You know, when the temperatures are in the 90s and 100s, it may be difficult to consider squirrel hunting as a fall season, but it is. Nebraska’s squirrel season begins today and runs until Jan. 31, 2022. Squirrels may not be “big game” but they sure are fun to hunt. Our cow elk season also opens today, if you drew a tag.
Shooting hours for squirrels are 30 minutes before sunrise to sunset. I like to do my hunting early in the morning at the beginning of the season to beat the heat — and the mosquitoes. The daily bag limit is seven and you can have up to 28 in possession.
At this time of the year, squirrels are focusing on eating and storing away food for the winter. I do my scouting by searching out where the squirrels are feeding. Trees that have a mast crop or timber next to cornfields are good places to start looking.
I like to slowly stalk through the timber listening for squirrels. Squirrels make a surprising amount of noise, if you know what to listen for. They chatter a lot and their hopping around on the ground sounds like a much larger animal walking. Many a hunter has been startled by the sounds of a rogue squirrel bouncing through dry leaves. Why is it that the brain always equates this sound with a charging bear?
As soon as I hear squirrels, I carefully move closer and find a spot to conceal myself and watch for a while. I do my best to just disappear into the background. Good camouflage is a must for this type of hunting. If you’re lucky, squirrels will eventually ignore you and keep going about their business. I just sit back and learn their patterns. Don’t just look up in the trees. Squirrels start spending more time on the ground when they begin storing food for winter.
You can use any legal weapon defined by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to hunt squirrels. It is really a matter of personal choice. I’ve always preferred to hunt squirrels with .22 caliber firearms. I used rifles for years and then switched to pistols about 20 years ago to add a bit more challenge to the hunt. For more of a challenge, I’ve even hunted squirrels with high-powered air rifles.
Jeff Rawlinson, assistant manager with the information and education division of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, was on my radio show recently and we talked about squirrel hunting techniques. Rawlinson likes to find an area where squirrels are active, then find a comfortable spot to sit and wait.
“When squirrels are active and busy with their winter preparations, I think they lose track of you after you’ve stayed still for a while,” Rawlinson said. “I sit and wait, and eventually a squirrel will work itself into range. A good .22 rimfire or a .17 HRM rifle, equipped with a scope is great squirrel medicine.”
One of my favorite techniques involves a pair of hunters moving through timber in a coordinated fashion. Start by moving into the timber slowly and quietly. Spread out until you have 10 to 15 yards between hunters. Stand still and listen for about 15 minutes to determine where the squirrels might be. When it is time to move, one hunter advances forward slowly while the other hunter stays still. This is a very methodical way to hunt.
Squirrels will key in on the moving figure. The tendency of a squirrel is to stay out of site, so as one hunter moves forward, the squirrel will move around the tree to stay out of sight. Quite often the hunter who is standing still will be able to see the squirrel come into view and can make a well-aimed shot. I have taken lots of squirrels this way.
Another technique I like to use is to sneak into a spot where squirrels are active before dawn and just get myself under cover, actually bury myself in the leaves on the ground. As squirrels come out to start their day, you can get a few before they figure out what’s happening. Using an air rifle in this situation can be a great advantage. Because an air rifle is so much quieter, it takes longer for the squirrels to realize there is a threat.
The hunting season is here again. Things are getting right with the world!
If you plan on doing any migratory bird hunting this year, you will need a new Harvest Information Program number. You may get your number for the 2021-22 hunting seasons beginning Sunday.
HIP registration is a federal requirement and all Nebraska residents age 16 and older must have this number with them in the field if they intend to hunt dove, ducks, geese, snipe, rail, coots or woodcock. The registration process is quick and free. You can do it online at apps.outdoornebraska.gov/hip via telephone at 402-471-0641.
The purpose of the program is to help wildlife managers estimate the number of migratory birds harvested each year. Those estimates help biologists set limits and seasons. One more quick note: If you plan on hunting any of the bird species listed above in any other state, you will need a HIP number for each state you hunt in.
We have an exceptional crop of ticks this year. I had a reader call me recently and tell me about a very simple and readily available tick repellent he has been using: Vick’s VapoRub. She referred to a couple of studies that have shown that ticks are repelled by eucalyptus oil. Two of the main ingredients in Vick’s VapoRub are eucalyptus oil and camphor (another chemical compound that is known to repel ticks and other bugs), so I can see why it could work. You simply smear some Vick’s VaporRub around the cuffs on your pants or socks. I’m going to give it a try.