Drifting quietly downstream in a canoe or johnboat is one of the most productive ways I know to hunt squirrels. You’ll likely see ducks, deer, herons, maybe a mink, bear or turkey along shore. When you hunt squirrels from a boat, competition from other hunters will be largely avoided. And the stark beauty of rivers after that first cold snap — lined with oaks, hickories, ash, and sycamores — is worth the trip in itself. Game is almost always plentiful.
A friend and I once floated a four-mile stretch of the Shenandoah River in Virginia and bagged six squirrels between us in an hour. And here’s the other advantage to squirrel hunting by boat: once you bag your limit, you can switch to fishing. That’s what we did on the Shenandoah where the smallmouths are abundant and the catching is good.
Before the trip was over, we’d counted 20 more squirrels in the trees along shore. Here are a few tips to help make your float hunt a success:
Finding the water. The first step is to find out where a river flows through public land or property where you can obtain permission to hunt.
Finding the right section of water. Then select a four-to-eight mile section with no dangerous rapids or dams to carry the boat around. You’ll also want to identify good put in and take-out points for vehicle access.
The boat. Either a canoe or johnboat will work. I prefer to paint the craft flat gray or drab green and camouflage it with some brush on the bow.
What to bring. Bring paddles and life preservers. Pack a waterproof bag with a change of clothes (mistakes happen) and emergency survival kit. I also throw in a landing net. Some squirrels float, others sink. Be ready for both.
Your approach. If the stream is small, you can cover both sides. On larger rivers, concentrate on the side with the most hardwoods or where you see the most game. As with still-hunting, make sure there are no houses or people behind where you are shooting.
Related: Squirrel hunting suppressed
Featured photo: Gerald Almy