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FIRELANDS OUTDOOR NOTEBOOK - Squirrel season not really here yet

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 29, 2015 at 11:56 AM

Squirrel season will arrive within a week or two, and frankly I can hardly wait.

Some readers might say, "Wait a minute. Didn't it begin Sept. 1?" Technically it did, but the official opener was also the official opener of heavy mosquito population season, hot and muggy weather season, and very thick leaf cover season.

My own personal season begins when the forest becomes a riot of reds and yellows, when mornings are crisp and cool, when white and fluffy cumulus clouds float across the sky and there's a hint of wood smoke and fox grapes in the air. That's squirrel season and its coming soon.

Of course, things are a little different then from Sept. 1. The squirrels have pretty well cut out their favorite hickories and left the big shagbarks and pignuts. They'll still be feeding heavily in big gray barked beech trees, and a grove of these should be your first stop. But check carefully beneath the trees before you sit down against one and began a wait.

Because for some reason squirrels, fox or gray, seem to favor this tree over that one, maybe because the nuts are sweeter, bigger or whatever. So, look for harvested burrs scattered below, and if you find several good trees close together, that's a place to wait for a while. Normally, I don't wait much around anything, preferring to ease along quietly with a few steps, then stop and listen pace. But, I don't do that this time of year unless there's been a recent rain to dampen and silence fallen leaves.

If it's dry, I prefer to sit here and there, and listen as much as I look for swishing limbs and a flash of red or gray. Squirrels are on the ground as much as in the trees now, hurrying to bury nuts for winter, and they can make a lot of noise bouncing through the fallen foliage. So, you watch the ground and expect to make plenty of shots at squirrels down instead of up. But when shooting at those on your level, it's important to make sure shots that miss will find immediate dirt and not go sailing off through the timber. If you're not sure, just wait. They'll climb a tree eventually.

Keep an eye open for other kinds of bushytail food as you make occasional moves, too. At this time of year, they'll often cut off a whole ear of corn and drag it into the fencerow or even well into the woods. Or at least hang on an ear, and fill their bellies with high carbohydrate food. It never hurts to check a field's border. They also like grapes, and I've shot a fair number out of high rising grape vines, and more out of dogwoods since they love the little red berries. And as the season progresses, they'll turn to the sweet acorns of white, burr and swamp white oaks. A grove of these can be productive then.

Squirrels on those aforementioned crisp cool days are likely to be much more active than during first of the season hot weather. Food is easy to come by, so feeding doesn't take long, and then they spend time loafing on a limb just looking for action and something to do. So, in late morning I'll often sit in a good spot and open up with a squirrel call.

I like the kind that has a little rubber bellows and can be tapped against my knee to make those "barking" sounds the animals use when they see trouble. Sometimes they'll bark in return and can be pinpointed, and sometimes they get upset and hurry my way to chase off the unwelcome intruder. Big mistake then, and a heavier game bag for me.

Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at richmart@neo.rr.com n Area waterfowlers should have good opportunities to take some of the most popular species of waterfowl this fall. The spring pond index for the prairie pothole region of North America and breeding duck surveys indicate an above average production year for most duck species. Ponds are housing near record numbers, and good production has been noted from most of the primary breeding range. The Upper Great Lakes states, which produce most of our migratory birds, indicate good production of mallards this year, and local wood duck appear to have had a good production year, too. Pintail and scaup showed slight population increases as well.

Ohio's fall turkey season opens Oct. 13 and is set to run through Oct. 28. It will be followed by the fall archery-only season which opens Oct. 29 and ends Nov. 25. The statewide flock now numbers more than 180,000 birds, so success should be good. Remember that a fall turkey permit is required in addition to a current Ohio hunting license, and all harvested turkeys must be taken to a check station by 8 p.m. on the day of harvest.

They keep coming back. So many creatures once extinct in Ohio have returned, thanks to the Ohio Division of Wildlife, from river otters to deer and wild turkeys. Now the DOW is bringing back an Ohio endangered species that was last seen in the state in 1957. It's the shovelnose sturgeon, a prehistoric fish that was once common in the Ohio River and lower sections of its larger tributaries. About 4,000 of the whiskered fish were released into the Scioto River recently as part of an ongoing restoration effort. Because of their endangered status, all sturgeon caught while fishing must be released immediately.

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