The arrival of September brings a number of interesting
changes to the Hoosier outdoor world, and one of the most important is
the change of the lifestyle of squirrels.
When our squirrel season opens at mid August,
squirrels both gray and fox for the most part are content with rising
early for breakfast, then lolling around in the shade through the warm
hours, before their tummies tell them it is time to eat again late in the
afternoon. Grays may even feed at night especially if the moon is bright.
There are exceptions.
But, the arrival of September and the sun heading
south brings a whole new ball game to squirrel hunting; a more sedate,
sedentary hunt as squirrels start thinking of food for winter. Grays, and
fox squirrels are burying critters. The red squirrel (piney, not hunted)
caches. That is to say gray and fox bury individual morsels of food (primarily
shelled hickory nuts, black walnuts and acorns) in the forest floor, one
morsel in each dig.
Incidentally, the digs are neat little holes
just large enough for the item they are burying. Also incidentally, the
scientific guys tell me, squirrels are not mental giants enough to remember
all the places they put food. I am told they operate by smell.
When nights grow cold, squirrels will most often
first fill their tummies early in the morning (but a bit later than in
summer), then again late in the afternoon. But, for the most part, the
mid-day siesta of summer is out. Instead, they while away the hot part
of the day, which usually is cool and may be breezy, by storing food for
the winter thus, the change in behavior.
So the way to hunt squirrels at this time of year
is pretty much the same in early morning and late afternoon, even if those
chilly nights and daybreaks prompt them to sleep in a bit. However, through
the mid-part of the day, it is a good idea to employ the sit-and-wait
type of hunt. They are on the ground then and working leisurely at storing
food for winter.
Just find a hickory tree with lots of pithy outer
shells, but few of the hard, inner nuts beneath it, and you can sit on
pay dirt (your back against a tree) and wait for the game to come to the
tree. They prefer picking nuts to those on the ground. Those on the ground
may not be filled with good kernels.
When a squirrel is burying food, it may do instant
replays on his visits each visit traveling almost the same route. Once,
when I found such a repeater, getting a shot (as the squirrel carried nuts
to the ground and away) with my .22 was difficult. However, I observed
that the squirrel stopped at the same places on each trip. I zeroed in
on one of these spots and the next time it stopped was its last.
Usually a fox squirrel will remove the quartered
outer husk high in the tree, the shells cascading to the earth in a not-so-quiet
fashion. Then the squirrel comes down the tree (often on the trunk or a
nearby sapling) to reach terra firma). A gray is less predictable although
they, too, are critters of habit.
A good plan especially if several squirrels
are coming to the same tree to collect nuts, is to mark your game down
and dead, then wait to pick up the game. Repeated trips to pick up game
may spook other squirrels. But you have to be sure the squirrels dont
crawl off and die, especially if steel (crippling shot) is used.
Aside from the fact that fall squirrels usually
are very plump and fat (excellent in the pan), one of the great features
of this kind of hunt is the fact that it may bring a parade of the wild
critters very close.