How To Squirrel Hunting With 12 Gauge

Squirrel hunting with a 12 gauge shotgun is very popular because of the accuracy and power of a versatile gun. The 12 gauge shotgun is a versatile and effective option for squirrel hunting, offering a wide range of shot sizes and loads to suit different hunting scenarios. However, using such a gun requires careful planning and careful hunting practice. From carefully choosing the type of ammunition to observing and estimating the range of shots at the animal. 

In this pursuit, hunters navigate wooded landscapes, honing their observation skills to detect signs of squirrel activity amidst the natural habitat. They need to accurately understand the shot size and appropriate shot distance to perfectly kill a squirrel. 

Hunting squirrels with a 12 gauge shotgun encompasses a rich tapestry of techniques and traditions passed down through generations of hunters. This article will reveal everything you need to know. 

Can You Hunt Squirrel With A 12 Gauge?

Yes, you can hunt squirrels with a 12 gauge. In fact, it is one of the most commonly used rifles for squirrel hunting. The 12 gauge offers enough power and versatility to knock down squirrels in a wide range of hunting situations. Some hunters do use 12-gauge shotguns with appropriate loads (such as smaller shot sizes like #6 or #7.5) for squirrel hunting, particularly in areas where dense foliage or close-range shots are common. 

It’s important to select the right ammunition and be mindful of your surroundings and the potential for overkill. Besides, you need to remember to check and follow local hunting regulations and laws regarding weapon choice and ammunition when hunting squirrels or any other game. 

squirrel hunting with 12 gauge

How To Squirrel Hunting With 12 Gauge

When hunting with a 12 gauge, the first thing you need to do is choose a gun with the right parameters for your goals.

Choosing The Right 12 Gauge

Factors to consider when choosing 12 gauge include: Barrel length, choke, pump or semi-automatic and the ammunition.

Barrel Length

A shorter barrel (18-22 inches) is more maneuverable in tight cover, and a longer barrel (26-28 inches) improves accuracy over long distances. For squirrel hunting, you should use a shorter barrel as it allows for quick and easy aiming in dense foliage. However, a longer barrel may be a better option for versatility, if you plan on using your shotgun for other types of hunting as well.


An improved cylinder choke is an excellent all-around choice for most squirrel hunting circumstances, as it strikes a balance between spread and penetration. This style of choke allows for a broader shot pattern, making it easier to shoot small, fast-moving targets such as squirrels. It also has enough penetration to kill larger squirrels without destroying too much meat. 

Pump or Semi-Automatic

Both options can be used for squirrel hunting, so it depends on your personal preference. Pump-action shotguns are reliable and affordable, while semi-automatic shotguns offer faster follow-up shots. A pump-action shotgun would be a suitable choice, if you prefer a more traditional and budget-friendly option. However, if you want a faster and smoother shooting experience, a semi-automatic shotgun may be worth the investment. 

The Ammunition

What size shot for squirrel 12 gauge? There are 3 popular sizes: Small 6 or 7 shot, medium 4 or 5 shot, large 3 or 2 shot. The choice of ammunition for squirrel hunting with a 12 gauge depends on the range and size of the squirrels you’re targeting. 

  • Small 6 or 7 shot: This type of shot is suitable for close-range hunting (up to 20 yards) and smaller squirrels. It is ideal for dense cover where squirrels are likely to be found. It also provides enough power to take down smaller squirrels without damaging too much meat.
  • Medium 4 or 5 shot: Ideal for mid-range hunting (20-35 yards) with medium-sized squirrels. This shot size provides an excellent combination of dispersion and penetration, making it appropriate for a wide range of hunting scenarios. You can even use it at longer distances if necessary.
  • Large 3 or 2 shot: They used for long-range hunting (over 35 yards) and larger squirrels. It offers more penetration and is best used for open areas where squirrels may be further away. However, you need to remember that using larger shot sizes may result in more meat damage.

Read this post: What Can You Hunt With a 12 Gauge Shotgun?

Hunt Squirrel With 12 Gauge

Before embarking on a squirrel hunting trip, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with local hunting regulations. Scouting the hunting area beforehand is crucial for success. Squirrel habitats favorite include wooded areas, forests, or locations with nut-bearing trees. Signs of squirrel activity, such as nests, droppings, and chewed nuts, can guide your hunting efforts.

squirrel hunting with 12 gauge

Squirrels are social animals and are attracted to other squirrels. Using calls and decoys can be effective strategies for attracting squirrels within range. Mimicking the sounds of a distressed squirrel or using decoys to imitate a feeding squirrel can pique their curiosity and draw them into the open.

When taking a shot, you should aim for vital areas such as the head, heart, or lungs to ensure a clean and humane kill. Avoid shooting at squirrels on the ground or in dense foliage, as this increases the risk of wounding without a clean kill. When hunting, you need always treat your firearm as if it is loaded. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot. Be aware of your surroundings and never shoot towards houses or roads.

You need to wear appropriate ear and eye protection. Squirrel hunting often takes place in colder months, so wear warm and comfortable clothing that keeps you concealed and protected from the elements. Besides, wearing blaze orange clothing enhances visibility to other hunters, reducing the risk of accidents in the field. 

You should move quietly and slowly to avoid alerting the squirrels to your presence. Sudden movements or noises can spook them, causing them to flee before you have a chance to take a shot. After successfully harvesting a squirrel, handle it carefully to avoid harming the flesh. You need to remember to promptly retrieve downed squirrels and pack out any trash or spent shells to leave the environment as you found it. 

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