Black squirrels with a bow

The author and a black, Mississippi River fox squirrel he took with a bow on a river island stalk for deer.

Fox squirrels are challenging targets

When I’m deer hunting in woods that are crawling with fox squirrels, I’m always on the lookout for a flash of black. Every year, I take several red and grey squirrels with my bows when easy shots present themselves near the ground. However, along the Mississippi River and surrounding bottomland hardwoods, some fox squirrels are black.

Big fox squirrels come in grey, silver, brown and black, and they make beautiful mounts and tanned pelts. I have lost quite a few arrows emptying my quiver into the tree tops in pursuit of them. A few shots have connected; I’ve taken three black fox squirrels. 

When I was growing up, squirrels were my favorite animals to hunt. An albino fox squirrel shot long before I was born was mounted in my camp. Seeing that albino, I wanted a unique one to mount one day as well. 

Black squirrels

After transitioning from small-game hunting in south Louisiana to mainly bowhunting the northern parishes along the Mississippi River, I finally started seeing the prettiest black squirrels. Not only did I want to get one, but I made it a goal to take one with a bow.

After many years and many lost arrows, I finally shot my first black squirrel at 40 yards — out of my climbing tree stand — with my old compound. That squirrel was stationary, near the base of a tree. I was so far away I don’t think the squirrel realized I had launched the arrow. It was just as exciting as downing a deer.

Unfortunately, the taxidermist lost the hide, so I was determined to get another to mount. In the following years, I had several other misses with my recurves. Once, I had nicked some hair off one, but it got away. 

One year, I was making a primitive gun hunt and filmed a black squirrel with a white patch on its forehead. I saw the same squirrel again the next day. Archery hunting was closed for those two days, so I just filmed the squirrel. Of course, when I went back once archery season reopened, I never saw that squirrel again.

I’ve seen white-tailed red fox squirrels several times, but those were while running trails in non-hunting areas.

A squirrel mount

A few years later, I finally got another opportunity. I went to a small, river island with my 13-foot Boston Whaler to scout for deer and make an evening bow stalk. The place had some decent big-game sign, but what it had most were clouds of mosquitoes. Then, I discovered someone had stolen the  game camera I had set up on the island before the season. I was frustrated and itching all over from bug bites. 

I still stuck to my game plan of stalking until sunset. The hunt finally turned in my favor when I noticed a quick flash of black darting across the ground.

As I approached the tree, I couldn’t locate the squirrel. The light was beginning to fade, and I thought the squirrel had taken off for good. Suddenly, I saw it creeping through thick vines up the tree, 15 yards away. I drew my Full Throttle compound, released the arrow, and the black squirrel fell from a perfect headshot. After sprinting to grab it, I noticed a cottonmouth coiled up 2 feet away. I was lucky it didn’t strike.

I found my arrow, around 200 yards away in the fading daylight — thanks to a lighted nock. That was a long boat ride back, slowly navigating the Mississippi with all the floating logs. I remember how long it took to get the boat back on the trailer in the dark, alone, with the fast-moving current. But I had forgotten all about the lost camera and countless bug bites with my prized trophy for the wall. 

The video of that hunt can be found at louisianasportsman.com/hunting-black-squirrels.

I mounted that squirrel, and it came out amazing. After that, I started self-tanning the hides of black squirrels I took. 

Hard-fought wins

One month, I missed a huge, black squirrel with my 100-pound longbow three times on one hunt. They were all ground shots, and the squirrel kept jumping the slow arrow. I found my arrows, but one of the Easton FMJ dangerous game shafts got bent.

The next month, I saw another interesting squirrel that had odd amounts of shine. With the rising sun, I couldn’t tell if it was black or red. Soon, I found out it was one of many colors. I was able to connect with my warbow as it moved through the branches 12 yards away. The animal’s shades of grey, silver, black and red were mesmerizing.

All the red and grey squirrels taken with my recurves make for fun days when the deer or pigs don’t walk. Since I don’t shoot too many squirrels, I really enjoy those few meals knowing I got that meat the hard way. 

Tips

The problem with bowhunting for squirrels is speed. With a compound bows, the squirrels usually don’t have a chance to duck the arrow, which is travelling at more than 300 feet per second, unless they are aware of my presence. With traditional bows, squirrels have often jumped several feet before the 150- to 190-foot per second arrow arrives. 

I find its best to shoot at a squirrel that is preoccupied searching for food on the ground or in thick branches. A squirrel standing on alert is a miss nearly every time.

Using a lighted nock can greatly aid in finding an arrow that has sailed through the branches. The arrows will fly another 100 to 200 yards. I use reflective arrow wraps. It makes finding an arrow a bit more challenging after dark, but with a strong headlight, the reflective wrap can be seen sticking up in the ground from more than 50 yards away.

I see the majority of my fox squirrels near wood edges along fields, swamps, bayous and rivers. I have a lot of luck near bitter pecan ridges and honey locust trees. In the middle of deep woods, the majority of squirrels I see are the smaller grey squirrels. 

This season, try hunting the wood edges along the Mississippi River’s bottomland hardwoods, and you may get an opportunity to bag a squirrel worthy of a mount.

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