We’re nearly a month into the new hunting season. Can you tell it?
Somehow this development of the expanded Arkansas squirrel season isn’t attracting much attention or participation. But that wasn’t the idea, apparently.
To recap, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission back in the spring revamped squirrel hunting so it would run in one long season — May 15 through Feb. 28 — instead of the old spring and fall seasons.
The rationale seemed simple. Squirrel populations aren’t significantly affected by hunting pressure, wildlife biologists tell us, and having squirrel season open in summer months gives kids something else to do in addition to video games and mowing grass and such. The AGFC has a strong agenda to promote more hunting for youths, hence the special youth hunting days for deer, ducks and turkeys.
OK, we heard some grumbling when the additional 10 weeks of squirrel hunting was announced. This was from June 15 through July and August. More than one Arkansan complained, "I can’t go hunting in the summer." Other said, "It’s too hot to hunt in July and August."
But nobody said they HAD to go hunting. It’s a choice thing. This writer hasn’t even though about grabbing a .22 or a shotgun and going after squirrels. Yeah, the opportunity is there, but other activities stand in the way.
The biologists have told us for many years that squirrel populations are cyclic depending available food. When food supplies, mainly nuts, are plentiful, squirrels reproduce well, and numbers increase. When food is short, so is the reproduction. Nature has a way of balancing things.
What has been noticeable in recent weeks is apparently abundant numbers of gray squirrels in the Conway area.
This is strictly an observation, not scientific by any means. A regular early morning route is resulting in seeing many, many gray squirrels on and along the roads. Dozens of ‘em. Fox or red squirrels haven’t been nearly as plentiful. Does this tell us that we are on an up cycle ins squirrel numbers? Possibly. A friend in northwest Arkansas has the same notion from similar observations.
The rules for squirrel hunting in Arkansas remain the same with one minor change. Daily limit is eight as it has been for many years. But now there is a possession limit of 32, up from the old double daily limit or 16. The reasoning for AGFC’s commissioners making this change was requests from hunters who participated in "squirrel camps." Take a long weekend or a mini-vacation with some hunting buddies, set up camp and hunt squirrels enthusiastically and at length. With success, the hunters can fill limits for several days and come home with up to 32 squirrels for the pot and the freezer instead of being limited to 16.
Again, the thinking was that squirrel numbers aren’t threatened by heavy hunting.
So if you go in for this July and August squirrel hunting, is it best to choose a .22 rifle or to use a shotgun?
A thought from this corner is that it will be similar to making that choice for a September hunt.
Trees are fully leafed out, and this means shotguns for squirrels for many Arkansans. When the leaves are gone in late fall and winter, the bare branches give better views of squirrels, and .22s are often selected. You’ve got more range with a .22 than a shotgun, too.
Another idea, if you try this hot weather squirrel pursuit, is to take a small, lightweight cooler with you. These come in soft side styles and can hold a few cans of drink plus some ice or a frozen container, and they have shoulder straps.
Kill a squirrel and drop it in the cooler. Otherwise the meat may begin spoiling before you get back to a spot where you can dress it out.