A crisp fall morning begins. Sunlight is filtering through the trees, slowly melting the frost off fallen leaves. After what seems an eternity sitting in the dark, you finally see shooting light dawning. At any minute that big white-tailed buck on your trail camera could saunter beneath your treestand.
A twig snaps and leaves rustle. Your heart stops. You turn your head toward the sound, quivering with the anticipation of spotting big antlers. You see movement. But there’s no rack. It’s just a bushy squirrel tail.
Treestand hunters know squirrels unintentionally cause countless heart pounding adrenaline rushes each fall, even though they aren’t the quarry. But why not bowhunt the little scoundrels? Let’s discuss some of the many reasons you should shoot the next time a squirrel bounces into your shooting lane.
Why Bowhunt Squirrels?
What motivates most bowhunts for squirrels? The No. 1 answer is food. Squirrels provide a popular game meat in many regions because it’s delicious and nutritious. You’ll also find many ways to cook squirrel. Georgia Pellegrini – hunter, chef and author of “Girl Hunter” – writes in detail about her love of hunting and eating squirrels. Frying is a popular way to fix the meat, but you’ll also find many recipes for baked squirrel and slow-cooked squirrel.
Besides their great flavor, squirrels are also widely available and accessible, and they’re cheap to bowhunt. With so many squirrels running around the woods, they can also be a lifeline during emergencies if you know how to hunt and prepare them.
You can use your regular hunting bow to bag squirrels, but you should use broadheads designed for them. Several companies make small-game hunting heads, which includes blunts, judo and other points.
Many small-game bowhunters also shoot flu-flu arrows, whose big fletchings cause the arrow to travel only a short distance before “braking” and falling within view for easy recovery. Visit an archery shop to browse its selection and learn the differences in arrows and broadheads for bowhunting squirrels and other small game.
How to Practice
Realize, however, that bowhunting squirrels can be extremely challenging. Just because the woods are loaded with these bushy-tailed buggers doesn’t mean you’ll bring a bunch home for dinner every night. They’re a small target and they’re quick. To prepare for your squirrel bowhunt, practice close shots at different angles.
Depending on your broadhead, you’ll need to practice where to aim on squirrels. Judos and blunts humanely kill squirrels with headshots. If you use a broadhead with small-game blades, aim behind the shoulder to strike its vital organs, much as you would on deer, elk and moose.
You must also prepare for challenging shots. Some bowhunters only shoot at squirrels on the ground because those shots are often easier. However, squirrels spend much of their life hanging out in trees. To arrow squirrels high in trees, you must practice dramatic upward angles. For those shots, bend at the waist to keep your form consistent. For upward shots, it helps to push your hips forward.
When Can You Hunt?
Another benefit of bowhunting squirrels is that small-game seasons are usually longer and their bag limits more liberal. Several squirrel species inhabit the United States, so you’ll often have one or more options. Learn to identify the species where you bowhunt. Also learn the bag limits, season dates and license requirements. Pick up a copy of the latest hunting regulations at a local archery shop.
How to Field Dress a Squirrel
Because of their size, squirrels make difficult targets. But once you bag one, preparing it for the table is simple. The internet offers many how-to videos and step-by-step guides with pictures. The techniques you learn butchering squirrels often work great for butchering big game.
No matter where you bowhunt squirrels, you’re in for a great all-around challenge and adventure. You’ll get plenty of shooting while feeling the thrill of the chase. And when your arrows find their mark, you’ll look forward to a great dinner back home or in camp. So don’t delay any longer. Fun and satisfaction await!