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Squirrel Season: Finding a Place To Hunt

Posted by on September 21, 2014

In this post I’ll explain how I go about finding new spots to hunt in unfamiliar territory. The internet has opened up a whole new set of tools for hunters, that accelerate the search for new hunting grounds!!

First step is to locate a map or list of areas, in this case its the WMA's, and Minnesota has a lot of them!

First step is to locate a map or list of areas, in this case its the WMA’s, and Minnesota has a lot of them.

Next step is to get directions and find the GPS coordinates.

Next step is to get directions and find the GPS coordinates.

As many of you know, after several years living in the Indianapolis area we moved up to Minneapolis about two years ago. But I was completely booked on out-of-state hunts last year, so this is really my first year of serious hunting in Minnesota. I have a couple of places that have been offered to me to hunt deer and turkey this season on private land, but I’m on my own finding places to squirrel hunt. In the ten or so seasons I’d passed in Indiana, I had a personal directory full of private and public land locations with great squirrel populations that had been accumulated over several years.

But now I had to start over, and the steps I’ve taken have already started to pay off for me. I thought that my approach might be of interest to readers that are going through the same trials and tribulations. One of the great things about squirrel hunting, is that the habitat they call home is just about everywhere. I live about 20 miles out of the city, and every day as I drive to work I see squirrels in the parks, the wooded lots between housing developments, and in the technology park where my office is situated. It seems like I can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a squirrel, but where to hunt them?

Next step is to zoom in and get an idea of the lay of the land before going onsite to for a prehunt scout.

Next step is to zoom in and get an idea of the lay of the land before going onsite to for a prehunt scout.

My approach focuses on three activities; a) talking to people at work, church, and that I know socially to see if they have contacts with farms or other properties I might be able to hunt, b) cold call farmers to see if they’ll let me do some low impact squirrel hunting, and c) do online research using google search engine and google earth to search out public hunting opportunities.

This year I’ve been lucky, a couple of the farmers I caught on their property during downtime (best not to bother them while they’re working) where they agreed to let me hunt squirrel with an airgun… no deer, no turkey, just squirrel and in both cases I believe it was the fact that I wasn’t using a firearm that sealed the deal. A guy at church has some friends with large properties, but ironically they welcome me to hunt deer, but really don’t me wandering over the places after squirrel until after the season ends. But the one that has paid off big for me has been my online research!

I started off searching for Minnesota Wildlife Management Areas (WMA), state forest, walk-ins, and other public hunting opportunities. Then I do a search to get information (on a WMA for instance) to find out what hunting opportunities are allowed. Once I find the areas I locate them on google map, and plan a route from my house to the site, noting the latitude and longitude to enter into my GPS. Next I start zooming in looking for stands of trees, hilly areas, woods bordering fields, etc to get some idea of where I might go.

I try to get out to a parcel of land I intend to hunt without a gun in non-peak hunting times, usually midday, and scout the area looking for mast producing trees and even better fresh cuttings. I print a highly magnified map before I go, and mark the places where I find food sources, likely den trees, and cuttings. Then on hunt day I get out before daybreak for my morning hunts or a couple hours before sunset for my afternoon hunts, slow stalking to my marked spots and sitting in wait when I reach them.

On my scouting trip I found areas with mast, den trees, and areas where there was obvious squirrel activities.

On my scouting trip I found areas with mast, den trees, and areas where there was obvious squirrel activities.

All the heavy folliage makes the early fall a challanging hunt.

All the heavy folliage makes the early fall a challanging hunt.

I went to one spot I’d found that’s about 20 miles from home, and ran over after church to do a quick scouting trip. Then I went home and gathered my girls for sushi and shopping, and then home to relax for a couple hours. At about 3:30 I drove back out, this time with my gun and gear and started working my way to a stand of hardwoods. This early in the fall the leaves are still in the trees, and it can be hard to get a shot even when you find the prey. I heard leaves being thrashed and some cuttings raining down, but never got an open shot so I moved on. Next stop was on a deep ravine with a small creek at the bottom, lots of vines, fallen branches, and shadows when I spotted a bushy tail popping over a log. Again he ran in and out of sight never giving me a shot, until about five yards later he appeared on my side of the bank to my extreme right. I moved excruciatingly slowly bringing my gun up, but just as I started to look through the scope he busted me and was off in a flash. So I moved on to a potential den tree I found on my earlier scouting trip, and set up about 40 yards away. Ten minutes came and went, it was getting late in the day and the sun was starting to drop, when out of the corner of my eye I spotted a gray up gnawing on a nut. This time I had a shot and my pellet hit dead on, with the big male gray dropping DOA.

I finally sat down and waited in ambush for Mr. Bushytail to come back, and was rewarded with a shot

I finally sat down and waited in ambush for Mr. Bushytail to come back, and was rewarded with a shot

One for the bag. With these short hunts and low (self induced) limits, it takes a while to fill the freezer but keeps me in the field throughout the year!

One for the bag. With these short hunts and low (self induced) limits, it takes a while to fill the freezer but keeps me in the field throughout the year!

These places I hunt are not high density populations that you’d find around a pecan or walnut orchard, and I usually have to work for each squirrel, which is what I really enjoy. These hunts are more like mini deer hunts rather than the type of rapid fire target rich prairie dog or ground squirrel shoots. On most of the smaller properties I give myself a three squirrel limit per trip and my plan is that when I take ten squirrels that spot will close for year. I’ll mark it in my journal, and wait till next year to visit again.

4 Responses to Squirrel Season: Finding a Place To Hunt

  1. Justin Wire

    I just started hunting squirrels in Minnesota too… last year, and I search for the wma sites too but now im going to also be using google maps to get a look at the layout of trees before I go now.

    Thanks for your contributions to this great hobby!

    • Jim Chapman

      Hi Justin;
      I have found an almost endless supply of small game hunting grounds within an hour or so of my house using these techniques. Found another area I’m heading out to in the morning. Let’s hear how it goes for you.
      Jim

      • Justin Wire

        Hey, how did that new area pan out for you last weekend? I ended up just going to my parents, they have only a few acres but the squirrels are teaming. I also went back to the Carlos Avery WMA on google maps to see the satellite view of the terrain. I don’t know how to make a walking trail but this WMA is small enough to not need one.

        • Justin Wire

          I got to go to the Lamprey Pass WMA on Saturday and I did not see any squirrels and I didnt notice any nests in the trees for the 3 hours I was there. But, I did notice some nut shells. And, it was very windy so I dont know if that made them stay in the trees all day…

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