Louisiana’s three-week spring squirrel season gives hunters a chance to test their dogs without competition — and put some great game on the table.
Ruston’s George Seacrist is a serious squirrel hunter, and his juices begin flowing as deer season ends; he knows his dogs are ready for some action.
“I love to deer hunt, too, but my favorite is following my dogs through the woods during squirrel season. Deer hunters will be out of the woods, and my dogs and I will have the woods virtually to ourselves,” Seacrist said.
There is a problem for Seacrist, however. When February ends, so does squirrel season. Thankfully, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has provided a balm for Seacrist’s itch. Several years ago, the LDWF instituted a spring squirrel season, which fits Seacrist’s plans nicely.
“Hunting squirrels in spring is a good time to start and train a young squirrel dog,” he said. “Rather than concentrate so much on trying for limits of squirrels, this is the time when I get to see if a young dog has what it takes to become a good treeing dog. When I take my young dog to the woods, I get to watch his body English to see if he has potential.”
Not all dogs can handle the sound of a shotgun going off over their heads, and during the spring season, this is a good time to see if your dog is “gun shy,” which can present a real problem for a squirrel hunter.
“When I take a young dog out in spring, I’ll leave my shotgun at home and take my .22 rifle instead,” he said. “The soft crack of a rifle compared to the blast of a 12 gauge shotgun is not so intimidating to a young dog.”
Seacrist has developed a training technique so he can tell, early on, if a dog is more interested in the squirrel he’s pursuing rather than the sound of gunfire.
“During the fall season, I will save squirrel tails when I dress squirrels, put them in a Zip-Loc and keep them in the freezer,” he said. “Then, when I go out with a young dog, I’ll take a couple of squirrel tails from the freezer, thaw them out, and while the dog is shut up, I’ll drag the tails on a rope around the yard and hang them in a tree. Then, I turn the dog out and watch his reaction when he finds the tails. I’ll fire my .22 in the air, and toss the tails out where he can retrieve them.”
Seacrist shared a comical story about how he trained a young dog one spring morning.
“Using my .22 to take a fox squirrel, I would take it out of my game bag, toss it out and shoot in the air at the same time,” he said. “The dog loved it. I then switched over to my shotgun and repeated the same thing. Soon, the pup paid no attention to the gunfire; he was too interested in retrieving the squirrel. I ‘treed’ and shot the same squirrel four times, but it cured him of his gun shyness.”
Keith Sutton, an outdoor writer from Arkansas, has a major interest in hunting squirrels in spring.
“One reason I love it is, I love to eat squirrels, and I have found that those I take in spring are tastier,” he said. “In the fall, squirrels do most of their feeding on hard mast, while in spring, they’re eating tender buds. They’re more tender and sweeter to me in spring,” he said.
In case you want to give spring squirrel hunting a try, spring season in Louisiana this year runs from May 1 through May 23. The daily bag limit is three, with possession limit of 9. In the event you wish to try one of the state’s Wildlife Management Areas, you will first need to visit www.wlf.louisiana.gov, because while most areas are open for spring squirrel season, some are not. A word to the wise: before you go, confirm that the WMA you want to hunt is open for spring squirrel hunting.