Bowhunting offers many benefits, such as harvesting quality meat and connecting more closely to the natural world. If that sounds appealing, but you don’t feel ready to bowhunt big game like deer and elk, start with small game like squirrels. They provide a great introduction to this intense, rewarding experience.
Most of us see squirrels daily. They eat from our bird feeders, dash in front of cars, and tease neighborhood dogs by staying just beyond reach. But don’t let their familiarity fool you. Woodland squirrels are difficult prey for bowhunters.
The squirrels you see in your yard or nearby park aren’t the ones you’ll bowhunt in woodlots. Wild squirrels assume you’re coming for them when you walk into sight, bow in hand. They keep a safe distance by bounding limb to limb to flee, or simply flatten against a tree’s trunk or branch and let you walk by.
If you get close enough to a squirrel to shoot, your next challenge is to make a quick, lethal shot. The squirrel must be stationary and positioned to expose its vitals, which is its head or the heart/lungs. Hitting such small “vitals,” which are slightly larger than a golf ball, is challenging but attainable.
And if you miss, the hunt isn’t over. Other opportunities soon arise. Squirrels are also great practice for big-game bowhunting. Even Katniss Everdeen hunts squirrels to hone her skills and feed her family.
If you’re curious about bowhunting squirrels, you probably have lots of questions. Let’s review what you need to know to get into the squirrel woods.
Can You Eat Them?
Squirrel meat tastes like a chicken’s dark meat. It’s relatively mild, with good flavor. Therefore, squirrels make excellent table fare and can be prepared many delicious ways.
Dishes like squirrel gravy, hearty squirrel stew, and squirrel Buffalo wings quickly win over skeptics. Taking a squirrel from field to table is similar to the same process for larger animals, which makes it great practice if you hope to bowhunt big game someday.
What Equipment Do I Need?
Flu-flu arrows are excellent for bowhunting squirrels because most shots are aimed upward. With the flu-flus’ large fletchings, the arrow won’t go far if you miss. Even so, make sure you know what’s beyond your target, and that it’s free of people, pets, roads and buildings. Even with flu-flu fletchings, your arrow will land some distance away if you miss.
When choosing arrow points for squirrel hunting, you’ll pick from blunts, judos or other specialty points that anchor squirrels in their tracks. Staff members at archery stores can help you find the best point for your needs.
An important, often-overlooked piece of hunting gear is sunglasses. As you scan treetops for squirrels, the sun’s rays can hurt your eyes and cause glare that make it difficult to spot your quarry. Good sunglasses solve those problems.
Where Do You Aim On Squirrels?
Well-placed head shots with a blunt or judo point humanely kill squirrels. For body shots, shoot a small-game point with small blades. You’ll aim just behind the shoulder to hit the lung and heart area, just like on a deer.
How Do You Hunt Them?
Many good tactics and techniques work for bowhunting squirrels, and you can hunt them however you like. Sitting still and waiting within a stand of white oak trees is an excellent tactic. It’s also great practice for deer hunting because white oak acorns are a favorite food of deer and squirrels.
Slowly moving through the woods and slipping quietly into bow range of foraging squirrels – called “still-hunting” – is an exciting way to hunt them. So is stalking squirrels, which means spotting them from a distance and sneaking into range. Stalking and still-hunting are challenging bowhunting methods that hone your stalking skills. When using these tactics, do more looking than walking. Prey animals see movement very well, and if you move while they’re vigilant they’ll see you before you see them. You’ll get away with slow movements if you advance only when they move, look away or lower their heads to eat.
When bowhunting squirrels, you’ll spend lots of time looking up into trees, but also watch for bushy tails flicking and scurrying among fallen leaves. Opportunities vary from lofty treetop missile launches to ground-level shots just beyond your feet. To practice different angles and realistic hunting scenarios try field or 3-D archery.
Small game provide a great introduction to bowhunting. You practice shooting, hunting tactics, and processing your own game meat on abundant, widely available game like squirrels. Who knows? You might even discover that small game are your favorite quarry!