Ground squirrels are called different things in different geographic regions but regardless of what you call them, they can be a satisfying species to hunt. I was just out last week and in about an hour and a half shot close to 150 ground squirrels. I didn’t even make a dent in the rancher’s population. I sat in one place and shot two to three squirrels a minute. He told me that the pivot I sat on had already been hunted hard and that he had two more that nobody had been on and to come back. It didn’t cost me anything but the ammo and fuel and he was happy to get rid of the squirrels.
Below are ten tips for making the most of your next ground squirrel hunt.
1. BE LEGAL. Make sure that the species you’re shooting isn’t protected. Most of them aren’t but I live in a place where 7 miles north of me they’re protected under federal law and three miles south you can shoot all you want. You don’t want to get home to find out that you committed 176 federal felonies. Most states with a couple of exceptions, require you to have a hunting license to hunt anything, including ground squirrels and coyotes.
2. FIND PRIVATE LAND. Public land is a great place to hunt ground squirrels but private land is often better. You won’t be sharing or getting shot at by the public. Most farmers and ranchers hate ground squirrels as they destroy crops, fields, irrigation systems, and create holes that break legs on livestock. With the ammo shortage, many of the ranchers don’t have the ammo to shoot them themselves and there are new opportunities. Literally, the worst thing they can tell you is no. I’ve had success getting permission by offering to help fix fences, attend and help at brandings, or just do odd chores. Make sure you report back to the farmer or rancher on how you did. They love hearing about it.
3. IT’S ALL ABOUT POSITIONING. Get up off the ground. I use a standing tripod made by Two Vets Sporting Goods (review is coming) and it allows you to get up where you can see to shoot. I can pivot and just pick up and move. You can also get in the back of a truck if you need even more height.
4. GET THERE EARLY. Get there when the sun comes up. Later in the day when it’s hot, they go underground. Get there early in the season before the grass grows up too tall and prevents you from seeing them. Ideally, you’ll find a ranch where the rancher’s cows have eaten down most of the vegetation. No vegetation means they’re easy to spot. The exact date might be different each year. Early in the season, they haven’t had litters yet and you’ll make the most difference in the population which will make the farmer love you.
5. BRING MULTIPLE CALIBERS. I mostly shoot ground squirrels with a .22 LR and I shoot them from 10 feet to 170 yards (that’s my longest kill with a .22 LR) but a 17 is much more fun and a 6.5 Creedmoor is a whole nother level. You can usually shoot them as far out as you can see them. They make great long-range targets.
6. KNOW YOUR HOLDS. I zero my .22 LR at 50 yards. I have to hold over their backs at close distances for mechanical offset and I have to hold way over at 150 yards. I use a Leupold 4.5-14 LRP with a First Focal Plane Mil Reticle. The holds in the reticle work at any magnification.
7. THERMAL OPTICS. You don’t hunt grounds squirrels in the dark but when there’s vegetation it can be extremely difficult to see them. A thermal can help you locate squirrels through dead grass and vegetation. Once you know where to look you can usually find them in your day scope.
8. DON’T TOUCH THE SQUIRRELS! Ground squirrels are rodents and they often carry the actual plague. There’s not really any good reason to touch them so leave their carcasses alone and stay out of the Hunt365 news section.
9. SAFETY FIRST. Nothing will get you uninvited or in trouble faster than damaging property or shooting someone or something you shouldn’t have. Always follow the four safety rules and don’t shoot at or towards farmers’ pivots, livestock, or other property that you could damage if something went wrong.
10. HAVE FUN. You don’t have to skin it, clean it, or cook it. It’s one of the few times that you can hunt and shoot and not need to be in good shape or have a strong back.
If you have tips for ground squirrel hunting that didn’t get covered by all means please leave them in the comments.