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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Squirrel first of hunting seasons

         It seems like it should still be spring, and yet squirrel season is here already.  It’s the first of the fall hunting seasons, and opened Aug. 15 in the Hoosier state and a week later in Kentucky.
Squirrels are found throughout Indiana.  City parks and neighborhoods without predators spawn squirrels that will eat our of your hand, however squirrels hunted in woodlands almost seem like a different animal.
Any consistently successful squirrel hunter has a right to brag.  Squirrels in the wild are very wary, and most of them are taken by hunters in the first couple of weeks of the season even though here in the Hoosier state the bag limit is five and the season continues through Jan. 31 in Indiana and Feb. 29 in Kentucky.
Both gray and fox squirrels are found in southern Indiana and northern Kentucky, however there are more fox squirrels than grays.  The fox squirrel also is larger than the gray.  
The fox squirrel's tail is rust colored and the body's underneath is yellow or yellow-orange.  It tends to be stockier and longer than the gray with the average fox length a little over two feeling, including a foot long tail.  The weight usually is one- and-a-half to two pounds with some going as large at three pounds.
The fox squirrel runs with a lope a bit like a fox, however it probably gets its name from the red in its fur.
The hunter who rolls out of bed and makes it to the woods before daylight has the best chance at success.  Hunting is best during the first hour after daybreak, and during the hour just before dark.  
This time of year squirrels are found around nut trees gathering a winter food supply.  They take nuts from trees to store for the winter.  The nuts on the ground are eaten, but rarely stored.  Check under trees for cracked nut hulls to determine if squirrels are active in the area.
Squirrels use dens in trees, but also usually build a couple of leaf nests per year, and also "cooling" beds that are used in warm weather.  
Nests in tree tops are easy to spot and will help the hunter determine if squirrels are in the area.  However, no true hunter ever shoots a nest, even if he knows a squirrel is in it.  While it isn't illegal to shoot a nest, it certainly doesn't present much challenge and is not sporting.
Both shotguns and rifles are used for squirrel hunting.  Those deadeye hunter pride themselves in using a rifle and making a clean headshot, which does no damage to the meat.  There are even a few hunters who use bows, but it is tough shooting and usually means more lost arrows than squirrels for the skillet.
One of the best methods of hunting is to prescout and area to determine squirrels are present.  Then walk to the area before daylight, sit on the ground with your back against a tree and face west so that the rising sun will not blind him and will shine on the game.
If no squirrels are seen after a 30 minute set, walk quietly through the woods.  Don't walk with a steady rhythm and pause frequently.  Listen, look, and wait for squirrel activity.  If all else fails, walk without concern for noise into a likely area, and then stop and sit quietly for 15 minutes.  Then, if there is no activity, head for some biscuits and gravy.
While a young fried squirrel is mighty tasty, the best part is squirrel gravy made from the drippings and browned flour coating left in the frying pan.  The gravy on mashed potatoes or biscuits is wonderful.

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