About Mr. Squacks

It was September, 2003 when I first met Squacks at the second annual Shawnee Squirrel Hunt, but it seemed I already knew him from his exploits and stories on the now defunct "Marlin Talk" forum.  Being an avid squirrel hunter myself I was interested in his squirrel hunting knowledge and read all of the articles and stories he had written on the subject. Squacks is a serious outdoorsman and a serious squirrel hunter, he has been around the block once or twice and knows where to find squirrels and squirrel habitat. Its uncanny how one person can know about and remember so many remote places to squirrel hunt. Squacks can, and will tell you where the good places are, what the squirrels are cutting at that time, and more importantly what tactics to use at different places or different times of the year.  It's pretty rare that Squacks doesn't carry at least one squirrel back to camp, and if its only one, you can bet the hunting is going to be tough and a lot of hunters are coming back empty handed. Beyond just the squirrel hunting, Squacks is a master of skinning and field dressing squirrels, I have personally witnessed Squacks completely field dressing a squirrel in a minute or less with no special gadgets, just a small knife and shears. When the squirrels are all cleaned, Squacks puts on his chef’s hat and will turn a mess of squirrels into a meal that makes you ask for seconds. With Squacks permission, I have copied and posted a few of his stories, tips, tricks, and just general all around god advice for squirrel hunting, about squirrels and their habitat.
Introduction to Squirrel Hunting

Howdy all!

I started squirrel hunting back about 1960. I was born into a family of small game hunters. There were no deer or turkeys much in the whole state of Illinois at that time. Large deer and turkey populations are a really new thing in most states and only exist because of people who desired to hunt them. There were virtually no deer in Illinois at all from the late 1800's to the late 1950's when the state at that time re-opened just a handful of counties. European settlers had extirpated them.

I grew up hunting small game. Squirrels and rabbits were at the top of the list and plentiful. Every hunter I knew at that time were all the same...small game hunters.

It seems that small game hunting these days does not have enough glamour for most of the folks who take up hunting.

If a person hunts just on rare occasion, he usually is a deer hunter. The folks who hunt a lot are usually deer hunters who dabble at small game hunting occasionally. Turkey hunting is also becoming one of the glamorous types of hunting.

Small game hunting is greatly beneficial to big game hunters. The basics of still hunting squirrels will make anybody a better deer hunter.

The basics of hunting rabbits in a group is great for learning safe firearm handling in a group.

Small game seasons are usually long and provide more time afield to learn basic hunting skills and the hunting kind of marksmanship.

It takes time in the field to learn woodsmanship. Small game hunting is the way to get out there more often!

This topic, "squirrel hunters...the tree kind", was called the longest running thread on the internet. It spanned 2 years and about 2,000 posts. A lot of the interesting observations about the actual art of squirrel hunting were lost. I intend to bring some of those up again.

Anybody with questions or observations to add are quite welcome to jump in. We all learn from each other. I have hunted squirrels for 43 years but not in a lot of states. You may know a lot of things I may be interested in. Don't hold back!

The squirrels I grew up hunting were the gray and fox squirrels. Fox squirrels in Illinois are the orange variety and are usually much larger than the gray.

Some folks have gotten to call the fox squirrel a "red" squirrel. This has led to some confusion amongst folks from different parts of the country about what a fox squirrel looks like. The true red squirrel is smaller than the common gray. The red squirrel is common in the northern part of our country. I have never seen one in Illinois. I have reports that they do exist in other states than the northern most states. I suspect that they may prefer to inhabit mixed conifer and deciduous forest. It may be that any such large expanse of such mixed forest may hold some red squirrels.

Both the fox and the gray are decent size varmints and hunters, in most states where they exist, pursue them. Red squirrels are not hunted to the same extent. They may not even be legal targets in some areas so it would pay to be sure before hunting them.

There are other types of tree squirrels as well. In Illinois we have 2 color phases of the gray. One is pure white and the other is pure black. These color phases seem to be found in limited areas and localized. On the Lake Michigan shoreline of Illinois, the black phase can be found. The white phase can be found around the town of Olney, which is in the southern part of the state.

In the south part of the country, there are other types of tree squirrels as well as different color phases of fox squirrels.

As tree squirrels have pretty much the same kind of habits wherever they are found, hunting techniques should be very similar wherever you get to hunt.

We are about to discuss squirrel hunting in minute detail. These few paragraphs are to leave no doubt about which kind of squirrels we be talking about!

A Bit about the Squirrel

Lots of folks have asked if it is necessary to wear camouflage clothing while squirrel hunting.

The answer is, no.

What squirrels notice most is movement and noise.

I like wearing camo. I feel a person can move more freely wearing it or woodsy colors. One of my favorite colors to wear in the woods is med. to dark gray. Flat black is another.

Clothes that are not camo can still blend into the landscape quite well. Blue does not blend in and I would avoid wearing blue jeans, as outer wear, if possible.

For hunting I like old soft cloth type clothes. The sticker attracting kind. You want something that is as noiseless as possible when things like branches and stickers are dragged across the material. I hate anything covered in nylon for hunting.

For squirrel hunting, I like dark colored sneaker type shoes. The high top tennis shoes work well in the warmer months. You can "slip" through the woods more quietly in them, if you are still hunting. You can feel those sticks under foot before they snap and reposition your steps to avoid them.

A hat with a bill on it is also helpful to shade the sun off your eyes. It also serves the purpose of something to spray skeeter dope on. I usually spray it under the bill of the cap to keep the rascals out of my eyes.

For folks who just like to sit and wait for squirrels, all this is not near as important. I say again, movement and noise will likely be what tips squirrels off to your position. If you are sitting around most of the time while hunting and moving very little, you can wear most anything.

Early season hunters (May-Sept) will want to wear light cooler clothes while late season hunters (Oct-Feb) are going to need really warm clothes and better footwear on some occasions. The warmer gear will be a must in Jan. when most squirrel hunting is done by sitting or moving really slowly through an area.

I have worn a vest while squirrel hunting since the beginning. Serious hunters can get one made of heavy canvas that will last you most of your life! They are usually a brown or green color to blend with the woods. The pockets hold ammo and necessaries and there is usually a bag on the back for carrying your squirrels. Some folks get by cutting a green stick and carrying squirrels on it. The squirrel is usually stabbed though the back foot or the Achilles tendon and the stick is run through the cut. The stick is cut long enough to stick each end through a belt loop and the squirrels are carried hanging down your leg. You will get bloody...no maybes about it! But it works.

I want to mention weaponry a little before we get into the grit of actual squirrel hunting. This may not be what you are expecting.

I have used pellet guns, slingshots, bows, pistols, shotguns and rifles in pursuit of the squacks. I enjoy hunting with them all.

I suggest you use whatever you feel the most proficient with.

Squirrels are a tough customer for its size. Accurate projectile placement is important.

Lots of people like to hunt squirrels with a rimfire rifle. I am amongst that crowd. It is important to realize that not all places are acceptable to use them in. If it is not safe to fire a rifle in the woodlots you have to hunt, then, by all means, use a shotgun. If there are houses on all horizons, a shotgun or some other kind of short range weapon should be the gun of choice. Never use a rifle unless it is perfectly safe to do so.

#4, #5, and #6 shot is suitable for squirrels. In small gauge shotguns (.410 or .28) you may want to go to #7 1/2 shot to fill the pattern some and reduce the amount of cripples.

In any case, it helps to be proficient with the weapon you use.

In its daily travels, a squirrel leaves sign of its presence.

These signs are a good thing to be able to recognize as they will help you a great deal when scouting or hunting a new piece of timber.

Fresh sign is the only kind of real interest. At times, in large expanses of timber, squirrels travel around a lot. Why they do is still a mystery to me...they just do. When squirrels are present in large numbers they leave a lot of sign of them being there. I have found them a couple of times in my life where they were so thick that I swear I could smell them.

There are basically two kinds of places a squirrel spends the dark hours. The first is in a hole in a tree which is normally called a den tree. In old growth forests with lots of old trees, there will be an abundance of den trees. The thing to look for when scouting is holes than are worn slick around it. These are usually year round dens where young are raised. I have seen a lot of squirrels come out of one hole in the dead of winter. They seem to take up community living when it's necessary in the cold months. They fuss around a lot in there but must get used to it after a bit.

The second type of squirrel abode is the nest, which is woven mysteriously out of any leaves available. Fellow Shawnee hunter TAFF, who hails from Great Britain, calls these drays. Squirrels build these even when there are plenty of den trees around. In younger timber where den trees are scarce, the nest is the common abode of squirrels. These nests can be smallish to huge. Both fox and grey squirrels use both kinds of abode.

A fresh green nest is a good sign of recent squirrel activity. Sometimes there can be a LOT of them.

The next kind of sign to look for would be diggings. Squirrels spend time on the ground poking around any time of the year. They are always digging. When they dig, they usually leave a small pile of dirt in front of a small hole. If the dirt looks fresh, it will have been done recently. If there are a lot of diggings on the forest floor, it is a good sign of a good population of squirrels.

The last kind of sign I look for is cuttings. When a squirrel eats a nut, he first must remove the outer husk. He then CUTS through the nut to get at the meat. It keeps cutting the nutshell away to get at the insides. These cuttings should be green and wet to be really fresh. Fresh cuttings is what is important. Last year’s cuttings are not fresh squirrel sign.

An interesting observation I have made in all these years of hunting squirrels is that gray squirrels almost always cut the nut completely into small pieces. Fox squirrels, a lot of times, will just cut one end off the nut and are somehow able to get the meat out that way. So, if you find a lot of whole nutshells under a tree with just one end bitten off...you can bet that fox squirrels are present.

It pays to know what fresh squirrel sign looks like when hunting large forests. When hunting small woodlots, it is not as important.

Food Sources

I am of the opinion that no squirrel hunter can really get good at his craft until he can identify the foods squirrels use and the trees that the food comes from.

Of course there are other food sources that squirrels use that do not come from trees. They will eat most grains from farm fields and probably some fruits, drupes and berries from plants.

At this point in this discussion, we will focus on the trees that produce mast or a source of food that squirrels use.

These types of trees and their existence will vary from state to state. Each hunter has to learn the ones that are in his specific area.

It also is of use to know when each species of tree has its mast ripen to the extent that squirrels start to use them. Knowing where to find a single kind of tree is also of use. That means you must study the kind of habitat that you find such a tree in so you will know what kind of habitat to look in to find others of its kind.

When you find several squirrels in one tree at one time, you can bet it is probably a food source that they are fond of and that at that point in time, if you are able to find other trees of its kind, you will probably find more squirrels! Knowing how to identify the tree and the habitat it prefers, you will be able to find other trees like it and therefore more squirrels.

It is my intention to go through a list of tree types and the approximate time that these trees ripen mast to the extent that it is ready for squirrels. In actuality, these times will vary from north to south as the seasons are different. The times I will refer to relate to most of Illinois. Remember that as you go south from Illinois, that mast may become ready earlier and just the opposite will occur going in the opposite direction.

As the Illinois season starts on the 1st day of Aug. I will start with that date and then continue on for what I know about one cycle of growth. (A whole year)

Of course, if any of you have different specie to add to this timetable, please do so. Remember to give a location for the timetable so we can get an idea of the difference in availability from one region to the next.

This topic of trees may take a few installments and will also not be a definitive list. I am just relating my observations and experiences in my state over the period of 44 years of squirrel hunting.
Aug 1 has been the squirrel opener in southern Ill. for the 44 years I have been hunting them. One thing you can rely on is that it will be HOT!

There will be lots of skeeters, chiggers and ticks as well. A lot of sweating will be in order to get any hunting in.

In Aug. the first 2 hours of daylight and the last hour before dark are going to be best for hunting. Squirrels will move more in the coolest daylight hours at that time. This means getting into the woods before light and sitting in a spot where you expect them to be or to come to in order to feed.

The knowledge of what kinds of food is ripe and ready will help put you in a better spot at daylight, if you know where the food sources are.

One of the things that squirrels (especially young squirrels) eat in Aug. is black (wild) cherries. These are easy for young squirrels to eat as they have no hard shell to cut through. They are usually plentiful as well.

The only noise that squirrels make while eating them is the movements from branch to branch as they move about the tree in search of the cherries.

You will also, on occasion, find other varmints up a cherry tree. Raccoons, Possums and every bird in the woods will be up in there after those cherries.

I have found enough squirrels in black cherry trees in August to make the cherry tree worth mentioning. Few "nut" trees are ripe at the start of Aug. and a feller has to know about other food sources in order to find many squirrels.

I am going to post a link (hopefully) to a pretty good looking site that has pictures and descriptions of the various types of trees and shrubs we will be discussing. It will make identifying easier...if it works!


On the southernmost quarter of Illinois, the Tulip tree (yellow poplar) can be found. This tree is enormous as eastern trees go. It is commonly over 100 Ft!

I will leave the description go. You can read about the tree itself in the following link.


The leaves are large and dense in the crown. A squirrel in the middle of the tree may as well be under a mountain! He is pretty safe there.

I have found squirrels eating the fruit (seedpod) on the first day of August. They obviously start on them earlier than that. I have found them still eating the pods in November. If you look at the picture of the seedpod in the link, you will notice the pod is sort of Christmas tree shaped. Each individual blade on the larger end contains a small seed kernel that the squirrels eat. That's the only part they eat in august. They usually just eat around the large end and as they do the individual blades that the seed is attached to get cut loose and flutter to the ground. There is no noise much when they do hit the ground. The only noise is when the squirrel is out on the end of a limb looking for seedpods and when he gets done with one and drops the core.

The tip that squirrels are up in a tulip tree is the endless amount of the little blades fluttering downward. I know of nothing else that uses the seedpods in the unripe state.

Hunting squirrels in Tulip trees can be a miserable experience. There can be a lot of them up there and you will be lucky to get ANY of them. The only time you actually see them is when they are out on the end of a limb getting a fresh pod and they don't stay there but a few seconds. After the leaves come off, it's a bunch easier but at that time there is usually an abundance of other foods that the squirrels seem to prefer.

I reckon the problem with tulip trees is that you have to stand right under one to see up in it much. I don't care how old you are, you are going to endure a lot of pain in the neck to get ANY squirrels out of a Tulip tree.

Crow feather mentioned laying on his back while waiting and I admit to doing just that. It probably is a more natural shooting position than trying to shoot straight up while standing!

Some things that squirrels eat are just not as illustrious as others! Almost nobody talks about squirrels in honey locust trees. It seems that it would take a squirrel of great daring to make a jump into a honey locust tree!


The tree is covered top to bottom in the most wicked looking thorns I ever laid eyes on! They grow all up and down the trunk and are REALLY long and branched even! It's a good idea to wear hard bottom shoes in honey locust timber.

First off, let me say that I have never seen a gray squirrel up in a honey locust tree. They may go up there...I have not seen it. It's those REALLY BIG fox squirrels that I see in them. We are talking 3 pound plus fox squirrels and tough as a boot.

The honey locust isn't a bad looking tree. They have a long, flat seed pod that hangs from its branches. These look like a really long green bean!

Anyways, those old fox squirrels risk it all for the "beans" in this pod. I am not sure how long they might use this food source or how often but I found them eating them in the first part of August.

I must say that when I did find them in honey locust trees, the woods that contained them was usually not much of a squirrel woods in the first place.

Hunting in this type of woods is where I found squirrels eating some of the more uncommon and unsavory types of foods. There was little variety and they ate what was available at the time.

Haws are another type of squirrel food that one does not hear of often. I have found squirrels in Hawthorne trees in early August. The haw is another of those trees that is full of nasty looking stickers. Big stickers too.


I found the Haws growing in the same place as the Honey Locust. It was a plumb stickery woods!

Again, I have only seen fox squirrels up a Haw tree, but the woods I found the Haws in only had fox squirrels in it. Most of the trees I have seen occurred in the understory and were not much more than shrubs.

The Haws I have run into in the woods were both black and red.

The Osage orange (Hedge apple or hedge tree as Sarge called it) is another of the foods eaten by squirrels. I should say that, again. Fox squirrels are the only squirrel I have ever seen eating them.


There are a great many Osage orange trees in Illinois and especially through the central part of it.

This is the tree famous for the wood that is used to make bows.

I have found the fox squirrels eating the hedge apples in the first part of Aug. It was comical to watch a fox squirrel wrestle one of those big ole apples into a fork in a tree and wedge it there so he could work on it in a more serious manner!

There is a catch with squirrels eating hedge apples. After a short time, the squirrel gets a strong smell and taste to them. You can smell it when you skin them. I never relished eating squirrel that had spent any time in the hedge apple trees.

The hackberry tree is another of the foods squirrels use that is little talked about. Over the years I have found both kinds of squirrels in hackberry trees in the early part of Aug.


Like the black cherry, there are other critters that can be up a hackberry tree in pursuit of its fruits. At least the berry makes a little noise when they are dropped from the tree and you may hear some stray ones hitting the ground.

I have found the hop hornbeam growing in the southern part of Illinois. I also found both kind of squirrels eating the little nutlets inside the little capsules in the first part of august and onward.


I am always amazed when squirrels show interest in something so small. Of course, they make no noise at all in the process of eating them but only in searching the tree for them. Maybe they taste like Hagen Das ice cream to them....who knows???

The last non-nut type tree of interest is the Cucumber Tree. I have stumbled across a few of these in my wanderings through the Shawnee forest.


It was always in the early parts of Aug. when I found squirrels using them. As they were deep in the middle of the forest, all I ever saw using them was gray squirrels.

Most of the foods we have learned about so far make little or no noise when the squirrel eats them.

Toward the end of Aug. there becomes an abundance of hard shelled nuts that ripen. Those are what most squirrel hunters LONG for. Those are the next topic of interest!

The 3rd week of Aug. in Illinois, it is common to start seeing signs of squirrels sampling hickory nuts. Some years, they may be hard at them by then.

Some years, the whole crop of hickory nuts fail for some reason. It's enough to make hardnosed squirrel hunters boo-hoo in their cornflakes! To go a whole season without finding squirrels in the hickories is a big disappointment!

There are 5 kinds of hickories in Illinois. All five kinds are found in the Shawnee forest.

In my experience, squirrels will start on 4 of them sometime in late Aug. By mid- September, they are hard into all of them.

The Shagbark (Scale bark) is the most recognizable of them all.


The bark makes it easy to spot. The nuts can be quite large and this keeps the squacks busy in one spot for a spell which gives you time to slip up on em! There will be a LOT OF NOISE associated with a squirrel cutting hickories. You will hear the "grit...grit (Sarge's description) of the teeth on the hard shell. You will also hear the outer husks hitting the ground and the steady pitter patter of the smaller cuttings falling through the leaves. Their nails on the loose bark and limbs swishing around as they search the tree are other noises you will hear.

The next three hickories you may or may not have seen or heard of!




I know I have taken squirrels in the Pignut and Mockernut hickories. They make the same noises eating them and really there is no reason to be able to tell one from the other than to be able to find more of the same tree elsewhere. They may prefer different habitats.

The last hickory is important to me. In years where all of the preceding hickories fail, I have seen Shellbark Hickory produce massive amounts of mast. They rarely fail completely. It seems that they wait until about late-September to go at them in a big way.


They like high ridge tops too. There are ridges in Shawnee that are just lined in Shellbark trees.

One great thing about finding squirrels eating hickories is that nothing else I know of eats them! Not up a tree anyways. If you hear cuttings falling out you can be almost positive ...there be squacks up in there!

For you folks who have no squirrel season when the hickories are ready...I feel for you! You are missing it! A tree with 10 or eleven squirrels in it raining hickory cuttings will get the blood pressure up!

A lot of years ago (when I was a young buck) I hunted a creek bottom close to home. On the banks of the little creek stood a lone specimen of Horse Chestnut (Buckeye).


Over the few years I hunted there I found fox squirrels eating those buckeyes. In all the hunting I have done since, I cannot tell you that I have ever seen a squirrel eating buckeyes since.

If my memory serves me correctly, I found them using them around the same time as they were at the hickories. I only mention this for the record.

If any of you have found squirrels eating buckeye, I would like to hear about it.

As the Sarge has mentioned, I have found squirrels eating fox grapes. Fox grapes don't qualify as a tree but squirrels do use them as they ripen...if they ever do. If there is something more sour than a fox grape, I don't want any!

Gobs and gobs of acorns!

I have read that in the Shawnee forest, there are over 30 types of oak trees! I wish I could identify MOST of them. I can't.

The earliest I see squirrels in Oak around me is in the first part of August. I find it amazing that the swamp oak in my yard is ready by then as it does not even have leaves on it until the end of May.

Oaks vary greatly in size and location. I will only touch on a couple of them and leave the rest for you all to study up on. The only reason I mention these two kinds is because of the great difference between them.

The first is the shingle oak. It is the only oak I know of that does not have the familiar oak leaves. Look at them closely. The acorns are really small as well. I have taken squirrels while they were eating them though.


This is another nut that would not normally seem worthwhile for a squirrel to mess with. The ones I am familiar with rarely got to a half of an inch (.500) in dia.

The other is just the exact opposite. The burr oak can have some HUGE ACORNS! The variety I am thinking of, we use to call Over Cup acorns.


Those nuts can be around 2 inches in diameter! That's a lot of dinner for a little bushy tail!

We are not going to talk about acorns a bunch. They are probably responsible for the biggest mast crops most years and assuredly must do a lot towards keeping a large populations of squirrels well fed. They also feed a lot of other critters as well.

You will find them growing in swampy ground (pin oak) and on top of the highest dry ridges. They have lots of holes and are regular den trees.

Acorns are easy for young squirrels to eat as they have a softer shell. They make the usual noise looking for them in the trees. A hunter can usually hear the caps and cuttings hitting the forest floor. On some occasions, I am able to hear a little of the grit-grit of squirrel teeth on a nutshell, but, not often. It's the other sounds that normally give them away.

As there are other critters that eat acorns and knock them out, one never really knows, from whole nuts falling, what is up an acorn tree. You will find chipmunks, ***** and all the birds in the woods up in there. That's why hickory nuts are special! There is no doubt what's up there!

As a general rule, you may find squirrels eating acorns anytime from late august onward. They pack a lot of them around after the nuts fall to the ground. A squirrel just can't stand for a bunch of nuts to be laying all over the top of the ground. It's his bound duty to bury them all! That's why in fall, after the leaves and nuts go down, that's where you will find him. Rustling the deep leaves under those big old oak trees!
One of my favorite trees to find squirrels in is the beech! Around mid-September they become ready.


The beech is as fine a specimen of squirrel wood as there is in my opinion. The smooth greenish gray bark is the key to quickly identifying it. The trunk of an old specimen is normally full of enough holes for an army of squirrels to live in. The tree can produce an enormous crop of beechnuts too.

A squirrel’s love of beech is something to see. Each little burr contains 2 pyramid shaped seeds. The seeds are fairly soft and pithy. It is another food that is ideal for young squirrels as it is easy for them to get at.

I believe that every bird in the woods just sits around waiting for the beech to ripen. You will find them up there as well.

It can be tough to get squirrels in beech, at times, with a rifle. The squirrels seldom sit long eating them. They are all over the tree, eating as they go. A beech can be huge. Sometimes, you can only see the tree from right beneath it.

The beech usually grows around the bottom of deep draws and up the sides of it. The biggest specimens are usually close to the bottom of the creek. With a rifle, one can sometimes get above the treetop by climbing the sides of a ridge. It seems easier to spot the squirrels from above, if you can get there.

Believe me when I say, there can at times be a heap of squacks up a beech tree. Years ago while hunting with a shotgun, I sometimes would drop several from one tree. After all the racket died away, I would be amazed that the cuttings would still be raining out of there! I have also had the same experience hunting in the peak of the hickory season. At times, the squirrels just would not quit! The beechnuts usually hang on the trees until mid-October...if the squirrels don't eat them all!

Turkeys, deer and bear also feed on the beechnuts. Some years it can cover the ground under it with nuts.

I have personally seen beech as far north as Wisconsin, Michigan and New York.

In some parts of western Wisconsin, the make-up of a woodlot can be predominately black walnut. This tree can be found all across Illinois as well. Squirrels in Illinois normally start on walnuts in mid to late September. This can change to drastically earlier in some years.


This is another great nut tree for squirrels! You can hear the grit-grit noise of squirrels cutting walnuts a long ways off! There is a pile of racket associated with squirrels cutting the nuts. Both fox and gray squirrels are quite fond of the walnut.

The walnut tree foliage is more open than a lot of the other trees. Their leaves are some of the first to fall as well. The nuts will hang on longer than the leaves.
When the leaves are gone or mostly so, the squirrels get nervous sitting in the bare tree. When you hear one cutting and get the walnut tree singled out you think he is in, look first at the junction of the trunk and the limbs. It can usually be found down low with his butt against the trunk. They may feel safer there as they can dodge behind the trunk to avoid predation by hawks.

The squirrel may also be sitting in the brush down low to the ground. Late in the fall you can sometimes find a spot in the brush with large piles of walnut cuttings in one spot. This is surely a spot where the squirrel feels safer. It takes a squirrel quite a while to eat a walnut and in the open, it is vulnerable.

If squirrels are hunted much in the walnut season, they can become quite "cagey" when cutting them. They can cut so softly that you will have a hard time locating them. When they are doing this, they have usually seen you but have not become alarmed enough to "run for it".

I should also mention the butternut at this time. It looks similar to the walnut but is oblong shaped.


I have run into a FEW butternut trees here and there. I never saw a bunch of them anywhere! Squirrels like them. I mention them only so you will see the difference in the nuts, if you ever run up on them.

Squirrel hunting in walnut timber is what the rimfire rifle shines at! The old squack, once he starts on a walnut, is not going to be moving around for a while. You can really take your time and "squeeze down" on em! I have made my "most memorable shots" after the leaves come down in the walnut timber. You can sometimes spot them a long ways off if you know what to look for!

The pecan is found on the southernmost end of Illinois and becomes ready about the same time as beech and walnuts. In Illinois, these are found in rich bottoms. The nut is much smaller than the ones grown commercially. This tree is not abundant but I have found them in small numbers in Illinois.


They still taste the same! Both kinds of squirrels like them and use them. They make the same kind of noises looking for the nuts and eating them.

With the ripening of pecans, walnuts and beech all of the nut bearing trees I know of have now ripened for the season. Usually by late October, the majority have fallen to the ground.

When the nuts and leaves have fallen, squirrels spend a lot of their time on the ground packing and burying nuts of all kinds.

With the nuts on the ground, we will skip ahead to the spring period and talk of the trees that squirrels find food in at that time. Once we cover the entire season, we will get into squirrel hunting proper!

Illinois does not have a spring squirrel season. Shucks!

Squirrel hunters can learn a lot about squirrel hunting by observing their activities year around.

The critters usually start breeding here in late December or early January. I see the first litter out and about around April.
As I have mentioned before, when certain foods become available will depend on the latitude in which you live.

In this installment, I will cover the basic spring foods that squirrels find in trees around here in the spring. These trees may be found in your area but may be done by the time the spring seasons come in.

The first thing I see squirrels eat is the leaf buds from most of the soft wood trees before they leaf out. Mostly, soft wood trees leaf out first.

Before the leaves of some trees appear, they may put on some types of seed. One of these is the maple. There are many varieties of maple but most of you are familiar with the winged (helicopter like) seeds they produce.


I have squirrels eating these seeds in my yard at this time. They eat a lot of them....I wish they would eat them all!

The next is the elm tree. Morel mushroom hunters love elm trees! Anyways, what a squirrel sees in an elm seed is a mystery to me. They are so small that it seems a waste of energy eating them....but they do.


I said that I would stick to the trees that I know about personally and so must leave some of the trees out. Anybody who knows of other spring trees that squirrels use are welcomed to post them.

In my yard, in late June, the mulberry fruits here. Birds and squirrels can be found in them eating all the mulberries they can hold.


Lots of young squirrels can be found in mulberry trees when they are ripe.

Later on in summer, I have found squirrels eating apples of all kinds. Here in my area, there are a great many wild apple trees in the woods. Squirrels do use them on occasion.

Of course I can't keep the buggers off my bird feeders! That's where most city folk get the mistaken idea that all squirrels act like birdfeeder squirrels. Make no mistake about it....they don't.

If you hunt a woods that has no squirrel hunting pressure at all and only hunt it once or twice a year....it will be pretty easy to get a limit of squirrels.

If you hunt where squirrels are hunted pretty hard...they can be amazingly tough to come by. Don't count on them being a cinch!

We are going to leave the trees at this point and focus on squirrel hunting tactics and strategies! Now that we know what squirrels like to eat and when to expect them to start eating it, we can make a plan before we get to the woods. This means knowing the woods that you hunt pretty good and how to identify the trees that squirrels use.

Finding Squirrels

This will be the first time we talk about how to actually find squirrels. My father started teaching me this lesson at the age of 9. It may surprise some folks.

A good squirrel hunter will hunt squirrels with his EARS and then find them with his eyes. When I start actually looking for a squirrel, I already know it is there.

In its daily existence, a squirrel makes a few different noises. I have learned to recognize all of them. I made it my business many years ago to study those noises and to be able to tell them from any other noise in the woods.

No matter if the leaves are up or down, if they are cutting nuts or not, you can still find squirrels...IF YOU KNOW WHAT KIND OF NOISES THEY MAKE.

Your ears will guide you in close enough for your eyes to catch the movement or just plain spot them. No matter what squirrels are doing, it is your hearing that can guide you to them.

When a hunter learns to hunt squirrels by sound he does not need calls or any other kind of miracle devise to find them. I have never used squirrel calls and don't own one. I don't want squirrels to know I am in the same woods with them by making any kind of noise.

Squirrels bark for only a couple of reasons. One is a danger signal. Why would I want to give my location away with a danger signal? It may work sometimes, it may not.

Learning to identify the noises squirrels make is a definite advantage that will work anytime squirrels are doing anything but snoozing.(My ears ain’t good enough to hear them snore) lol!

When I remarked on whether or not squirrels made noise while eating a particular type of food, I was arming you with the first of the different noises we are going to talk about.

If your hearing is bad, you will have to resort to looking for squirrels. This will put you at a large disadvantage. A person with good eyes (or eyeglasses) and good hearing has the uppers on a person who doesn't. A person who has both and the knowledge of squirrel noises will be a pure nightmare to the squirrel kingdom!

Squirrel noises to follow!!!!!

Squirrel noises made with their mouth: Every tree squirrel hunter has probably heard squirrels barking. Excited barking is usually used when a squirrel sees or hears something out of the ordinary. It is alert. It usually has the disturbance pointed like a bird dog. A barking squirrel may or may not run away. It may come closer to you if it is new to squirrel hunters! If it saw several of his buddies knocked to the ground in the last couple of days it may not be so inclined.

Most squirrel hunters know this. Lots of times, if one squirrel starts barking, he can stir up several more into helping out with the racket. Barking squirrels may be approachable if one move very slowly. It may keep it up until it is too late.

The one thing I can tell you about squirrels barking is that if you listen to a fox squirrel and a gray squirrel bark, you will notice that they sound different. If you get them both barking together, it will be much easier to notice. Fox squirrels have a much higher pitched and a cleaner sounding bark. A gray squirrels bark will be lower pitched and much more guttural. So, you can tell what kind of squirrel you be sneaking up on before you actually put eyes on him. What difference does that make? Whether it matters or not to you, it has been my experience that a fox squirrel is a much dimmer critter than the gray. A gray don't stay put forever and usually is going to make a break for it if he don't like a situation. A fox squirrel will more than likely try to hide for a while and may not even bother with that. In my opinion, fox squirrels are a little easier to get all things being equal. That information may be useful to you in determining your approach.

Squeals: Cat squirrel! Louisiana squealer! You may have heard one of these terms. I have never heard a fox squirrel squeal. If any of you have...I would like to hear about it.

I have heard LOTS of grays squeal. I have made up my mind that the squeal serves 2 purposes. The first is extreme and immediate danger! Ever see a hawk sail through the timber. Squirrels will bark like machine guns! Then they break off into those long tapering squeals. They may keep this up for a long period of time. They usually are stuck to the back side of trees peeking around for the danger.

The second use of the squeal is a locator. I have heard them squealing up on the high ridges when they were scarce in numbers. I believe they use it at times to find other squirrels.

Growls or cchhhrrrr. When I have heard squirrels make this noise it is always 2 or more tail chasing. Around and around a tree they will be going and the sound of those sticky nails on bark is easily heard.

These are all the sounds that I know that tree squirrels make with their mouths. If anybody knows of more...I am listening!!!

More squirrel sounds to follow!

I agree with Sarge that looking for something that does not look right, when looking for a squirrel up a tree, will help spot them. It's like deer hunting. You find deer by looking for little pieces of them and horizontal lines.

It is also true that under good conditions, you will hear them before they are able to be seen and your eyes will be drawn to the direction of the noise.

More squirrel noises!

Riding the timber! Ever watch a squirrel jump from one tree to another? When he jumps off the first limb there will be a swish of leaves and branches. When he lands on the other limb you get to hear it all over again! If it's early in the morning and there is dew, fog or rain in the leaves, there will be water droplets hitting the ground. All these make a distinctive noise that broadcasts the existence of the squirrel and in which direction to head or look in.

Claws on bark.

There are a couple of bird types that run up and down on tree bark that may fool you at first, but after years of listening, you will begin to pick out the rhythm of squirrels nails on bark and be able to tell the difference. It probably has something to do with the squacks having 4 feet and a bird having only 2. My job here is to only make you aware that if you listen for ...oh....40 years or so, you will get pretty good at telling the difference! Then again, you may be quicker at it than me and it may only take you 30 years or so...lol!


I mention this because new folks to squirrel hunting are going to find this out. There is a peckerwood or 2 that can sound a lot like a squirrel barking. The trick to telling the difference is that the squirrel bark is more guttural while the old woodpeckers is a nice clean sound. It will be embarrassing, at first, slipping up on all those woodpeckers, but you will figure it out in...Oh say 30 ....well...you get the idea. Keep at it. Lol!


Grit...grit...grit! The sound that is distinctively squirrel! The sound of those ever growing teeth cutting into the hard shell of a nut. Some can be heard for long distances. It is imperative to know what this sounds like. There be no doubt what is up there when you hear this sound. This is why I related the noises when going through the food trees. This sound can guide you right to a LOT of squirrels that you may not find otherwise.


The sound of cuttings falling through the leaves. You may hear a whole nut hit the ground once in a while, but that won't convince me. It has to be a steady rain of small pieces coming to the ground. You can usually track them up the tree by watching for the leaves moving further and further up to get an idea where the varmint might be located. With a dozen up a tree cutting ANYTHING, you will have no doubt that they are squirrels!

On the ground.

After listening to squirrels rooting around on the ground and traveling on the leaves, you will be able to eventually determine that they are squirrels before you see them. Again, it's the rhythm of the movement that gives them away. You may have to listen to many hundreds of them to get it perfect, so I suggest you go hunting more often to get in more practice. Just tell the wife, I said it's ok......

That is the sound of squirrels hitting the ground! I hope you get to hear it often.

I will say this again because if you learn anything from this whole mess it's that if you take time to learn these sounds and how to filter them from all the other noises in the timber, you will have gone far and away from the average squirrel hunter. You will have the skills to find squirrels at any time of the year and in any type of timber. This will help greatly when hunting in new locations.

When you have it down pat, you will be able to locate squirrels with your eyes closed! Lol!

Hunting and Field Dressing Squirrels

A squirrel is a pretty tough critter. It can take some pretty hard hits and still have the gumption to get to a hole!

If you shoot a squirrel and it hangs on up in the tree, do not hesitate to shoot it again. Lots of times, I have seen them hanging on by one claw, looking like it was all over, only to have them jump to the limb and make a dash for a hole.

Sometimes, even if they do go on and fall out, they hit the ground with enough life to make it to a groundhog hole or brush pile.

When you do encounter a live, crippled squirrel on the ground (and you will), it should be dispatched immediately. It’s better that it never know you are there. If you have a rimfire rifle, shoot it again if possible. If you try to get up on it, it may run and you may not find it.

Under no circumstances should you use your firearm as a club! Do not try to butt stroke it either! You will eventually shoot yourself or at the least, crack the stock on your gun. If you want to use a club, the woods are full of them! Your gun should be considered a non-club item!

For many years, I have delivered the ole coup d grace with the heel of my shoe. Any squirrel that is still breathing at all, I will crush its skull with the heel. Just stomp down hard, heel first. This can be done to every one if you can't tell and want to make sure they are dead. You don't want the thing coming back around in the back of your jacket or tied to your belt! That could get purely exciting!

Lots of folks have told me that they field dress squirrels when they first kill them. This is something that I have never done. I usually only hunt 3-4 hours of a morning or evening. Even in hot weather, I have never seen squirrels spoil in that time. Since I have never field dressed squirrels, I can't tell you how it might be to skin them afterwards. A slit belly may not be beneficial to the way I skin them either.

We will get to the skinning soon. I will put up a video.

A lot of years ago, my hunting partner (KnottyBumpo) and I made a little video on how to skin squirrels. He had a new camera and just had to film something! I was awful camera shy but after a few "takes" and a lot of laughs he got one. It took him quite a while to figure out how to go from the camera' format to what you are going to watch here. You could use your phone today.

First, I will thank KnottyBumpo for his efforts. This was first shown on MarlinTalk.

Where most people run into trouble with this method is that they think the tail has something to do with the skinning. It does not. The idea is to get that wide flap of skin angling to the front of the rear legs. The flap of skin is what you stand on when doing the actual skinning. Wedge your foot in there close to the meat and put your weight on the flap....NOT THE TAIL. The tail will not stand the pressure and will break. Wiggle your hands back and forth changing the pressure from one side to the other while pulling up. This helps the skin tear.

Grays will skin much easier than fox squirrels but both can be done easier than any other method I have ever run across.

It makes little difference how long the squirrel has been dead. I never skin squirrels until I am done hunting and that is usually 3-4 hours. That much time will make no difference in the difficulty of the skinning job.

This method will take some practice. It is worth learning. If you fail on one, don't give up. I have skinned some thousands of squirrels in my life and I still occasionally break a tail off. If you think it is not worth the effort to learn this you may want to watch that little timer at the bottom of the screen. You can skin a bunch of squacks in no time at all once you get this down pat!

I see lots of folks are checking this thread. I was hoping to hear from some of you. This thread is a “bring along” from MarlinTalk and we taught a few folks to squirrel hunt since its beginning. I encourage any of you with questions to ask?!!! There are some good squirrels hunters that visit this thread and they all are famous for helping folks out. FOR YOU REALLY SERIOUS SQUIRREL HUNTERS....THE SHAWNEE SQUIRREL HUNT IS A GREAT TIME!

I kind of jumped the gun with the skinning video. We have not even slipped up on a squirrel yet! I can't figure how I let that happen...

Since we got the squacks skinned already, we might as well get them ready for storage or eating.

When you cut up a squirrel, you will find some fatty kernel under the front armpits. You want to pull these off while you are gutting them. They can make the meat taste strong.

When you have them cut into usable pieces, put them in a large container and cover them with fresh water. I salt the water heavily and add a little white vinegar. Soak overnight in the fridge. This will draw the blood from the parts and leave your meat nice and pretty.

If you have more than you are going to use for some time, you will want to freeze them. Before the season comes in, save up a bunch of milk cartons. You can use those plastic jugs. Cut a hole in the top big enough to put the pieces in. Leave enough room to cover the pieces with water. Write the date and all the other info you need on the carton, so you know what it is a year later. (You won't remember). Use a laundry pen or indelible marker. Now, stick them in the freezer. ANY GAME frozen in water, will not dry out or freezer burn. I have eaten those 2 years later and they were fine. If you freeze them without water, you had best eat them right away. Of course you can freeze them in anything that will hold water.

I posted my favorite recipe for squirrels over in the recipe forum a while back. It is easy for us non cooking types and any squirrel can be made tender using it. If you have young squirrels it would be downright awful not to fry them and make squirrel gravy! If there is a better gravy than squirrel gravy....PLEASE...somebody tell me what it is!!!
Squirrel Hunting Thru Squirrel Season

When I was a young squirt back in the 50's, the squirrel season came in here in Illinois on August 1st and ended Oct 15. Because of the lack of hunting pressure the DNR has over the years extended the season to where last year it ended Feb. 15. Lots of states have long squirrel seasons.

Compared to years ago, a very small percentage of hunters pursue squirrels. At last year’s Shawnee squirrel hunt, I can't remember seeing anybody else hunting them except the folks who came to that hunt. Years ago, there would have been a good number of local folks hunting squirrels. We had about 300,000 acres to hunt and few folks hunting besides us. Try to find that while deer hunting!

What I started out to talk about was the early part of season. Lots of folks have told me over the years that they don't hunt squirrels until the leaves go down. They usually claim that they can't see them with all those leaves in the trees.

Remember, I said that the season used to go out here in Illinois on October 15. During that time, there were no days during the season that the leaves had fallen. I learned to hunt squirrels with the leaves up.

There are advantages to hunting squirrels with the leaves up. You may not be able to spot squirrels from long distances, but then they won't see you either. That means the shots will be closer. You can get up on them closer without them being able to spot you. It works both ways.

How do you find them when the leaves are up??? You all should be replying in unison now......by finding them with your ears and moving in close to find them with your eyes! That's how you find squirrels with the leaves up.

There is another good thing about early seasons. There is usually no other hunting season in so you are NOT torn between going for something else. You will also get in some practice at shooting and woods skills for your other hunting interests.

Let me just say right now that anybody who can regularly shoot squirrels in the head at 30-50 yards should have no excuse at missing whole deer during the deer season!

Hickory season occurs in the leaves up time period. No squirrel hunter worth his salt would stay out of the woods during that time.

You can practice finding squirrels anytime of the year. During the off season while loafing around, try to spot them. You will be surprised that you can find squirrels plenty good if you put in the effort.

Everybody has a way they like to hunt squirrels best.

I prefer still hunting or "slipping". I never stalked a squirrel in my whole life, but I have slipped on pile of them.

In a dry spell, it becomes more difficult to slip. A person can still slip around in some places. Streambanks are usually wet and are good places to be. A dirt or logging road may also be usable. Some places have hiking trails that may have bare dirt as well and all these places will make it easier to move silently through the woods.

Some woods will not have any of these features. In dry spells, it will pay you to know what squirrels are feeding on and where to find some of the trees that produce the mast. A hunter can get into the timber before light and sit in good range of such trees before the old bushy tail wakes up. Most diehard squirrel hunters will always be in the timber before light anyways.

If it is so dry that you cannot make a move, then don't. I will normally sit in one spot if squirrels are coming to it. Knowing those food sources and where to find them will put you in the right place before daylight. When you shoot a squirrel and are certain it is dead, leave it lay. Do not give up your position just to go pick up one dead squirrel. You may get several by waiting a while and then you can pick them all up on your way out.

One can usually navigate even dry timber if you move really slowly. I wear tennis shoes most of the season as they are quieter to hunt in.

It can take a good bit of time for squirrels to resume activities, if you make a bunch of noise getting in to where they are, patience will be required to wait them out.

Patience (sorely lacking in people today) is one of the most useful qualities a hunter can have.

My dad was a good still hunter. I doubt that most any morning he ever covered much more than a hundred square yards of timber. He usually got his limit of squirrels in that hundred yards too. He did it with patience, listening for squirrels, and knowing what they would be feeding on. That put him right in amongst them.

When still hunting, I usually move only a few yards at a time. I try to "listen" way out away for me. I move a few yards and stand and listen for 5 or 10 minutes. I may scan the timber to identify what types of trees are there, but all the time I am listening for noises made by squirrels. I usually pick my way along the quietest way I can find. It makes for some pretty indirect ways of getting to a point I want to get to. Anything that sounds to me like squirrels will re-direct me towards them. I may never get to where I started for. There is an old Indian saying that goes, "walk little...look heap". To that I would add listen heap!

When I hear squirrels, I head in their direction. From a distance, try to figure which trees they may be in. Move as quietly and slowly as possible when you get in close. If squirrels start barking at you before you get into range...you are not moving slowly or noiselessly enough!

I get the most satisfaction putting a good sneak on a squirrel that ends successfully and he never knew I was there.

Nobody (friend of many and a person that I enjoyed hunting with): Sounds like you have plenty places around you to hunt squirrels. Everybody has their own way that they like to hunt and none are bad as long as you are hunting and enjoying yourself. A cool, still morning, hunting squirrels in the timber is hard to beat!

When the leaves go down, it gets tougher to slip up on squirrels. It is even lots tougher if they have been hunted a bunch.

When the leaves are gone, squirrels will be able to spot you from out of even rimfire rifle range! Still hunting when the leaves are down calls for moving really slowly through the timber. The squirrels' normal tactic for avoiding you at this time of year is to run (or jump!) to the ground, and run off. I have seen them dive 75 feet from a treetop to the ground with their legs just churning! They hit the ground running! Those are squirrels that are TOUGH to get! Why the fall don't kill them amazes me.

At times, it will be best to move into an area and just sit for a spell. I like to sit at the bottom of a hill and watch the side of it. When the leaves and nuts are on the ground, so are the squirrels. They spend most of their time packing and burying nuts. You will be able to see more ground clearly, from the bottom of a hill. You will also be able to shoot safely into the side of it. Some days, you can hear squirrels everywhere rustling around in the leaves. A .22 can be very effective with the leaves down. A .22 mag. will give you a little more range.

I used the .17hmr the last couple of seasons. It has great squirrel getting capabilities....but.....I messed up a few of them. I was doing my best to make head shots but they did not come off every time. In the timber and in my opinion, a .22 mag with solids is just as and maybe more handy than the .17hmr. You can body shoot a squirrel with the mag. solids if need be.

Anyways, whatever you choose to hunt with, you will find squirrels making the same noises as before.

Some windy days, you can still find squirrels in the deep draws and behind the steep ridges where it is quieter. Squirrels don't like wind much. I would guess that they fear predation by hawks. All that movement in the trees makes it more difficult to sort out movement quick enough to keep from being dinner!

As always, it will be to your benefit to sit in a place that shows fresh sign. Squirrels feeding or moving around in an area for very long are going to leave plenty sign of their presence.

Lots of folks prefer sitting and waiting for squirrels no matter what time of year it is. There is good reason for it too. It works!

I told you all that I love to still hunt for squirrels. When I slip up on one and make a good shot, I will stand right where I fired the shot for 5 or 10 minutes without moving. Many times after the shot, squirrels will start barking. If there are a few close by, they may all start barking. They can be looking at you or the squirrel on the ground.

If this should happen to you, it will be tough to stay cool and squeeze off good shots. You can only get them one at a time though....so concentrate on one good shot at a time. Only shift your body and gun enough to line up the next shot and you may get most or all the ones that have given their position away. The more shots you fire to put a squirrel down, the less likely you are to get many of them.

If they shut up, stand tight and watch closely. After a few minutes they may show themselves.

If you go to downed squirrels right after you shoot them, you will miss seeing a lot of squirrels you never knew were there. You will also educate the survivors making it tougher on you later!

If you make a bad shot and know a squirrel is crippled, then you must go after him right away. This will ruin the fore mentioned strategy. It pays to shoot only when you are pretty certain that you will make a killing shot!

If I run up on a couple of squirrels tail chasing and growling, I like to have them both in sight when I fire the first shot. The survivor will usually stay where he is looking at his buddy, and will offer you up a quick shot at him. Again, it is important not to get excited and mess up the first shot or the second squirrel is going to be putting something between you and it...like a tree trunk! It is easiest for a squirrel to escape you by going straight to the ground and running straight away with the trunk between you and it.

So practice shooting walnut size targets as much as possible before season. One shot kills will go a long way in helping to fill your limit!
Skinning Knives

The subject is skinning knives!

Over the years, I have seen lots of folks tying to skin game with something akin to a bowie knife! I suppose a big knife may be useful in the tree removal business or some such but in skinning any kind of game I ever encountered, it is just not a handy tool.

Folding blade, lock back and sheath type knives are all fine for skinning and gutting. A folding blade pocket knife is fine if you are careful that it does not fold up on your fingers.

The blade I prefer will be a thin clip point and not more than 3 inches long. It will also be made of a high carbon steel and not stainless.

Such a blade is easy to work with and sharpen. If you are skinning lots of game being able to sharpen a knife quickly and easily is a must.

Having been a trapper for 15 years, I learned the importance of such a blade. It will skin ANYTHING from muskrats to caribou. The carbon steel will only take a couple of licks to a whetstone to be back to a good edge again.

If you are hunting big game you may want to add something like a sierra saw to your fanny pack. Besides clearing brush with it, I have sawed through skullcaps, pelvis bones and ribcages with it. It is light to carry and will take the heavy work off your knife’s fine cutting edge.

If you like pocket knives, the muskrat or trapper pattern styles best fit the description of a skinning knife. Again, carbon steel will suit the job best. A good one will have a handle that fits your hand well and brass bolsters. Get a good one!

Keep the thing sharp! Its lots easier to work with a sharp knife. Putting lots of pressure on a dull knife is what gets most people cut.

I have always figured that most folk who carry those huge knives are not carrying them for skinning or have never skinned much game. In my opinion, they just ain’t a handy tool to use.

Always good to hear from you "rabid" squirrel hunters!

Being able to make "short work" of cleaning a heap of squacks sure makes hunting them a bunch more fun!

The video shows the best way of skinning them I know of and it keeps the meat pretty hairless if you're careful.

A good knife and a tool like those game shears also helps to make it easier.
I also carry a genuine squirrel skinning bucket and a roll of paper towels in the truck. An extra skinning knife ain’t a bad idea either! To lose your best skinning knife is a heartbreaking affair! To be completely and utterly ...knifeless....would make me downright uncomfortable!

Squirrel skinning is best done on a hard flat surface. If such a thing is not readily available where you do your skinning, I suppose a hunter could carry a small piece of plywood in the vehicle to skin them on.

With 2 or more folks hunting together, we usually put one fella to skinning and the others gutting and cutting up the varmint into edible pieces. One good skinner can keep 3 guys busy gutting and cutting up.

The more you do while skinning, the less you will have to do when you get home. Trim up the bad spots and chuck any badly shot up parts. It saves having to dispose of them when you get home.

Usually, when a group of folks are at the job, there is a lot of "yarning" and banter which makes the job go quickly.
The Squirrel Botfly (Cuterebraemasculator)

The squirrel season comes in here in Illinois the first day of Aug. and runs until mid Feb.

During the early months, it is not uncommon to find squirrels with wolves in them. These go by several names. Bots, wolves, heel flies, warbles, or grubs seem to be other names for them.

The wolves are an insect larvae (botfly) that will be found between the skin and the meat. In the months of Aug and Sept, they are readily noticeable as large lumps. This lump will have a hole cut through the skin for the parasite to breathe.

Squirrels seem to be able to put up with these parasites. I have killed squirrels with 2 of them a couple of times. These squirrels were doing normal healthy things and didn't seem impeded by the parasite at all.

Sometime in late September, the bug leaves the squirrel. There may be signs of its former presence as a scab or as hairless patches where the squirrel has been itching the wound. I suppose some die from infection but most probably make it.

I have never bothered to skin squirrels with wolves in them. I doubt that it could be harmful to eat them, but I still won't.

I am sure some of you have encountered squirrels with wolves. It may be interesting to find what kind of range they might be found in.

I have seen them in Illinois, Wisconsin and Tennessee.
The Fox Squirrel

Some folks prefer to find fox squirrels.

Over the years, I have hunted timber that had only fox squirrels and I have hunted timber that was completely devoid of them. I am not talking about a hunt or two either. I mean for years of hunting and never seeing any difference.

In woods where squirrels are mixed about half and half, one gets an idea where to specifically look to find fox squirrels. Finding them in the same places year after year gives one an idea of where to look.

If I wanted to find a fox squirrel, I would probably hunt a grazed pasture with large trees that are going to be a fair distance from one another. That is only because there will be little or no understory there. Fox squirrels will inhabit such habitat.

The outer boundary of any woods is another place to find them. It is even better if the wood line borders a cornfield.

River or creek bottom floodplains are another place you may find them. These places are usually wet most of the year and fewer types of trees can survive there. It may be weedy under such a woods but usually is not brushy.

It seems to me that fox squirrels prefer a more open type of habitat than grays and that is the type of timber I have been trying to describe.

In the hills of Shawnee, it is extremely rare to find a fox squirrel. If you go down into the bottoms along the rivers and swamps, you will find a few. In years when I have found a few fox squirrels in those hills, the grays were pert near non-existent!

A few years ago, in late fall, I was in Shawnee. There was a huge amount of fresh mast on the ground that had not been touched by squirrels. There were no signs of squirrels either. They were not present.

The next year, they were as thick as I ever saw them. They had moved in from someplace else. 12 months is a long time for them to get there but the amount of squirrels there that time is unexplainable. They had to have traveled in from someplace else.

I have read of great squirrel migrations in the 19th century. The old timers where I came from used to claim that they migrated from Missouri by swimming the Mississippi river. If true, that is a sight I would love to slap eyes on!
Snake Safety While Hunting

The subject is snake safety. This is rightfully a hunting topic.

Now before I give out some basic guidelines that can keep you from getting bitten, just let me say this. The minute the subject of snakes comes up, folks start telling whopper... stories attributing snakes with all kinds of supernatural powers!

Nothing sounds more suspect than a second hand snake story! In order to maintain credibility, let’s just keep it to 1st hand snake stories (if you must) that at least land in the realm of possibilities! At least, keep them within the laws of physics!

Now, this be honest, good advice for keeping you from getting snake bitten. Anybody that wants to throw in with me (watch those second hand snake stories now!) and add a few more, I will be grateful!

Shawnee has 3 kinds of poisonous snakes… so pay attention you Shawnee hunters!







These are my basic guidelines and they have kept me safe in snake country for the last 40 odd years of hunting.