Usually, it's too hot, too many mosquitoes, and too thick foliage which makes seeing a bushytail high in a tree much harder.
I like mid-season much better, because October days are usually cool and clear and the foliage is not only spectacular, but there's less of it — making potting a squirrel up there much easier. But the animals can act a little different this month and next, and to fill a limit you'd best know them all.
For example, in September squirrels are most interested in filling their bellies, then loafing or chattering at intruders. They might bury a nut or two for winter, but they don't get serious until the frost is on the pumpkin and corn is ready for harvest. They still concentrate on eating a hearty breakfast, but with their favorite hickories already cleaned, they're more likely to be in beech trees or feeding on red dogwood berries, or nibbling on any standing corn ears. Much more important, they're starting to seriously bury nuts now, so they'll be moving on the ground much more and less high in tall timber.
Most woodlots or wooded areas will have a lot of old grey barked beech trees, but squirrels won't be feeding in all of them. I've noticed time and again that local residents seem to favor this tree over that, and concentrate their activities there. Maybe the nuts are sweeter, tastier, or more nutritious, but whatever the reason you shouldn't just slip into a grove of beech and sit down to wait for customers. Instead, move around a bit and look for open burs that squirrels have eaten, and concentrate on these trees.
It's almost equally important to begin checking oaks now, too. They like white oak best of all, followed closely by burr oaks, post oaks, and swamp oaks if there are any around. That's because this group of oaks have much less bitter tannin, and make better food for the winter. Red, black, pin, and scarlet oaks have lots of tannin and are used as food only as a last resort. Native Americans knew this, and their women always gathered baskets full of white oaks, etc., smashed them in a mortar and pestle, then washed the result twice to remove that last bit of tannin before baking them into nutritious, high carbohydrate cakes.
Since squirrels are spending a lot of time on the ground now, scurrying around and burying nuts for winter, they're going to make more noise in often dry leaves and are easier to spot. So, stop now and then and use your ears as well as your eyes. And if you decide to shoot at one on the ground, make very sure that there's a backdrop right behind it to absorb shot. Shooting a partner or even a stranger is bad business. If you're not sure, wait a bit and let it move up a tree. Don't forget to carry a squirrel call these days. They'll come to one, especially in late morning when they're full of food and feeling feisty. A call can add that last kill to your limit.
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HOOKS & BULLETS
• Putting your boat away for the winter soon? The Boat Owners Association of the United States (BoatUS) says recreational boat owners need to take special precautions with the storage of E10 (10 percent ethanol) gas, and review their insurance policy to make sure the boat is properly covered. Ethanol fuel can cause problems over the winter, and boats stored inside heated storage facilities may need to consider ice and freeze coverage for unexpected power outages.
• Waterfowl hunters might be interested in trying their luck in Williams County in southern Illinois. The county caters to duck and goose hunters with five hunting clubs, four guide services, and plenty of accommodations. For a booklet listing its offerings, write to VisitSl, 1602 Sioux Drive, Marion, Ill. 62959 or call toll free 800-433-7399.
• With fishing so good on Lake Erie these days it can be a temptation to over catch your limit. But that's expensive. Recently, two investigators were patrolling Lake Erie when they saw two individuals trolling for walleye. When they contacted the anglers they said they'd switched to walleye fishing because they had caught their limit of perch. A check of the cooler showed they'd caught 101 yellow perch, putting them 41 fish over their bag limits. That cost them the loss of their fish and $187 in fines and court costs.
• A lottery drawing will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 23 for youth bow hunters wishing to participate in this year’s archery season for white-tailed deer at the Abraham Forest, 1 mile west of Green Springs, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Four lottery applicants will be selected for bow hunting privileges and assigned a specific time to hunt. Lottery winners will be permitted to hunt during three specific two-week periods, from Sunday, Nov. 4, through Saturday, Nov. 17; Sunday, Nov. 18, through Saturday, Dec. 1; and Sunday, Dec. 2, through Saturday, Dec. 15. Youth hunters are permitted to hunt with one additional licensed youth, and they must be accompanied by a fully licensed non-hunting adult. The lottery will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 23, at 6 p.m. at the Barney Quilter CCC Camp, located at 1518 East County Road 113, Green Springs 44836. Applicants must be present to participate in the lottery drawing. To be eligible to enter the lottery, applicants must possess a current Ohio youth hunting license and a deer tag. Youth applicants must be 17 years old or younger and have a parent or legal guardian present to sign the special use hunting permit. For more information, call 419-424-5004.
Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at [email protected] You also can visit his blog at outdoorswithmartin.com.