HUNTINGsmart! USA Knowledge Base

Module 10 - WILDLIFE


Squirrels have a natural instinct to freeze when approached by predators, making these ‘chicken of the trees’ a stationary… although tiny target.


The Eastern Grey Squirrel is the most common squirrel out there. They can be red, black, whitish-brown or grey in color. You’ll find these bushy-tailed critters all the way from the east coast to the great plains.

Squirrels are nervous creatures. If you approach a squirrel, it will instinctively freeze up as though staying still makes it disappear from view. Use this behavioural habit to your advantage when hunting.


Squirrels can live just about anywhere because they can eat just about anything. They stuff their cheeks with seeds, acorns, nuts, bark, buds, fruits, insects, bird eggs, etc. During colder weather, squirrels hoard their food. They scavenge industriously and then hide their bounty for later.


Squirrels are everywhere. They can be found in heavily forested areas… and in your backyard. They make their homes in the treetop cavities and nooks of large deciduous trees. They use the canopy of leaves as cover so their nests can be tough to spot in the summer months. They’ll be much easier to identify in the winter months when tree branches are more sparse.


Squirrel scat is tiny and usually hard to find. However, if you want to try tracking a squirrel down, you should be looking for brown pellets that are just a little larger than a grain of rice.

Squirrel Hunting Tip:

Sitting, waiting and listening is your best bet for finding squirrel. Keep an ear out for rustling foliage and for the sound of branches and twigs falling from the treetops. If you hear these sounds, it could mean there are squirrels feeding nearby. Hunting squirrel is actually a really good way to teach kids how to hunt deer. They’ll need patience and the ability to stay quiet if they want to get close enough to shoot either of these skittish game animals.

Firearms, Ammo & Your Target

Use a shotgun for squirrel hunting. A 12, 16 or 20-gauge shotgun will do the trick. If you use anything smaller, it won’t pack the punch you need to shoot from longer ranges. Use a modified choke with shot that ranges from No. 4-7. Some hunters will use a rifle for hunting squirrel, but when squirrels are jumping around through leafy trees and your visibility is reduced, a shotgun will be a much more efficient firearm.

Vital Zones

Squirrels are small—aim for the chest and head with your shotgun and you should manage to pepper the entire body with a spray of pellets, killing the squirrel quickly. If you’re eating it, remember to remove the pellets!

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