It’s about squirrel hunting time. On May 26, the 2018 squirrel season will open through February 15, 2019. In addition to having one of the longest hunting seasons in the state, we also have a liberal daily limit of 10 squirrels.
My first serious hunt was in Carroll County when my older brother took me squirrel hunting. Back then, just like today, the squirrel population was healthy. We got to the woods less than a mile from home because there were some mulberry trees my brother knew of and by the end of May the fruit was ripe and the bushy colas could be found nearby. For many years, this was the best place to open the season because the mulberry trees were always a draw for squirrels. It wasn’t long before we each had three fox squirrels, which was enough for a breakfast of fried squirrel, biscuits and gravy. It makes me hungry just thinking about how good it was. The trees produced berries until June, so we hunted there several times before moving on to other places.
Today, there are not as many squirrel hunters, mainly because many hunters go after deer and turkey, which were few in number when I started hunting. Hunting a deer or wild turkey in the fall seemed better than fighting brush and bugs while hunting squirrels in the spring.
There are many squirrels throughout the state. When I first started hunting, there were more foxes than gray squirrels, but today it seems the grays outnumber the fox squirrels. A neighbor I shared my prey with always had a bigger smile on his face when he brought him some fox squirrels because they had more edible meat than the gray ones.
One of my best hunts happened by accident. During a float fishing trip I noticed there was a lot of squirrel action near the creek. It seemed like a good idea when my friend suggested that next time, we ditch the fishing gear and grab a .22 rifle to hunt down some squirrels. It was the first week of June when we took off downriver in the canoe. It wasn’t long before we spotted a fox squirrel by the creek. We were in slow moving water so it wasn’t too hard to get a photo, and we had the first squirrel of the trip. My canoe buddy, Bruce Gordon, Ozark, had his .410 shotgun to shoot any squirrel that ran out. After getting another squirrel, it was my turn to lead the canoe while Bruce was the hunter. After floating a couple of miles we had five squirrels in the canoe and added two more before we reached our starting point. It was the first of many floating squirrel hunts that were memorable in a number of ways, including the fact that we didn’t have to worry about ticks or chigger bites.
Most hunters prefer to use a .22 rifle on squirrels and try to shoot at the head to minimize damage to the meat. Some hunters use everything from shotguns to pellet guns. I know a farmer/hunter who uses a pellet gun to catch his squirrels. He said: “It doesn’t take much to catch a squirrel, and with today’s pellet gun traveling at 1,100 feet per second, you can catch a bushy tail with no problem.”
Another help in pocketing your limit is to use a dog that finds and catches a squirrel. A friend of mine had a dog like that, and we never failed to get squirrels on a hunt. His dog would catch a squirrel and circle around the tree until one of us came along. The squirrel would circle the tree branch while the dog moved around the tree, allowing us to get a good shot at the target. If an animal fell but was only injured, the dog would catch it, so we never lost one.
Squirrel hunting early in the season can be a great way to start the summer, and you don’t have to travel far to find a good hunting spot.
Ken White writes about hunting and fishing for News-Leader. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.