outdoors

With all the hot weather in the local area, it is hard to believe but squirrel season in Georgia begins on Thursday, Aug. 15. Better get those harvested squirrels to the frying pan quickly. I do not hunt squirrels anymore but hunting squirrels was where I first developed my hunting skills such as safe/careful gun handling, shooting techniques and game tracking.  

My initial adventure into hunting as a young boy involved the pursuit of squirrels along the banks of Corner Creek. There were few deer in L.A. (Lower Alabama) and turkeys were almost nonexistent, so most of my hunting as a young boy was for squirrels, doves and quail. 

Maybe today’s abundance of squirrels has taken away some of the challenges. As I have stated many times, I can easily get a limit of squirrels in a couple of hours in my neighborhood if hunting were permitted there. 

As a young boy, squirrel hunting was simply pure fun. All you needed was a .22 rifle or a 20-gauge shotgun and a few shells and you were ready to go. We could hunt almost anywhere since very little land was posted and landowners would readily let anyone hunt their land.

Georgia’s squirrel season will run until Feb. 29 making it the longest season for any wild game in Georgia. The daily limit is 12 squirrels and they may be either fox or gray squirrels. As a young boy, getting to harvest a fox squirrel was a real rarity and since they were much larger than the gray squirrel, it provided more food for the table.

The fox squirrel can weigh as much as three pounds and come in a variety of colors from solid black to a mixture of blacks, brown and white. They are beautiful squirrels and are mostly found in stands of mature pines. They often build their nest in the tops of very large pines and can be very difficult to spot in those tall trees. My Daddy was good at spotting the outline of a fox squirrel in tall pines.

The gray squirrel is much smaller than the fox squirrel and usually weighs less than a pound. However, a few gray squirrels that frequent my seed and suet bird feeders could probably top a pound. The gray squirrel is home in just about any tree whether hardwood or pine but nest primarily in hardwoods. 

When squirrel hunting as a young boy in south Alabama, we would walk slowly through the woods with our eyes fixed skyward in search of any movement that might indicate a scampering squirrel trying to escape. Today’s sophisticated hunters refer to that technique as stalking but to us, it was just a good way to slip up on an unsuspecting squirrel.

If we came across a squirrel nest in a tree near the ground, we would shake nearby vines in an attempt to scare the squirrel out of the nest so we could get a shot. For many years my daddy hunted with a fox terrier and that small dog had a local reputation for treeing squirrels but had died from old age before I began to hunt. I am not sure why daddy did not get another fox terrier. 

We ate squirrels as a young boy and they were considered a delicacy at our family table. You do not hear much about eating squirrels these days and some of that is related to the infestation caused by botflies. The bot fly infects both fox and gray squirrels and enters the squirrel’s body under the skin but does not affect the meat.

Today squirrels are much more plentiful than they were in my childhood. Back then, you had to go into the deep woods to find a squirrel and now I see more in my yard in a day than I saw in all my hunting trips as a young boy. 

Squirrel season is a great time to take a son, daughter or grandchild for a day of squirrel hunting this hunting season. However, you might want to wait until it is cooler. I have noticed even the squirrels in my yard are not as active with the current hot conditions. 

Have some quality time with some young children and let them experience the great outdoors and who knows mom might be able to cook up some squirrel stew in the microwave! Good hunting and see you next week.

Outdoors columnist Bobby Peoples can be reached at brpeoples995@gmail.com.

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