Time To Head To The Oaks Or Cornfields…
Late archery deer season has closed, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to hang up your bow. Instead, give squirrel hunting a shot.
Squirrels are still scurrying through much of the Michigan hardwoods, providing bowhunters with a supreme challenge, chance to extend their hunting season and a great way to keep their hunting skills sharp after deer season.
Being from northern Michigan, my favorite small game quarry has always been squirrels. They’re abundant and they present more of a challenge than most people realize. Plus they taste great, and no I don’t wear straw hats and all of my teeth are intact. Don’t knock it ’til you try it.
Before you head to the woods to ambush a few squirrels be sure you’re equipped with the right gear.
While most of your deer hunting gear will work just fine for squirrels, different broadheads are probably in order.
You can shoot squirrels with the same heads you use for deer hunting, but it’s going to get expensive. On any given squirrel hunt you can count on flinging at least six arrows, each time ruining the broadhead blades. That’s too pricey for me.
I use Muzzy small game heads for my squirrel hunting adventures, but there are plenty of other options. Several manufacturers make heads specifically designed to small game hunting, including judo points, and blunts. G5 Outdoors makes a great small game head appropriately named, well, the Small Game Head.
If you take all the same gear with you that you take to deer hunt you should have everything you need.
Don’t forget your range finder. These fidgety little buggers are tough to hit when you know the exact yardage, you can forget about it if you guesstimating the range.
By Air Or By Land
Squirrel hunting is fun in itself, but it can double as a great whitetail hunting walk through if you use the right set up.
The trick to creating a quality squirrel hunting experience while also recreating the surroundings of a whitetail hunt is to mimic your most common whitetail hunting setups.
I spend countless days each season hunting deer from the ground and from treestands, so I do the same when I’m planning a squirrel hunt.
While the squirrel hunt in itself is fun and challenging, I like to use them as practice runs for deer season so I set up in the same fashion as I would if I was setting up on a buck.
If I decide to hunt from a tree, that usually means turning to my trusty Summit climber and heading to the woods in search of squirrel hot spots. It’s easier to strap a climber on my back and head out looking for squirrels than it is to pre-scout and set up a fixed position stand. Plus, I often hunt for deer in the same manner, hiking and setting up near the hottest sign.
Once I find an area that looks promising I start climbing, and even though you don’t need to climb to break-neck heights to fool a squirrel, it’s a good idea to set up at the same height you would when deer hunting. This makes the situation more authentic.
Whether you choose to hunt from the air or the ground, the key to a productive squirrel hunt with a bow and arrow is location, location, and location.
You need to be where the squirrels feed. For me this means finding where the acorns and beech nuts are falling, but there are plenty other foods sources that will draw squirrels by the dozens.
This isn’t as research intensive as deer hunting. You can usually take a quick walk through the woods to locate areas thick with squirrels. Most of the time I don’t even pre-scout an area to set up for squirrels, I just grab my bow and strap a tree stand or ground blind to my back then start walking. Once I start spotting a good number of squirrels I will stop and set up.
Don’t forget to wear hunter orange. Although you’re bow hunting, orange is always required while small game hunting.
When the squirrels start showing up, don’t expect them to pose, waiting for you to squeeze the trigger. Like whitetails, squirrels are almost always moving, which can give bow hunters fits.
Once you spot a squirrel in range, come to full draw and follow the squirrel with your pin until it stops to munch for a second or two, and that’s no exaggeration. One or two seconds is all you will have to squeeze your trigger and send your arrow on its way. Focus on your pin and keep your trigger pressure smooth and your arrow will find its mark.
You have a couple of options once you make a kill shot on a squirrel. You can either climb down to recover the animal right then, or you can nock another arrow and wait. I usually wait, but that’s entirely up to you.
Also understand, squirrels aren’t as spooky as deer. If you climb down and send a few squirrels scurrying you haven’t ruined your hunt. Wait 30 minutes or so and they’ll completely forget about you and go back to business as usual.
Be Prepared For The Long Haul
Its winter, so sitting for hours on end is going to get cold if you’re not dressed properly. Layer well, wear a wind and rain-proof outer layer and bring hand warmers. It’s also a good idea to pack a snack and some water, along with a few survival items.
It might sound crazy, but being prepared in case you get lost or stuck in the woods over night is always a good idea. No one ever plans on getting lost, but in the event, having a few matches, some paper, a space blanket and some fire starters could literally save your life.
Add An Extra Challenge
If you’re in the right spot, squirrel hunting action can be fast and furious. Adding a few challenges along the way can spice things up and more closely mimic deer hunting.
One way to do this is to wait for a specific color phase. It’s kind of like waiting for the right age class buck, you’ll have to let a few squirrels walk before finally losing an arrow.
Waiting for squirrels to stop in a specific area is another way to add to the experience. Now don’t get me wrong, squirrel hunting with a bow is an extreme challenge. The diminutive target provides plenty of challenge itself; add to it the spastic nature of the animal.
Winter is a great time to be outside and squirrel hunting is a great way to enjoy the season. Just because deer season is in the rear view mirror doesn’t mean you have to hang up your bow. Nock an arrow and head to the oak flats or corn fields and fix your pin on a squirrel or two. You won’t regret it.