Montana Squirrel Hunting Guide for Novices and Experts

Are you ready for a hunting experience that promises thrilling pursuits amid the untamed wilderness of Montana? Engage in the art of squirrel hunting, where the focus is not only on the hunt but also on embracing the reinvigorating beauty of Montana’s outdoors.

Our comprehensive guide to squirrel hunting in Montana will be well-suited to both novice hunters and those with seasoned expertise. Delve into the wilderness of the state’s forests and explore different species of squirrels, recommended gear, and actionable tips to guarantee a memorable hunting experience. 

If you think Montana squirrel hunting is just about the chase, think again — it’s also a unique way to learn about the vibrant wildlife within the state. So, are you ready to not only enjoy nature at its finest but also master the exciting art of squirrel hunting in the state’s rich landscapes?

7 Key Takeaways on Montana Squirrel Hunting

  1. In Montana, there are only two types of tree squirrels that are indigenous to the area, which are the northern flying squirrel and the red squirrel.
  2. Hunters who have a desire for squirrel meat tend to go after the fox or gray squirrels, which are bigger and more flavorful.
  3. To hunt legally in Montana, you need a valid small-game hunting license, and it’s important to note permitted hunting areas and bag limits.
  4. Understanding Montana’s squirrel species and their behaviors can increase your hunting success, with recommended hunting gear including sturdy boots and the right weaponry.
  5. Montana’s expansive and varied landscape offers numerous squirrel hunting spots, with a helpful Hunt Planner Map available from the Montana Fish and Wildlife & Parks office.
  6. Important squirrel hunting tips include scouting dense tree cover, choosing the right firearm, observing squirrel behavior, and dressing in camouflage.
  7. Always prioritize firearm safety, and ethical hunting practices, and respect local regulations for an enjoyable hunting trip in Montana.

About Montana Squirrel Hunting

A Montana squirrel surveys its surroundings from where its perched on a rocky step

The adventure of squirrel hunting in Montana opens a door to diverse landscapes and a variety of squirrel species. Understanding the nuances of each type, their habitats, and the unique features of the state’s terrain enhances the hunting experience.

I know hunting might not appeal to everyone, but if you want to try something new and immerse yourself in the great outdoors of Montana, squirrel hunting can be a rewarding and educational experience for hunters.

1. Montana Squirrels

A close-up of a Montana ground squirrel.

Montana’s squirrel clan seems to have a personality as diverse as the landscape they inhabit. Out of the four squirrel species you might meet here, only two are true Montanans — the Red (or Pine) Squirrel and the Northern Flying Squirrel.

While the other two, despite being recent transplants from eastern states, the Eastern Fox and Eastern Gray squirrels have made the Treasure State their home. While red squirrels are common and legally huntable, the bigger fox and gray squirrels are often preferred for their succulent meat.

Here’s a quick guide to spotting these charming critters in Montana:

Squirrel TypeSize/ColorActivityNotable Features
Red SquirrelsRed-gray or red-brown, some dark red-brownDiurnalWhite underbelly, white eye ring
Flying SquirrelsSimilar to red squirrelsNocturnalPatagia for gliding
Gray SquirrelsLarger, slightly lighter, grayish-brownDiurnalBushy tails
Fox SquirrelsLarger, slightly lighter, reddish-brownDiurnalLong, fluffy tails

Squirrels are known for their lively and playful behavior in the natural world. They are most active during the day, and during the fall, they become engrossed in collecting food for the winter.

Knowing the daily routine and seasonal patterns of squirrels can help hunters plan their hunting excursions more effectively. By understanding when and where squirrels are most active, hunters can increase their chances of success.

Combined with the expansive habitats they call home, Montana’s squirrels are quite the delightful mix. Whether you’re an avid hunter seeking that perfect squirrel stew or merely a curious nature lover, Montana has furry residents to keep you entertained.

2. Montana Squirrel Hunting Requirements

A gray squirrel forages for food in a grassy field in Montana

Montana’s hunting approach to squirrel hunting might surprise you. I sure was taken aback to learn that the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks classifies squirrels as “nongame animals”. This puts them in the ‘shoot anytime if on private land’ category.

Here’s what you need to know to hunt Montana’s elusive squirrels legally:

  • On Private Land – Montana allows year-round squirrel hunting without a specific permit, but it must be on private land with the landowner’s permission. No need to apply for a squirrel stamp here, just a hunting license.
  • On State School Trust Lands – If you are planning on hunting squirrels on State School Trust Lands, you’ll also need a conservation license.
  • Bag Limit – In most areas, there isn’t a bag limit. But Jared, a local hunter I chatted with, told me something interesting – “Montana still has a few spots where they limit you to 2 squirrels per hunter per day.”
  • Restricted Areas – It’s a no-go to shoot squirrels in wildlife management areas or other designated restricted areas. 
  • Dates to Remember – Squirrel hunting dates are where it gets a bit more traditional. The season typically runs from September 1st to January 31st. 

Now, “Year-round squirrel hunting with limited bag restrictions, excellent hunting opportunities,” should go on your Montana bucket list. Just remember the key bullet points — where, when, and with what kind of licensing. And as always, be eco-conscious and safe while you are out there bagging your squirrels!

3. Montana Squirrel Hunting Regulations

A hunting dog scours the tall grass in Montana for squirrels

If you’re a seasoned hunter or taking your first steps into the world of squirrel hunting, Montana offers a range of legal methods to help you bag your prey responsibly. Here’s a snapshot of the key regulations and considerations you should be aware of:

  • Legal Hunting Methods – From archery equipment and slingshots to shotguns and rimfire rifles, Montana’s legal hunting methods for squirrels are accommodating to various hunting styles. You can even employ cage-type traps for an added element of strategy.
  • Partnering with Hunting Dogs – While using hunting dogs for squirrel hunting is permitted, it’s important to pick a breed with a strong nose and the physical ability to run down squirrels. This adds a level of excitement to the hunt, and many hunters find joy in this age-old partnership.
  • Species Differentiation – Montana is home to several species of ground squirrels. It’s essential to distinguish these burrowers from pocket gophers to ensure you’re targeting the right species. Pocket gophers spend a lot of time underground, while ground squirrels, though also burrowers, don’t create mounds of dirt above ground.
  • Targeting the Right Prey – When using lethal methods, it’s crucial to target the right squirrel species. For example, the white-tailed prairie dog is a protected species in Montana, so you must ensure you’re not inadvertently hunting these charming creatures instead.
  • Shooting in Urban Environments – For small ground squirrel populations, shooting may be a viable option. However, it’s illegal and unsafe to discharge firearms in many urban areas. Always check local ordinances, and consider air rifles or pellet guns as safer alternatives within city limits.

Remember, proper adherence to hunting regulations not only helps conserve wildlife but also ensures that hunting remains a sustainable activity for generations to come. With a bit of science and some good old common sense, you can have a rewarding squirrel-hunting season that’s both legal and safe.

4. Montana Squirrel Hunting Gear and Equipment

Squirrel hunting gear, featuring a pair of boots, a knife, and a backpack, on a wooden floor

Venturing into the Montana wilderness to bag some squirrels, we can’t hit the trails without the right gear. Every hunter’s got their style, but let’s talk basics.

Here’s your checklist of equipment for squirrel hunting in Montana:

  • Hunting License and Small Game Permit – A no-brainer, but a must-have to stay on the right side of the law.
  • Sturdy Boots – Trust me, you don’t want a sprained ankle when you’re out there.
  • Game Bag – A hunting backpack to stow your gear and your squirrels.
  • Binoculars – Get up close and personal – from afar.
  • Sharp Knife – A hunting knife or that all-important field dressing.
  • Camouflage Clothing – It’s not a fashion show, but hunting clothing helps you blend in and get those squirrels unawares.
  • Ammunition – Use the right kind of ammunition or bolts that match your weapon or bow.
  • Map and Compass – Let’s not rely on your smartphones when you’re out of service; it’s a more reliable source for wayfinding.

Speaking of fashion, there’s no dress code for squirrel hunting in Montana, but I’d say stick with the basics: brown, earthy tones and camo prints are a good choice for squirrel hunters.

Your success in Montana’s squirrel-rich woods greatly depends on the combination of essential hunting gear and hunting skills you bring along. Got your basics down? Grab them, head out, and make sure you’ve got the tales of your success, not just your gear!

5. Montana Squirrel Hunting Locations

A squirrel, with nesting materials gathered in its mouth, perches on a dead tree branch in Montana.

Montana may be famous for its sweeping vistas and snowy mountain peaks, but it’s also a well-kept secret that this state teems with millions of acres of private and public lands for hunters perfect for squirrel hunting.

Whether you’re in the mood for a backwoods adventure or want the convenience of an urban hunt, Montana has got you covered.

But before you choose a hunting region for your Montana squirrel hunt, swing by the Montana Fish and Wildlife & Parks (FWP) office for a Hunt Planner Map. It’s like a treasure map that shows you the lay of the land, including hunting regulations and restrictions.

Now, to better understand these squirrels, here’s a closer look at where you can spot them in Montana:

Squirrel TypeHabitatSpecific Location
Red SquirrelsConiferous ForestsRocky Mountains, northern Midwest, and East
Flying SquirrelsConiferous ForestsRiparian woodlands of Western Montana
Gray SquirrelsDeciduous ForestsCity neighborhoods
Fox SquirrelsForests, Fields, Urban AreasRiver bottoms, City Parks in the Southeastern

For those who set their eyes on the red squirrels, let’s zoom in on which part of the state they live:

  • In Western Montana – Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir forests, as well as subalpine Engelmann spruce.
  • In Eastern Montana – Less traditionally in the dry ponderosa pine forests, and in Montana towns, they’re like the unwelcome city slicker — or squirrel.

The real magic in hunting in Montana isn’t just the prospect of bagging the prize squirrel; it’s about sinking into the incredible beauty and diversity that these amazing squirrel hunting spots offer. From the high-altitude pine forests in the west to the quieter, dry forests in the east, they all promise an equally amazing squirrel hunting experience.

There’s a fun challenge in decoding where you might find your furry target. And let’s be honest, the prospect of running into some fox squirrels in the heart of a Montana town adds a touch of whimsy to the whole affair.

6. Montana Squirrel Hunting Tips

A person in camouflage hides behind a tree while on the lookout for squirrels during a Montana hunting trip.

Squirrel hunting in Montana can be an enjoyable hunting experience if you follow these effective hunting techniques and tips: 

  1. Scouting the Right Locations – Squirrels love their privacy! Opt for dense tree cover, and if you can find areas dominated by oak, hickory, walnut, or pine trees, you’ve hit the jackpot. Oak and walnut trees, in particular, are like squirrel grocery stores, guaranteeing you plenty of sightings.
  2. Choose the Right Firearm – A .22 caliber rifle or a shotgun is the go-to choice for squirrel hunting. Both provide effective and humane kills. When using a firearm, always adhere to safety precautions to protect yourself and others.
  3. Observing Squirrel Behavior – Stay calm and quiet. Patience is your secret weapon as squirrels are incredibly alert. Look for subtle movements in the tree branches and listen for their rustling sounds.
  4. The Importance of Stealth – Slow and steady wins the race. Quick movements can give you away, so stealth is crucial. As a rule of thumb, if you can hear your footsteps, you’re being too loud. Dress in camouflage that matches the environment and move quietly. 
  5. Identifying Nut Sources – Oak and walnut trees are excellent spots for squirrel sightings, as these furry critters adore these nuts. Position yourself near these nut-bearing trees for increased squirrel hunting opportunities and awesome squirrel watching.
  6. Aiming and Shooting – It’s all about precision. Small, fast-moving targets require careful aim. Always prioritize an ethical, humane kill.

Enjoy the hunt, but remember your actions affect the ecosystem too. Research local regulations and get your valid hunting license before your adventure.

Montana Squirrel Hunting Final Thoughts

A squirrel positions itself atop a wooden platform, surveying its surroundings for potential dangers.

In Montana, squirrel hunting isn’t just a pastime; it’s a deeply rooted tradition that allows you to immerse yourself in the stunning natural landscape and diverse wildlife that the state has to offer.

Whether you’re an experienced hunter or a nature enthusiast looking to try something new, the captivating mix of Eastern Gray Squirrels, Red Squirrels, and even Northern Flying Squirrels offers a challenge like no other, all under the expansive Montana sky.

Squirrel hunting in Montana provides a rewarding, respectful way to engage with nature, and with a little bit of knowledge and some good old patience, you may find yourself not just enjoying the thrill of the hunt but also discovering a side of Montana that’s richer, more diverse, and ultimately more satisfying than you could have ever imagined.

So next time you’re planning an outdoor adventure in Big Sky Country, why not consider taking a walk on the wild side and exploring the fascinating world of Montana’s squirrel hunting? It just might surprise you in the best ways possible.

Montana Squirrel Hunting FAQs

1. Can You Shoot Squirrels in Montana?

You can shoot squirrels in Montana as they are classified as non-game species.

2. What Kind of Squirrels Are in Montana?

Montana is home to various species of squirrels, with the most common being the red squirrel, the fox squirrel, the Eastern gray squirrel, and the Northern flying squirrel.

3. Do You Need a License to Hunt Squirrels in Montana?

Squirrels in Montana can be hunted year-round without a license by both resident and nonresident hunters.

4. What Animals Can You Shoot Year-round in Montana?

Certain predatory animals and nongame species can be hunted year-round without a license in Montana. Predatory animals include coyotes, weasels, striped skunks, and civet cats. Nongame species include badgers, raccoons, red foxes, hares, rabbits, ground squirrels, marmots, tree squirrels, porcupines, and prairie dogs.

5. Is It Illegal to Feed Squirrels in Montana?

There is no specific statewide law in Montana that prohibits feeding squirrels. However, local ordinances or regulations may vary depending on the city or county.

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Written by:

Elizabeth Hawley
Hey, fellow travelers! I'm Elizabeth Hawley, stepping into the world in the hues of fall. For me, Montana is more than just a state; it's a muse. The golden aspen trees and russet landscapes in the fall have always fueled my creativity. Co-founding was a no-brainer, blending my love for art, photography, and Montana's ever-changing palette.

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