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Squirrel Season Opens in Most of the Country!

Posted by on September 7, 2012

One of the things that gets my blood pumping as summer turns to fall, is the start of squirrel season. I had never seriously hunted the tree dwelling variety, but on moving to the Midwest about a decade ago found them to be a great small game species for airgun hunting. It was once said that squirrels were the favorite game animal in North America, and squirrel hunting was an anticipated event in much of the country. It still is in many places, though the increased populations of deer and turkey has diminished it somewhat. This means that even if you hunt public land, you’ll often have the woods to yourself before and after deer season.

Lining up the shot with the Huntsman C;assic on an early morning hunt.

The great thing about squirrel hunting is that bushytails occur almost everywhere in the country; populations are generally good, seasons long, limits high, and they are a fun to hunt! I go after them in Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Virginia, Missouri, and a few other states almost every year. In my current home state of Indiana, the season starts around mid-August and continues into January. But if I get real hard up for a hunt, I’ll drop down to Kentucky for their spring season which last for a couple short weeks.

Traditionally hunters use a .22 rimfire or a shotgun, but I’m telling you that nothing is better than an accurate mid to high power air rifle in .22 or .25 calibers. A .177 is fine as well, but the bigger calibers slam these tenacious rodents and gives a bit more latitude on shot placement. I prefer head shots, but will take a chest shot if that’s all that’s being offered. A gun with a shrouded barrel is a big plus when hunting around farms and small holdings as the occupants aren’t bothered by your early morning ramblings.

And an early morning start will help you fill your limit more consistently. Tree squirrels can be seen moving about any time of the day; however they are definitely most active at daybreak, followed by dusk. My favorite way to hunt them when there are still leaves on the trees is to (very) slowly wander through the woods, stopping often and listening. Lates summer and early fall squirrels will leave their nests and dreys early in the morning and climb up into the canopy, where they’ll start gnawing mast (acorns, hazelnuts, walnuts, etc) and dropping them to the forest floor to be buried later. It’s hard to see them at first because the foliage is so thick at this time of year, but when you see these “cuttings” raining down you’ll eventually be able to track the source.

Hunt hardwood forests with lots of mast producing trees and you’ll find squirrels

In the winter time the early mornings are still best, but you’ll find squirrels on the ground much more frequently. I hunt both gray and fox squirrels in my area and their territories overlap, though as a rule the grays are out a bit earlier and spend more time in the trees while the larger fox squirrels stay active later in the morning and spend more time on the ground. But that’s a rule of thumb, you might well find either species in either place, at any time! Being out on an early morning when there is snow on the ground is my favorite time to hunt squirrels, in my experience it’s the most productive as well.

I hunt them with PCP’s and springers, both are effective and both are fun. I’ve been out seven or eight times this season (which is only two weeks old), and have been using my new Daystate Huntsman Classic the most, but have also used the AirForce Talon, a Crosman Nitro Piston springer, and my RWS 350 Magnum rifles. One of the great things about squirrel hunting is that in most places you can find a hunting ground close to home. Like a lot of people I have a pretty busy life with my family and day job (yes I do have one of those), so being able to do a couple hour hunt early in the morning or after work really increases my opportunities to get out into the field with my rifle!

Airguns and squirrels, it doesn’t get much better for the small game hunter!

A bit later in the season I’ll do a follow up post featuring specific guns, pellets, and ancillary gear that I use such as binoculars, range finders, shooting sticks, hunting packs and game carriers. We’ll also take a look at useful techniques and I’ll get a couple of friends that are the masters of the game to talk with us. If you’re already out there squirrel hunting, have fun and good luck! If you like to hunt and haven’t tried tree squirrels (fox, grey, and Aberts), get out there and give it a try!

13 Responses to Squirrel Season Opens in Most of the Country!

  1. nyhunter

    great to see a hunting blog here, jim. looks like you’ve been having some fun already this season.i’m heading out this evening for some squirrel action. i’ll be taking my patriot quattro in 25 caliber though.i try to stick with springers for squirrels so i don’t have to worry about bringing a tank or pump. i have to make sure the rws48 in 22 sees some action as well this season. i had new guns to try out last season and she stayed in the rack. feeling neglected now.our bow season starts october first here and i’m looking to get a hatsan 25 supercharger in 22 as a stand gun for the squirrels that always seem to molest my deer hunts!

    • Jim Chapman

      Good to be here and thanks for commenting. I know what you mean about springers, having a fully self contained small game system is great. I get out every year with them, especially for tree squirrel and rabbit hunting. Good idea about your tree stand, seems like every time I get up in the trees on a deer hunt every squirrel within a mile is out in plain view, but when I go squirrel hunting they go into stealth mode. I sometimes think about bringing my climbing Stand out specifically for squirrel hunting, but know my buddies would never let me live that down! Good luck, post up and let us know how it goes.

  2. Oscar

    Great to see you’re having a great squirrel season. Florida Fish and Game is considering allowing the taking of rabbit and squirrel with an airgun, so I keep my fingers crossed. If I may ask: I have a Daystate exactly like yours, without the silencer, and I haven’t been able to get one from England. Any suggestions.
    Please keep up the good work.
    Best regards
    oscar

    • Jim Chapman

      Hi Oscar,
      Was out yesterday morning before work, and there were squirrels everywhere….. But I kept missing! In disgust I hiked backed to the car and swapped my springer for the pcp sitting in my rack (I’ve got this cool three gun case that hangs down behind the rearseat and is always equipped with a springer, pcp, and my shotgun)and went back out. Saw four more squirrels and dropped all with head shots. Got home and found the springer was shooting about four inches high, the scope must have walked back on the rail (always use a one piece mount or a scope stop on your springers kids 🙂 ). I’m checking on your question regarding the suppressor for your Daystate, and will post ASAP.

  3. Jim Chapman

    Oscar,
    As a quick follow up, I just spoke with the guys at AoA and they can install the same suppressor as that used on my gun. For legal reasons they will install, and it will be a permanent attachment to your guns barrel. They can give you the details if you contact them directly. It is a great upgrade for this already great rifle.

  4. Oscar

    Thank you Jim, pitty that I didn’t know that was an option when I got my Daystate from AoA, which by the way handled the transaction beautifully. I will contact them.
    Best regards
    oscar

    • Jim Chapman

      Oscar, they may not have had the option available when the gun was ordered. But I am sure they can fix you up now. Had my Classic out for a short hunt this morning ….. Man I love this gun!

  5. Randy Mitchell

    We have to get out again for a hunt, Jim! It has been too long! The squirrels are pretty good here in KY this year with the harvest going on. Give me a call.

    For those interested, KY will allow .177 through .22, but not the .25 for some odd reason. So keep that in mind if you are going to buy an airgun to hunt small game in KY.

    Enjoyed the article! Beautiful guns you are using!

    Randy

    • Jim Chapman

      Hi Randy,
      Great to have you stop by the blog. Randy is one of my longtime air gunning buddies, I’ve used muzzle loading airguns to hunt deer with him in Kentucky, he came over to hunt big game with an air rifle in South Africa with me, and we’ve done a fair bit of squirrel hunting over the years. I hadn’t done much squirrel hunting before moving to the Midwest, and I learned a lot about how to do it from Randy,

      Kentucky is one of my favorite spots for bagging bushytails……. and I’ll get down there to see you Randy before we move (my family is relocating to Minneapolis before the years end). Nobody is quite sure why Kentuckys wildlife management prohibits the .25, but I’m just fine with the .22 or .177 anyways. If anybody has questions on air gunning in KY, Randy is a great resource!

  6. Steve Vines

    Howdy Jim –

    I always love to read anything about my two favorite hobbies, those being airguns and squirrel hunting. Your blog didn’t disapoint in either category. Thanks for the good read and if you’re ever in the Metro Nashville area, do look me up. Would love to sling lead, hunt, or just jaw jack about hunting & airguns!

    Merry Christmas

    Steve Vines

    • Jim Chapman

      Hi Steve,
      Timing is everything, a few months ago I was going to Nashville on a regular basis for business, but wrapped it up. If I get out that way again would like to do a hunt with you! Thanks for the kind words on the blog, a couple of my favorite things too. Have you been getting out to the woods much this season?

  7. Marcus Hannah

    Hello Jim,

    I see you’re a big fan of the Verminator Mk2 .25 cal, and so am I. I know the Verminator Extreme in .25 is pushing up to 46 fpe. Does the Mk2 .25 cal produce the same power, or less? I already have a FX Whisper T12 (great rifle), and it’s around 44 fpe. If I purchase a Verminator Mk2 for hunting and field purposes, based on number of shots, I would hope that it’s fpe would at least be equivalent or greater than my Whisper’s 44 fpe. Give your take please.

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