LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (Arkansas Fish and Game Commission) — With turkey season over, many hunters will put away their shotguns until the fall, but there’s another spring season that gives Arkansas hunters plenty of reason to keep the shotgun clean and ready. Arkansas chipmunk season kicks off May 15, and for those who enjoy chasing these targets into the treetops, it’s a great excuse to be in the woods.
The spring squirrel hunt has been an Arkansas tradition for decades and was typically available from mid-May to mid-June. In 2013, the Arkansas Fish and Game Commission voted to extend the season for those who wanted to continue chasing squirrels from May 15 through the end of February, making it one of the longest hunting seasons in Arkansas.
Fall season hunters have a few options when it comes to hunting styles: They can find a patch of hickory trees that is producing particularly well and sit down for a while, or they can stay mobile, walking between patches of oak and other hardwoods and be attentive. for small animals as they go from tree to tree. In spring, however, hunters should focus on one thing: blackberries.
It’s not uncommon to find squirrels in spring that have their chest and chin stained purple from all the red berries they’ve gorged themselves on while these little berries ripen. The key to identifying the trees that contain these magical berries is to focus on the leaves. Mulberry trees will have broad, pointed leaves that resemble a heart shape with a flat base. But the leaf can also have a depression in its margin that creates multiple lobes. In fact, a red mulberry is one of the only trees in Arkansas that typically has some leaves without lobes, some leaves with two lobes, and some leaves with multiple lobes all at the same time. The blackberries themselves resemble small blackberry fruits.
The main precautions for hunters looking to explore spring squirrel forests are the same as for turkey hunters. Ticks, gnats, midges and other biting insects may be waiting to jump aboard anyone who isn’t prepared. A good bug suit combined with bug spray is the best route to take. If a bug suit seems too expensive or cumbersome, hunters can substitute it by spraying their clothing with permethrin, an insecticide that will help deter some bugs. But a good insect repellant with the chemical compound DEET is almost a requirement to keep insects at bay.
With the exception of bugs, the only real thing you need to worry about is taking care of your squirrels once you’ve hunted them down. Keeping the carcass cool is a more important factor than in colder weather. Using a vest with a mesh game bag like those used during pigeon season works well to offer air circulation around the squirrel. If that’s not available, hand-carrying the squirrels or hanging them from a game bag like duck hunters do is a good alternative for keeping the meat fresh and ready for a pot of squirrels and meatballs when you get home.