During the days of settlement in Kentucky, when white-tailed deer, bison, elk, wild turkey, and black bear disappeared from the landscape, rural people hunted small game for food.
Subsistence hunters were often out in the field at times other than fall and winter, hunting squirrels when they were most active and abundant.
In the 19th century, squirrels were hunted with small-caliber muzzleloaders: long flintlock rifles and half-butt percussion rifles. A true test of marksmanship, squirrel hunting for food and sport became a strong tradition in Kentucky.
During the modern era of wildlife management, biologists who study squirrels discovered that they can be hunted in the spring without endangering populations because squirrels have two breeding seasons.
Kentucky’s spring squirrel season is timed to coincide with the surge in squirrel numbers after the first nesting period of the year and before breeding resumes in July.
The season began as an experiment in four state wildlife management areas in 1994, spread statewide in 1999, and lasted for two weeks in 2011.
This year, Kentucky’s spring squirrel season lasts 35 days.
The season began on May 18 and continues until June 21. The daily catch limit is six squirrels. Shooting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset.
Legal hunting equipment includes rimfire rifles and pistols, muzzle-loading or breech-loading shotguns (lead or non-toxic shot no larger than No. 2), archery equipment or crossbows, and .177 caliber air rifles. , .20, .22 or .25 caliber shot.
For complete spring squirrel season regulations, see page 10 of the Kentucky Spring Hunting Guide.
find spring squirrels
Hunters will have to do some searching to find squirrels since they won’t be in the same places they are in the fall.
In the spring, squirrels eat mainly softwoods, such as the seeds of maple, elm, wild cherry, mulberry, hackberry, and elderberry. When a soft mast begins to form in the trees, the squirrel activity increases.
Stream bottoms are a good place to start looking for squirrels, as well as thickets of large cedars where squirrels often nest.
In the spring, squirrels also eat grasses, mushrooms, and berries. Insects, such as grasshoppers, grasshoppers, and locusts, round out the squirrels’ diet, so look for squirrels at the edges of the forest.
With the trees already defoliated, the squirrels have a lot of protection.
A .410 or 20 caliber shotgun may be the best choice for squirrel hunting, but many hunters prefer .22 caliber rifles, air pistols (that fire .177, .20, .22 or .25 caliber pellets) or small BB rifles. caliber muzzleloader.
Good squirrel hunting is available in all 120 Kentucky counties, and hunting pressure is light during the spring season.
The gray squirrel is the dominant species in the heavily forested eastern third of Kentucky, with a higher percentage of fox squirrels in the small wooded patches and wooded fences of agricultural areas in central and western Kentucky.
Squirrels are the most stable and abundant small game species in Kentucky. Local populations wax and wane from year to year, depending on the availability of food.
The Kentucky Division of Forestry reports that 48 percent of Kentucky is forested, or about 12.4 million acres of forest, so there are plenty of places to hunt.
The oak-hickory forest type is the most common, accounting for about 75 percent of all forests in the state.
The spring woods are beautiful and squirrels abound. It is a good time to find out what our ancestors lived through when they hunted one of their favorite game animals.
Art Lander Jr. is KyForward’s Exteriors Editor. He is a Kentucky native, a graduate of Western Kentucky University, and has been a hunter, fisherman, gardener, and outdoors enthusiast his entire life.