Bob FalaOutdoors Columnist
September 12, 2012
These are the nuttiest times for squirrels! Why?
The month earlier (Sept. 8) opener may not be enough to renew interest in the Mountain State’s one time bread and butter of a game species.
Apparently no one ever told the squirrel hunters to eat more venison, but that’s exactly what they’ve been doing for more than a generation now. But for hunters both young and old, these could just be the best of times to be in the squirrel woods, period.
Though most of the older folks cut their hunting teeth on squirrels, they have largely abandoned them for another girl in town, the white-tailed deer.
There simply weren’t many deer around for them to chase back when. On the other hand, the younger generation got started out of the gate on deer and in combination with dad and granddad, kind of broke the rich tradition of West Virginia squirrel hunting and many of the “gravy” recipes right along with it.
WVDNR hopes that the earlier opening will bring some of that squirrel tradition back to life for both young and old alike, but particularly with the former in mind.
Folks now have a little more time between you guessed it, archery deer season to get out there and hunt a bit before that magnetic attraction for deer again draws them away.
Many an old timer once lamented the lack of such an early season opener for a chance at the squirrels before “all the hickory nuts were cut out.”
So here’s that chance and be sure to take a youngster along if you can. Squirrels are common and found just about anywhere there are trees big enough to produce acorns, hickory and other nut crop staples.
What’s more, on the statewide or “landscape” habitat picture, mature to semi-mature hardwood stands of nut producing vintage are approaching colonial time coverage.
Likewise, hunting pressure for them is about the lowest in decades. So for those that go, you’ll have the squirrel woods all but to yourself. Thus, these are the best of times to hunt squirrel.
Hunting is deemed to have little or no impact on the abundant critters. Instead, Mother Nature’s nut crop delved out the prior autumn is closely correlated with the prevailing number of squirrels.
For the reason of modest mast last fall, statewide populations are thus considered to be fair to middling at present. Though this year’s official nut mast survey is being compiled at this time, it looks like it is decent at present. That’s where the squirrels will be.
Finding those nut producing zones, the squirrels and their nut “cuttings” is the fun of the sport and a great way to check in on the deer, turkey and other wildlife of your hunting area at the same time.
Who knows, maybe another nutty tradition of sorts may be in the making.