Hunting Small Game and Proper Gun Selection

In survival situations, hunting deer and elk may not be an option. However, small game like squirrels and birds can be a reliable alternative as you search for food.

It's important to know how to hunt, clean, and cook small game—as well as which weapons are best for hunting them.


Lose the Rifle

Most hunters don't have the marksmanship to hunt small game with a rifle; instead, they opt for a 12 or 20-gauge shotgun with birdshot (small pellets that you’ll have to pick out of your meat).

The 20-gauge has been called the perfect squirrel shotgun by "Squirrel Hunting Journal". It's easier to aim on something like a small squirrel and won't damage your meat like a 12-gauge would.

Modular shotguns like Remingtons are reliable, affordable, and easy to maintain.

Small switch-outs like an o-ring around the barrel are as simple as a twist and a pull. The manufacturer's website will almost always have takedown and maintenance guides, and Amazon sells print copies as well.



Squirrels are possibly the best game in North America to hunt and were popularized most recently by the Robertson family on A&E’s Duck Dynasty.

Gray and fox squirrels span coast to coast. The eastern gray squirrel (which can weigh one to five pounds) spans the eastern half of the U.S., is heavily populated in wooded areas, and avoids open, grassy areas. Fox squirrels are more prevalent in open areas and weigh about four to five pounds—that’s one to two more pounds than the average gray squirrel.

Squirrel meat is usually chewy so it's best in a stew. Mix it with some potatoes, carrots, and peppers and you have one heck of a meal!



Game birds are another animal you can rely on more than deer or elk. Game birds include dove, woodcock, teal, snipe, quail, grouse, ducks, geese, pheasants, swan, and crane.

In some areas, you'll find wild turkeys and other larger animals, but small game is what you can depend on.

Like squirrels, birds are best in a stew or, if small enough, roasted over a fire.



Keep your shooting sharp by ditching standing targets and shooting trap and skeet.

Small game will almost always be on the move and the ability to hit a bullseye won't do much good in a survival situation. You can practice with slugs if you'd like, but skeet and trap are very difficult to shoot with a solid round.

Do you hunt small game? How do you like to prepare them as a meal? Let us know in the comments!

Happy hunting.

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I agree with the other comments that whoever wrote this knows little about hunting game (big or small).

A shotgun is a good choice for many types of small game, but you need to choose the ammo and the barrel choke wisely.

"Buckskot" whick is generally #4 shot or larger (up to 000) is used on larger game — fox up to deer.

Birds are usually taken with"birdshot" — #6 (pheasant) to #7-1/2 or #9 for smaller birds like grouse or woodcock). But good luck going after grouse o rwoodcock, as they fly very fast in darting movements such that the average hunter finds difficult to hit.

For rabbits, #6 is a good load. For squirell, the shotgun is OK, but since squirrels stop often when running, an accurate .22 is a decent choice, and the cost of ammo is cheaper. If you can’t hit a squirrel with a .22 at 50 yards, then either you have an inaccurate rifle, or need alot of practice on your marksmanship.

The author didn’t mention shotgun barrel choking, but depending on the choke, the shotgun used may only be "useful" on small game out to 20 to 50 yards. And using a "tactical" style shotgun with its cylinder, or at most improved cylinder bore, and bird shot— 20-30 yards is about the limit of useful hunting range. (I don’t want to get into an argument with someone who has shot a pheasant at 50 yards with an improver cylinder choke. Yes, it could happen but not on the dependable basis required in a survival situation.)

Shotgun slugs are used on deer size game, but the accuracy is going to depend greatly in the choke/type of barrel the slugs are fired thru. Slugs used in a rifled slug barrel — with good sights — have a usefule range of 100 yards (or more in the hands of a marksman). But fired thru a cylinder or improved cylinder smoothbore barrel with standard shotgun sights, the accurate range is likely more like 50 yards or so.



Good to see a hunting post, thank you for sharing. I personally use a .410 for squirll hunting. I just recently shot three and pressure cooked the meat. By far the best i have managed to cook it verytender fell off the bone. I do enjoy my 22lr for squirll hunting but for the game of it. If i was in a survival situation shot gun all the way. I killed all three at a full sprint no way i was doing that with a 22 unless ur chuck conners.



Buckshot would destroy small game. They call it buckshot for a reason. Birdshot from #4 through #8 are suitable for small game. By the way, a 22 rimfire is a superb small game tool.

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