"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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Will Travel For Food (Squirrels)
Copyright © 2008 by Bill Scifres

With a bit more than two weeks to go, the statewide season on squirrels becomes a launch pad for 2008-09 hunting. It gets under way August 15 and that turns eyes to the development of this year’s mast crop.

Unfortunately, when you consider the cold, wet spring we have just tucked away in the archives, I cannot tell you at the moment how Mr. and Mrs. Bushytail (and their young-of-the-year) will fare (for food) this year. The state is too long and the weather too diverse to blanket the state with any prediction.

But I can tell you the mast crop will be good in some areas, poor in others, and spotty in still others. That’s about the rub of the green, as my golf-pro son-in-law would say.

However, with that thought in my faulty cerebellum, I would like to unearth a plan that may help hunters find areas where the mast crop is good (primarily hickory, walnut, and the oaks), and consequently squirrels are present in hunting numbers.

If readers of this column will tell me (an e-mail or phone report will do) tell me how the mast crop is faring in their areas, I will include the information in this column in the near future. We can, thus, help squirrel hunters find a place on which to pin their hopes for a platter of fried squirrel (with trimmings).

Here in the central part of the state (north of Indianapolis) I have found some hickory trees with a fair amount of nuts, while others nearby are completely void of developing nuts. On the same trees last spring I noticed completely black blooms . . . apparently killed by cold weather.

Do squirrel populations move from one area to another with the ebb and flow of mast? My experiences over nearly 70 years of hunting trends to say: definitely.

I remember one year a favorite bottom woods was completely void of hickory nuts and black walnuts (bread-and butter for squirrels). In their scarcity, I shifted my hunting efforts to other places (primarily where there was field corn nearby.) Later, however, when beechnuts ripened in September, I went back to the spot I had earlier forsaken and found plenty of game.

Yes, squirrels will definitely travel in the quest for food.

Of further credence of this food-hunting instinct, was the fact that Kentucky grays staged a mass exodus from their homeland by swimming the Ohio River en masse to Hoosier shores. I don’t recall the exact year, but it was in the 1930s.

Incidentally, opening of this season, is the kickoff (disregarding spring turkey hunts) for all hunting in Indiana. 

Squirrels depend heavily on hickory nuts and black walnuts for food, but the oaks (which mature a bit later) and beechnuts (I like ‘em, too), still later.  And there are many other forms of mast, berries, fruit and field corn. Each food requires a different form of hunting for best results, still all foods have a prerequisites of stealth and patience.

SAFETY TIP--Do NOT shoot at a squirrel that is on the ground or very low, unless you can be certain your shot will NOT hit another hunter in the background. Rifles are dangerous for greater distances than shotguns. Never shoot into brush that may hide another hunter.

GAME DINNER--The Division of Fish and Wildlife’s free wild game dinner will be staged by sportsmen of the state at 11 a.m. August 9 outside the DNR Building at the State Fair. That is situated at the northwest corner outside the racetrack.

Sportsmen throughout the state will serve some 2,000 patrons a great variety of fish and wild game, and traditional “creek bank taters” prepared by members of the Sportsman’s Round Table, the state’s largest conservation group.

The DNR building offers many other programs and displays throughout the State Fair. 

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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