Hunters throughout Louisiana wait impatiently for the opening of squirrel season on the first Saturday in October. Unfortunately, squirrel hunting was very poor in North Louisiana last year because hurricanes Nicholas and Ida destroyed the acorn crop in the late summer of 2021. The lack of food severely stressed the little critters during the rut, which caused poor reproduction and low numbers for the 2022-2023 season.
Mitch McGee, a biology supervisor for northeast Louisiana’s WMAs, believes this year will be better because we had an improved mast crop in 2022.
“Their population pretty much tracks the mast production, so if you have a good mast crop one year, you can have two squirrel litters that year with two to four squirrels per litter,” he said.
Our state offers thousands of acres of public land for hunting bushytails, but few places are as good as the Big Lake WMA in northeast Louisiana.
Created in the 1980s, this 19,231-acre WMA is bounded on the east by the huge Tensas River NWR. Together, their 73,000 acres form one of the largest remaining tracts of Mississippi River hardwood forest.
McGee gives squirrel hunting on Big Lake a big thumbs up.
“It has been the premier squirrel hunting area in our zone for a number of years,” he said. “It’s mostly cat squirrels because fox squirrels like more open habitat and have just been outcompeted by cat squirrels. But there are still fox squirrels there.”
Big Lake advantage
Like some other WMAs, Big Lake’s red oak, nuttall, and willow oak forest floods frequently, but it doesn’t negatively impact acorn production. According to McGee, “It gets high water but it’s a natural flood, unlike the Russell Sage WMA. Russell Sage’s Bayou Lafourche has been channelized, which means the water gets much higher and stays much longer than in Big Lake. As a result, the mast trees in Russell Sage are under much more stress.”
Another advantage Big Lake has for squirrel hunting is that it does not have as much palmetto as Tensas because it is a little lower in elevation. The lack of the noisy palmetto makes it much easier for hunters to slip around quietly.
If you have never squirrel hunted in Big Lake, McGee suggests starting along Roaring Bayou. “
That’s a good area to hunt, as is the Hog Lake area and along the Buckshot trail,” he said. “You really can’t go wrong on Big Lake.”
Squirrel hunters on WMAs must have a basic hunting license, a WMA user’s permit, and fill out a visitor card that can be found at the self-check stations. No hunter orange is required unless there is a gun deer season or squirrel or rabbit dog season in effect.
One bonus of squirrel hunting on a WMA is that you can also harvest the numerous feral hogs found there.
Where to stay
Lake Bruin State Park near St. Joseph is a convenient place to stay when hunting Big Lake WMA and the Tensas River NWR.
This state park is located on the 3,000-acre Lake Bruin, a Mississippi River oxbow lake. When not squirrel hunting, visitors can rent boats or launch their own to fish for bass, bream, catfish, and crappie. There are also three fishing piers for those who prefer not to get on the water.
After a hunt on a hot October day, you can shower off in the ADA compliant bathhouse.
Lake Bruin State Park has 36 campsites with water and electricity hookups. Furnished cabins are also available, two of which are ADA compliant.