A story from friend Don Gasaway...
Chasing this ghostly king of the treetops is a small game hunting challenge that requires careful planning. All too often the quarry is underestimated. In southern Illinois there is an abundance of squirrels and public land upon which to hunt them.
A wise hunter will utilize information regarding the available food supply. Both Gray and Fox squirrels prefer hickory, black walnut, and white oar acorns. Look under trees for signs of squirrel feeding. This can be pieces of hulled-out nuts, and acorns bitten into and cast aside for one reason or another.
In the local forests, hickory trees might be somewhat scarce. Find one with fresh cuttings under it and you have a squirrel hunter’s gold mine.
Oaks, both white and red, are a second choice for most squirrels. Again study the ground around the oaks for sign that the tree rats have been feeding there. Squirrels will leave empty acorn caps, pieces of acorn shells and partially eaten acorns. Squirrels are messy eaters and leave plenty of notice that they have been in the area.
Squirrel hunting, for the most part, consists of a slow walk through the woods pausing every now and then to scan the upper canopy of the trees for activity. Some view this time as an opportunity to do some pre-season scouting for deer, make decisions on treestand placement and the clearing of shooting lanes. It also provides a chance to thin out the squirrel population near intended treestand sites. Nothing ruins a chance at a deer faster than an irate squirrel baking at a hunter.
Many hunters prefer to hunt squirrels alone so as to be at one with nature and enjoy the early fall weather. But, the team approach probably is more productive in terms of meat for the table. It consists of a slow walk with one hunter 25 to 30 yards in front of his partner. As the squirrel’s attention focuses on the lead hunter, the trailer takes the game.
Squirrel calls to get the quarry to expose themselves to the hunters. The call is not to “call” the squirrel. They are a tool of aggravation. Once the quarry hears the sound of a stranger invading his territory he cannot resist scolding the intruder. This scolding gives away his position.
Another tool of the wise squirrel hunter takes advantage of the squirrel’s habit of moving to the far side of a tree from where the hunter is located. He then peeks around and watches the hunter walk on past. Smart hunters sit still and wait of the squirrel to come around the tree trunk to see why the hunter did not pass. If the squirrel does not come around, one can toss a stone or branch to the other side so as to make noise. The squirrel will scurry around to be opposite the noise and runs right into the sight of the hunter.
The hardwood stands on nearly 400,000 acres of public land in southern Illinois are home to many squirrels. Listings of public land, both federal and state are available in the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations. Additional information is available from the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge (618-997-3344) and the U.S. Forest Service Rangers Office (800-699-6637).
Free information regarding motel accommodations and 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 www.visitsi.com, the Williamson County Tourism Bureau website. The e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.