Squirrel Hunting: Small Game, Big Opportunity

Two hunters planningEverything is bigger in Texas, particularly where hunting’s cultural heritage is concerned. However, when it comes to game animals, there’s one critter that stands head and shoulders below the rest—the squirrel—yet carries a hunting legacy outspanning that of the state’s prized white-tailed deer.

Throughout the eastern half of the state, not long ago, squirrel hunting was more than a pastime—it was a social ritual where large family groups gathered in the fall at hunting camps. As land use practices changed and deer numbers improved, squirrel hunting has faded into the woods. The good news is the challenge and opportunity to pursue the wily bushytail is still there for the taking.

Two species of squirrels (gray or “cat squirrels” and red or “fox squirrels”) are considered game animals in the Lone Star State, and once you’ve pursued them you’ll understand why. They are agile and skittish, which requires stealth and patience to hunt them effectively. Many squirrel aficionados prefer “still hunting,” slipping through the woods slowly and quietly scanning tree canopies for the twitch of a bushy tail or the shaking of a limb. Others prefer hunting behind tracking dogs, which are legal providing you have landowner permission on private property or are on permitted public lands. A .22 caliber scoped rifle or a shotgun with #4 or #6 shot are the preferred firearms of choice by most squirrel hunters.

Alert fox squirrel

There are 51 counties in East Texas that have both a spring and fall hunting season. An additional 157 counties elsewhere in the
state are open to squirrel hunting year-round. Only in the Panhandle and far West Texas there is no hunting season on squirrels.

In addition to private property, East Texas offers plenty of affordable access to public hunting lands. In addition to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department wildlife management areas (accessed with a $48 Annual Public Hunting permit), national forests, including the Sam Houston, Sabine, Angelina and Davy
Crockett are also prime squirrel haunts.

Information about squirrel hunting on public lands in Texas can be found on the TPWD website at www.tpwd.texas.gov/pubhunt.


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