When hunting squirrel, keep an eye out for other critters

With the arrival of May, we traded wild turkey hunting for squirrel hunting. Squirrel season is open the entire month of May in East Texas. However, with the lack of rainfall, it can be tough. The few showers that have come through have been welcome, but the woods are still dry.

I feel that whenever it is time for another outdoor adventure, before going we should be aware of the hazards. In the case of springtime squirrel hunting, the inconveniences are the banana spiders. These spiders build their webs across trails along paths and any place else where they might trap bugs. Although these critters are not considered poisonous, they can be a nuisance. I dislike them more than I do poisonous snakes. Their webs will stick to your face, glasses, clothes, rifle or gun, and even your vehicle.On the subject of disliking critters, there are some snakes out and about now. Whenever you are in the woods, high grass or around water, be especially aware of them. Most of the snakes that are present are not likely to be poisonous, but some will be. Be alert for rattlesnakes and copperheads while you are afoot in the woods. Coral snakes may be present also, but these are more rare than the other two. Cottonmouth moccasins are at home near and around sink holes, sloughs and almost any water areas small or large.

Now that the primary hazards have been identified, there is no reason not to head into the woods in search of some wary but tasty squirrels.

There are now lots of new green leaves on the trees, and that will make spotting one of the grey ghosts, as well as fox squirrels, a challenge. Squirrel hunting during the springtime requires a sack full of patience. I do not recommend that squirrel hunters take their squirrel dogs along now due to the snakes. But without the dogs, it’s necessary to locate areas where there has been squirrel activity and spend some quiet, still time there. Places where there are squirrel nests up in the trees are also really positive spots to spend some time.

The little rascals seem to move around more during the springtime than they do in the fall. This situation allows folks who enjoy squirrel hunting to also enjoy going fishing. By heading afloat at dawn and fishing until mid-morning, you will still have time to be in the woods before lunch. Should there not be a fishing area nearby then, by all means, head into the woods early.

At one time a couple years back, several of us would make camp near one of the oxbow lakes off the Neches River. Before dark, we would put out some trotlines and a few limb lines for catfish. Should time allow, we would do some white perching (crappie), too. During the night from time to time, we would check the lines, remove our catch and re-bait the hooks. A lot of hot coffee was consumed, too. Then at daylight, the lines were checked and we would head into the squirrel woods. With several folks hunting squirrels, it was necessary to put safety first. Most of the time small-gauge shotguns were used. The .410 was the most popular. The one or two hunters who chose a rifle used a .22 caliber. These rifles may be a danger because of ricocheting in inexperienced hands. Novice hunters should only use the rifles with more experienced supervision.

I believe that the .410 using No. 4 shot will kill clean and not saturate the squirrel’s flesh with shot. The .22 shooters like the longrifle hollow point ammo, but I’ve found that when others are around the .22 hollow point shorts do just fine.

There would always be at least one of our campers who remained in camp to cook breakfast. The odor of open-fire bacon frying can be almost more than squirrel hunters can resist without heading back to camp for a quick breakfast of hot Dutch oven biscuits, grits, scrambled eggs with green onions, coffee and lots of bacon. Even slabs of ham and sausage were offered at times. This, my friends, is the way to go after the springtime squirrels and ever popular catfish.

The squirrels were cleaned and iced down while the outdoors enthusiasts enjoyed a good nap. They were getting ready to do it all over again. Squirrel hunting is fun and it is a great place for youngsters to become introduced to the outdoors. Just be sure to practice safety and remain legal. There are few dishes better than fried squirrel and squirrel dumplings.

Banana spider photo by Julie Alicea/flickr.

Tune in to KSET 1300 at 6 p.m. on Thursdays for Billy Halfin Outdoors and listen to The updates daily at 7:25 a.m., 12:25 p.m. and 6:25 p.m. Billy can be reached by e-mail at bhalfinoutdoors [at] aol [dot] com.