The 2009 squirrel season opened in Ohio on September 1 and runs to 31 January 2010 (Editor: See the Ohio Department of Natural Resources website for a useful Hunt Calendar of Ohio Hunting Seasons dates), and most days so far have been perfect days, cool, sunny, and pleasant.  There’ll be lots more days like that as leaves slowly begin to turn to red and gold, and plenty of chances to fill a six squirrel limit.  Some area hunters will have little trouble bagging those six bushytails, but lots more will be lucky to get one or two even in timber filled with squirrels.  When that happens, they’re usually making some mistakes.  Here are some ways to avoid those mistakes.

Time of day is important on any squirrel hunt.  A gunners best weapon in the woods is his or her ears, and lots of times I’ve set down and just listened for falling nut fragments, the swish of a limb, and the scratch of claws on bark.  Many, perhaps most mornings are going to be quiet and nearly windless, ideal for listening, so I prefer to hunt then.  In afternoons, especially on warm days, the wind often picks up, rattling leaves and tossing branches.  Ears help little then, and hunters must depend on eyes alone.  With leaves still on the trees, that makes hunting a lot tougher.

Know your trees.  A little time spent at the library with a good tree identification book is time well spent, since you’ll quickly learn to recognize at least the common forest trees.  Remember that squirrels traditionally start their fall feeding in hickory and beech trees, particularly pignuts and shagbarks.  Find a cluster of hickories that show cuttings beneath, or pale barked beech with more cuttings below, and you’ve found a hotspot.

Later in the season when food becomes scarce, they’ll move into white and burr oak, but won’t touch the bitter red and black oaks unless they’re really hungry.  Don’t forget to check field corn along woodlot fencerows too, looking for half gnawed ears, and spare a glance for wild grapes hung full of purple clusters, and dogwoods with their red berries.  Don’t make the mistake an amateur hunter made a couple of years ago in one of my favorite woods.  He was sitting in a nice grove of mature tulip poplars and looking around hopefully.  “Seen anything yet?”  “No, but this looks like a good place.  Plenty of big trees.”

Another mistake many hunters make is to shoot a squirrel, then leap up immediately to retrieve it.  Bushytails hear loud noises often, thunder, passing planes, limbs falling down in wind storms.  Their typical reaction is to freeze, look around, and if nothing threatens, continue what they were doing.  If you jump up and go crashing through the dead leaves to get your game, there may be six more watching you do it.  But you’ll never know.  When I drop a squirrel, I make sure it’s dead, then continue sitting quietly.  And often bag a couple more.

Always carry a squirrel call.  In late morning after the animals have had their breakfast, they’re often antsy and moving around.  You’ll hear more calling then, as they re-affirm their territorial rights.  I carry a little rubber call that I can tap against my knee, imitating the sound of an angry squirrel.  Time and again, I’ve had one answer, even come leaping through the trees in my direction.  Big mistake. 

Here’s a final thought.  If you’re hunting woods that have hills and valleys instead of flat farmland, and still lack an animal or two for that six squirrel limit, move up onto a ridge in late morning.  Grey squirrels particularly, will often travel long distances to a favorite food source, and they like to run ridges heading home.  More than once I’ve sat down on a likely ridge top and picked off a traveler or two to fill my limit.

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One Comment to “Ohio Squirrel Hunting: Avoid Common Mistakes and Get Your Limit”

  1. dobmeyer says:

    the squirrel season is too long. every year I see squirrels mating about the third week in January.