Photo by Alamy
Just because winter is over and turkey season takes spring’s center stage doesn’t mean small-game hunters are through for the year. At least nine states offer spring squirrel-hunting seasons in May and June, presenting hunters with solid opportunities to get in the woods before summer hits full bore.
Seasons exist in Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, eastern Texas, Virginia, and Kansas. Some are long, such as in Arkansas, where it runs from mid-May through the end of February. Others are short, like in Virginia, where it’s just a couple of weeks in June.
Avoid the Heat
Hunt about three hours after dawn and a couple of hours before sunset. Squirrels may be out in the middle of the day, but if temperatures are climbing, it won’t be comfortable for you. If you hunt with dogs, be sure to find water or take a jug for them. And if you do find yourself in the afternoon woods, look for squirrels in dense foliage and on the shady sides of older trees.
Look High and Low
Squirrels will be digging in leaf litter for nuts they missed last autumn, so don’t pass over areas with mast trees: oaks, beech, hickory. Last autumn’s fallen leaves are still dry and crunchy, so keep your ears open for the sound of squirrels scrounging in the litter. But squirrels will be high in the trees, feeding on tender buds. Look in the highest, most limber branches.
Spot and Stalk
A good squirrel dog is a ton of fun, and an extra set of eyes never hurts. But if you don’t have a feist or cur, become a squirrel ninja. Be stealthy and patient. Listen for squirrels barking or chattering, and watch for jumping and chasing. If a squirrel is watching, keep still. Move when it moves, and take the good shot when it’s presented. Camo up with green-foliage patterns.
Take the Right Gun
My rule of thumb is a 12-gauge shotgun in leafy cover and a scoped .22 rifle when trees are bare. Shotguns cut through the leaves; the .22 presents more of a challenge, along with the chance for a longer shot. Plan accordingly, depending on spring leaf cover. I also always carry an 8×42 binocular to scan treetops and to find a flattened squirrel in the V of a limb.