Best Squirrel Gun | How to Hunt Squirrels With a .22 Rifle

Every time I mention squirrel hunting to friends or family they instantly think I’m joking and laugh until they realize that I’m serious about the sport.

If you’ve never hunted squirrels, it might be hard to fathom the idea of going through a lot of trouble for a small game that many people call “tree rats". 10 years ago, I would have been one of those people to look down on eating squirrel, but that was due to me never eating one.

If any of our readers are interested in getting started with squirrel hunting, this blog will help you identify squirrels with the help of a great .22 Rifle and Rimfire scope. Some species of squirrel look a lot alike, so it’s important to be able to identify each of them properly before you shoot.

The Crimson Trace Brushline BDC scope will help you quickly identify each squirrel and quickly acquire the target with excellent precision. 


at Crimson Trace
Prices accurate at time of writing

What is the Best Gun to Hunt Squirrel With, A Shotgun or .22 Rifle?

It really depends on who you learn from, but I know just as many shotgun turkey hunters as I do .22 Rifle hunters. To me, it comes down to a couple of questions when hunting squirrels; which gun is easier to hunt with, and which gun is safer? I believe that the answer is a resounding win for the .22 rifle because .22 rifles are normally much lighter than shotguns and offer much more precision. 

For those waterfowl and buckshot deer hunters, it only takes one steel pellet to crack a tooth or cause digestive issues for you to think twice about shotguns. I know many people that have either lost a tooth or cracked one in half from missing a pellet as they clean their squirrels or duck. If you hunt with a good .22 rifle, you’ll never have to worry about chomping on steel again. 

Ruger 10/22 Tactical

Prices accurate at time of writing

Is Squirrel Worth Hunting?

I wouldn’t have written this blog if I didn’t think squirrel hunting was worth the time and effort it takes to participate in the sport. Even though squirrel hunting has had a bad rap for decades, Americans have been supplementing their diet with squirrels since we’ve stepped foot in North America. The most kickback I get from people when I talk about squirrel hunting, is “there’s not enough meat on a squirrel to make it worth it". 

For the record, I’m not suggesting that 1 squirrel is worth your time, but many states around the country allow anywhere from 6-12 per day for each hunter. I know when my brother and I go out and get a total of 6 squirrels, that will feed up to 4-5 people, depending on their appetite.

Just like with any animal species, some are bigger, taste better, and live in different habitats. However, I’ve found that the 3 species of squirrels (Grey, Red, Fox) I get to hunt in Virginia taste very similar with very subtle differences in flavor. The reason is all 3 species coexist and eat the same foods. 

What is a Fox Squirrel?

A Fox squirrel is the biggest of all squirrel species we have in North America and can be found mostly in the Eastern and Central parts of the country with expanding territories west as their habitat is encroached upon. Fox Squirrels can reach up to 13" long and are normally reddish-brown with a large fury tail.

Fox squirrels are probably my favorite to hunt because 1 large fox squirrel can feed me and my wife with something like biscuits and gravy. I also like Fox squirrels because they’re the most beautiful and their fur will fetch you more money than any other squirrel species. You can make a pair of fox squirrel gloves, a hat, or a scarf with as little as 5 squirrels, and if you take care of it, it will last a few years and make for a great gift.

What’s the Difference Between a Red and Fox Squirrel?

When I first started hunting squirrels, I thought Red squirrels and Fox squirrels were the same species, but there are a few distinctive differences to notice. First, Red squirrels are typically 3-4" smaller than Fox squirrels. Second, Red Squirrels have a white belly, whereas, the Fox squirrel has a rusty orange-reddish and/or brown belly. Fox squirrel tails also have a black outline on their tails, while Red squirrels typically have red, brown, and white in their tails. 

The easiest way to distinguish between a Red squirrel and Fox squirrel is the higher tufts of fur on their ears. When I hunt, The first thing I look for is the tuft of fur on the ears to quickly identify a Red squirrel. Once you start hunting you’ll be able to quickly identify a Red squirrel from Fox squirrel by the difference in size and belly color. 

How Do I Identify a Grey Squirrel?

The Grey squirrel is the most common squirrel in North America and can come in as many different colors as humans. I’ve seen Grey squirrels that are jet black in Ohio and reddish/brown in Maine. However, the most common color of the Grey Squirrel is a white belly and grey fur, with a black tail toward the center with white or grey fur on the outer fur.  Eastern Squirrels are considered on the List of Invasive Alien Species of Union concern. This means that any country associated with the European Union (EU) strictly prohibits the Eastern Grey Squirrel from their respective nations. This is also why the bag limit on Grey squirrels is always higher than the other 2 species. 

North American Tree Squirrels

at Amazon
Prices accurate at time of writing

What is Needed to Squirrel Hunt?

The first thing you need is a .22LR Hunting Rifle with a scope on it for proper shot placement. My favorite .22 Rifle is the Ruger 10/22 Takedown because it’s easy to maintain, clean, and take apart. I prefer a Glock over a Ruger pistol, but I know that every Ruger I’ve had was always accurate and durable. A solid rifle is the foundation of any type of hunting you do, especially a rimfire rifle that is less accurate and powerful than a typical centerfire hunting rifle. 

Ruger 10/22 Takedown

The Ruger 10/22 Takedown is not only a great starter gun for your kids, but the more comfortable you get with it, the more you can customize it. Since we covered some of the best upgrades in our previous The Best Ruger 10/22 Upgrades Worth Spending Your Money on, I’ll stick to the standard model features and specs. Regardless of the kind of upgrades you place on the rifle, the most favorable feature is the easy 4-step takedown of the barrel from the action. Lock the bolt to the rear, clear the rifle, push the recessed lever, twist the barrel opposite of the receiver, and pull them apart. 


  • The easy disassembly of the rifle allows for faster cleaning and maintenance of the rifle. I can take the rifle apart and scrub out my mag well and trigger assembly with a double-ended cleaning brush from Tipton.
  • The reassembly of the 10/22 Takedown is impressive because it is able to maintain the zero of your rifle, including any scope you have mounted. 
  • Being able to break the gun down into 2 pieces allows you to store the rifle easier in your truck or SUV. 
  • The barrel is cold hammer-forged to improve accuracy and durability for decades of use.
  • It comes with a 10-round magazine that is enough for any squirrel hunt I’ve been on. 
  • Aiming for a headshot is a must to conserve the meat, pelt, and ensure the safety of your teeth. This Ruger 10/22 keeps my zero and is always on target for me. 
  • It has a cross-bolt push-button manual safety for training your family with a tangible safety feature. 
  • The scope base accepts Weaver and Picatinny Rail scope rings for added versatility. 
  • The durability through the elements of the Ruger 10/22 is what separates it from many of its competitors. 


  • It’s more expensive than many other .22 rifles with an average price tag of around $500. 


Twist Rate 1:16 RH
Overall Length37"
Barrel Length18.5"
Weight4.6 lbs
Front SightGold Bead
Rear Sight Adjustable
Drilled and TappedYes

Ruger 10/22 Takedown Rifle

Prices accurate at time of writing

Best scope For 22lr Squirrel Hunting

The Crimson Trace Brushline Pro BDC Rimfire Scope is the scope I’d recommend because you can get it for as little as $127.99 and it’s just as durable as the Ruger rifle.

The BDC reticle is perfect for squirrel hunting because they’re quick and difficult to track with an MOA reticle. If you’re curious to learn more about the BDC reticle read  Best Muzzleloader Scope Under $200 | Crimson Trace Brushline Pro BDC Reticle Scope

The Crimson Trace BDC reticle provides a clear picture that doesn’t distort due to environmental conditions, including the glare of the sun. This is an important feature when squirrel hunting because you’re always going to be looking up through the trees to find squirrels.

I prefer the 4-12x magnification because, in order to get only headshots, you need to be able to see high through the canopy. 

Brushline 4-12x40mm BDC Rimfire Scope

at Crimson Trace
Prices accurate at time of writing

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Table of Contents

  • What is the Best Gun to Hunt Squirrel With, A Shotgun or .22 Rifle?
  • Is Squirrel Worth Hunting?
  • What is a Fox Squirrel?
  • What’s the Difference Between a Red and Fox Squirrel?
  • How Do I Identify a Grey Squirrel?
  • What is Needed to Squirrel Hunt?
  • Ruger 10/22 Takedown
  • Pros
  • Cons
  • Specs
  • Best scope For 22lr Squirrel Hunting

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