Is The Tradition of Squirrel Hunting Dying Out?

David points out that there is still two months of prime squirrel hunting season left in the new year.

Remington Model 33 Rifle and a Grey Squirrel
Remington Model 33 Rifle and a Grey Squirrel

USA – -(AmmoLand.com)- Every year when deer season ends, hunters all over the country put their guns away, start watching football. Or wait until spring for the turkeys to start gobbling and rarely bother to get out in the woods during the months in between. But they're missing out on one of the most fun things to do during the winter downtime, and that's to hunt for squirrels.

Squirrel Hunting

Here in New York, squirrel season is the longest hunting season we have, starting on the first day of September and ending at the end of February giving you a total of six months to put some small critters into a stew pot, and if you've never had a bowl of old-fashioned squirrel stew, you haven't lived.

Sadly the older I get, and the more people I talk to, I find there are less and fewer hunters who bother to go out for squirrels anymore. Most seem to find it too bothersome to grab a .22 or a shotgun that early when it's too warm, and they seem not to like going out in the winter when it's cold. I can tell you though that there's nothing like it at either time of year.

I started squirrel hunting at the same time I started deer hunting when I was eighteen or so. After a while, I started seeing so many big grey squirrels I got tired of watching them from the deer stand. On the days I would never see signs of deer, I began wondering why I didn't pop one of those abundant early season squirrels.

The next year I began carrying a .22 pistol, and I got practicing to the point where I could bag a grey from under 25 yards. Then once deer season was over, I started taking a gun out for squirrel and my winter meat started to increase.

I found I was able to get a lot more squirrels with a .22 rifle than a shotgun. That wasn't so much because of skill, but in some of the woods where I hunt, you might see a squirrel out to thirty or forty yards where a .410 might be pushing it. My favorite gun has been my old Remington Model 33 single shot that I have owned for almost twenty years. In the time since I have owned it the number of squirrels that have been collected with that gun number in the triple digits.

Remington Model 33 .22 Long Rifle

Over the years I have tried a variety of .22 LR loads, of all brands but I have had the most luck with nothing more than standard velocity loads. They tend to be quieter than the high-velocity rounds and have occasionally scored a double on squirrels, the second grey not knowing what happened to the first. I have also had the occasional squirrel stay within gun range when I have missed.

I have taken squirrels with an odd assortment of handguns over the years. In addition to the few .22 LR handguns, I have bagged them with a .22 Magnum Ruger Single Six, and even a Smith & Wesson Model 39 9mm; the FMJ round didn't do much damage to the meat, passing clean through.

Smith & Wesson Model 39 9mm is a fun squirrel getter.

Squirrel hunting is one of the age-old hunting sports of this country. Back in the days before refrigerators and a way to preserve meat, it was nothing for someone to go out and shoot a couple of squirrels for dinner for the family, and that task many times fell to the younger members of the family.

Squirrel hunting taught marksmanship skills in a time when ammunition was scarce and to a farm family with only a few dollars, it was also expensive. General stores sold .22 rounds in partial boxes, selling however many rounds the buyer could afford at a time, and those rounds were precious.

Most people today think hitting a deer at 100 yards is a tricky shot. Not to an experienced squirrel hunter. I've seen old timers who can knock a nice grey out of a tree at thirty or forty yards with a .22 like it was nothing special.

Taking your .22 to the range and plinking away at a target is just fine, but if you plan on taking that gun out to hunt squirrels, you need to be able to hit the critters. One of my favorite targets has always been either playing cards or simple 3×5 index card. Put them out at the 25-yard line and have at it. A playing card turned sideways is about the same area as the vitals as a large grey squirrel. Get out the Ace of spades or a face card, and you can mimic a target roughly the size of a squirrel's head.

Squirrel hunting seems to be a dying sport. I can maybe count the number of people on one hand I know who has ever done it locally in my lifetime. Most hunters now seem to stick to whitetails and turkeys and leave the rest of woods alone. All I can say is you are missing out on quality time in the woods.

At one-time squirrel hunting was probably the most common way to get meat for the family. It was a right of passage for the young boys in a family to start hunting, heck; even Annie Oakley got her beginning bagging small game, squirrels in particular when she was a teenager. Don't just go out and chase squirrels for yourself and the meat you can get, but take a youngster with you and get them started in it too, you won't regret it.


David LaPell
David LaPell

About David LaPell

David LaPell has been a Corrections Officer with the local Sheriff's Department for thirteen years. A collector of antique and vintage firearms for over twenty years and an avid hunter. David has been writing articles about firearms, hunting and western history for ten years. In addition to having a passion for vintage guns, he is also a fan of old trucks and has written articles on those as well.

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Alex JacksonKalmanwilly dTennessee BuddJohn Eperjesi Recent comment authors
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Alex Jackson
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Alex Jackson

I like to hunt gray squirrels in southeastern Texas with a .410 never used something different.

Kalman
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Kalman

I started my hunting life with .22 LR and my first game was squirrel. All of you said here are right David.

Thanks a lot for a nice post.

willy d
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willy d

@John Eperjesi; You are right how times have changed, used to go to school on the bus carrying your gun to shoot at the range at school, with safety coarse and proper handling along with competition shooting thrown in as an extra to see who could out shoot who, memories of a past time!!!!!!!! Boy don’t even think about that today!!!!!!!

Bill Zardus
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Bill Zardus

How long does it take for a comment to show up ?

Bill Zardus
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Bill Zardus

Local governments and/or power companies should be paying people a bounty to trap grey squirrels. Most people are too lazy and/or too stupid to do this without some financial incentive The easiest way to protect bird feeders is to trap grey squirrels with a Havahart model 1083 and then put them in a fish tank for about 20 minutes. I’ve sent 225 squirrels to squirrel heaven in less than 4 years. When you use google to find news stories for “squirrels” it very seldom involves good news. Most frequently squirrels are mentioned in stories about house fires or some other… Read more »

willy d
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willy d

Oh, the memories of those little bushy tailed critters, always fun to hunt when you got home after school and didn’t have any homework to do. I had a friend up the road and plans were made on the bus to see how fast we could get changed and get to the woods, It was always fun I had a 514 Remington single shot, that I still have today, was my first gun a gift from my mother, she always said it was something that would teach me to be safe and to be responsible for my actions. My friend… Read more »

Dave in Fairfax
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Dave in Fairfax

I’ve still got a Stevens Mod 73, Remington 550-1, Remington M514, and a Winchester Mod 270 Deluxe, among others that are newer. There’s a lot to be said for a single shot .22. Teaches you to aim, and I do like the look of walnut and blue steel. Even if some of it is showing wear.

Wild Bill
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Wild Bill

Has anyone even got a squirrel recipe anymore?

Dave in Fairfax
Editor
Dave in Fairfax

Hey Wild Bill,
Recipe? I doan need no steenkin’ recipe.
Seriously though, I don’t use recipes for much of anything. I just cook what I want to make.
Dumplings and biscuits are pretty standard recipes, the web is full of them. Spices are to your taste. Make your favorite gravy if you want to do it that way.
Again, seriously, you’re over thinking it.

Tennessee Budd
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Tennessee Budd

Dave, I agree! It’s easy for folks to get into the habit of overthinking cookery. I remember watching my grandmother & great-grandmother cooking, and neither usually used any kind of measuring device. Of course, they’d cooked all their lives, & knew what “about enough” looked like. I never measure teaspoons or tablespoons of salt & such things, for instance: I pour into my palm, & know what’s about right. Admittedly, I learned that trick from Justin Wilson’s cooking show, long ago. Biscuits are especially easy–all you have to remember is “a quarter”. For every cup of SR flour, you need… Read more »

Oldvet
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Oldvet

@WB…We always fried them “just like chicken” , around here though they will eat hedge apples (osage orange) . Also known as bodarc in some parts. when they do one must leave the lid off of the skillet or a undesirable strong taste from the hedge apple will remain. Sammy says hi .

Having a touch of winter down there I see.

Wild Bill
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Wild Bill

@Dave and OV, Thanks for the guidance. Yep, snow and ice almost got us. Every dog, the new stray cat, all the horses and cows got deep bedding and extra rations. Now … barn cleaning! And Happy New Doggy treats to the Sammy Samster.

tomcat
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tomcat

Back in the day I took my boys rabbit and squirrel hunting. No deer hunting because of the risk of getting shot by some idiot or duck hunting because of the depth of the water. They learned hunting and gun use that still benefits them today. The oldest is an avid hunter, the middle one could care less (but does have a gun) and the youngest has hunted but he has very little time to do it. I feel blessed that I could teach them and had the time and property to work with them. I no longer hunt but… Read more »

Big Daddy
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Big Daddy

When I lived in Ohio, we hunted squirrels all the time . They would get as fat as a cat. If you can clean a catfish you can clean a squirrel . A .22 is the way to go. Dot that bushy tail’s eye! Hunting season always started with squirrel then rabbit , pheasant and grouse . Gotta go ,I’m getting hungry !

John Dunlap
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John Dunlap

Around here, nobody hunts squirrels because there’s no legal season. Look at the second question/answer for the reasoning behind that (https://californiaoutdoors.wordpress.com/tag/squirrel-hunting/). Perhaps the logic is sound, as I only know of one place not far from Big Bear where Western Gray squirrels are easy to find. I think small game hunting in general is on the way out here anyway, barring some serious and overdue changes in Sacramento. Just try finding lead free ammo for your .22 and you’ll get the picture.

Jim W
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Jim W

My first hunting experience with Dad was squirrels in Easterrn N.C. Dad had an early Savage 24 over and under in .22/.410. It was the early model with the barrel selector on the side, not the top like the newer cheaper feeling models. Mom would plunk the skinned Easter Grey’s in a pot of veggies with her spices and make dumplings on top at the end just before serving. By then they tasted delicious. Interesting side bar, I tried for years to find another rifle in that early model, the “J” I think it was. I don’t recall ever seeing… Read more »

John Eperjesi
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John Eperjesi

That was my first gun. I was 14. It was in the window of a drug store in Bordentown NJ. $35. I paid $5 per week until it was paid off. With the last payment, the druggist asked me if my parents knew I was buying it and I told him yep. He wrapped it in kraft paper and I walked home. Times were different in 1960.

JD
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JD

I remember viewing an episode of Bizarre Foods which featured a boutique restaurant in the Appalachian Mtn’s where the owner/chef gathered many of the ingredients for the menu items in the surrounding forests. One of the items included tree squirrel that he harvested with a firearm. It didn’t appear that there was a derth of customers for the exotic fare.

Joseph P Martin
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Joseph P Martin

I grew up hunting squirrels in Arkansas and we have a squirrel hunt every year in New Mexico and/or Arizona. A bunch of us get together and camp out for 4 or 5 days and hunt and enjoy the fall weather in the Southwest mountains. In Arkansas the gray squirrels and fox squirrels were tender enough we could just fry them up, but out here, the Abert’s squirrels and chickaree squirrels are tough little guys and they usually are used in a stew or with dumplings. The main point is not so much harvesting the squirrels, but getting together and… Read more »

SK
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SK

I grew up hunting squirrels in Arkansas also. I squirrel hunted because there were no deer. And the deer season was very short. I love hunting and eating squirrels but hate cleaning them. I would rather clean 10 deer than any number of squirrels. My grandmother would fry them up and my grandfather would eat the brain. I remember we told my brother it was chicken so he would eat it. I have some friends in Santa Fe who believe they are poisonous and are scared to death to be around them. We found a Abert roadkill one day and… Read more »

Jim
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Jim

You know what is brown dangerous and lives in trees? A squirrel with a machine gun!

Jake
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Jake

Squirrel, gravy and biscuits were a breakfast treat when visiting Grandma’s farm. Man I miss it.

Ron
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Ron

I used to hunt squirrel many yrs ago. Yea, way too much trouble.
They are nothing but destructive ‘bushy tailed rats’.

R1

Clifffalling
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Clifffalling

What did we call it? Squirrel frickasee? Something like that. Honestly, I don’t miss it. Was a lot of work for a little bit of meat. My dad wrote an essay for readers digest years ago on cooking squirrel. I think it was published, but cant remember. It involved about 4 different manners of cooking, several sauces and about 6 hours total cook time. By the end, at which time the meat was not recognizable, it was eatable! I much prefer waskily wabbit! I do remember walking around the woods with my friends and hunting though. The long seasons allowed… Read more »

Steve
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Steve

I have not been squirrel hunting in years either. I used to go with my friend who was a retired colonel when I was a teenager. He would bake them with a few strips of bacon over them. I am in my 40s now and my wife isn’t keen on the idea of eating the cute little critters. It does bring back memories of hunting in the late winter sitting in the morning then walking around in the early afternoon. Any day out in the woods is better than sitting around.

TODD CARPENTER
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TODD CARPENTER

I HAVE BEEN HUNTING OVER THIRTY YEARS AND I LOVE DEER HUNTING BUT YOU JUST CAN’T BEAT GOING AFTER SQUIRRELS IT KICKS OFF MY SEASON AND KEEPS YOUR SHOOTING SKILLS UP TOO.FISHERS WILL WIPE OUT WIPE THEM OUT IF THEY COME INTO THE AREA IT HAPPENED TO ME ABOUT TWENTY YEARS AGO IN MY BEST HUNTING GROUNDS BUT BE PATIENT THEY WILL COME BACK.THE BEST TRICK I EVER LEARNED WAS JUST TO SIT DOWN AND RUB TWO PENNIES TOGETHER ,AND YOU WOULD’NT BELIEVE HOW FAST THEY COME BUT USE OLDER PENNIES NOT NEW ONES AS THE SOUND IS MUCH BETTER… Read more »

Vanns40
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Vanns40

Todd: I read your comment and it was interesting BUT, it would have been a lot easier to read and a lot faster if you hadn’t used all caps. It’s just the way most of us are accustomed to reading. Ordinarily I never would have commented but you had something worthwhile to say and I’d like to see more. What’s more, I’d like others to take the time to read your comments and they may not if you continue in all caps. In the electronic age using all caps signifies yelling.

Davy Crocket
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Davy Crocket

We have a small ten acres of woods and springs next to several hundred acres of woodland. The squirrels are disappearing. No one is hunting them. Logging over a century most of the good acorn oak trees, and other nut trees plums, and muscadines wild grapes are gone. I’ve tried to plant some but the deer or something get them while small. I saw what I thought was a Fisher over 30 years ago overhead on a tree limb over the road. They supposedly live far north of Tn. It had been feeding on a road kill and ran off… Read more »

Dave in Fairfax
Editor
Dave in Fairfax

I learned to shoot hunting tree rats a long time ago, far away. Thanks, Steve and Rick. Glad you brought up the BBQ, I was going to mention it. A nice sweet, hot, Texas style, BBQ works really well. It keeps the meat moist and makes almost candy. That’s the fast, easy way to hook someone on hunting. They clean easily and are plentiful. Learn to bark them and you don’t even mess up the meat.

Big Bubba
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Big Bubba

Squirrel hunting with my dad and grandpa are some of my earliest memories of “hunting”.
The started me at about 4 years of age. I’m 68 now and haven’t squirrel hunted in years, though I did take 2 deer this fall.
Both of my mentors are gone. I have no grandchildren and 2 children in 2 different time zones.
My palate has changed and the wife won’t eat them.
I suppose if it meant eating or starving, I’d hunt them again.

JMR
Guest
JMR

Probably is, deer hunting, turkey hunting, waterfowl, and upland bird hunting take all the glory. Deer and turkey mostly.

I haven’t done it in a few years, so I bought a T/CR22 just for it and rabbits last month. While my two 40xb Remingtons would do good they are a little heavy.

Looking to get a 20ga for the task as well by next year.

TOBY HORN
Guest
TOBY HORN

ive hunted squrals most of my hunting life and ive been hunting for 31 or 401 years I to bleve that its daying out
not because deer or other game is tackeing all the golery but other factors such as privet land ownership
not understanding the food value
the cutting down of our hardwoods
and finly not taching our kids how and what to do with them after thay are shot or how to hunt our kids spend far to
much time in front of a computer scern or in a class room being taught that squrles are cute and not FOOD!

Vanns40
Guest
Vanns40

Toby: The same thing has happened with the deer population in the Northeast. They’ve reached catastrophic proportions, in part, because people think they’re “so cute”, in part because seasons and limits haven’t been adjusted and finally because their just isn’t enough land to support the ever growing population. We need more deer hunters to stop starvation, the thousands of vehicle accidents and, although I haven’t seen it yet, I’m sure over population will play a part in the spread of CWD. When the deer population is so out of control that you have to have police, with suppressed rifles, come… Read more »

Jeff
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Jeff

I love the 20 ga. for squirrels and most any other upland birds or small game. My longest measured shotgun kill on a squirrel was 66 yards with a 20 gauge using Remington Express Long Range 2.75″, 1 oz. #5 shot.

JMR
Guest
JMR

Thanks for the suggestion. I know I tend to mess them up with the 12ga I figured a 20ga would be better for them.