Aim small: Late-season squirrels are a fun challenge

In late winter with the leaves gone from most trees, squirrels can be found hiding out high among the branches or working quickly on the ground in search of the last of the acorn crop. (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

In late winter with the leaves gone from most trees, squirrels can be found hiding out high among the branches or working quickly on the ground in search of the last of the acorn crop. (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

By Kevin Tate

Outdoors Writer

Rabbit and quail seasons still have many days to go but, for those who like to spend their time among the tall timber, squirrel season is in full swing. Approaching squirrel hunting with the same seriousness accorded deer or any other big game goes a long way toward determining the outcome, experienced squirrel hunters say.

For Richard Tucker, an avid, life-long squirrel hunter, a few key steps he keeps in mind help him every time he steps into the woods.

Whistling Dixie

“First of all, I like to have the sun at my back like the outlaw Josey Wales,” Tucker said. “That gives you an advantage. The sun coming up behind you silhouettes you and makes it harder for the squirrels to see what you are. Then, once the sun does get up, you don’t want to be squinting into it all the time.”

Getting close to the ground the squirrels are using can often be determined by what the weather’s done lately, he said.

“In the early season or when it’s wet, they’re on the ridges,” he said. “If it’s dry, they’ll be down in the bottoms more. Overall, walking the ridges is more effective than standing in the bottoms.”

Quiet time

Beyond sun angles and basic location, Tucker says stealth is the next consideration, and one that can’t be overstated.

“You want to make yourself as close to invisible as you can,” he said. “Avoid cracking limbs, but I’ve found, even when you’re walking through dry leaves, you can walk a short distance and stop without disturbing anything. When I do stop, I like to stop behind a tree I can hide behind. I don’t like to just stand out in the open if I’m walking a lot.”

Some dedicated squirrel hunters use a call that imitates a squirrel’s territorial bark, but Tucker says he prefers a different trick.

Patience pays off

“If there are leaves still on the trees, or dead leaves on a small tree, sometimes I’ll shake a small tree in the way a squirrel on it would, and that can spark the territorial nature in squirrels that will move to investigate.”

Ultimately it’s patience that makes the most difference for hunters, he said.

“The squirrels aren’t going to be in there in the same place every time,” he said. “You have to be willing to walk without seeing something. There’s no foolproof method when you’re not using dogs.

“You have to develop a sharp eye and recognize what’s a squirrel and what’s a limb.”