Squirrel season

By Roger Williams

Most hunters learn and hone their skills in the squirrel woods. Listening for the sounds of barking, gnawing, debris falling from the trees and limbs shaking all reveal the location of the squirrels.

Squirrels forage on hickory nuts, walnuts, chinquapins and pinecone seeds.

Early in the year, when the leaves are thick and green, a shotgun is the chosen weapon because of its accuracy on running targets. But a .22 rifle has provided many a tasty pan of fried squirrels and gravy for hunters and their families.

Slipping into the woods soon after daylight comes is a pleasant way to begin another season. Carefully walking on the dew-dampened forest floor allows the hunter to slip into firing range of the elusive squirrels.

Since the animals are usually in the trees, they can spot movement on the ground easily. Their hearing is exceptional, and noise quickly alerts them to danger.

When approaching the stand of hickory trees, make no sudden moves, carefully place your steps on the quietest ground and never grab a sapling for balance. A shaking bush will send every squirrel in sight headed for the next ridge.

Find a stump or sit in cover and watch and wait. The squirrels will soon begin feeding if you are patient. A grove of hickory trees with mature nuts is a great place to hunt.

There is usually evidence of feeding on the ground. Shredded hulls from the nuts, pieces of nut shells and sometimes unopened nuts are readily visible if you are in the right spot.

These squirrels are not the semi-tame squirrels you see in parks or around the neighborhoods. They are wild animals, and their survival skills are honed by coyotes, wildcats, hawks and other predators. They will see you before you see them if you make an unusual noise or movement in your approach.

Grey and the bigger fox squirrels are the quarry you seek.

A red fox squirrel with a white face and white tipped paws gave me reason to hunt him exclusively on a past season opener. I spotted him in the top of an old hickory about 30 feet high. He would move to the end of a limb and gather a few hickory nuts and carry them back to a fork near the base of the tree and begin to gnaw on his breakfast. I could see the nut pieces falling, but never was able to get a shot with my single-shot .22.

As far as I know, he is still living there.

Plan on enjoying a trip to the woods in search of these small game animals this year.

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