Most of the small terrier breeds have a natural instinct for hunting, many breeds and mixed breeds can learn to tree squirrels.
Here it is again--the hottest part of summer. And, the first hunting season of late summer and fall has already arrived.
Most people still are thinking about swimming, boating, catfishing, and hope their air conditioner makes it to cooler weather. However, some squirrel hunters are getting their gear and themselves ready to take to the woods.
In Indiana, squirrel season always opens on my birthday, Aug. 15, and the season continues through Jan. 31, 2017.
Although my preference for squirrel hunting is later in the season when the temperature cools and the leaves fall, I traditionally hit the woods on my birthday--if only for a half hour--to celebrate another year for the old man and the start of another hunting season. It more of a ceremonial thing, rather than a hunt with expectation of heading home with game for the table.
From most observations, it appears there will be plenty of squires to hunt this fall. As always, some areas will be better than others.
Squirrel populations are dependent on a number of factors, but two key things include weather and mast (nut) availability. The nut crop one year impacts the population the following year. Based on these factors, this should be another good season.
Avid squirrel hunters take to the woods opening day, but ticks and heat keep many southern hunters out of the field the first few weeks, while their counterparts further north get an earlier start. Some hunters prefer to wait until leaves begin to fall from the trees, while other enjoy sitting under an umbrella of leaves. It’s a matter of choice.
One of the advantages of early season squirrel hunting, is chances are better for shooting young squirrels. That equates to tender squirrels, which are better for frying, the cooking method I prefer.
During the early hot days of the season, squirrels seem to be most active the first hour or so of daylight, and late evening. They also seem to prefer days when the wind is calm.
Squirrels are active in the fall as they scurry to store nuts for the winter. Often they are found on the forest floor looking for nuts, but at the first sign of danger they head for the nearest den tree.
Nut rich woods are good hunting sites in late summer and fall. Squirrels seem to particularly like shagbark and other hickories, white and black oaks, beeches and black walnut trees.
Some hunters follow the predominately southern tradition of using squirrel dogs. However, most hunters who use dogs prefer to have leaves off the trees for their hunting. A good dog scents squirrels a hunter would never see.
Dog hunters also enjoy watching their dogs work for squirrels as well as the companionship of their animals. Working with a dog is as gratifying for many people as actually harvesting the squirrels.
A good dog will tree the squirrel and bark to announce his success.
With most squirrel dog breeds, hunting and treeing squirrels seems to come naturally. However one of the best ways to train a young dog is to work it with an older experienced dog.
Not only is squirrel hunting fun and good exercise, the end result is mighty good eating.
Squirrel, fried crispy brown is mighty tasty, and there is nothing better than squirrel gravy made with the skillet leavings. Fried squirrel, and the gravy over mashed potatoes makes a great meal, unless you are on a serious diet. Hot biscuits and homemade jam really top it off.
Alligator gar swam the streams of the Midwest for thousands of years, probably millions of years. Now they are gone.
Also, for years when alligator gar were found, they were considered “trash” or nuisance fish. However, today some people, especially fisheries biologists and managers, would like to have them back in Midwestern rivers. Today, you have to travel to southern states to find them.
Alligator gar, which also are called garpike, would never win a beauty contest. They are ugly, get huge, and they earn their name because the head looks much like the head of an alligator. The shape,, snout, and two rows of large, long sharp teeth are very similar in appearance to the actual alligator.
As I recall, I once saw an alligator gar in an aquarium, and hadn’t thought or heard about them for years, until my friend Gil Hubbard, a retired Methodist minister, sent me an internet link to a story about the big fish and the renewed interest in them.
Gil, myself, and several friends made a ritual of fishing for trout on the opening day of the fall season following stocking. But these trout were nothing like the monster gar.
Gil’s note started me thinking (always dangerous), and that led me to the computer for a bit of research.
Disdained by fishermen and with spawning grounds that had been destroyed over the years, the alligator gar today primarily only survives in the southeastern United States in the tributaries of the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. They had been declared extinct in several states further north.
Many anglers thought the fish threatened sport fish and something that should be exterminated when any opportunity arose.
Alligator gar, which is related to the bowfin, are considered by many to be a prehistoric fish, a look into the past. They can be traced back into history over 100 million years, and are called by some, “a living fossil.
One unusual aspect of the gar and a reason it has survived for some many millions of years is that it can breath both in and out of the water.
These gar have the ability to thrive in even the most inhospitable waters. They have a swim bladder that they can fill by gulping air, which they use to supplement their gill breathing in low-oxygen environments. However, they can’t survive outside of water for a long period of time.
Alligator gar can become quite large. They can reach a length of 10 feet (most don’t), and they also can top a scales up to 300 pounds. And while they will eat other fish, research shows game or sport fish aren’t their favorite. They also are known make lunch on a duck or other mammals.
However, the reason of the renewed interest in the prehistoric old fish is that they seem to love a diet of Asian carp, which have become a real problem in streams throughout the South and MIdwest. Much research and millions of dollars are being spent on trying to stop the progression of the exotic carp.
Biologists are beginning to raise the gar and restock them into some Midwestern streams in hopes they will reproduce and begin to feed on and slow the growth of the unwanted carp. In particular reintroduction efforts have started in Illinois and Tennessee.
“What else is going to be able to eat those monster carp?” said Allyse Ferrara, an alligator gar expert at Nicholls State University in Louisiana, where the species is relatively common. “We haven’t found any other way to control them.
Researchers also are trying to find some use for the carp as a food source, fertilizer or other product, but that effort also is in its infancy.
Biologists say reintroducing the gar certainly won’t be a quick fix, but it is hoped that over time the alligator gar will begin to made a dent in the asian carp population.