Peering through the dim light with perspiration drizzling down the forehead and a clammy feeling creeping through this body it is summer squirrel hunting time.  Looking for movement in the dark recesses of the treetop canopy, the slightest hint of movement among the leaves can be a key to what we seek.  The buzz of insects seems deafening in the stillness of this early morning.

Squirrel season is the first of the major hunting seasons in southern Illinois.  Beginning the first of August, southern squirrel hunting is pretty much a summer thing.   The expansive public land holdings provide ample room for hunters to pursue this king of the treetops.  A quick check of the Illinois Digest of Hunting and Trapping booklet leads to numerous state, federal and local public land locations.

Early season squirrel hunting is a warm proposition, but can be an early warm up (no pun intended) for the fall hunting to come.  Combined with fishing it makes for a great “cast and blast” vacation.

Early season squirrels like the hickory trees that dot the landscape.  Along the rivers, some of these trees are 50 to 100 feet in height.  Elsewhere, when mixed with other hardwoods, they are usually shorter.

The shorter trees make squirrels more accessible.  In the larger forests, good stands of hickory are isolated.  These islands of hickory trees are seldom hunted casual hunters.

To the hunter willing to work a little, the islands of hickory or oak trees are a goldmine.  Their usually is a combination of oak and hickory together.  Oak is another favorite mast for squirrels as well as a preferred nesting site.

While scouting, hunters look for signs of past squirrel activity as well as actual animals.  Clippings of twigs, partially half‑eaten shells or nuts and acorns, are signs of squirrel activity.  Squirrels remove the caps of acorns before actually burying them.  They store a large quantity of nuts for future food.

It is the relationship between squirrels and the nut trees that result in the benefit of both.  The squirrel buries the nuts.  They recover only about 80 percent of the nuts they bury.  The remaining nuts provide seed for future forests as they germinated the following spring and begin new trees.

The quantity of nuts available is an indication of the quantity of squirrels found in an area.  The squirrels seldom venture more than a few hundred yards away from a nest tree.  If the nest tree does not have a good supply of food, then the squirrels move away.

Early season is a time of plentiful food.  The hunters seek travel lanes from the nest to nearby food supplies.  Claw marks on the bark of trees are a sign of activity.  An often overlooked area is near standing corn.  Squirrels love the ripening corn and will raid the fields.

Vocalizations can play a factor in early season hunting.  Difficult to spot in the treetop canopy, squirrels have to move for the hunter to spot them.  However, they are suckers for vocalizations.

A vocal squirrel is an aggravated one.  He will sound off and display a flickering tail as a threat to potential enemies.  The noise and tail movement will give away his position.  Getting a squirrel to give away his position requires a call.

Calling squirrels, unlike other game calling is not to get the animal to come to the hunter.  Squirrel calling attempts to aggravate him and get the squirrel to expose his position.   Then it is the hunter’s problem to get an angle for the shot.

Squirrels are notorious for moving around to the opposite side of a tree trunk or limb when avoiding a hunter.  They like to put something between themselves and perceived danger.  The exception is when they are angry.



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  1. Pingback: SUMMER SQUIRREL HUNTING TIPS - Average Hunter Online

  2. Don, Great set of outdoor story’s. I would like to shoot you a private email if at all possible.


  3. In my area squirrels prefer hickory nuts. Early this season I found a hickory tree and shot 1 every 15 minutes. If you’re not that lucky, search for the nests. This time of year they have rebuilt their nest as the old ones are falling apart from weather. They’re unlikely to be in the old nest that are dark in color. If you want to catch them coming out of their nests, find a spot with several nests. If it’s early season and you can’t see the nests just look for piles of nut shells near oaks and hickory trees. You’ll want to get to the spot and get quiet at least a 1/2 hour before the sun peeks out. If it’s quiet, you’ll hear them rustle the leaves in their nest when they wake up. They’ll come out usualy no more than a 1/2 hour later and stay out for a couple of hours, unless it’s early season and warm, then they might stay out most of the day. But now it’s cold, so they limit time out of the nest. They come back out about sunset. But some spots I’ve been to I’ve seen them out all day. Squirrels like draws, low spots ,and dry drainage areas. I like finding trails next to these areas so I can sneak up on them when I hear them as I pass. Squirrel have good hearing so don’t walk to far without stopping to look and listen. I don’t know where you’re from or if you have fox squirrels, but if you do, look for their nest in the wooded areas near fields.

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