The two most common game squirrels in the United States are the gray squirrel and the fox squirrel. Grays can be found in mature deciduous forests, where they favor mixed hardwoods with dense undergrowth and few open areas. In ideal settings, you could find as many as six hundred grays in a square mile.
To state it more accurately, there could be six hundred, but you wouldn’t find that many. They can get as large as twenty inches from tail to head and weigh around one pound. Their sides and back are grayish while they are white on their undersides. Fox squirrels are more reddish in color. Their sides, tail, and head are red-brown in color. Some hunters may refer to this squirrel as the red squirrel. However, this is a misnomer.
The actual red squirrel is much smaller and is not a game animal at all. The fox squirrel can be up to twenty-nine inches long and weigh more than two pounds.
They spend more time on the ground and are less likely to use treetops to escape predators.
They can often be seen basking lazily in the sun on tree limbs. Said by some to be easier to outwit than grays, fox squirrels will run straight for their dens or hide behind tree limbs. Their habitats are more likely to be woodlots, strips of timber, and farm groves. They are commonly found near cornfields, where these squirrels will climb cornstalks and down the cobs before eating the corn. Both types of squirrel eat nuts and are known for storing excess for the winter. Later in the fall, the practice of storing nuts becomes more time consuming and requires more time on the ground digging.
The best time to hunt squirrel is during their breeding period in December and January. Like many animals, the squirrel becomes careless during courtship. Hunters look for nut shells called cuttings and corn husks and stripped cobs near the bases of trees as a sign of squirrels nearby. Squirrels make dens in trees by chewing small openings into larger spaces. They also build nests into the crotches of trees using twigs and leaves. Most often, squirrels are stand-hunted. Elaborate stand constructions are unnecessary, however.
The patient hunter will sit with the sun at his back. He may click coins together to imitate scolding squirrels or use a call to reproduce their barks and chatters. The hunter uses his glasses or scope to slowly investigate any movement until he sees a squirrel. He should be ready with a .22 rifle with a 4x scope. If the hunter takes a shot and misses, it is advisable to remain still until the squirrel resumes its movement. Smart squirrels will hide on the opposite side of the tree from the hunter.
The animal stays on the opposite side, even as the hunter circles the tree looking for it. A technique to combat the strategy requires the hunter to toss a stick or rock to the opposite side of the tree and take a shot when the squirrel comes around. Team hunting also counters the squirrels hide and seek routine. One hunter approaches the tree, causing the squirrel to scurry to the opposite side. The shooter is waiting for this and gets a free shot. It is also possible to float hunt squirrels in nut trees that hang over creeks and slow rivers.