August is finally here, and that means it is squirrel season — the first of the small-game seasons in Nebraska.
From Aug. 1 through Jan. 31, squirrels will provide families across Nebraska with all the excitement and enjoyment any critter can offer. While the early squirrel season can be challenging, it offers many advantages that are tough to beat.
Kid-friendly weather: Many mornings can be in the 60s, which is just about perfect for taking new hunters to the field. Just remember to cool the squirrel as quickly as possible after harvest. This is easy to do by bringing a small cooler with ice. Squirrels can be “dressed” in the field by removing the entrails and then skinning them. This promotes cooling rapidly.
Plenty of critters to hunt: Take your time in the field and watch these critters. You will learn a lot about their habits and what is important to them this time of year. You also will note that they are very active in the cooler mornings and slow down once the temperatures reach mid- to upper-80s.
Access: Most landowners are great people who appreciate being asked to use their property. Spend a late morning driving around looking for good squirrel habitat (hardwoods adjacent to cornfields, oak trees offering plentiful acorns, wooded creek bottoms), then stop and knock on a door or two.
First chance to hit the field: With an August opener, squirrel season is the first chance to head to the field and just take in the outdoors with gun or bow in hand. Squirrels do not take long to come into view. The early season can be challenging with so much foliage hiding squirrels from view; this is where a good shotgun comes into play. If squirrels are moving, a good load of No. 6 shot will help slow things down.
Practice for seasons to come: Whether your game is bowhunting, handgun or rifle hunting, chasing Ol’ Bushy Tail is a challenge like no other. After shooting across creek bottoms knocking squirrels from trees with a .22 pistol, hunting deer with a handgun seems, well, easy.
Shooting opportunity: Get the .22 and take the family to the range and begin practicing. Start at 25 yards and stretch the practice to 50 or 75 yards. If you can hit a squirrel target four out of five times you are ready for the field. With a daily bag limit of seven, squirrels provide tons of fun hunting opportunity.
Great for the dinner table: Whether fried or baked over rice and mushroom gravy, squirrel is a real treat. A delicious meat, squirrels can be the main course or served as an appetizer.
It is time to get out with the family and start sighting in that .22 or shooting still targets with the scattergun. My favorite load for .22 rimfire is standard or high-velocity hollow point for head shots or solid flat point for body shots. For a shotgun, a small-game load of No. 6 shot is perfect.
Remember, visibility in the squirrel woods is limited now, making the shotgun a great early season choice. Make sure you have a safe backstop before you pull the trigger and make sure you know what lies beyond your target should you miss.
Grab family and friends and head to the squirrel woods this fall. It will be time well-spent.