Something Fishy

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Friday, August 19, 2016

It's still hot, but squirrel season arrives

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.

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