If it weren’t for fishing and camping, summer would be tough to get through. After all, June and July are the only two months where we do not have a hunting season in Nebraska. But….August is finally around the corner. While the fishing has been awesome this year, the small game season will be upon us and first out of the shoot…squirrel season. From August 1 – January 31, squirrels will provide families across Nebraska with all the excitement and enjoyment any critter can offer. While the early squirrel season can be challenging, it offers a ton of advantages that are tough to beat. These include:
- Kid friendly weather – while the temps have been abusive these last few weeks, the upcoming weather pattern suggests cooler days and even cooler nights. Many mornings can be in the 60s which is just about perfect for taking new hunters to the field or for us more mature and full figured hunters too! I like to bring a Thermacell as this has proven to keep mosquitos at bay for me. Just remember to cool the squirrel as quickly as possible after harvest. This is easy to do by bringing a small cooler with ice. Squirrels can be “dressed” in the field by removing the entrails and then skinning them before. This promotes cooling rapidly. I also like to bring a Thermacell with me as this has proven to keep mosquitos at bay making them an non-issue.
- Plenty of critters to hunt – Most of us are shocked at how many squirrels live in the wooded haunts of Nebraska. Take your time in the field and watch these critters for a while. You will learn a lot about their habits and what is important to them this time of year. You will also note that they are very active in the cooler mornings and slow down quickly once the temps reach mid to upper 80s.
- Access – Most landowners are great people who appreciate being asked to use their property. While they may have a long standing tradition of hunters come deer or pheasant season, I would be willing to bet a box of 22s they are not overrun with squirrel hunters. Spend a late morning driving around looking for good squirrel habitat (hardwoods adjacent to corn fields, oak trees offering plentiful acorns, wooded crick bottoms), then stop and knock on a door or two. Don’t forget, finding a place to hunt is like developing any other relationship. It is not a one way street.
- First chance to hit the field – With an August opener, squirrel season is the first chance to head to the field and just take in the outdoors with gun or bow in hand. There is something pretty darn relaxing about walking into the shade of an oak grove and just sitting down on a stump or deadfall and taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the woods. Squirrels do not take long to come into view. Keep in mind, the early season can be challenging with so much foliage hiding squirrels from view. This is really where a good shotgun comes into play. If squirrels are moving, a good load of #6 shot will help slow things down. Also keep in mind that visibility will be low so make sure you have a safe backstop before pulling that trigger.
- Practice for seasons to come – Whether your game is bowhunting, handgun or rifle hunting, chasing old bushy tail is a challenge like no other. After reaching across crick bottoms knocking squirrels from trees with a 22 pistol, hunting deer with a handgun seems well….easy.
- Shooting opportunity – chasing squirrels offers the hunter with a fun shooting opportunities not found in other hunts. With 22 ammo back on the shelves, now is a great time to take the family to the range and begin practicing. Start at 25 yards and stretch the practice to 50 or even 75 yards. If you can hit a squirrel target four out of five times you are ready for the field. With a daily bag limit of seven, squirrels provide tons of fun hunting opportunity.
- Incredible early season table faire – Whether fried or baked over rice and mushroom gravy, squirrel is a real treat. A delicious meat, squirrels can be the main course or served as an appetizer, making any meal memorable.
Its time to get out with the family and start sighting in that 22 or shooting still targets with the scattergun. My favorite loads are as follows:
22 rimfire – standard or high velocity hollow point for head shots or solid flat point for body shots
shotgun – small game load of #6 shot….perfect!
Remember, squirrel hunting the early season is supposed to be a challenge and challenge you it will. Also remember visibility in the squirrel woods is very limited right now making the shotgun a great early season choice. Make sure you have a safe backstop before you pull the trigger and make sure you know what lies beyond your target should you miss. Let’s make the effort to grab family and friends and head to the squirrel woods this fall. Hanging out with the kids, enjoying the great outdoors and dusting off that 22 or shotgun as squirrels make their presence known during a cool August morning…Now that is time well spent!