Careful observation of squirrel habitat can have you in the middle of Mr. Bushytail’s hideout.
Squirrels are masters at being covert when necessary. At times they are easy to spot foraging for nuts and seeds along the ground. Or they are doing tricks among the treetops cutting pine cones. Squirrels are abundant, but certain areas of the forests and woodlots can concentrate these sly little critters.
Early fall can be primetime to bag a limit of squirrels in short order. Bushytails have been undisturbed for several months. And some of the younger generation has probably never seen a human. Hunters can do themselves a favor by doing a little scouting before venturing off into a vast wilderness of hardwoods.
Certain spots will be excellent squirrel habitat. However, other areas look inviting but can be void of any squirrels. The squirrel population is strong in most areas of the Cotton State. Squirrel hunters will need to branch out and locate concentrations in some secret spots.
Look for Water
Creek and stream drainages are excellent spots to find a gang of squirrels. Hunters should focus on hardwood trees along and near the water’s edge. These trees should have had sufficient moisture through the summer months to grow some fat and hearty acorns. Squirrels will easily pick up on this fact and gang up in the tree.
“Small creeks in hardwood bottoms are one of the first places I look for squirrels in October,” says Jim Morris of Weaver, Ala. “These areas are generally a little cooler and squirrels like having water close by.”
“Small creeks in hardwood bottoms are one of the first places I look for squirrels in October,” says Jim Morris of Weaver
Morris uses two of the basic methods to hunt squirrels—sit and watch and/or stalking. In the early morning hours he will sit and watch the area that produces acorn trees. Squirrels are not picky when it comes to nuts. White oaks, red oaks and water oaks are all prime feeding spots for hungry squirrels.
One trick Morris applies when sitting is not to shoot at the first squirrel you see. He will wait a few minutes and let some others join in on the buffet. Many times when he shoots one squirrel the others will freeze or only move a short distance. A .22 caliber rifle topped with a quality scope will do the number on squirrels.
“I like to set up slightly above the area I’m hunting,” Morris advises. “This will give me a good vantage point to pick off a couple of squirrels without them seeing me first.”
Morris prefers areas where a small draw or hollow intersects with another. Also, he looks for large pine trees mixed in with the oaks. At times, squirrels will nest in the pines.
After the sun has been up a couple of hours, Morris will begin stalking squirrels. He will move along quietly and slowly while scanning the treetops and listening for any scurrying in the leaves. A comfortable pair of boots makes stalking enjoyable and productive.
Visit Field Edges
Squirrels are not timid about being out in the open. They will often frequent agricultural fields, especially corn. Even if the corn has been harvested, squirrels will show up to feed on any remaining kernels.
Also, fence lines with trees bordering a field will hold squirrels in the early season.
Search for thinner vegetation or open spots along the field edge. These areas will allow easy access to the field for squirrels. Set up near a corner or along the tree line where squirrels may be entering.
And don’t forget to look for the spot in the field where the grain truck was loaded. A slight amount of spillage is all that is required to call in bushytails to dinner. Generally, these grain transfer spots will be along the edge of the field accessible to trucks.
“Squirrels will travel to find food,” Morris says. “And once they find it, they will hang around for a while.”
Morris says grain field edges will hold plenty of squirrels if the acorn crop is low for that year. Don’t overlook food plots. Even though planted for deer or turkey, plots with peas or other legumes will attract squirrels.
Detour to a Woodlot
Woodlots come in all shapes and sizes. But one averaging a few acres or more is sufficient to harbor plenty of squirrels. Woodlots with plenty of oaks and other mast-producing trees will produce various forages for squirrels.
Look for a group of trees left behind from a timber cutting operation. Many times the wood cutters will only take out the pines and leave some of the oaks in a tight group. Also, swamp areas may have a few high points that are not flooded. This is usually the case in the early season before the winter rains begin.
“A large island in the middle of a swamp is sure to be home for squirrels.”
A large island in the middle of a swamp is sure to be home for squirrels. Other hunters may pass this by, but donning a pair of hip boats or waders could put several squirrels in the skillet.
Sometimes a group of the same type of oaks will thrive along a ridge or bottom. If one tree has acorns, they all should. Search for an abundance of acorns on the ground and the squirrels will be close.
“I look for cuttings on the ground where squirrels have cut open acorns,” Morris says. “Several spots of cuttings indicates squirrels are there.”
Squirrels sometimes travel by jumping from tree to tree. Savvy hunters will target spots with oaks and pines growing close together. Hunters can search ridge tops and creek bottoms for these isolated woodlots hidden among the forest.
On sunny days, squirrel hunters should be aware of their shadow. Many times a squirrel will pick up on the movement of a shadow cast in front of the hunter. When stalking, keep the sun in front of you and use the shadows of the tree trunks to conceal your movement.
With some planning and observation, you can find a secret squirrel spot or two.