Attention, deer hunters: Deer hunting regulations, including season dates, zones and bag limits, have been finalized for the 2018-19 season and are effective immediately. Click here to see the updated 2018-19 Kentucky Hunting and Trapping Guide. To view a video about what is new this year, click here​.

Squirrel Hunting

HABITAT

To hunt squirrels you need to take advantage of their diet: nuts from trees. The type of nut seems to vary from area to area or in some cases with each squirrel. The one exception is that acorns from red oak, which contains a chemical known as tannin, seem to be the last nuts eaten when squirrels have a choice. To find a good area to hunt gray squirrels, you need to be able to identify the following trees: hickory, beech, pecan, black walnut, and white oak. An area with these trees near a cornfield would be an excellent place for fox squirrels.

Squirrels are not dependent on a source of water. They can derive their needs for water from their food for the most part. They will drink from standing or running water if it is available, but are not required to go to water regularly as many animals are. A squirrel will use just enough of the tree in the forest to escape the predator at hand. When hunters enter the woods, the animal’s sharp eyes and ears pick up the movement and noise. Therefore, a steady, quiet approach will allow more successful shooting opportunities.

Squirrels are prey for many natural predators, and the squirrel uses all areas of the tree to escape them. For ground restricted predators such as most canines (gray fox are limited climbers), only a few feet of the trunk is sufficient escape habitat. When hawks attack and the den is not close at hand, the squirrel is much more agile in the thick branches than these larger birds. This area of a tree would not hide the squirrel from a bobcat, but the heavier cat can not chase the squirrel into the small twigs of the branch. Finally, if escape routes of the present tree have been exhausted, a quick jump to neighboring trees offers endless shelter. Individual squirrels will normally range over approximately 10 acres for food. They may expand their home up to 40 acres during breeding.

TIPS

Cuttings

The avid squirrel hunter takes a few hikes during the summer to locate areas where the squirrels are “cutting” the trees. The number of cuttings will give the hunter an idea of how concentrated the squirrels are in that area.

Time and Weather

Squirrels may be hunted all day, but appear to be most active the first hours of daylight and late afternoon. Some research shows they feed during bright moonlight. The best days for squirrel hunting would therefore be expected after dark nights. While squirrels may be seen during drizzle or light rain, they may become more active just after a heavy storm. Squirrels are usually inactive during snowstorms, but soon after the storm passes, they will be searching for the nuts they have hidden. Their sensitive noses allow them to find these nuts through the snow.

Still Hunting and Stalking

Most hunters sit quietly in the woods and wait for squirrel activity. By hiding in natural cover or a blind, hunters wait for the squirrels to show themselves. Stalking should be done very slowly, moving from one tree to another, listening, and carefully scanning the area for activity. Once squirrels are located, stalking hunters might consider becoming still hunters.

Patience is a Virtue

Whether the hunter is sitting in a favorite squirrel hangout or walking slowly through the woods, plan on being patient. First, trust yourself as a hunter. If you studied the forest and know there are squirrels there, wait them out. Second, once a squirrel is located be patient for the proper shot. If several squirrels are active, take the one that offers the best shot, then plan on being patient for the next one.

Squirrel Dog

A squirrel dog is not a necessity for success, but may speed up the hunting. Squirrels will often spot a hunter and play a hide and seek game. They will sneak around the base of the tree to keep track of a hunter’s location and bark warnings to other squirrels. A squirrel dog circles the tree and the squirrel now tries to escape the dog. As the dog circles, he brings the squirrel into full view of the hunter for a clean shot.

Throw a Rock

If you don’t have a dog to worry the squirrel, try throwing a rock to the other side of the tree. Squirrels have good hearing, and a rock may fool this one into thinking another hunter or predator is approaching. Be ready for a quick shot, as it won’t be fooled for long.

Call the squirrel

While squirrel calls are available commercially, old time hunters used what they had. By striking a coin, references indicate a silver dollar, against the butt plate of the gun, hunters could imitate a bark. By striking two coins together, they imitated a feeding chatter. The family “squirrel calling utensils” and methods are passed when several generations hunt together.

CLEANING AND PREPARATION

Two methods of skinning squirrels are commonly used. Either can be done in the field or at home. One is to split the skin across the back and insert two fingers into each side of the split. Now pull, removing the skin in either direction. The other method is called tail cutting. Cut the skin under the tail and cut through the bone in the tail. Stand on the squirrel’s tail and pull on both hind legs briskly. With tail cutting, the skin from the hind legs can now be carefully removed creating a loop of skin from which to hang the squirrel to finish the cleaning.


In both cases work the skin over the front legs and remove the feet at the first joint above the feet and the head at the neck. Now insert the tip of the knife just forward of the hind legs into the muscles surrounding the intestines and cut forward to the ribs. Take care that the knife does not penetrate into the internal organs. The rib cage can be easily split with the knife. Return to the rear legs and split the pelvic bone so the entire intestinal track can be removed. Now discard all internal organs.
Skinning any furred animal can leave considerable hair on the cleaned meat. This hair can be removed by first using clear tape wrapped around your fingers with the sticky side out. Lightly touch the hairs with the tape and remove them. During final preparation for freezer or cooking, look once again for resistant hair.


Once the squirrel is cleaned, cut off each leg and split the back just behind the ribs. As there is little meat on the ribs, they can be discarded. Soak the meat in ice cold salt water to remove blood. Carefully clean all areas where the animal was shot before freezing or cooking. For best freezing results, place in a plastic sack and cover the meat in water. Take care not to cut the plastic with broken bones and remove all air from the sack by squeezing gently until water begins to spill. Freezing in water will keep the squirrel without freezer burn for approximately 6 months.

RECIPES

Barbecued Squirrel

Betty A Pugh, Falmouth, Kentucky

  • 2 Dressed Squirrels cut in pieces
  • 3⁄4 Cup red wine
  • 1 Cup water
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 1 Large onion, chopped
  • 2 Carrots, sliced
  • 1 and a half to 2 cups barbecue sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste


In a kettle, boil, then simmer the squirrel pieces in the wine and water with the onion, carrots, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Cook covered for an hour. Remove squirrel pieces, place in a baking dish and cover with the barbecue sauce. Bake in preheated oven at 300 degrees for 45 minutes or until tender.

Squirrel Soup.

Found in Recipes, no source, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources

Young squirrels can be fried or broiled. This is recommended for older squirrels.

  • 3 Squirrels, cut in serving pieces
  • 1 Cup chopped onion
  • 3 qts of water
  • 2 Large cans of tomatoes,
  • 1⁄4 Cup diced bacon drained
  • 2 Cups diced potatoes
  • 1⁄4 tsp Cayenne
  • 2 Cups lima beans, fresh or frozen
  • 1⁄4 tsp Black pepper
  • 2 Cups corn, fresh or frozen.

    Place squirrel pieces in a large kettle. Add water. Bring slowly to boil, then reduce heat and simmer 1 1⁄2 to 2 hours, or until squirrel is tender. Skim surface occasionally. Remove meat from bones and return to liquid. Add cayenne, bacon, salt, pepper, onion, tomatoes, potatoes, and lima beans. Cook 1 hour. Add corn and continue to cook ten minutes. Spoon into soup plates and serve with cornbread and Cole slaw. Makes 6-8 servings Sound the