"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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Low Squirrel Population
Copyright © 2005 by Bill Scifres

Folks at the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) probably would never tell you this, but if squirrel population of Southern Indiana ever needed a respite from winter seasons, this could be it.

For many years Indianaís statewide season on squirrels opened at mid-August and closed on October 31. Squirrel hunters who use dogs agitated for a winter season on squirrels for many years before the Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) relented with regulations that now offer hunting until December 31 north of U.S. 40, and until January 31 south of that dividing line.

To see the scenario realistically, one must understand that those who hunt squirrels without dogs do most of their hunting through the months of August, September and October. However, I can tell you from firsthand experience that combining jump shooting ducks on rivers and squirrel hunting can be a powerful outdoor experience that translates into gourmet dishes. 

As you might suspect, I have looked favorably on the extended squirrel seasons because DFW biologists--the folks who should know--stressed the thinking that extended seasons would neither hurt nor help bushytail populations. 

However, with habitat for all species of game birds and animals dwindling, and mast crops being spotty from one year to the next, it may be that a review of the situation might be in order.

This thinking comes to the fore now because squirrels appear to have had a very lean year in terms of production. My own woodland trips this summer, and the things I have heard from outdoors people (especially good squirrel hunters) in most parts of the state indicate that late-winter and spring reproduction was almost a total bust. Many of my hunting friends said most all of the squirrels they took in the current season were very old animals.

Couple this with the fact that biologists of the DFW like heavy numbers of young-of-the-year in the total bag of all species of game birds and animals, and it seems to smack of the notion that flexibility in seasons is a desirable thing.

There can be no doubt that a squirrel in the skillet now will not produce young next spring.

This reporter has always stood foursquare behind the notion that run-of-the-mill outdoors folks (including yours truly) should stay out of the way and let biologists of the DFW do their jobs. That thinking has not changed. But when selfsame biologists express concern for very low squirrel numbers, it could be that the situation deserves some study.

Last yearís mast crop was very lean and that is blamed for poor reproduction this year. However, this yearís mast crop is of bumper proportions, and it should help squirrels rebound next year. The better the carryover of adults, the better squirrel populations will be next year. 

BAYOUíS BOOKS--To answer recent requests for Bayou Billís books, Pat Newforth, my web page manager (www.bayoubill.com), has one or two copies of Indiana Outdoors, out of print for several years . . . this book (used) also is available in hardback/paperback editions at some other online  book outlets . . . Indiana University Press (Bloomington) has 50 or so paperback copies of Bayou Billís Best Stories.

Though Just Add Heat, Bayou Billís impending cookbook, remains incomplete and unpublished, it will be coming along in the future. 

Click on thumbnail image for enlarged view.

squirrel1.jpg (42678 bytes)
The winter life of squirrels is never easy, but there will be plenty of food this winter for Mr. Bushytail and his kin.

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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