Yes, summer will last another month, but the fall hunt is on in Kentucky starting today.
The third Saturday in August, this, is the long-established opening day for the statewide squirrel hunting season. It’s the traditional season that opens in the summer and continues into the winter, but because it spans the fall, one would assume that it officially becomes the fall squirrel season.
Squirrel season dates for the 2022-23 hunt year are August 20-November 1. November 11 and February 14 28. The November 12-13 two-day getaway is due to the first weekend of Kentucky’s most popular gun deer hunting season.
Managers figure that persistent squirrel hunters can fit in with gun-toting deer hunters almost any time except opening weekend, but on the first Saturday and Sunday of the main deer hunt, squirrel hunters must give in. before the legion of white-tailed seekers.
Heck, most squirrel hunters are out there with a rifle trying to scoop up big bucks anyway.
Squirrels offer Kentucky hunters more days of opportunity than any other game animal. The traditional season is over six months of hunting, and the less traditional (and less borrowed) spring squirrel season is good for another four weeks of hunting.
By a wide margin, the early days of so-called fall squirrel season, like today and Sunday, are the most popular with hunters. You can mostly attribute it to opening day syndrome and the long tradition of hunters going out into the woods on the first weekend of squirrel hunting.
For convenience, the early days of traditional squirrel season are not the ideal time to go outside. August hunting in the woods is often fraught with heat and humidity guaranteeing a fair amount of discomfort. Dense foliage limits visibility making results difficult, while biting insects and arachnids, as well as nuisance insects in general, can be significantly bothersome.
However, the early days of sensual squirrel hunting can offer a concentration factor that can intensify the hunter’s results.
It sounds like a stereotype of squirrel hunting, but early maturing hickory nuts are specifically pertinent to the early days of August’s opening bushy-tail season. Hickory nuts are a favorite food for squirrels, especially in late summer when there are no other foods for hickory seeds to compete with for the squirrels’ interest.
At this time of year, only relatively few walnut trees will bear nuts that are ripe enough to satisfy the culinary requirements of dinners with squirrels. Most walnut trees will now offer nuts that are too green, so a squirrel stopping by for a sample will move on for better flavor and nutrition.
When a squirrel takes a look at one of the few walnut trees with ripe nuts, the arboreal rodent knows that it is where it wants to be. Maybe it’s all trial and error, or maybe the first taster sends some kind of email about wildlife, somehow getting the word out about ripe hickory nuts.
Regardless of how the knowledge is distributed, the squirrels somehow learn where the good stuff is. Mark 10 walnut trees and nine of them, still green, will be devoid of squirrels. Check out a walnut tree where the nuts have ripened and you may have a group of squirrels shaking the top branches as they cut and feed on the hard-shelled delicacies.
Experienced squirrel hunters tend to learn where the best walnut trees are. Some can typically be squirrel magnets early in the season. Even if there are only one or two, a hunter can do just fine sitting and waiting in that spot, allowing rodents to jump limbs to go to the grocery stores.
The regulations for the squirrel hunting season are pretty constant. Hunters will find no change for the 2022-23 hunt year. The most important are a daily bag limit of six squirrels and a possession limit of 12 squirrels after two or more hunting days.
Shooting hours again are 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset.
Over the years there have been a few additions to the list of legal equipment that can be used to hunt squirrels.
The traditional shotgun and, to a lesser extent, the rimfire rifle remain the most popular. Shotguns must be plugged into the magazine to limit cartridge capacity to two in the magazine and one in the chamber.
Today, .410 and rimfire pistols are also legal for use. Muzzleloading rifles and muzzleloading shotguns are allowed. Archery equipment or crossbows are allowed to capture squirrels.
.177 to .25 caliber air rifles can be used with squirrels. Further stacking the odds towards squirrels, hunters can use slingshots with crafted ammo.
Licensed falconers can use their trained birds of prey to hunt squirrels.
Hunters may also use dogs, usually arboreal type dogs, in their squirrel hunting activities.
- Next Saturday, August 27, is the date of a drawing to assign season-long waterfowl blind spots for the 2022-23 hunt at the Doug Travis Wildlife Management Area in Carlisle and Hickman counties.
Registration begins at 9 am and the drawing is at 10 am at the WMA office, ½ mile south of Berkley in Ky. 121.
Another hunting option managed by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Lake Barkley WMA, will be the subject of a season-long blind site drawing on September 19.
The drawing, scheduled for 8 a.m. on that date, will be held at a shelter on the east side of the Cumberland River, below the Barkley Dam off US 62 near Lake City. Participants must use the power plant entrance and then turn right to reach the shelter.