6 tips for successful early-season squirrel hunts

The Louisiana hunting season for squirrels begins Oct. 5. Read on for six tips offered by veteran squirrel hunters to fill your game bag early in the season.

Squirrel season is just about here, and this popular weekend opener (Oct. 5-6) beckons some 73,000 hunters to the Louisiana woods targeting this small-game species, according to the most-recent hunter survey by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

Presented here are some shared observations, tips and tactics toward a full game bag on opening day.

After all, the goal of squirrel hunting with family and friends is to bring home enough bushytails for an enjoyable “Louisiana Saturday Night” experience consisting of delicious squirrel cuisine, camp camaraderie and enjoyment of the LSU-Utah State football game at Tiger Stadium or via television or radio.

Hunt squirrely locations

According to Cody Cedotal, the LDWF’s small-game study leader, mast production was quite good last fall in most of Louisiana, so hunters should fare well when pursuing squirrels in hardwood forests, river basins and swamp bottomlands when they occur.

When hunting pine forests, however, novice hunters are urged to hunt streamside management zones where hardwoods usually proliferate as opposed to looking for the very few squirrels inhabiting pure pine plantations.

According to Cedotal, the top three state Wildlife Management Areas that delivered the most squirrels per hunter efforts were Richard K. Yancey WMA in Concordia Parish, Sherburne WMA and the Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge in Pointe Coupee, Iberville and St. Martin parishes; and Dewey Wills WMA in Catahoula and LaSalle Parishes.

Hunt all moon phases

Breaux Bridge’s Sammy Guillory walks quickly, covering a lot of ground during the early part of squirrel season because the trees are full of leaves, hiding him from sharp bushytail eyes.

For Saturday, Oct. 5, squirrel hunters shouldn’t be worried about opening weekend and the rest of the week. The moon phase will be in its first quarter, shedding little light, suggesting only moderate nocturnal feeding for the rest of the week.

However, Breaux Bridge’s Sammy Guillory won’t let a full or new moon slow him down. More often than not, Guillory, a 57-year-old veteran hunter, will take his limit of eight squirrels regardless of moon phase.

“I don’t let full moons and new moons bother me, although I expect to stay in the woods longer during those periods,” Guillory said. “It seems the more light during the night, the later in the day the squirrels will move and feed.”

Steady, continuous moving

The speed of traipsing through the woods and taking squirrels is dependent upon timing of the season. During opening week, well-camouflaged hunters can get by with walking fast and killing squirrels — mainly due to the thick forest canopy hiding hunters from sharp bushytail eyes. If soils are moist from light rains before the opener, this is even better, allowing hunters to move quietly without the noise of crunching dry, fallen foliage underfoot.

Use squirrel calls

There are two basic types of manufactured calls for squirrels – bellows-style calls (right) and whistle calls (left). Bellows-style calls (barrel calls) are used by hunters as a locator call that mimics the barks and chatter, and squirrel whistles are used to imitate the distress calls of young squirrels.

Many hunters miss a lot of excitement by not using squirrel calls early in the season. Truth be known, squirrels can be called to your location quite successfully in the same way turkeys and waterfowl respond to calls. It only takes time practicing in the same way hunters prepare for waterfowl and turkey seasons.

There are two basic types of manufactured calls — bellows-style calls and whistle calls.

Bellows-style, aka barrel, calls are used by hunters as a locating tool that mimics the barks and chatter made by gray and fox squirrels. It is usually the hunter’s first go-to call in locating squirrels that will usually respond to effective calling.

Squirrel whistles are used to imitate the distress calls of young squirrels.

Myron Berzas of Port Barre is certainly attached to his Mr. Squirrel Whistle distributed by Haydel’s Game Calls.

“I use it when I hear a squirrel barking and I can’t get close to it because of an opening in the forest or some barrier between me and the squirrel,” said Berzas, 51. “I’ll make a few short whistles while slapping a small, leafy branch on the ground.

“Not always, but often enough, a squirrel will respond by moving toward where I am standing.

“I’ve taken many more squirrels with the whistle than any other call,” Berzas said.

Feeding times

Many hunters believe in and swear by the Solunar Tables’ feeding times. In the experience of some, there have been successes and failures independent of feeding times published in newspapers and magazines. You may wish to visit the Lunar Times at LouisianaSportsman.com for your consideration regarding game movement for October.

Use your ears to listen

All too often, hunters rely only on their eyes to search for squirrels moving in trees.

Myron Berzas examines a blond, big-headed fox squirrel (aka chucklehead) he killed in western Louisiana.

The beloved, late Harry Soileau of Opelousas mentored his children and many youthful squirrel hunters in Acadiana and strongly stressed they just stand still and listen for a while — especially at first light.

Many hunters mistakenly assume they are hearing falling dewdrops from tree foliage, when in truth, tiny parts of falling acorns, pinecones and other mast are responsible for the noise.

“If I hear a squirrel feeding on oaks, hickories or pines, and I can’t see it, then I will look into the sun through the suspect feed tree to see pine dust or mast particles falling,” said Berzas, one of Soileau’s hunting apprentices. “Often, I will follow with my eyes the trail of falling particles upward to the almost motionless, feeding squirrel.”

There you have it, a few tips from expert squirrel hunters with many years of experience.

On Saturday morning of the opener, there is nothing better than getting into the woods early and killing enough squirrels for gravy or the grease by noon or dinner time. After the hunt, squirrels will need to be cleaned, cut and seasoned and other culinary preparations made.

And as usual — cook some rice.

Enjoy the Louisiana squirrel opener, and Geaux LSU Tigers.