Regardless of what you like to hunt during the primary season, squirrel hunting should be on your list of things to do as you prepare for that long-anticipated trek through the woods in search of bigger game. Although often disregarded, setting out to knock a few “tree rats” off of a limb is a great way to prime yourself for your next big-game hunt. It’s also a great way to see what awaits you in the woods this year, and is just plain old fun! Here are five reasons why you should pursue grey hairs this fall.
If your state is like mine, squirrel season starts before everything else. That being said, this becomes my first opportunity to get into the woods since the previous winter. With more than six months in between the two, I almost invariably need a brush-up on how to gently traverse the forest floor without making a racket, and even a mild refresher on the little things like crossing a fence or refamiliarizing myself with property lines. As most of us aren’t worried about taking a “trophy squirrel,” it makes these outings a great, low-stress warmup before deer season. If I snap a twig and scare off a few squirrels getting my “woods feet” back, so be it. Just as long as it ensures that I can creep into my tree stand without alerting a fat eight-pointer come winter.
Over the summer many of us cozy up to a shaded shooting bench or, in some cases, don’t fire a shot at all! With the lure of the beach and what seems to be endless barbeques, it’s easy to fall out of your training routine. With that in mind you can’t realistically expect to be at your best should that trophy buck cross your path without a little practice before that moment.
Think about it, is this the first time you want to experience “buck fever” for the season, or learn that you need more work shooting offhand? Chasing squirrels through the woods is a great way to hone your shooting skills because few things are harder than keeping a bead on a tiny bouncing critter that wants nothing more than to stay out of a stew. Best of all, most locales give you a generous bag limit so your hunt isn’t over with just one press of the trigger.
3. Scout while you’re out
Every year I have a hard time finding a day or two to step into the woods and survey what might be lurking about. Let’s face it, scouting is kind of boring. However, when you couple that chore with a casual squirrel hunt, it becomes far more palatable. So, while I’m out there watching the treetops, I’m also looking on the ground for spoor, bedding areas and obvious deer trails. This year I found what seems to be a whitetail superhighway and I would have never known about it if I wasn’t out there small gamin’.
Sometimes you get a hunt, and sometimes you get a relaxing walk in the woods. Being that most squirrel seasons begin in what is technically summer, getting into the woods this time of year is also just a great time to enjoy the nice weather. Squirrel hunting requires little more than a thin shirt and pants, as opposed to the five layers that I would typically have on under my jumpsuit during deer season. This makes it far more fun to walk around and a heck of a lot easier to get ready in the morning. Just be careful—warm weather almost always spells snakes and ticks, so be sure to use a good bug spray and watch where you walk!
I know it’s a cliché, but squirrel seriously does taste like chicken. If you’ve never had it before, it is a dark meat that has a mild flavor and a steak-like consistency. For these reasons you can do nearly anything with it that you would any other similar meat. Classic preparation involves entirely skinning and gutting the critters, leaving a whole carcass that is ideal for stewing or gravy making. The other method of preparation is to solely detach the rear legs and discard the rest. Often referred to as “Indiana chicken wings,” these hindquarters represent most of the meat these creatures bear. Once cut away it can be cooked just like a chicken wing or simply roasted over a campfire, seasoned with nothing more than salt and pepper.