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Springtime and squirrel hunting don’t go together

Larry Woody • Dec 15, 2015 at 1:59 PM

I read somewhere that for everything there is a season.

I don’t think the passage was referring to squirrel hunting, but I believe it applies.

I’ve never been able to get in the mood for springtime squirrel hunting, which has a May 11-June 9 season in Tennessee.

Spring is when you call in a strutting gobbler by making sultry hen-talk on one of Clarence Dies’ box calls.

Spring is a time for hauling slab crappie out of submerged brush piles.

Spring is when big bull bluegill go on their beds and the bantamweight battlers can be caught by the cooler-full.

The gobblers are gobbling, the fish are biting, the weather is perfect for hiking. Outdoor life is good in the springtime.

Squirrel hunting is for the fall, when leaves begin to turn colors and there’s a crisp nip in the early-morning air.

Acorns and hickory nuts are ripe, and the trickle of hulls through the treetops is a giveaway to a breakfasting bushytail. That’s the time to hunt squirrels.

I’m not opposed to the spring squirrel season, understand. Wildlife biologists say the relatively small numbers of squirrels harvested in the spring don’t affect the fall populations,

Some hunters, having bagged their limit of spring gobblers, enjoy taking to the woods to keep their shooting eye sharp.

And it’s an Old Wives Tale that spring squirrels – like summer rabbits, if they were in season -- aren’t good to eat. There’s no difference in the meat of a spring squirrel and a fall squirrel. The only consideration is that during the warmer weather more care has to be taken to make sure the meat doesn’t spoil, and the squirrels may be more susceptible to external parasites.

Spring squirrels should be field-dressed when killed and kept on ice until final skinning and processing.

Hunting spring squirrels involves different tactics from chasing the animals in autumn. In the fall squirrels spend most of their time in treetops gathering nuts and acorns. In the spring they’re more often on the ground, foraging for buds and other springtime goodies.

I have hunting buddies who say they don’t care for spring squirrel hunting because of the chiggers and ticks, but they don’t seem to mind the little pests when they’re sitting in a turkey blind.

I also hear concerns about snakes during the spring squirrel season, but again that’s exaggerated. Snakes are out and about during turkey season, which runs through mid-May, and they remain active well into the fall hunting seasons.

A spring squirrel hunter is no more apt to step on a snake than a spring turkey hunter, nor to come home with a load of hitchhiking ticks and chiggers.

Those concerns aren’t why I don’t hunt squirrels in the spring. I don’t hunt them then because I’m too busy in other springtime activities – and because I’m just not in the mood.

I don’t begrudge others who want to combine spring fever and squirrel hunting, but as far as I’m concerned, the timing is off. For me, squirrel hunting is a time for prowling the crisp autumn woods, not tiptoeing through the tulips.

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