With the week of July 24th breathing down our
necks it is time to think of squirrel hunting again--especially scouting.
The season opens August 15, and this time we are looking for game.
In the old days scouting wasnít all that important,
but we were usually in the woods anyhow so we did it--we scouted for squirrels.
Squirrels didnít seem to travel as much in the
old days, but in the '40s I noticed a strange movement of squirrels at
the first part of the season for the first time. Early in the season I
noticed a dearth of squirrels in a favorite woods (Nehertís bottom woods
at Crothersville) where there also was a scarcity of food items, and consequently
started hunting elsewhere--mostly where there were more berries and corn.
Later in the summer I noticed more nuts and more squirrels in Nehertís
Woods, which I kept secret. The hunting picked up late in the summer.
Scouting for squirrels is a necessary evil today
because there are fewer sources for food, and consequently fewer squirrels,
contrary to reports we are getting. Generally, reports on the number of
squirrels this year are favorable, regardless of the scarcity of this wild
animal last year. Mast is good, too. The mild, snowless winter must also
be given some credit for the great number of animals this year.
Whatever the number of squirrels may be this year,
scouting still may be the answer to early success. But you donít have to
see squirrels to know they are about. Squirrels leave many signs that tell
they are there, including their cuttings of early-produced nuts, exterior
nests of leaves and twigs, digging in the forest floor, eating of bark,
and other items. It may be that one or two of the items that tell of squirrel
numbers will not tell much, but they do tell.
Distance between squirrel signs is also a factor
because while squirrels are travelers in times of food shortages, they
are homebodies in times of plenty. The exception to this unwritten rule
involves hickory trees that offer good nuts. In the fall, or at other times
of summer, when hickory nuts mature, squirrels may visit a hickory tree
from all parts of a woods.
Early-maturing hickories--a favorite food of squirrels--are
the best bet for finding squirrels at this time, but some early-maturing
oaks and some other species are providing food for squirrels now. Trees
such as maple and ash--the whirligig producers--are always a good bet.
The oaks can produce food for squirrels early in the season and black walnut
is a sure thing. Walnut leaves little doubt when squirrels are using them
because of the stain.
Actually all species of trees must be watched
in the scouting and in the hunting. But--at least for scouting--you donít
have to be real careful. Cuttings and digging on the forest floor will
tell the story. But cuttings of the softer products can be the work of
other animals or birds.
Cuttings of the softer seeds--especially the whirligig--all
look pretty much the same. However a close inspection will often tell how
fresh they are.
Holes in the forest floor will often be very helpful.
Squirrels love to dig up food previously buried as winter food sources.
But donít expect to see great excavations. When squirrels excavate nut
and acorns it is one nut or acorn at a time. The hole in the forest floor
is just large enough to extract one nut or acorn. On the other hand, the
red squirrel stores a cache--not usually in the forest floor.
The secret to scouting for squirrels--or any critter--is
in knowing the game.
Corey Thompson is the Bass Chapter Federationís
link to that organizationís Adopt-An-Angler program. He is accepting used
tackle at his home, 3782 West, 950 South, Silver Lake, IN, 46982. The program
helps new anglers get started. You can call Corey about the program at