Squirrel hunting is a fun pastime for many people looking to bond with their families and pets. Hunting squirrels with dogs seems like a no-brainer, especially if your dog already chases squirrels regularly.
However, newbie squirrel hunters would have difficulty understanding how to get started. This is why we’ve created this detailed guide.
The basic premise of squirrel hunting with dogs is that the dog chases the squirrel until it runs up to a tree while the dog barks at it from underneath.
The bark is your cue to step in, aim, and shoot at the squirrel. But there’s more to it than the basics!
Read below for more information.
Before you scroll further down this guide, check out these other animal-related articles: What Do Dachshunds Hunt? and Can Australian Shepherds Hunt?.
Reasons to Try Squirrel Hunting with a Dog
Due to rising demand from hunters wanting a longer hunting season and a more casual, family-friendly way to enjoy the company of a working dog, squirrel hunting and squirrel dogs are becoming increasingly popular once again.
Squirrel dogs are helpful because they work within a relatively close range (on average, within 200 yards.
This is helpful as land is becoming scarcer, roads are busier, and older hunters with limited mobility want to introduce their pets to the great outdoors.
As soon as a puppy has been trained, you can have a conversation while walking along, and the dogs will still tree when they see a squirrel. Many new hunters have discovered that they enjoy the activity’s increased social component.
Public lands near cities usually have an abundance of squirrels, while access to private property is typically unrestricted outside of traditional squirrel hunting seasons.
In addition, squirrels are not endangered animals. They are generally not protected by wildlife laws, and sometimes they can even be a nuisance.
Considering how accessible it is and how long the season often lasts, squirrel hunting is an activity everyone should do at least once. The addition of a squirrel dog increases the fun factor.
Squirrel Hunting with Dogs: The Process
Squirrel hunting with a dog is based on a straightforward idea. You tag along as your canine companion searches for a squirrel, chases it up a tree, or tries to figure out which tree the squirrel is hiding in.
After determining which tree the squirrel is hiding in, the dog will begin barking at it. If you have a good dog, it will sit under the tree and bark at the squirrel until you get there and shoot it.
Be patient, though. You and your dog may not be able to do this right away without experience.
Some people have the misconception that it is simple for a dog to tree a squirrel because they have witnessed their dachshund tree squirrels in the garden.
But have you ever observed a squirrel scamper through the woods?
They’ll dash across a fallen log, jump onto a tree trunk, and then bounce off two other trees before finally settling on one to climb.
Now imagine that it was several minutes or hours later when your squirrel dog finally arrived. For the correct tree to be chosen, it’s necessary to have a dog with expertise and a keen sense of smell.
Locating the squirrel once the hunter has arrived at the tree can also be challenging. As the saying goes, “Two pairs of eyes are better than one.” You may need to resort to deception to get the squirrel to move.
Some hunters, especially young ones, find the vine-pulling competitions as fun as the shooting when they occur in places with many grapevines.
Gray squirrels can be elusive even more so than fox squirrels because they frequently “timber.”
As the squirrel hops from branch to branch, a dog with experience tracking squirrels will follow, often barking loudly as it goes. This has the potential to turn into a thrilling chase!
If the hunter is successful, the dog will generally grab the squirrel for a little shake before you move on to the next target. A lot can go down on days when squirrels are out and about.
If you want to try those activities, the first step is to get a dog.
The Best Squirrel-Hunting Dogs
About a dozen different dog breeds exist, all of which were developed specifically for hunting squirrels.
These include the Mountain Cur, Mountain Feist, Treeing Cur, Treeing Feist, West Siberian Laika, Coonhound-bird dog crosses, and others.
Any dog can be trained to chase and tree a squirrel if it is in sight. But these dogs are unique because they have been bred and perfected over many years to be loyal, dependable, and fun to work with when hunting squirrels.
The dogs make their master look like a professional dog trainer by picking up on subtle hints like where to go on hunts.
It’s instinctual for good squirrel dogs to circle back around occasionally like a boomerang and make sure everything’s okay. They will find you in your car if they become separated from you.
They don’t need to be taught hand signals to respond when you point; they’ll just rush in to see what’s going on.
Training a dog designed for hunting squirrels is more like communicating with a toddler than a typical dog.
Squirrel Hunting: Factors to Think About
Here are some factors to think about when going squirrel hunting.
Except for Australia and Antarctica, squirrels can be found on every continent. Both tree squirrels and ground squirrels prefer wooded environments, although the latter prefers underground tunnels.
Squirrels will typically set up a home in any area that has an adequate food supply and is safe from predators.
In contrast to larger animals, squirrels and other small mammals tend to stay home during a full moon. Full moons are particularly dangerous for squirrels because they increase their visibility to potential predators.
Squirrels are easiest to spot and kill in the fall, when they are actively searching for food. In the colder months, squirrels spend less time on the move; certain species even hibernate.
Squirrels, too, are very active in the spring, when they emerge from their winter caves to forage for food.
Time of Day
Squirrels are diurnal creatures, though they tend to forage more frequently in the autumn and spring.
However, as is the case with most wildlife, the best times to go hunting are early morning and late afternoon.
Squirrels are more active as the temperatures drop in the late fall when they are actively searching for food for winter storage.
Then, during the harsher winter months, they slow down to conserve energy by eating what they store up in the fall.
Squirrels are sensitive to shifts in atmospheric pressure and become more active in anticipation of an approaching front. Squirrels will go on a feeding frenzy when the barometric pressure drops.
Like humans, squirrels relax on peaceful, sunny days. Hunting is also more successful on dry days since it is easier to hear squirrels scampering through the underbrush and leaves.
Squirrel hunting can be successful even on days with rain and wind, though success diminishes as squirrels find cover from the elements.
When hunting squirrels, wind is an additional variable that must be considered.
Strong gusts of wind make it challenging to hunt squirrels because they are not as inclined to venture out from their burrows, and if they do, you may have trouble hearing them.
Tips for Hunting with a Squirrel Dog
In the fall, when the leaves have fallen, and food is scarce, squirrel hounds come into their form.
A dog is “cast out,” or released, to hunt squirrels in an area with adequate covers, such as a wooded area or a fence row.
If the squirrels are active on the ground and away from their dens, the hunting will be quick, and you may be able to bag your maximum in under an hour. If you have a young puppy, now is the time to start training him.
Your dog may find nesting or den trees if the squirrel population is low or dormant.
A well-trained dog may make a squirrel appear out of nowhere by following wind lay-ups (the scent left by a squirrel high in a tree who hasn’t yet come down to the ground).
A dog that spots a squirrel will start barking at it up until you come and shoot it. If the squirrel becomes frightened and leaps from the tree, the dog will either move it to another location or find it on the ground and kill it.
The dog will chase after the squirrel as it leaps from tree to tree (called “timbering out”) and bark furiously to catch it.
Well-bred dogs have an innate tendency to bark at squirrels, even if they are on the other side of the tree from you.
When you and your dog are out on a hunt together but can’t see the squirrel, this skill comes in handy.
A squirrel’s focus will be drawn to the disturbance made by the dog, and it may turn around to reveal itself for an opportunity to shoot.
Dogs that hunt squirrels tend to trail quietly and only bark at tree targets, so hunters used to hunting rabbits or raccoons, for example, may find the transition to be a bit disorienting.
When a squirrel dog makes a disturbance in the field, there are typically three possible explanations: young dogs are wrestling or harassing an older dog; a dog has the prey; or something is amiss.
While some dogs may have a natural tendency to retrieve, most hunters will either go in and retrieve the squirrel themselves or take it from the dog once the animal is confirmed dead.
Teaching the dog to “drop it” is a common way of dealing with this.
Can Any Dog Be a Squirrel Dog?
If you don’t let your dog outside, it can’t go on squirrel hunts. Bring him into the woods, even if it’s just for a couple of days or hours until he understands what it means to hunt.
Good genes and rigorous training are required for developing an acceptable hunting dog, claims the president of the American Treeing Feist Association (ATFA).
The Impact of Style
The term “style” describes the degree to which a dog can be trained or how successfully he will perform his tasks.
A lot of dogs are easy to train. For example, golden retrievers and Labrador retrievers have a well-deserved reputation for being simple to housebreak.
The Brittany, Springer, and German Shorthair are other breeds that excel in this category.
Additionally, some canines are highly anxious and require an authoritative touch.
The most important thing is to form a strong bond with your dog and to invest time and effort into his training, regardless of what breed of dog you ultimately decide to keep as a pet.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a broke hunting dog?
A broke hunting dog is one that holds on point until its handler gives it a command.
What is a good release word for dogs?
Hunters typically use such words as release, okay, break, and free. If you’re training your dog to hunt, choose short, memorable words that your dog can make an association with easily.
Are hunting dogs happy?
Hunting dogs genuinely want to hunt. They will be happy if you engage with them in training and hunting often.
A Guide to Hunting Squirrels With Dogs: Easy and Fun
So, while there is much more than meets the eye when it comes to squirrel hunting, rest assured, you will have the time of your life with your dog.
If you’ve never hunted squirrels with your dog, now is the time to try.
If you find this guide, “A Guide to Hunting Squirrels With Dogs: Easy and Fun,” informative and helpful, you can check out these other animal-related articles from our team:
- Are Labradoodles Good Hunting Dogs?
- Squirrel Poop Vs Rat Poop: What Do They Look Like?
- Does A Squirrel Lay Eggs?
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