Sharpen Your Skills with Squirrels

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Published on: Aug. 2, 2004

Last revision: Nov. 16, 2010

is determined by proper handling. All muzzleloaders, for example, require meticulous cleaning to be functional. Breech and bores must be left dry and oil free. Powder must be kept dry.

With caplock muzzleloaders, percussion caps must fit tight and snug to the nipple.

With flintlocks, flints must be sharp, properly positioned and tight in the jaws of the cock. The touch hole must be clear, with a proper quantity of powder in the pan.

Any hunter new to muzzleloading will experience a few misfires before learning to fully control these variables. It's far better to have a misfire on a squirrel hunt than to have a misfire on a deer. Hunting squirrels with a muzzleloader also allows a hunter to learn how to use and organize loading equipment while hunting.

Many deer hunters don't know that the muzzle-loading rifle they use for deer can also be used to hunt squirrels. Simply reduce the powder charge and shoot only at the head.

Bowhunters who hunt whitetails can enhance their deer-hunting skills by bowhunting for squirrels. Try it. You'll quickly be convinced.

September, when nuts are falling and squirrels are foraging for them on the ground, is the best month to bowhunt for squirrels. Climb in your deer stand and wait. Squirrels that feed on the ground within 15 yards or closer to your position allow you to practice shooting downward as you would from a tree stand. This will also give you excellent practice shooting at really close ranges. Such shots are trickier than they appear.

When bow hunting for squirrels, use judo points and aim for the squirrel's head. To be sure, bow hunting for squirrels is not about bringing home a limit. Bagging a squirrel or two with a bow represents a great hunt. Over the course of several hunts, you will likely get enough squirrels for a meal or two. Come October, the shooting practice you logged will increase your odds of bagging a deer.


Successful deer hunting involves knowing where deer tend to be at a given time, and knowing which way they travel to get there. This requires scouting. Scouting is simple in concept. Find where deer feed and bed, then find a way to set up, undetected, between those two areas.

Squirrel hunting allows you to do just that. When hunting for bushy-tails, look for deer sign, particularly in September, when deer are establishing routines that will carry into deer season.

Some deer hunters might question this advice, believing that human presence and gunfire will cause deer to leave an area or change their habits. It is probably wise not to hunt squirrels where you plan to deer hunt during the couple of weeks immediately before deer season, but before then you can learn a lot about where deer are feeding and bedding.

Maximum Effort

Hunting white-tailed deer represents different things to different people. For some, hunting whitetails is mostly a social activity. It's about getting together with good buddies for a weekend or for evenings filled with good food and time around the campfire. The actual hunting is secondary to getting away for a while with friends.

For others, hunting is the main focus. They like the challenge, and they spend many hours in the woods and expend maximum effort on their deer hunting. If you take your deer hunting seriously, then squirrel hunting is a great a way to hone your skills. Try it. Come deer season, your skills will be noticeably sharper. triangle

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