Connecticut Squirrel Hunting

    This page is dedicated to one of my favorite quarry: the gray squirrel.  Grays were the first animals that I ever hunted, and remain one of the most elusive on my list.  I sat for hours as a kid with my grandfather watching and waiting the trees with a .22 rifle in hand, sometimes coming home with 6 or 7 squirrels and all too often coming home with none.    You can take 8 squirrels in a Connecticut day and, believe me, its a challenging quota to meet.  Connecticut has some excellent squirrel hunting and here's all the how, where, and when you'll need to cash in.

The Elusive Squirrel When to Go
Finding Squirrels Hunting Techniques
The Only Gun Where to Go

Good Squirrel Hunters Are Good Woodsman

    The gray squirrel is as elusive as any woodland creature, including  deer.  Coming home with squirrels in the bucket requires talent in stalking, patience, and, most importantly, knowledge of the squirrels themselves.  Deer hunters will find squirrel hunting excellent practice for their bigger game.  If you can sneak up on a squirrel, you're on your way to sneaking up on deer.

    Like any quarry, the squirrel must be respected and appreciated for its abilities, especially its grace and acrobatics in the trees.  Perhaps no other animal is as quick to disappear as a fleeing squirrel.  Once he sees you, nine out of ten times you'll never see the likes of him again.  They have a nasty habit of putting a tree between themselves and a hunter and disappearing soon after.  This is just one of many escape techniques these critters are capable of.

The Early Bird Gets The...Squirrel???

    Any deer hunter knows that squirrels are on the move just before first light.  In the dark, I've often mistaken a squirrel that has just shimmied down a tree for an approaching deer.  The point is: be in the woods before the squirrels get up for breakfast.  There's no better time than in the morning.  You can get them any time of  day, but the chances that they're wise to a predator dramatically increases.  The evening is decent hunting also, but again you may be detected coming in.

   Squirrels are abundant in all Connecticut woods, its just a matter of finding the most productive areas.  The gray squirrel is usually found in a hardwood section with patches of pine nearby.  Look for acorn (oaks), beechnut, and hickory trees as they are an important source of food for squirrels.  If you're hunting farmland, concentrate near the edges of fields, as squirrels will be searching for corn and oats.

Nature's Litterbugs: Finding Squirrels

    Squirrel sign is easy to come by because they are such messy eaters.  They feed heavily in the morning and evening.  Squirrels may be oblivious to their surroundings when they eat, making it an even better time to be in the woods hunting.  They sift, dig, and scratch through the forest floor looking for a meal.  Then they will scatterdrop the shell of a nut from either the tree, rock, or stump where they're eating.   Wherever the squirrel eats, he is easily given away.

    Keep in mind that not all squirrels will make stick and leave nests in trees.  I've yet to know a squirrel that will pass a spacious hole in a tree to hustle and bust his hide making a nest.  I've also known them to nest in old stone walls, but this is rare.  Take a day before or early in the season to look for these signs and you'll know exactly where to sit in the morning.

Squirrel Hunting: Deer Style Techniques

    There are three ways that I like to hunt squirrels.  These ways are very similar to deer hunting techniques.  The first is getting in the woods before light and sitting in a pre-scouted destination, usually among hardwoods at the base of a tree.  Be sure to dress in as much camouflage as the law allows (see the Connecticut Hunting/Trapping Field Guide), as these critters will pick you out easily.  Keep all movement to an absolute minimum.  Keep in mind that the squirrels will be checking the forest floor for danger from an elevated position before they come down.

    The second method is to stalk squirrels.  I use this technique when I'm entering the woods anytime after first light.  Tromping through the woods can result in not seeing any squirrels for hours after.  Take a few slow steps and stop for at least a minute.  The squirrels may hear you and it might take a minute or two for them to dismiss you as a passing turkey or deer.  If you happen to spot a squirrel in the distance, move slowly only when he has his attention dedicated to something else.  Often you can get close enough for a shot.

    The third technique is just like the first, but with an added twist.  I sometimes favor using a squirrel call when I haven't eyed many squirrels in a spot that I know is ideal.  I don't use "wounded squirrel pup" or "barking" calls because these signal that there may be a predator in the equation.  Instead, find a call that "chatters".  Squirrels are extremely vocal animals, and you'll often hear more than one chattering at a time.  A chatter call will often get others chattering and reveal locations.  If this is the case, put on a stalk.  If not, WAIT!  Chances are a curious squirrel is coming in to investigate.

The .22: The Only Squirrel Gun

    I've shot squirrels with everything from 12 gauges to arrows and I know that the only gun that should be used is a .22 caliber rifle or handgun.  This is indeed a matter of personal preference, but I will defend my claim.

    For starters, have you ever eaten a shotgun-killed squirrel?  Pellets can be a pain to keep removing and there is no need to damage more meat than need be.

    Second, a shotgun blast will alert the whole woods to your presence.  Though a .22 can sound loud in the quiet woods, the effects will not be nearly as serious.  I've shot many consecutive squirrels with a .22, but getting more than one at a time with a shotgun is rare.

    Third, a long shot with a shotgun can cripple better than kill.  A well placed .22 bullet will rarely fail in its mission.

    In short, if you're going to try squirrel hunting for the first time, invest in a .22 rifle with a good 4X scope and forget Stinger, Yellowjacket, Viper, and other such high speed, hard hitting .22 rounds.  A .22 Long Rifle solid point is all you'll need to drop the toughest squirrel.  Take it from me, I've shot more squirrels than I can even attempt to count and keeping it simple and consistent is the best way to go.  A .22 hunter with some time at the range and enough patience to get close enough to the squirrels will put more  in the bag than any shotgunner.

Where to Go

    Come this season if you want to sharpen your deer hunting skills, or hunting skills in general, scout some squirrel hardwoods and head out with your .22.  It's some of the most challenging, fun, and rewarding hunting Connecticut has to offer.  Here are some of my favorite state-owned lands to hunt (although I do the majority of my hunting on private land):

            Name                      Town                    Acres

Roraback WMA
Housatonic State Forest
Sharon, Cornwall, Etc.
John Minetto State Park
Algonquin State Forest
Robbins Swamp WMA

Questions or Comments?