By John Simeone
Snakes,chiggers,ticks, fleas, mosquitoes, and the heat make the spring squirrel the least popular.
After Bobby Jindal went into office as Louisiana's Governor I started seeing some great changes for the better in the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, one main effort was to increase the popularity of hunting by opening up more opportunity to hunt. The Crossbow was legalized as well as allowing primitive single shot cartridge weapons for deer hunting, while the youth age for special hunts was raised from 16 to 18. All of this was a good idea and had a solid following.
Not so however, for the Spring Squirrel Season. For me as far as squirrel hunting this time of year it is just plain miserable hot. You may as well be hunting in a Sauna. No way am I taking a prize squirrel dog out in that heat, for fear the dog will think I'm an idiot. But because I need to report on a season, I go anyway.
In the last three years the harvest has been one unlucky squirrel. That was the 1st day it was legal in the Spring to hunt squirrels. I decided to have the squirrel mounted and later found out the taxidermist turned me into the game warden for shooting out of season. When you ask people, no one here even knows we have a spring squirrel season. That should give you a little idea on how many people read the game laws in the first place. So I found myself and Aunt Sandy alone in the woods.
This quickly turned into picking black berries instead, with the shotgun and the camera left in the truck, as she walked up the logging road on the lease. She soon had an experience of a life time when a wild turkey hen guarding her just hatched chicks charged us right on the side of the road. We didn't get pecked but momma turkey was not too pleased at the springtime humans in her woods while she was trying to raise her babies. I thought for a moment about some one not as attune to ethical hunting who would have made the hen an easy target, wiping out a whole flock of turkeys for next year. This goes for the deer too as they are about to or are having young this time of year.
Traditionally Louisiana hunters go fishing this time of the year, and I am no exception to the rule. The consensus on hunting this time of year among the more experienced is let the woods rest and let the animals raise their young in peace. This has no bearing on squirrel populations as they breed all year, but the fact that other animals are being disturbed like the turkey and deer leaves me wondering at what price.
As is it stands there doesn't seem to be an environmental impact as no one goes spring squirrel hunting any way. When I teach the Cherokee youth hunters and fisherman I tell them to make their own decisions on this. I give them the example, what is better to do, shoot three squirrels or catch a huge mess of catfish for the same time spent. Now they like to shoot guns and bows as much as I do, but when it is time to fish we go fishing.
Other things to consider from my observations in the field this time of year is the snake factor, all poisonous snakes are more venomous in the springtime, and we have a plenty. The squirrels are infested with ticks and fleas, so both rocky mountain fever and plague have a potential here. Frankly the three squirrel limit and the heat just isn't worth the effort when I could be bow fishing, shooting at the range orcatching a mess of catfish.
The normal squirrel season starts in October and runs through February, but still the weather is too hot in the first part of the season, but by then the hunters are more willing to experience the chase. In many areas of the state squirrels are actully hunted from about mid December usally after the deer seasons, depending on the area.
Aunt Sandy did get too hot in the field and it took her two days to recover. She saw no squirrels, picked about half a cup of black berries and got cussed out by a turkey. Two days before she caught 7 really nice catfish and fed the family. When given the choice this time of year she would rather be fishing. Pass it on.