Squirrel Hunting Season Starts – And I’m Perplexed

(Minnesota Squirrel Hunting 2006, originally uploaded by LeDeathman.)

Sorry for the alarmingly graphic photo. Most “squirrel hunting” photos on Flickr show the smug hunter, holding up his kill — always by the tail – for the camera. This one, at least, looks a little less ridiculous.

Growing up in South Texas, I’m used to hunting — of deer, quail, javelina (hog) and dove. But squirrels? No. So perhaps that’s why it strikes me as an absurd source of prey for hunting. Squirrels are tiny. And so easy to bait with some peanuts or other tasty morsel. I guess I don’t get it: Where’s the thrill in shooting a squirrel?

Desperate times call for desperate measures, so I understand how, traditionally, squirrel meat is a better option than no meat. And, given my Texas background, I also see the benefit of population control via hunting. But I can’t support the hunting of red squirrels — the species in the photo above — because they are in decline everywhere.

I also can’t support bragging about killing squirrels. That’s a bit like bragging about being able to tie your own shoelaces. (I mean, is it that challenging of a sport when every squirrel hunting article has a quote like this: “Squirrel hunting is a great way to introduce kids to hunting; there are plenty of them, and kids have a greater chance at bagging a squirrel than they do a deer.” (ed note: “Bagging” a squirrel?)

If you’d like to read more about squirrel hunting, this article from the Lafayette, Louisiana Daily Advertiser makes for fascinating reading. Like this gem from Wildlife and Fisheries commissioner Henry Mouton.

“Squirrel is a delicious animal to eat,” Mouton said. “Cajun chefs make it without a recipe; they just add a little of this, and a little of that. Then we’ll sit around six to eight hours drinking beer, watching football and talking about hunting and fishing until that meat is almost falling off the bone.”

20 thoughts on “Squirrel Hunting Season Starts – And I’m Perplexed

  1. ‘Perplexed’:

    I’m from South Texas too, so I’m a little perplexed about some of your comments. On one hand you state that squirrels are tiny, but on the other hand you say you’re use to hunting quail and doves. Now as a fellow Texan, I know for a fact things are bigger in Texas, but unless you’re hunting some sort of super dove, they aren’t any bigger than a squirrel. And exactly where do you go to hunt these formentioned doves? I’ll bet its by some sort of crop field. I don’t see how thats different than a squirrel hunter seeking out and setting up by mast trees. No squirrel hunter I’ve ever known in 39 years has ever ‘baited’ for squirrel. They walk the woods!
    Where did you get your statistcs on red squirrels? They’re not in decline in the Midwest, where I currently reside (and hunt squirrels). And what in your Texas background gives you so much insight regarding population control via hunting? But you might want to check your species, because those are Fox squirrels in the photo, not reds. Reds are half the size and no hunter I ever heard of targeted them when hunting. And Fox squirrels aren’t in decline in my area either.
    Do you live where there’s a season open all year round for a game animal that’s worth hunting? Most of the rest of us have to make due until we get our 1 or 2 weeks per year for whitetails or whatever. Squirrel season always proceeds deer season up here and any excuse to get into the woods, hunting or not, is better than nothing. I akin this to fishing. If the bass aren’t biting, and the bull bluegills are, I’m gonna fish for ‘gills. Come to think of it, I like the taste of bluegill better than bass. And who brags about bagging squirrels? The article you cited I’ve read before. It has to do with having a successful hunt, sharpening your skills for deer season, and getting the next generation of hunters excited and intertested in hunting. Much like the ‘Take a kid fishing’ campaign.
    If you don’t understand just getting out in the woods, getting in some shooting practice (try shooting a squirrel in the treetops in September with a .22LR), or what the article was implying, I would have to consider whether you’re an hunter/outdoorsman altogether.
    Oh yeah, my dad was raised in the Big Thicket and virtually all the meat his family ate was what he and Granddad could kill or catch. Fried squirrel is at the top of his favorite meat list as it is for many ole timers I know. Another good reason to hunt squirrel.

  2. Thanks for your comments.

    I’m not an outdoorsman, or a hunter. I’m a (female) journalist who happens to like writing and reading about squirrels in my free time.

    I grew up around many hunters. Both sides of my family still own several acres on ranches just to hunt. Mostly deer and javelina.

    But I think it’s funny, if not a little silly, to shoot squirrels (and doves). It’s just a personal opinion of mine — I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, it’s just not for me.

    As I said, I find it perplexing.

  3. And don’t you think it’s funy, if not a little silly, for a non-hunter to be writing a hunting article on the internet?

    Your hypocrisy is astounding.

    Oh, and yes, it’s called “bagging a squirrel”. What’s the problem with that? I fail to see why you would focus on that term.

  4. Thanks “Jackdaw.” The beauty of this world is that anyone can write whatever they want about anything, regardless of their expert level.

    This is MY critique of squirrel hunting, how I think it’s a little silly. I grew up around hunting, and where I’m from, I didn’t know squirrel hunting existed.

    I don’t like any hunting — but I understand it’s a way that men (and some women) can feel “real” and “manly” again, now that we live in a world far removed from the actual need for hunting.

    So, I don’t have to like it, and I can even write posts poking fun at it. Call it hypocrisy, call it humor (hunters — where’s your sense of humor? Oh my god?!) call it whatever you want. You can start your own blog and find solace (and dissenters), too.

  5. I like squirrel hunting for a lot of reasons. One of the biggest reasons is that fried squirrel with homemade milk gravy and biscuits is better than a filet mignon at my favorite steakhouse! I also enjoy being in the woods and seeing plants and animals in their natural habitats. I also like the exercise of getting out and walking around. Finally, I enjoy shooting my guns and squirrels can be small and difficult targets at times. Not everyone can bag six of them each time out! (my limit here in Missouri)

  6. Thought I’d chime in since I happened upon this article randomly.

    I don’t know where you got your JOU degree, but there are a few “fact errors” above. In my classes that’s an automatic 50 points off.

    I live in Gainesville, Fla., and there’s a lot of squirrel bagging going on. Our squirrels are the idiot cousins of everyone else’s. They have large populations, carry disease, destroy plants and property and oftentimes will cannibalize in the front yard.

    A lot of locals who hate guns, hunting and “southern life” will still grab a pellet gun from Wal-Mart for $50 and get as many as they can just sitting on the back porch.

    I’ve never seen squirrels baited or trapped and I’ve certainly never seen them be treated as serious prey. People hate squirrels, they’re pests. Giving a kid shooting practice on them kills two bir…squirrels…with one stone.

  7. You wrote: ” don’t like any hunting — but I understand it’s a way that men (and some women) can feel “real” and “manly” again, now that we live in a world far removed from the actual need for hunting. ”

    There is a serious need for hunting and it has nothing to do with anyone wanting to feel ‘real’ or ‘manly’. Take for instance deer. If it weren’t for deer hunters thinning the populations, we would be overrun by deer. Not to mention the money obtained from the purchase of hunting licenses and equipment. This money funds all the conservation programs. You need to research your ‘opinions’ before you spout them off like you some kind of expert.

  8. Hey Carol? Even you couldn’t resist giving your opinion here: “Take for instance deer. If it weren’t for deer hunters thinning the populations, we would be overrun by deer.”

    “Overrun” is an opinion — who’s to say how many deer are too many deer? You feel like there’s too many, so you want them to be shot. Someone else doesn’t mind them, they don’t want them to be shot. Obviously not everyone is running out there with a gun, to shoot deer because there’s too many.

    And let’s not get started on your belief that hunting conserves “all the conservation programs.” WOW!

    Anyway, because I don’t believe in censorship — and that everyone is entitled to their point of view, factual or not — I’m approving your blog comment.

    Because I can, here’s my one-sentence summation of this entire blog post experience: Hunting is no longer a necessity in this world, it is a hobby, and hunters justify this hobby in different ways: sometimes honorable, sometimes erroneous.

  9. The confusion about squirrel hunting comes from people who don’t hunt them and judge all squirrels based upon the semi-domesticated animals they see in parks and suburban back yards.
    Really wild squirrels in the woods are as different from city park squirrels as a coyote is from a pampered poodle with pink bows in its ears. “Bagging” them is no where near as easy as most believe, especially with a .22 rifle.

  10. Is it true that you can get 25 pence for ‘bagging’ a squirel in England?

  11. Hi Joy, I found your article while looking up squirrel hunting tips. I am a latecomer to hunting. My family on my mother’s side were all hunters, however my step-father was a rabid anti-gun nut. He forbid my grandfather to teach me how to hunt. So, here I am at 32, just starting out. Squirrel hunting has been an excellent introduction to the sport for me. I was planning on going out and hunting less “absurd” deer right off in December. After a couple morning hunts, I am still squirrelless, and finding out just how hard hunting is.

    When I finally do get one of the little buggers, I’ll also learn how to clean and cook them–another thing I’d like to practice on a smaller critter before ruining a deer through lack of knowledge. Someday my 1 year-old son and unborn baby girl will learn how to shoot a .22 and go hunting with me.

    The folks that take pictures aren’t bragging about killing–they are bragging about a successful hunt. Do you think fishermen take pictures of their fish because they want to brag about killing?

    Now, about your comment “who’s to say how many deer are too many deer?”. That would be the science of wildlife management. It’s not a subjective number. Overpopulation of wildlife causes specific problems with the ecosystem, such as starvation and disease. The population of people in most areas would make reintroduction of natural predators a problem, so guess who the main predators have to be?

  12. “Squirrel hunting is a great way to introduce kids to hunting; there are plenty of them, and kids have a greater chance at bagging a squirrel than they do a deer.”

    Squirrel hunting is great for kids due to the fact that there is a better chance of actually getting to see game and taking a shot rather than sitting for hours trying to bag the elusive turkey or white tail. This in no means implies that trying for 25 to 75 yard shots at a moving target the size of a quarter with a .22 rifle is easy.

    I dare say that if you could compare shots taken while deer hunting compared to squirrel hunting with a .22, the ratio of success would favor the larger game.

  13. JOY,I READ YOUR ARTICLE WITH INTEREST,ALTHOUGH I DO NOT AGREE WITH YOUR POINT OF VIEW,YOU ARE INDEED ENTITALED TO IT.
    IN ONE OF YOUR RESPONSES TO ANOTHER REPLY YOU EXPRESSED SOME DOUBT
    ABOUT HUNTING BEING A MAJOR CONTRIBUTER TO STATES CONSERVATION EFFORTS.
    I CAN NOT SPEAK FOR ALL STATES,BUT HERE IN FLA. I CAN TELL YOU THAT
    HUNTING AND FISHING LISCENSES PAY FOR 80% OF ALL CONSERVATION EFFORTS
    IN THE STATE OF FLA.THIS CAN BE CHECKED THROUGH THE FLORIDA WILDLIFE
    COMMISION IF YOU STILL HAVE DOUBTS.
    AS TO THE VIABILITY OF SQUIRREL AS GAME,AND HUNTING AS A NECCESITY TO THIN POPULATIONS OF ALL GAME ANIMALS,WELL IT IS SIMPLE TRUTH.
    EACH STATE HAS HUNTING SEASONS FOR JUST THAT REASON.
    A DEER IS A BEAUTIFUL ANIMAL,PROVIDED YOU HAVE NOT JUST RUN YOUR
    30,000 DOLLAR CAR INTO IT.
    COONS ARE CUTE FROM A DISTANCE,NOT SO CUTE WHEN THEY ARE IN YOUR GARBAGE CANS.
    SQUIRRELS APPEAR HARMLESS CRITTER UNTIL THEY ARE LIVING IN YOUR ATTIC AND CHEWING UP YOUR WIRING.
    A LARGE PERCENTAGE OF THE GAME I TAKE GOES TO NEEDY FOLKS IN MY AREA.
    BELEIVE IT OR NOT THERE ARE STILL PEOPLE WHO HAVE TROUBLE MAKING ENDS MEET,AND THIS PUTS A LITTLE MORE ON THEIR TABLE.
    MANY,INCLUDING MYSELF PREFER TO EAT WILD GAME THAT IS NOT LOADED
    WITH STEROIDS AND ADDITIVES YOU FIND IN THE SUPERMARKET VARIETIES.
    I HUNT AND ENJOY HUNTING SMALL GAME AND LARGER GAME,AND BY DOING SO
    I HELP OTHERS(CAMPERS,HIKERS,BOATERS ETC.ENJOY THE OUTDOORS.WITHOUT
    HUNTERS AND FISHERMAN,YOU WOULD BE AMAZED AT HOW MANY AREAS WOULD BE
    CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC DUE TO LACK OF FUNDING.

  14. You must not underestimate Ron K’s point. If you believe squirrel hunting is like walking through the courthouse lawn where you see 50 of them and walk within 10 feet of them, then you will have trouble understanding it at all. I don’t intend that to be rude, I am simply stating the truth. Squirrels are a wary game, one that requires as much hunting skill as any – stealth, intelligence, marksmanship, knowledge of the tree life, etc..

    Second, to me at least, squirrel hunting is not about killing squirrels. The statement that jumped out at me in your article was “Where’s the thrill in shooting a squirrel?” The thrill is not in shooting anything. The thrill comes from having respect for the woods, respect for the animals, and just a respect for nature in general. If I kill zero squirrels on a week-long hunt, then that is every bit as fine with me as if I had killed 30. I just enjoy being in the woods. I do not like to see litter, I do not like to see people disrespecting the woods, and I do not like to see people disrespecting the animals. There have been occasions when I have shot a squirrel and spent hours trying to find it. I have killed squirrels at dusk and could not find them and stayed over an extra night for the sole purpose to go out in the morning and find it. Why? Is it because I love the way it tastes so much that I am obsessed with eating it? Of course not. It is because I have respect for the animal and for nature and for doing the right thing. I killed it, and I am going to do it the honor of giving it my best to find it and skin it and take it home.

    I don’t know, maybe all that is hard to understand.

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

  15. If people did not hunt squirrels, they will over
    populate, inbreed and many starve.
    They carry many diseases, and can cause great damage if they get inside your home.
    IMO, there’s not enough people out there hunting them to
    control the over populations of squirrels.
    Sure they are cute, but all they are are Rats with Fluffy tails.

  16. Squirrels may be tiny but that is the reason many people use them for live target practice when a foam target just dosent cut it anymore, being as i am a BOW hunter it is a great challange for me and a great thrill to hit a squirrel from 20-30 yards, cleaning it and taking it home an frying it up. Also i have never heard of someone bating a squirrel, there everywhere walk 50 into the woods and you should see quite a few. Anyways i enjoy hunting squirrels and eating them but thats just me…..

  17. so, you think squirrel hunting is that easy; go in any woods that have squirrel and try to kill a limit; good luck; you need to know how to stalk and shoot accurately at any given moment. also, squirrel is the best eating of any game animal i know; especially better than a javelina. and another thing i read about squirrel in east texas tasting like turpentine because they east pine cones. only two months per year; august and september, squirrel eat the newly forming seeds inside the green pine cones, after that they go on to other mast.
    squirrel hunting i real hunting, unlike deer “hunting” where people sit in a box in west texas waiting for a hungry or horny buck to come around

  18. I think what can be learned from this post in particular and the subsequent comments is that education is key. Because much like the gun lobby, the healthcare lobby, etc. many many people make choices based on opinions rooted in emotion rather than facts and education. Feelings, morals, religion, non-religion, lifestyles, etc. all play a part of our opinions of course, but there really needs to be more education of the facts in all discussions.
    The facts are that it is true that hunting is a means of population control for very specific reasons that are beneficial to both man and animal. It is true that hunting of all types of legal “huntable” game is responsible for a majority of conservation efforts all across the country. It is true that there is still very much a need for hunting. Not everyone has the resources to buy food at a grocery store. It is true that a lot of store bought meat is chocked full of steroids and additives making fresh game a healthier alternative in some cases.
    So, while I respect your opinion of squirrels and squirrel hunting, I think perhaps your opinions MAY be based on more feelings and less facts. Just my guess. Thanks for letting me join the discussion.

    Signed,
    animal lover, conservationist, hunter and avid outdoors enthusiast

  19. Just wanted to put my two cents in on the comment:

    “I don’t like any hunting — but I understand it’s a way that men (and some women) can feel “real” and “manly” again, now that we live in a world far removed from the actual need for hunting.”

    Setting aside individual motivations for hunting, I believe the very fact that we live in a world far removed from the “need” for hunting is the very reason why it is imperative that we experience hunting. But not for the thrill of the kill or for the outdoor experience, but rather to get a sense and understanding of the emotional and psychological impact of taking an animals life. It is very easy in this day of supermarkets filled with pre-packaged and ready made everything to become separated from the consequences of our actions.

    We should all take a stab at raising a garden or growing a few tomatoes on the deck too. We should have a sense and understanding of what our choices entail. Of what in the name of necessity and easy living we ask others to do behind closed doors so that we don’t have to.

    We should understand just where and how it is that all that wonderful sausage and hamburger, steaks and hot dogs come to be lining the super market shelves. Not by hunting, but by all the same actions of killing, cleaning and preparing. Just without the customer having to pay any of the psychological or emotional “bill” for those goods.

    We should all know and understand just what it means to put hamburgers on the grill and be able to accept that… or go without.

  20. I think the only squirrel baiting was done by the author.

Speak, rodent:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s