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Squirrel hunting a great introduction for youth, novices

LINCOLN – Squirrel hunting is fun, challenging and a great introductory hunt for youth or novices.

Taking a new hunter on a squirrel hunt in the woods can serve as a prelude to the pursuit of other game, as the skills and strategies learned can be used on other types of hunts. It also may develop a novice’s sense of stewardship of natural resources and appreciation for conservation.

“Another reason squirrel hunting is a great activity for kids is the minimal sitting time,” Nebraska Hunter Education Coordinator Wendy Horine said. “When you find a spot in the woods that looks like it might be good squirrel habitat, you only need to sit still for about 20 minutes or so to determine if there are any squirrels present. If you don’t see any activity, just move to another spot.”

This hunt is inexpensive and requires little equipment, and the opportunities are plentiful. Nebraska’s squirrel season runs Aug. 1 through Jan. 31.

“You can experience a successful squirrel hunt from the first cool fall days when the foliage is just starting to turn, to the clear, crisp days toward the end of the season, when most other seasons have ended,” Horine said. “These bushy-tailed critters don’t like foul weather, so the hunting may be especially good when the sun comes out after a rain or snowstorm. They will be eager to get out and forage.”

Squirrels prefer to eat the nuts of oaks, hickories and walnuts. They will eat other types of nuts and fruit when preferred food types are not available. Scouting locations for trees that bear mast could pay off when it is time to hunt.

Squirrel makes great table fare, as well. “There are lots of great recipes for squirrel,” Horine said. “It’s a very versatile game meat. It is great fried, baked or stewed, and squirrel can be substituted in most rabbit and chicken recipes, too.”

Horine stressed that the basic rules of hunting safety should be followed when squirrel hunting: treat a firearm as if it is loaded; never point a firearm at anything you don’t intend to shoot; keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot; and be sure of your target and what lies beyond it.

Take a young or novice hunter on a Nebraska squirrel hunt this fall. Hunting permits may be purchased at OutdoorNebraska.org.