You know…when the temperatures are in the high 80’s and 90’s, it may be difficult to consider squirrel hunting as a fall season, but it is. Nebraska’s squirrel season began August 1 and runs until January 31, 2018. Squirrels may not be “big game” but they sure are fun to hunt.
Shooting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise to sunset. I like to do my hunting early at the beginning of the season to beat the heat…and the mosquitoes. The daily bag limit is 7 and you can have up to 28 in possession.
At this time of the year, squirrels are focusing on eating and storing away food for the winter. We don’t have near as many squirrels here as they do in eastern Nebraska, but when I do my scouting, I start by searching where I have seen squirrels and then look for where they are feeding. Trees that have a mast crop/acorns and timbered areas next to cornfields are good places to start looking.
I like to slowly stalk through the timber listening for squirrels. Squirrels make a surprising amount of noise, if you know what to listen for. They chatter a lot and their hopping around on the ground sounds like a much larger animal walking. Many a hunter has been startled by the sounds of a rogue squirrel bouncing through dry leaves! Why is it that the brain always equates this sound with a charging bear?
As soon as I hear squirrels, I carefully move closer and find a spot to sit and watch for a while. If you sit still, squirrels will eventually ignore you and keep going about their business. I just sit back and learn their patterns. Don’t just look up in the trees. Squirrels start spending more time on the ground when they begin storing food for winter.
You can use any legal weapon defined by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to hunt squirrels. It is really a matter of personal choice. I’ve always preferred to hunt squirrels with .22 caliber firearms. I used rifles for years and then switched to pistols some years ago to add a bit more challenge to the hunt. I’ve even hunted squirrels with high-powered air rifles.
Jeff Rawlinson, Assistant Manager with the Information and Education division of the Nebraska Game and Parks commission, has been on my radio show several times to talk about squirrel hunting techniques. Rawlinson also likes to find an area where squirrels are active, then find a comfortable spot to sit and wait.
“When squirrels are active and busy with their winter preparations, I think they loose track of you after you’ve stayed still for a while,” Rawlinson commented. “I sit and wait, and eventually a squirrel will work itself into range. A good .22 rimfire or a .17 rifle, equipped with a scope is great squirrel medicine.”
One of my favorite techniques involves a pair of hunters moving through timber in a coordinated fashion. Start by moving into the timber slowly and quietly. Spread out until you have 10-15 yards between hunters. Stand still and listen for about 15 minutes to determine where the squirrels might be. When its time to move, one hunter advances forward slowly while the other hunter stays still. This is a very methodical way to hunt.
Squirrels will key in on the moving figure. Squirrels have a natural tendency to try and stay out of site, so as one hunter moves forward, the squirrel moves around the tree to stay out of sight of the moving hunter. Quite often the hunter who is standing still will be able to see the squirrel come into view and can make a well aimed shot. I have taken lots of squirrels this way.
Another technique I like to use is to sneak into a spot where squirrels are active before dawn and just get myself under cover, actually bury myself in the leaves on the ground. As squirrels come out to start their day, you can get a few before they figure out what’s happening. Using an air rifle in this situation can be a great advantage. Because an air rifle is so much more quiet, it takes longer for the squirrels to realize there is a threat.
The hunting season is here again! Things are getting right with the world!