Summer Squirrel Hunting Safari

This comes from the Willismson County Tourism Bureau...


With perspiration drizzling down his forehead and a clammy feeling creeping over his body a hunter peers through the dim light.  He is looking for movement in the dark recesses of the treetop canopy.  The slightest hint of movement among the leaves can be a key to what he seeks.  The buzz of insects seems deafening in the stillness of this early morning.
Squirrel season is the first of the major hunting seasons in southern Illinois.  Beginning the first of August, southern squirrel hunting is pretty much a summer thing.   The expansive public land holdings provide ample room for hunters to pursue this king of the treetops.  A quick check of the Illinois Digest of Hunting and Trapping booklet leads to numerous state, federal and local public land locations.
Early season squirrel hunting in southern Illinois is a warm proposition, but can be an early warm up (no pun intended) for the fall hunting to come.  It also can be combined with fishing for a great "cast and blast" vacation.

Early season squirrels are found in the hickory trees that dot the landscape.  Along the rivers, some of these trees are 50 to 100 feet in height.  Elsewhere, when mixed with other hardwoods, they are usually shorter.
The shorter trees make squirrels more accessible.  In the larger forests, good stands of hickory can be found isolated.  These islands are more seldom hunted by the casual hunter. 
To the hunter willing to work a little, the islands of hickory or oak trees are a goldmine.  Their usually is a combination of oak and hickory together.  Oak is another favorite mast for squirrels as well as a preferred nesting site.
While scouting, hunters look for signs of past squirrel activity as well as actual animals.  Clippings of twigs, partially half-eaten shells or nuts and acorns, are signs of squirrel activity.  Squirrels remove the caps of acorns before actually burying them.  They store a large quantity of nuts for future food.
It is the relationship between squirrels an the nut trees that results in the benefit of both.  The squirrel buries the nuts.  They recover only about 80 percent of the nuts they bury.  The remaining nuts provide seed for future forests as they germinated the following spring and begin new trees.
The quantity of nuts available is an indication of the quantity of squirrels that will be found in an area.  The squirrels seldom venture more than a few hundred yards away from a nest tree.  If the nest tree does not have a good supply of food, then the squirrels move away.
Early season is a time of plentiful food.  The hunters seek travel lanes from the nest to nearby food supplies.  Claw marks on the bark of trees are a sign of activity.  An often overlooked area is near standing corn.  Squirrels love the ripening corn and will raid the fields.
Vocalizations can play a factor in early season hunting.  Difficult to spot in the treetop canopy, squirrels have to move for the hunter to spot them.  However, they are suckers for vocalizations.
A vocal squirrel is an aggravated one.  He will sound off and display a flickering tail as a threat to potential enemies.  The noise and tail movement will give away his position.  Getting a squirrel to give away his position requires a call.
Calling squirrels, unlike other game calling, is not designed to get the animal to come to the hunter.  Squirrel calling is designed to aggravate him and get the squirrel to expose his position.   Then it is the hunter's problem to get an angle for the shot.
Squirrels are notorious for moving around to the opposite side of a tree trunk or limb when avoiding a hunter.  They like to put something between themselves and perceived danger.  The exception is when they are angry.
Free information regarding motel accommodations, free hunting and fishing guide brochures, and info on points of interest is available from Williamson County Tourism Bureau, 1602 Sioux Drive, Marion, Illinois 62959 or by calling 1-800-GEESE-99.  Information is also available online at:,  the Williamson County Tourism Bureau website.  Their e-mail address is:


FYI...  The Illinois squirrel hunting season opens Aug. 1 and continues through next Feb. 15 (except closed in counties open to firearm deer hunting Nov. 19-21 and Dec. 2-5).  Squirrel hunting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.  The daily limit is five squirrels with a possession limit of 10.

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