"Bayou Bill" Scifres
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Squirrel Indicators
Copyright © 2005 by Bill Scifres

The squirrel season opener is three or four weeks ahead (August 15), but it is not too early to do some pre-season scouting if a platter of fried squirrel (with trimmin's), or squirrel dumplings sounds good.

Scouting for that opening-day hunt may not appeal to every hunter because many of us are do not see the need of rising before daylight for a dry run.

Actually, it is not necessary to duplicate opening-day rituals to find good numbers of squirrels for hunts someplace down the road. As a matter of fact, I do my squirrel scouting whenever the mood strikes me.

I am not looking for squirrels when I do my pre-season squirrel scouting. I only want to know if a potential hunting ground is hosting game in good numbers.

Having hunted squirrels most of my life, I have learned that most concentrations of trees (even fence rows) offer summer (and maybe winter) homes for squirrels. My pre-season scouting is merely aimed at  finding good concentrations of squirrels.

Although squirrels tend to be homebodies, they have some nomadic tendencies, especially in extremely dry periods, or when food is scarce. The food element should not be a factor this year because we have a very good mast crop developing.

The movement of squirrels in good numbers first became apparent to me when I was in my teens. One of the favorite squirrel woods of several of the hunters in my hometown failed to produce much game in the early part of the season. As a result, most hunters wrote the area off as a poor place to hunt. But a few weeks after the season opened, I chanced to be going through the area on my way to another spot and found squirrels everywhere. Needless to say, I visited the woods often, but didn't reveal my findings to anyone except my dad.

I look for several signs of the presence of squirrels in good numbers when I scout. Leaf and twig nests are an important indicator because squirrels (like humans) like free-flowing air when it is siesta time.

Most squirrels use den trees as maternity wards, but when young squirrels are large enough to be on their own, the adults start building leaf and twig nest for resting areas.

There are, of course, two kinds of squirrel nests. One is simply a platform, the other a nest that will protect a squirrel from the cold weather of winter.

Cuttings (pieces of nut shells and residue left when squirrels eat the produce of nature) are a good indicator of the presence of squirrels, but digging in the forest floor speaks volumes. Incidentally, when a squirrel digs up a nut or acorn that has been stored through the winter, the excavation is very small and very neat. The squirrel digs strait down (most often less than an inch) to extract the hidden nugget.

Squirrels are sampling early-maturing hickory trees, but the seed pods of the tulip tree (yellow poplar) also are of interest to squirrels now, as are the whirly-gig seeds of maples, ash and other species. Field corn also is a favored food source for squirrels.

FOR THE RECORDS--Department of Natural Resources Director Kyle Hupfer said at a recent meeting of the DNR Commission that he will ask the DNR Summer Study Committee to draft legislation to disband two advisory groups to the Commission. They are the Bureau of Land and Cultural Resources, and the Bureau of Water and Resources Regulations.

Hupfer said Monday that the demise of the two group is in line with the Governorís desire to streamline government. 

Work of the two groups in the past has been viewed by many Hoosier conservationists and sportsmen as a valued tool of the Commission.

All columns, essays, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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