of the men on Lewis and Clark’s expedition was particularly amazed
when the crew reached the vast expanse of the Great Plains with its
absence of trees. The man said back East, a squirrel could travel from
the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi river traveling treetop to treetop
without ever touching the ground.
though it would be a slight exaggeration to say a squirrel could cross
the state of Alabama traveling treetop to treetop, there are lots of
wooded areas that serve as home to countless squirrels and offer plenty
of hunting opportunities for hunters ranging from the novice to the
veteran. The month of February is an ideal time to squirrel hunt and
manage for wildlife at the same time.
thing squirrels have in common with deer and turkeys is they all love
hard mast like acorns. A few well-managed squirrel hunts following the
Alabama daily bag limit of eight squirrels per day can help keep the
squirrel population in check and ensure deer and turkeys can get the
benefits of hard mast as well. In addition, February marks a peak in the
squirrel’s breeding season, and this gives the youth hunter more
opportunities to get a harvest.
has both gray and fox squirrels, but grays are found more abundantly.
Oaks and hickories provide plenty of hard mast food. Also, these
hardwood trees serve as home in the form of leaf nests and den trees.
Chances are you’ve probably already scouted out ideal squirrel hunting
sites during the past deer season.
Jake Howle shows a recent squirrel harvest that made a fine, winter meal.
the youngsters out
deer season has passed, February offers a more squirrel hunt friendly
time of year to be in the woods, especially with youngsters. The
fast-paced style of hunting and treetop chases offer lots of excitement
to the younger hunters as well as the older ones. If you are hunting in
an area where you know squirrels are abundant, the sit and wait method
might be most productive. However, if the younger hunter prefers to be
on the move, teach them to move slowly through the woods planting each
foot softly with eyes on the treetops looking for movement. Both methods
require patience, a keen eye and a steady shot.
Preferred acorns of squirrel.
shotgun in a .410 or 20-gauge certainly provides a wider pattern and
better chance of a harvest, but smaller shoulders might prefer the low
recoil of a .22 rifle. Obviously, the rifle will require more range
practice before entering the woods. In either case, it’s extremely
important to do the practicing at the range instead of on the first
the concepts of hunter safety and safe shooting while on the range and
in the woods. If the child can remember only one rule, make sure they
keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction at all times and be sure of
their target and what’s beyond. The excitement of a squirrel hopping
onto the side of a tree might result in an unsafe swing of the firearm,
but if you are in arm’s reach of the youngster, you can firmly remind
them that no squirrel is worth a hunting accident. At regular intervals,
check to make sure the gun’s safety is on.
is often one of the coldest months in Alabama, so make sure you’ve
planned to keep warm while out. Dress in layers and make sure the
youngster does the same. For cold feet, a method I learned from Lacrosse
Boot representatives works quite well for keeping the feet warm. First,
spray your feet with an unscented, aerosol anti-perspirant, and wear
and cotton socks are the biggest cause of cold feet. The deodorant keeps
the moisture down and the wool wicks moisture away from the feet. If you
don’t like the itchy feel of wool, try Merino Wool. This wool comes
from the Merino Sheep prized for their extremely soft wool. Most outdoor
retailers carry Merino Wool socks.
windy days, it can be difficult to effectively hunt squirrels because
they will often be denned up in trees or nests out of the biting winds.
Sometimes taking a shot into the nest will spook a squirrel out of
hiding. If there are muscadine vines growing on your hunting property, a
vine will often run up a tree containing a nest. By pulling on the vines
beside the nest, you can often startle a squirrel out of hiding on these
While you are hunting deer, looking for popular squirrel hang outs.
you’ve bagged your limit of squirrels for the day, it’s time to
prepare for the meal. For those of you who have never eaten squirrel,
you are in for quite a treat. The meat has a hearty texture and tastes
great when fried similar to chicken.
dress a squirrel by making an incision across the back with a pocket
knife. Next, I place my fingers in this incision and begin pulling the
hide apart just like you would pull a shirt and pants off the squirrel.
Pull the hide until it is just below the wrists and ankles of the
squirrel. Next, cut off the feet and tail which will complete the
removal of the hide. Next, filet out the hams and shoulders. Some like
to eat the backbone meat as well but I prefer only hams and shoulders
where there’s more meat.
you have two hams and two shoulders, dip the meat in an egg and batter
in self-rising flour adding black pepper and salt. Using a black iron
skillet, place the battered meat in ¼ inch of cooking oil and slow fry
the meat on the stove eye’s lowest setting. This slow cooking method
helps tenderize tough, older squirrels. Once the meat is thoroughly
cooked to a golden brown on one side, flip the meat and repeat on the
other side until done. This meal goes great with biscuits and gravy, and
the youngsters get to immediately enjoy the fruits of their harvest.
Squirrel season in Alabama ends February 29, so get busy.
Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.