This is one of my absolute favorite times of squirrel hunting season. Don’t get me wrong, I love each and every month during the almost six month season; it’s actually five months and 17 days, or a 170-day season, if you’re curious or count.
September is a great time to be out in the country with its warm evenings, many food sources to identify and explore, and always a joyful month to start the season. October heats up with more food and cooler days and can be one of the hottest squirrel hunting times of the season. November and December are fine for handpicking a few outings, but in our state, like most, deer hunting is king and those are the best months for deer.
But in January and February, the forest is open and there is no better time to hunt squirrels, especially to follow a large squirrel dog. Why, you may ask? Quite simply, squirrel mating season usually falls during this time and often multiple squirrels will be located in the same tree or area of the forest.
It’s not uncommon to follow the sounds of a tree dog to look up into the tree canopy and see more than one squirrel. That is usually not the case early in the season, when the food source and burrow trees are primarily where the squirrels are found. Also, mating season, like deer bellowing, can cause increased daytime activity for squirrels, giving us more opportunities.
But more importantly to me, this time of year feels much more like a treat or bonus days to be away. Sure, there are days when it’s gray outside, and of course there are days of snow and slow going, but there are also plenty of days when the sun’s rays warm the air enough to make your nose and cheeks glow.
Knowing that I am a squirrel hunter, I often get references from early season deer hunters, especially bowhunters, that their particular hunting grounds were filled with squirrels to the point that they drove them crazy while perched on their trees. I have often returned to their spot later in the season and was unsuccessful in helping them with their perceived squirrel problem. In fact, most of my winter squirrel hunting grounds are completely different than the grounds I walk on early in the season in September and October.
Although I am not a trained wildlife expert, biologist or manager, I have paid attention during my nearly 40 year squirrel hunting career to know that squirrels migrate to food sources and are very good at finding that available resource. . And there’s no quicker way to tell where squirrels are or aren’t than by following a well-experienced hunting dog.
An experienced squirrel bred dog will teach you more about what squirrels do and where they are in no time. I don’t care if he saw 196 squirrels at his deer stand last fall, the dog will quickly let you know if they are still there or have moved to a new food source area. Ah, but when you spot the winter hangout on a perfect sunny winter afternoon, you and your dog find yourself in some fast action and, to me, often the best squirrel hunt of the season.
Our season in West Virginia is open now and closes on February 28th.