Squirrel season is almost here, and almost 90,000 hunters could be headed into the woods this weekend in pursuit of tasty Bayou State bushy tails.
According to the most recent hunter surveys from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, squirrel hunting is second only to deer hunting in terms of numbers of Louisiana hunters, with duck hunters coming in third.
Over the years, my brother Myron and I have enjoyed squirrel hunting with many of the best hunters in the state. Here are some shared observations, tips, strategies and tactics to fill your game bag on opening day — Saturday, Oct. 1.
• Moon Phase: Squirrel hunters shouldn’t be worried about opening weekend and the rest of the week. The moon phase will be in its last quarter, suggesting only moderate nocturnal feeding.
• Temperature: The temperature Saturday will be somewhat warm, with highs expected in the mid-80s and lows in the upper-50s following the passage of a mild cool front later this week. A very slight chance of rain is predicted in some parts of the state, and actually would be welcomed to moisten the forest floor. A very light jacket could be in order for youth and older hunters — especially early in the morning. As for affecting squirrel movement, the mild temperatures should be fine for finding squirrels foraging in the morning.
• Wind conditions: Saturday and Sunday will feature minor northeast winds ranging up to 6 mph across much of Louisiana. Squirrel movement in the trees should be easy to see in the early hours all the way to late morning.
• Feeding times: Many hunters believe and swear by Knight feeding times. In the experience of some, there have been successes and failures independent of scheduled feeding times. You may want to visit Louisiana Sportsman's lunar tables regarding potential animal movement.
• Food: There is scattered mast in specific areas of bottomlands and other hardwoods. The choicest fall mast for early-season squirrels continues to be the nuts of hickory and pecan trees. If you have such mast in your woods, then you’re a fortunate hunter. There are times when a limit of eight squirrels can be taken by simply sitting in cover and holding tight all morning near a hickory tree with signs of heavy feeding underneath it.
• Moving slowly or walking quickly: It appears that soils will be relatively dry for the opener, making hunter movement somewhat noisier than when soils are moist. There is a very slight chance of rain Saturday morning, but probably not enough to dampen the leaves on the ground. During opening week, hunters can get by with walking faster and killing squirrels — mainly because the forest canopy still hides hunters from squirrels.
• Shotguns are the most utilized weapons for early-season squirrels due to the presence of thick foliage in the trees. Hunting with a .22-caliber rifle is precision shooting, and is typically better accomplished with fewer deflections in late fall and winter after more leaves have fallen.
• Upon hearing the sound of mast droppings indicating feeding, hunters are encouraged to look at trees with the sun in the background to follow the minute falling particles — which usually lead to a stationary feeding squirrel.
• There will be mosquitoes, especially as temperatures rise in the morning, so carry repellant with you. Remember, ticks are the culprit with Lyme disease. Mosquitoes, ticks and red bugs (chiggers) can be deterred by liberally applying insecticide containing Permethrin to clothing, especially where pants and boots join — as well as the midsection and the seat of the pants (when sitting on downed trees). Never apply Permethrin insecticide to the skin. Repellents with DEET are available to spray onto the skin, and Repel offers a DEET repellent formula for skin applications as well as a Permethrin insecticide spray for clothing.
• Remember, most squirrel hunters agree the early season is great because the hunts target relatively undisturbed squirrels.
There’s no better experience on an opening Saturday morning than getting into the woods early and shooting enough squirrels for the gravy or the grease by noon.
Squirrels will need to be cleaned, cut and seasoned, but remember: LSU plays Mizzou at 6 p.m. at Tiger Stadium with the debut of Ed Orgeron as interim head coach.
It’s a classic 'Louisiana Saturday Night' event that will be televised on the SEC Network – Geaux Tigers!