a squirrel in its head since it ensures instant death. It lessens the animal’s suffering and also preserves the meat.

If it’s hard to aim for its head, go for the heart instead. A squirrel’s heart is located right below the neck in the upper body region. However, don’t shoot the squirrel’s body if you want to retain the meat.

6. Shoot From the Side

man hunting in the wild
Image Credit: jackmac34, Pixabay

Instead of shooting from behind or the front, shoot a squirrel from the side. It’s easier to hit its head or heart from this angle. Plus, you can preserve more meat this way.

If you shoot a squirrel from the back or front, the bullet may penetrate its body excessively, leaving no edible meat behind.

7. Dress Appropriately

Wearing the right clothes is crucial as it helps you blend in with your surroundings. Also, you don’t want the squirrel to spot you and bolt before you get a chance to take a shot.

Opt for clothing in earthy tones, such as green, brown, and black. Avoid wearing anything that’s brightly colored or has patterns.

8. Go Early in the Day

The best time to hunt squirrels is early in the day, such as at dawn or right before sunset. They’re more active during these times and are also easier to spot.

As the day goes on, they tend to hide in trees and are harder to find. So, if you go out in the middle of the day, you’re likely to come home empty-handed.

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Final Thoughts

Now that you know the best time and methods for hunting squirrels, it’s time to head out and try your luck. Be patient, use bait if necessary and legal, and aim for the head or heart.

Dress appropriately and go early in the day for the best results. With these tips, you should be able to fill your freezer with plenty of squirrels this season.

Featured Image Credit: Capri23auto, Pixabay

About the Author Jeff Weishaupt

Jeff is a tech professional by day, writer, and amateur photographer by night. He's had the privilege of leading software teams for startups to the Fortune 100 over the past two decades. He currently works in the data privacy space. Jeff's amateur photography interests started in 2008 when he got his first DSLR camera, the Canon Rebel. Since then, he's taken tens of thousands of photos. His favorite handheld camera these days is his Google Pixel 6 XL. He loves taking photos of nature and his kids. In 2016, he bought his first drone, the Mavic Pro. Taking photos from the air is an amazing perspective, and he loves to take his drone while traveling.