NATCHEZ — It’s the eighth straight year that Mississippi has had a spring squirrel season since 2014 when they first reinstated the season. May 15 is opening day and the season lasts 17 days until June 1, 2022.
The spring season is a chance for hunters to head into the woods for old bushy tails before fall squirrel season kicks off on October 1. It is also an opportunity for hunters and dogs to gain more experience in the forest.
The spring season is similar to the early fall season. Squirrels are easier to sneak up on due to the heavy mast of the trees, but they are hard to see. Rick Hamrick, an MDWFP small game biologist, said hunters new to the spring season need to know a few things.
“People unfamiliar with the season should be aware of snakes and you may want some bug spray,” he said. “It is also important to remember the safety of hunters. Be aware of your target and what is behind your target.”
Food sources are key to hunting squirrels in the spring. Acorns and other tree nuts have likely been consumed during the winter months and leftover reserves have most likely sprouted, he said.
Squirrels are opportunistic and will enter gardens for vegetables and devour fruits growing on trees. They are also capable of consuming insects and larvae which have protein and will eat tree bark and shoots. Hamrick said spring squirrel season is often referred to as berry season because squirrels love to eat berries.
While the nut harvest is not that essential to spring feeding habits, it does play a role in the number of squirrels that run onto the property. Hunters who experienced a good acorn crop this year should see plenty of young squirrels running around, he said. Those that didn’t have many acorns this winter may see fewer squirrels because they had to travel further in search of food in the winter, exposing themselves to predation and not being as productive in their reproductive cycle, she said.
Sunday is opening day in Mississippi and Natchez is forecast to have a high of 91. Heat plays a role in a squirrel’s eating and movement habits. Also, hunters may need to take precautions with squirrel meat if they are hunting all day.
“They will reduce their activity when it is very hot to conserve energy and stay as cool as possible,” Hamrick said. “Meat spoilage can be a concern depending on how long it is out. It would be a good idea to dress them in the field to remove their entrails, especially if you are transporting them far away. You might want to get them in a fridge if you’re in your 80’s. As soon as something dies, bacteria can start. I think you have a little time before you worry about it going bad.”
He added that the quality of the meat can be affected if it is left in the heat for too long.
The daily bag limit for the spring season is four squirrels. The season is not open at St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge. It is open on the Sandy Creek Wildlife Management Area, Homochitto National Forest, and private land.
Spring squirrel season is one of the last opportunities to hunt until September. Canada Geese, Teal and Pigeon Season. Frogging is open through September 30, 2022. Raccoon season begins July 1 and nuisance animals like coyotes and wild boar can be hunted year-round.