How to hunt the Tree Squirrel (Abert and subspecies Kiabab)

Discussion in 'Bird Dogs, Upland, Migratory & Waterfowl' started by Justin, Sep 23, 2006.

  1. Justin

    Justin Guest

    To be successful at squirrel hunting, one must research, scout, hunt, and experience the squirrel as much as possible. As with deer or elk, you need to know the animal you are hunting to be successful (some get lucky). A good place to start is the internet. Acquaint yourself with their behaviors, what they eat, and their habitat. Next, explore their territory. Look for chewed-off ends of pine tree branches littering the forest floor. Typically when you see fresh pine tree ends, you know you're in the vicinity of at least one family of squirrels. Look for huge clumps of pine needles and litter high in pine trees, as this is how they nest. Keep your ears open for barking, as this is their threat to intruders.

    The Abert Tree Squirrel will typically be found in areas with the most food. Their diet consists mainly of the following: Ponderosa Pine seeds, fungi, the inner bark, terminal buds, staminate flowers, and pinyon nuts. Also consumed are vegetable items, and misletoe. They are consumers of both: epigeal (above ground, fruiting bodies) and hypogeal (below ground) mycorrhizal (symbiotic) fungi (3). According to source #3, in the fall months over 90% of the Abert's food consumption is fungi. It is apparent the squirrels' locations are moderately to highly dependent on the locations of this fungi. The habitat (Williams and Flagstaff area) we find them most inhabited is where the trees are dense making for a very shady forest floor, with very little vegetation and obstacles on the ground (which hinder the squirrels' commotion). However, we also find them in grassy, unshady areas, with rocky forest floors. This goes to show that even if an area looks like prime squirrel country, it need not contain any. Our hunting group has finally come to the conclusion that squirrel abundancy is dictated by the sought-after fungi, and that these areas have a higher likelihood of being in a shady, smooth area, than a sunny, rough area. With that said, it all comes down to knowing the area you hunt.

    The tree squirrel is not an early-riser, so don't cut your sleep too short. We usually leave the camp around 8:30 or 9, just as the sun is hitting the tops of the trees and moving down toward the forest floor. They usually spend a little while soaking up the morning sun in their nest, then head to the forest floor to get breakfast. The idea is to hunt the most when they are roaming the forest for food, which is in the morning to noon, and in the latter part of the day. They can be spotted all day (just as those big mulies at 2pm), so don't take too long a break mid-day.

    The method of hunting I prefer is "spot and chase". The spotting part can be performed by truck, car, or, preferably, on foot. Now comes the chase. The goal is to quickly herd the creature up a tree (some squirrels are particularly athletic and/or smart, and it is at the discretion of the hunter whether to kill such a fit animal). Once in the tree, the hunter has to monitor where exactly it goes. Often it jumps to different trees, and can elude the hunter very quickly without careful surveilance. This next part is much easier if co-hunters are present. Once the squirrel is fairly well-situated, pull out the binoculars and start glassing the squirrel for a good shot. Most of the lucky, or smarter, squirrels end up in the very top of a tree, and well camouflaged. Because hunters should strive for the cleanest kill, sniping with a .22 or other scoped gun is ideal. Once the head of the squirrel is located, aim and fire. If the head is not visible from anywhere, I usually let him go, or make sure I know where the head is and fire. I generally abide by my self-governed system of taking only three shots, and leaving the squirrel be if I miss all. If I injure it, I quickly strive for the kill. It is unfortunate when an injury is inflicted upon such a special little creature, but that is a risk one takes hunting.

    Field dressing is fairly simple with the squirrel. Really the only part worth eating is the hindquarters, so you essentially discard the front half. An easy procedure is as follows. First, thank the squirrel for taking its life, and shake his/her hand. Next, turn the squirrel over on a stump, and cut across the abdomen (between the bottom of the ribs and the pelvis, though closer to the pelvis) completely through the trunk. Discard the upper half of the squirrel. Now unpeel the skin from the latter half, bringing it to the feet, and slightly exposing the tail. Cut off (or twist off) the feet at the nearest joint. Next, flip over the squirrel and split the front of the pelvis by pressing down on the knife (exposing the remaining intestinal and reproductive tract). Cut around the base of the tail stub. Now, twist the hanging skin (which is attached only at the tail), and pull. This will remove the remaining entrails, while also subtracting the tail stub. Clean him up, store in a cooler, and use hand santizer.

    Return to camp once there is not enough light to see. Around the campfire tell the others your day's adventures.

    Make sure you add your own methods of hunting squirrels!!!

  2. TallPaul

    TallPaul Guest

    Justin, DAM - and wecome. Thanks for the info. So can I come with you on Opening Day?-

  3. Justin

    Justin Guest

    Tall Paul, you're welcome to hang out with us opening weekend. This year we're going to try somewhere in 7W, as my lucky friend who drew a bull tag there will also be scouting. The G+F website says unit 7W has a fair squirrel population this year, but I have faith that we'll locate a slew of them. Oct.13 is the opening day. We shall be up there, and anyone into trying a new sport is welcome. I know almost for sure that my good friend and his dad, another good friend, and I will be there. Hopefully more people show up as the more the merrier!
  4. Justin: I would really like to communicate with you before I head to your state to hunt Abert's and Kaibab squirrels. I live in Michigan and have shot many Fox, Black, Grey and Pine squirrels and have always wanted to hunt the squirrels listed above. I have been reluctant to fly to Arizona and try to figure out where and how to hunt your squirrels. I've asked for years for Arizona squirrel guides but I guess that they just don't exist. I did talk to someone at your state's DNR and he was very helpful. Your post has been very helpful as well. If possible, I would like to speak with you before I head to Arizona next month. You seem to know an awful lot about these species. My email address is: [email protected]. Please let me know if that is possible. Thanks, Greg
  5. TallPaul

    TallPaul Guest


    Hey Greg, Welcome :welcome:

    Looks like you found your Squirrel Guide. :D
    Give a yell if you make those plans and come out.
  6. I'm heading up this weekend to get after some of these little guys...haven't ate squirrels in a long time.

    I do have a question though about what type of gun is allowed to be used..
    I have an older 22 Ruger semi-auto 22 (tube fed) that I had planned to use, but I'm concerned it may
    hold too many rounds to be legal. Anyone know for sure?

  7. I'm going up this weekend to , up around the rim lakes, where are you hunting?
  8. Welcome to the board! Hope you stick around.

    I'll be heading up to the same area as well..haven't really made up my mind exactly where - probably just go until I find a decent place to throw a tent out and stop there.

    BTW - I checked the regs, and I guess I'm safe with a 22 LR..the regs prohibited CENTERfire guns with a capacity larger than 5 cartridges. Since a 22 is a RIMfire gun, I should be okay.
  9. say hey if you see us , we'll be in a maroon yukon, good luck
  10. TallPaul

    TallPaul Guest

    I'll be heading up to the same area as well..haven't really made up my mind exactly where - probably just go until I find a decent place to throw a tent out and stop there.

    BTW - I checked the regs, and I guess I'm safe with a 22 LR..the regs prohibited CENTERfire guns with a capacity larger than 5 cartridges. Since a 22 is a RIMfire gun, I should be okay.[/quote]

    Dutchman, I went up there a fews years ago. My sons first hunt and his first .22 You are correct with the Rim Fire rule. I sink so I take my shot gun. :D