East Texas squirrel season opens

Squirrels are one of the smartest animals you’ll ever hunt.

The squirrel season in 51 East Texas counties opened this week and runs from May 1-31. The daily bag limit is 10, and if you think that’s easy to do, you might want to give these tasty little critters a shot.

East and Southeast Texas offers some of the most challenging squirrel hunts in the state. And there is definitely no shortage of land. We have thousands of acres of public hunting lands. But one very good option is to set up a few hunts on your deer-hunting lease.

You might think that a dumb old squirrel won’t provide much of a hunt. But truth be known, “wild” squirrels are pretty darned crafty when it comes to avoiding hunters, hawks and other predators. For a lot of us, our first hunts were for squirrels. My first gun, at the age of 12, was a single shot .410. I got that gun for Christmas and couldn’t have been happier if I we had struck oil in the back yard. I’ve still got that gun, and it’s put a whole lot of squirrels on the ground and into the frying pan.

The great thing about hunting squirrels is that it gives the kids and us a chance to roam around the woods and generally have a good time. It’s not nearly as serious as deer and duck hunting.

The best way to outsmart a squirrel is the walk, sit and look. That’s the way my grandpa taught my brothers and me how to hunt. We would set up in a likely area and sit still for about 30 minutes. One thing about squirrels is that they are curious. If you’re set up against a tree, any squirrels in the area will eventually poke their head around a tree trunk or limb to see what’s going on. That’s when a sharp-eyed hunter can get the upper hand.

If you’re moving through the woods and see a squirrel just before it disappears, there are two things you can do. One is to walk around the tree while another hunter stands still. Sometimes a squirrel will slide around the tree, giving somebody a shot. If that doesn’t work, you can just sit down and wait ‘em out. One little trick my grandpa used with good success was to click two quarters together. It sounds just like a chattering squirrel, and will draw them out of hiding.

If you really want to make a squirrel hunt a challenge, go after them with a scoped .22 rifle. But the ultimate gun is a .410. A running cat or fox squirrel is much easier to hit with a load of lead 7-1/2 shot.

Most of the “limb runners” you’ll see in the Pineywoods are cat squirrels. They are gray and faster than greased lighting. Fox squirrels aren’t nearly as numerous as cats. They are brown and usually a little bigger than a cat squirrel.

If you go, make sure to keep an eye out for snakes. That’s especially true if you’ll be hunting in creek bottoms. We have a lot of copperheads and water moccasins in this region of Texas, and they are out and about right now.

Wild pigs get a break

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The recent announcement by the Texas Department of Agriculture approving the use of a Warfarin-based feral hog toxicant was a cause for concern, and last week, the Scimetrics Corporation withdrew its registration of Kaput Feral Hog Bait in Texas.

Texas deer study workshop to be held

The Texas Deer Study Group will convene May 11-12 at the Kuykendall Events Center, 2200 RR 152 in Llano. This year’s event will focus on “Land Stewardship: The Basis for Good Deer Management.”

The program starts at 8 a.m. the first day with a wide array of topics, including land stewardship and deer management, brush management for deer, prescribed burning and habitat management, deer nutrition, deer energetics and what a deer eats and why.

After that, the first day will also cover a history of deer management in the Hill Country, harvest strategies, effectiveness of survey techniques, how deer populations impact other wildlife species, native genetics and quality, plus news about changes to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Managed Lands Deer Program, chronic wasting disease, and it will end with a speaker panel discussion.

On day two, the group will meet at a local ranch for a half-day of presentations covering getting to know your deer, habitat management techniques and native vegetation.

Sponsorship will be available for businesses and individuals to support the event. Registration is $60. Anyone can register online or get more information via the Texas Wildlife Association website, or contact Clint Faas at cfaas [at] texas-wildlife [dot] org.

Caught with his pants down

A game warden recently got a call for assistance from the Comal County sheriff’s office after deputies received a shots-fired call. The officers located an individual in a residential neighborhood on the south side of a lake who appeared to have fresh blood on his tactical boots, but did not have a gun. A search of his vehicle was conducted and two assault rifles were located as well as small drops of blood on the driver and passenger seats.

After a brief interview with the suspect, the warden discovered that there were numerous deer shot and killed along the golf course neighborhood throughout the night. The warden was also able to determine that another individual was involved and was hiding out in the woods. The first suspect was asked to contact the individual in the woods via cellphone and to wait along the roadway for a deputy to pick him up. The suspect hiding in the woods was not wearing any boots or pants. It was later determined he had removed them to conceal blood evidence.