10 Tips for Ground Squirrel Annihilation

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. 

About the author: True Pearce is the Managing Editor at GunsAmerica. He’s a competitive shooter, hunter, instructor & attorney. You can see and follow his adventures on Instagram. @true1911 https://www.instagram.com/true1911/

{ 20 comments… add one }
  • james mckee November 13, 2022, 9:28 pm

    can someone tell me some location or contacts

  • Carey BRENT Cowart May 19, 2021, 1:10 am

    YOUR GROUND SQUIRRELS LOK AN AWFUL LOT IiKE OUR SOUTHERN GRAY SQUIRRELS:
    THERE IS A LIMIT AS TOO HOW MANY GRAY SQIRRELS YOU CAN KILL IN ANY ONE DAY, AND
    CAN HAVE IN YOUR POSSESSION IF YOUR CAUGHT BY THE GAME WARDEN: IN THE SOUTH
    IT’S EITHER 8-12 A DAY YOU CAN KILL AND IN POSSESSION: IF YOU SHOO WITH A SCOPE YOU
    NEED TO HANG IT UP: I’VE NEVER HUNTED WITH A SCOPE AND I’VE HUNTED WITH A SHOTGUN
    CAUSE I WAS OUT OF 22 LR SHELLS, UNTIL I BIT INTO A PELLETZ FROM A SHOTGUN SHELL: IT’S
    STRICTLY 22 LR SHELLS FROM NOW ON: I BOUGHT MY GUN BACK IN THE EARLY 70’S FROM EITHER TG& Y
    ARE OTASCO: TG & Y IS THOMAS, GREEN, AND YOUNG, A HARDWARE AND SPORTING GOODS ALL
    ROLLED INTO ONE: OTASCO WAS A SPORTING GOODS STORE THAT SOLD OUT TO A GROCERY CHAIN: I ALSO
    BOUGHT MY 30-30 THERE FOR 90.00 BACK IN THE EARLY 80’S:

  • Tom May 1, 2021, 2:42 am

    I learned how to shoot my first 22LR at a NRA youth range (4th floor attic) a instructor took us to a city dump and we all shot (at ?) rats. Northern ILL Ground squirrels/gophers were next when I could get a ride out of town and back. I do agree that what you shoot, you should eat But not these.
    I will have to buy a new 22 with a threaded barrel and a bipod that I can shoot with sitting in a mobility chair – Thanks

  • mike April 27, 2021, 12:09 pm

    My dad had a scoped ’30-06 he used for deer hunting. A friend of his had a wood lot, where he would use that gun to shoot ground squirrels, in the off season, to keep his skills fine tuned.
    It was a good thing he didn’t have to skin ’em, clean ’em, or cook ’em!

  • Darkman April 27, 2021, 7:57 am

    If you want to get rid of them without killing them. Pour 3 to 4 oz. Of gas or diesel in every borrow you can find on a hot day. They l’ll move on to less hostile areas. The small among of fuel used won’t cause any more damage than the squirrels and will disapate over a short time. Leaving only an empty hole to fill in.

  • Ti April 23, 2021, 7:56 pm

    Favorite living target bar none! Lately taking to marksmanship with a S&W 17 w the 8 3/8 barrel. CB caps at garden range!

  • Clint W. April 23, 2021, 9:17 am

    We found a natural way to deal with them. Feed them, they get fat, and the hawks come and harvest them.

    • Spike April 23, 2021, 11:53 pm

      Exactly, how would the author feel if he was a defenseless squirrel. I’m going to leave it at that.
      40 year NRA Member / Gun Owner

  • JOHN April 23, 2021, 8:40 am

    I read about all the big men hear hunting squirrels with a shotgun or scoped out rifle. How about trying it with a sling shot to see how good you really are?

  • Giovanni Tallino April 23, 2021, 8:12 am

    I used to burn thousands of .22 LR rounds when I lived in Montana, on the Hi-line, first in Joplin and later in Gildford, between Havre and Chester, shooting Richardson’s ground squirrels, which the locals improperly call “gophers.” If they ran into their holes if you missed them or after one of their buddies bit the dust by them, I used a trick to make them pop their head out of the hole and give me a chance to shoot them. I sucked the back of my hand with my lips tight together in order to produce a very sharp whistle that imitated their calls. They almost always emerged from the whole to see who was calling them, and–Pow!
    And the shooting expeditions also produced some cottontails and jackrabbits, for the table.
    The farmers and ranchers, grateful for the service rendered by me in eliminating such harmful vermin, in the fall allowed me to hunt for Hungarian partridge, pheasants, sharptail grouse, ducks, and deer on their land. And I suppose that with the hundreds of dead squirrels that I left on the ground, skunks, badgers and other predators had less time and appetite to go after the nests of ground-nesting birds.

  • Phillip DeWitt April 23, 2021, 8:06 am

    I grew up on a rural Virginia mountain farm with many squirrels and ground squirrels. Some hunted squirrels to eat. I never knew anyone to have anything to say about the tiny ground squirrel except to watch it run around. The specialized (expensive) equipment to kill a little animal with little food value and not harmful seems weird. If I’m starving and the little ground squirrel is all there is I’ll consider it. I don’t feel the need to kill everything.

  • Donald Hall April 6, 2021, 12:44 pm

    Wow, I have so many questions for the author of this article.
    I have hunted squirrels, in Connecticut, for 15 years while scouting with my hunting friends in early Fall prior to deer season and into February. I never shoot anything I won’t eat. No plague encountered. Maybe because the squirrels foraging is limited to the forest.
    I have no idea where the author hunts. Are squirrels particularly harmful to farmers land, crops, etc. If they are I understand. If not, what do you gain from this wholesale slaughter? Target practice? I am not any kind of animal rights activist, so don’t try to pin that label on me. I just don’t believe in wasting good game. That’s just me.

    • Bernie April 6, 2021, 4:21 pm

      They are not the same kind of squirrel. We call them sage rats aka Belding’s Ground Squirrels. They can eat a ton of pasture grass, they make huge burrow holes and create a lot of damage in fields planted with hay and alfalfa for feed. In one day it is it possible to get off 1000 rounds of rim fire in a large circle pivot and still be able to hunt the field the next day by moving a few hundred yards. The dead meat scattered around the field bring in every type of raptor and scavenging bird for hundreds of miles. I swear they show up early just to enjoy the feast. Hawks, eagles, ravens, crows it’s quite the show.

      • Elmer April 7, 2021, 9:22 am

        If leaving the carcasses for the scavengers, better to use a monolithic Copper bullet. Scavengers are susceptible to lead poisoning from bullet fragments.

        • Bob April 23, 2021, 7:17 am

          Absolute B.S.!! Scavengers DO NOT get lead poisoning from eating animals shot with lead bullets. Before California went completely lead free, we had the condor zone. Studies done before and after the lead bullet ban showed the lead content in the condors slightly rose after ten years of no lead bullets. Don’t fall for left wing propaganda!!

      • Phillip DeWitt April 23, 2021, 8:08 am

        Bull Shit!

    • jR April 23, 2021, 1:59 pm

      Buzzards love them. They do not scraps for the foxes, skunks, and coyotes either. It is the circle of life.

  • jack April 6, 2021, 9:22 am

    It’s great fun and practice to just walk up and down a fire road or trail with a buddy or two and use nothing but shot guns and pistols and throw up a quick shot at the ones that scamper across in front of you. Three guys can cover the road entirely with a three position watch, each covering left, right and center with a little overlap, if first or second guy misses third guy gets a shot, JUST DON”T SHOOT YOUR BUDDY!!! Also, ear plugs are a must, even with 22’s, electronics are the best

  • Mark Buck April 6, 2021, 5:30 am

    I learned to whistle in a shrill staccato mimicking a ground squirrel bark to stop moving or running squirrels- to their own peril. I cleared an orchard using a shotgun for multiple hits per shot on the younger, dumb squirrels, then switched to a .22LR for the smarter ones. I have seen hungry squirrels go canabalistic on a squirrel I’ve just shot, giving me multiple more shots as they feasted on the first one I shot.

    • jack April 23, 2021, 6:47 am

      I read somewhere that the reason they eat their dead is because they crave protean since they don’t get as much as they need from their regular diet, they’ll eat bugs and carrion too.

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