Hunters experienced great success early in season
Ville Platte’s Kenneth O’Connor, Jr. is raving about his family’s success hunting squirrels so far this season.
“It’s been a very good year,” said O’Connor, 38. “The mast we found on public lands was plentiful this year, and squirrels were everywhere.”
O’Connor and his sons Nicholas, 13 and Taylor, 11, hunted the early season at Richard K. Yancey Wildlife Management Area in Concordia Parish.
On Oct. 13, each of the trio managed to get a limit of squirrels, a combination of Southern greys along with the lagniappe of a few Delta fox squirrels.
“We were hunting a good hardwoods bottom crossing a couple of sloughs,” O’Connor said. “The squirrels were active and feeding, and each of us got a limit.”
On Nov. 2, O’Connor returned to the WMA, this time with his 15-year-old nephew, Kaeydon O’Connor, and Nicholas.
“We had another great hunt, only four squirrels short of a three-hunter limit,” he said. “On this hunt, the rut had started in the area, and the squirrels were chasing as well as feeding. It was a great experience for us out there.”
O’Connor and his family members have been hunting public-land lands for squirrels for 23 years. He lavishes high praises on Louisiana’s public lands for squirrel numbers; he is fond of hunting both Richard K. Yancey and Dewey Wills WMAs in LaSalle, Catahoula and Rapides parishes.
“With the amount of (acorn production) we saw at Richard K. Yancey this year, we should even have another great year for the 2020-21 hunting season,” he said. “That’s because this year’s great mast production does indicate that there will be many squirrels to come next year.”
By mid-November, the O’Connors estimated an early season harvest of slightly more than 100 squirrels.
Some WMA results
Cody Cedotal, small-game study leader with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, had a very positive report on the state’s squirrel season thus far.
“Squirrel season results have been pretty decent this year,” Cedotal said. “Actually, it’s been very good, despite the fact that some of the best public lands for squirrel hunting has added stress of a long period of flooding earlier this year.
“Longstanding floods cause stress on mast trees and can cause mast failure,” he said. “Some of the oak species are just not flood tolerant, but we came out better than expected, with no severe losses widespread.’
Cedotal had some early results of hunter successes on Oct. 5, opening day on public lands in central Louisiana.
“On Oct. 5 on Richard K. Yancey WMA, bag checks there recorded some 878 squirrels were taken by 286 hunters for approximately three squirrels per hunter effort,” he said.
Opening day results from Sherburne WMA and the adjacent Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge in Pointe Coupee, Iberville and St. Martin parishes indicted 184 hunters scored on 552 squirrels for an estimated three squirrels per hunter.
“Again, these results are very good thus far, and we will have more results from managed hunts at other WMAs later in the season,” Cedotal said.
As for the Louisiana squirrel rutting period, Cedotal said that the state’s grey and fox squirrels breed twice a year, and times do vary. There are no consistent dates for squirrel breeding in Louisiana.
Late season tips
O’Connor will take a break from squirrel hunting in November for deer season, and the family will resume bushytail pursuits later in December and January.
“We hunt much differently later in the season as most of the leaves, upper foliage and acorns will be on the ground,” he said.
“We will begin using .22 rifles as opposed to shotguns in December and January,” O’Connor said. “The upper foliage will all be gone by then, and we’ll be able to take some select shots at squirrels without the possibility of deflections from leaves and stems.
“Squirrels will also be more active on the ground finding acorns and storing them in places.”
O’Connor and family will also adopt a more-patient style of hunting; they will find a good feeding area, sit down, and be still and quiet.
“We won’t move or walk around like early in the season,” he said. “With the upper parts of the trees bare of leaves, those squirrels will be much more able to detect you and any movement.”
After shooting a couple of squirrels in one area, they will move to find another feeding area and sit for a while again.
“We’ll do this for quite a while during the day, which usually results in a good number of squirrels, although not as many as early in the season,” said O’Connor, who believes hunters should don a bit more camouflage to cover their heads and faces as well as their bodies, due to the sharp eyesight of Louisiana’s bushytails.
Squirrel hunting season runs until Feb. 29, 2020. The daily bag limit is 8 squirrels, with a possession limit of 24. Consult the 2019-20 Louisiana Hunting Regulations pamphlet for specific season dates on Louisiana WMAs.