The first time I slipped out into the spring woods dressed in camo packing a shotgun, it felt odd. Spring and summer are for fishing; fall and winter for hunting.
Today I look forward with a great deal of anticipation to heading for the spring woods with my shotgun; I have fallen in love with spring turkey hunting. Maybe one day I’ll feel the same about spring squirrel hunting but so far, it hasn’t clicked with me.
In fact, I let the opening day slip by unaware until a friend mentioned it. Spring squirrel season did indeed open May 7 and will run through May 29.
There are some hunters, though, who look forward to hunting squirrels this time of year. Keith Sutton has fallen in love with the sport. Sutton, outdoor writer friend who chases his springtime bushy-tails in his native Arkansas, shed some light on why chasing squirrels among the fresh new greenery of spring is one of his favorite sports.
“I think Louisiana hunters are going to be pleasantly surprised at how much fun it is to hunt squirrels in spring. You’ll likely find more young squirrels which are easier to hunt and tastier as well.
“Hunting squirrels in spring,” Sutton concluded, “is a great way to have fun during a time when no other season is open.”
“The first thing you need to understand,” Sutton began, “is that you have to scout differently in spring because the foods on which squirrels rely are different this time of year. They won’t be feeding on hard mast like acorns and hickory nuts but instead will be looking for such things as mulberries and leaf buds on sweet gums and maples. They love the seeds that form on maples and they’ll eat flower buds on a variety of plants.
“You’ll find that you’ll be able to sneak closer to a squirrel in spring than you can in late fall after the leaves begin to shed. I have also found that my weapon of choice for spring hunting is a shotgun over a rifle. Because of the foliage, the shot shells seem to work more effectively than 22 rifle bullets.
“Squirrels have more than one breeding season a year and you might find some rutting during May but you won’t hurt the squirrel population by hunting them during their breeding season,” said Sutton. “They’re so plentiful that it probably would have little impact on the population if they were hunted all year long.
“I have found that hunting squirrels in spring is a great time to introduce youngsters to hunting. They have been cooped up in school for the past nine months and are ready for some action once school ends in May. My own kids used to love that first squirrel hunt at the beginning of the summer vacation,” Sutton said. “Another good thing about spring hunting is that kids can move more quietly without so many dead crunchy leaves underfoot.”
As far as hunting squirrels in spring versus hunting them in fall, Sutton said you have to listen for more subtle sounds in spring.
“Because a squirrel makes virtually no noise eating berries and buds as compared to cutting the hard shell of nuts, you have to use your eyes more than your ears. When you’re in an area where you suspect squirrels are feeding, pay particular attention to the ends of branches where squirrels are likely feeding on tree buds. They’ll often sit in one place and not move about the tree as much as they do in the fall.
As far as table fare, Sutton says that squirrels he kills in spring are usually tastier than those he kills during the fall season.
“It’s like their diet is more ‘salad’ (soft mast) in spring compared to ‘steak’ (hard mast) in the fall,” he added. “They just seem to be sweeter and tastier to me this time of year”.
Maybe I’ll give it a try. A tender young squirrel deep fried on the plate with biscuits and gravy is starting to sound better to me all the time.
Glynn Harris Outdoors is proudly sponsored by DSK, Ltd. of Minden.