The last few weeks have been hot and muggy, but September is coming and with it, the squirrel hunt in the fall. For a modestly sized group of hunters across the state, it’s a highly anticipated event. During my youth in southern Ohio, there was little to hunt among the hills other than squirrels, rabbits, grouse, and an occasional flock of quail, so I spent a lot of time looking for bushy tails that were not only challenging, but very tasty on the hunt. skillet. . Later, I hunted the animals from the Ohio River to Lake Erie and found that their habits never changed.
Knowing those habits can give you a limit on foxes, squirrels, or grays on hunting forays, and you just need to know a few basic facts. One is the ability to recognize at least some of the major trees in the forest, something simple to do with a library book or even a purchased Ohio Trees brochure. When the season starts, they will almost certainly feed mainly on hickory, shagbark, shellbark, pignut, etc. because they love highly nutritious, sweet-tasting nuts. So find a grove or stand of walnut trees, check under fresh “cuttings,” and if they’re there, wait for customers.
If the wooded lot or wooded hillside has few or no hickory trees, look for graybark beeches. They like those nuts too, but again you should check under empty hulls before stopping or wait at least half an hour or so. There may be dozens of beeches around, but the squirrels seem to prefer just a few, feeding heavily on this one, ignoring that. Perhaps strawberries from selected trees have more flavor? Squirrels will also eat dogwoods eating red berries, nibble on wild grapes, and occasionally hit the cornfield next to a forest. They are all worth at least a quick review.
Later in the season, when most of the favorite foods are gone, they will switch to white oak, bog oak, and post oak acorns, but will not touch the bitter, tannin-filled, red, black, and pin oak acorns unless they are really hungry. Time is also always a factor. Gray squirrels must have higher metabolisms, because they are hungry and look for food at dawn. I have bagged the animals when I could barely see them high up in a tree, so when I hunt them I often use a flashlight to get to a good spot and be sitting and waiting when the shot light comes on. Fox squirrels are lazy and I rarely bother hunting them until good light comes. I’ve had some until 9 or 10 am
How to hunt them is also important. Grays are creepy and skittish, cautious to a fault, and I’d rather find a good spot, usually after some prior scouting, and wait for them. For fox squirrels, who are much less wary, I move, usually wearing soft tennis shoes and going a short distance and then stopping to listen for the crunch of teeth on nuts or the crunch of limbs before continuing. When I hear something with promise, I’ll slide over to that side and look for the customer.
Finally, I like to travel with a squirrel call, usually a kind of black rubber bellows that I can tap on a knee to mimic a weird furry tail. It works best in the late morning when the squirrels have fully fed and equally best with fox squirrels, although they can also come gray. When I hear a squirrel bark or see one in the distance, I like to sit quietly and answer the call. Often a squirrel, full and feisty, will come running to see who the stranger is. And find out the hard way.
Dick Martin is a retired biology teacher who has been writing outdoor columns for 30 years. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org