BOISE, Idaho — Idaho Fish and Game (IDFG) says one of the state’s newest game species is a great gateway for novice hunters. Red squirrel hunting hones the skills of the larger game animals.
An Idaho family took advantage of the new opportunity to introduce their son, Wyatt Creson, to the hunt last fall.
“We were really looking for opportunities that were available to a kid that young, where he could have a little bit of success,” said Jaime Creson, Wyatt’s mother. “We learned that red squirrels have recently become a game animal and decided that might be a good place to start.”
Red squirrels are native to Idaho, became a game animal in the state in 2018, and are a game species in many neighboring states. IDFG says they are abundant and can be found in all forests, providing an opportunity for hunting that people may miss.
Fall is the best time to hunt red squirrels, as they are often active during the day as they store food for the winter. For the Cresons, the timing worked out perfectly, as it went so well with the family’s annual deer hunting trip.
IDFG says Wyatt went on a hike with his parents as they worked to fill out their deer tags and around noon, they would pick up Wyatt’s shotgun from camp before heading back. With most of the deer hunters back at camp for the day, the Cresons had the forest largely to themselves.
“We really enjoyed being alone with Wyatt and having this opportunity available to him,” said Jamie Creson.
That fall, Wyatt hunted three squirrels under the guidance of his parents, learning the same skills he’ll need to be a big game hunter when he’s old enough. That includes observation, handling and shooting of a firearm and marksmanship, with an emphasis on safety and ethics. Wyatt also learned how to dress the animals in the field.
“Part of the reason we chose Wyatt to hunt red squirrels is because we knew we could eat them,” Jaime said, noting that larger tree squirrels, like eastern fox and gray squirrels, are popular foods in parts of the eastern United States. . “In our family, we eat everything we grow and we weren’t interested in something we weren’t going to eat.”
IDFG says in a press release that the Cresons returned to camp and cooked the squirrels for dinner that night.
“We just put it in the dutch oven and fried it, and the meat was very good, almost sweet in flavor,” Jaime said. “With such a delicious taste, I think it’s a great opportunity for kids to eat a little of what they grew and get excited about putting food on the table.”
Red squirrel season runs from August 30 to March 31 each year. For more information on this opportunity, see the 2020-21 Idaho Upland Game, Turkey & Furbearer Seasons and Rules brochure.