Nothing says February in Michigan to me quite like heading out to the woods with a shotgun to hunt fox squirrels. It’s always tough to find time to hunt small game during the fall and early winter when I am consumed with hunting fall turkey, deer, and waterfowl. That’s what makes small game hunting in late winter so much fun. I can actually go out and really put in a day just trying to target squirrels. There is an added challenge to chasing squirrels around the woods at this time of year also. With the foliage and cover gone from the trees, the squirrels are much more wary and more likely to spend time in well-concealed ground nests. Food is more scarce too and you may have to put in some time to find that one tree that still has acorns on it (or that cache buried under the snow).
Why The Shotgun Is My Go-To For Late Winter
Due to the reduced cover in the woods, hunters are more likely to be spotted by cautious squirrels. As such, many of the squirrels I shoot in February and March are on the move. They’ve spotted me and are running for cover, or are just moving quickly from cover to cover. A shotgun with #4 or #5 birdshot allows me to shoot quicker and gives me a little margin for error. It’s also just fun to be out hunting small critters with the same tool that they were using a hundred years ago.
Get Quiet and Be Still
Many folks go out squirrel hunting thinking it will be easy. While it can be a high success rate hunt in the fall when there are acorns and squirrels everywhere, winter is a different ballgame. To have repeated success hunting winter squirrels requires the same skills you need to hunt deer. Camouflage helps, but being quiet and remaining still are the best way to conceal yourself. If you are in a section of woods you know squirrels frequent, but are not seeing them, find a nice log and sit down for a bit. Eventually they will start moving again when they think the coast is clear.
Squirrel Is Some of The Best Meat Around
Nothing beats country fried squirrel and gravy. With a taste reminiscent of, but more complex than chicken, wild squirrel is many hunters favorite meat. A couple good sized fox squirrels can make for a delicious hot dinner after a cold day of hunting. I reccomend soaking the meat in buttermilk mixed with hot sauce for a few hours, then dredging in drake’s flour and frying in peanut oil. It will rival any of your favorite fried chicken recipes.