Outdoor Corner: Opening Day

Lyle Johnson
Brennen Paxton holds a 3-man limit that he, Troy Paxton & Doddy Gautreau killed in Venice, La. on opening weekend.

Opening Day. Man, what anticipation comes along when those words are uttered amongst a couple of guys or gals that love spending time in the outdoors. In Louisiana it's usually associated with hunting since most of our fishing seasons are never closed. Shrimping, red snapper, and a few other saltwater fish are the only seasons that open and close.

Saturday, October 5 is the opening day for rabbit and squirrel hunting, two of Louisiana's favorite small game seasons that can be enjoyed by just about anyone that would like to. I'm no exception, but squirrel hunting is my favorite by far.

Usually you've been out of the woods since last winter, so you get the opportunity to get back off the beaten path and test your stalking abilities again. Squirrels have really good eyesight and their hearing is not too shabby either, so a little skill is in order. Knowing some of the basics helps out a lot as well.

As a tradition that goes back a long way--I don't know how many years--waking up early on a Saturday morning with eager anticipation is on many a mind right now. I remember the experience as a young boy, hardly being able to get any sleep just thinking about the opportunity to bag a squirrel or two.

I am 66 years of age, but the thrill never gets old. Opening day is still a few days away, but preparations are a key factor for a successful hunt. One of the most important is scouting to find out where the best local "squirrel restaurant" is these days.

As weird as it may sound, not every acorn or nut in the woods tastes the same. Squirrels might pass plenty of oak trees and travel a quarter of a mile or more to feast on a particular tree. The only thing I can figure out is that those nuts taste better than the others.

The telltale sign will be orange cuttings scattered all over the ground. If you're hunting the same place there's a good chance that the same trees will hold the right feed that the squirrels come back to every year. But if you're trying some place that's new, at least get there the day before to do a little looking around. The effort will be worth it.

Gun safety is very important as well. Give "Ole Betsy" a good look over to make sure everything is in good working order. Check your shells or bullets as well. Rust can form on them, making it possible for a round to stick in the barrel after firing.

Sometimes it's hot in early October, so bring along some water to keep hydrated. South Louisiana is known for growing monster mosquitoes, so insect repellant is a much needed commodity as well.

Then comes the hunt. After I'm in the woods and things are settling down, the adrenaline really starts pumping. I'm in anticipation of the first movement that catches the corner of my eye or the sound of something crashing through the branches. Man, it never gets old.

There is another unique event that takes place on opening weekend of squirrel season, and it may just sound a little strange to some but the East Ascension Sportsman's League will host its annual Squirrel Rodeo on Saturday, October 5. The opening day of squirrel season is highly anticipated by a group of hunters that choose to take part in what could be the only rodeo of its kind.

I googled squirrel rodeo to see if some other group of people attempted the same event in any shape or form. Certainly, there were some Youtube videos on the front page. They were titled squirrel rodeo, but they were lame attempts of the furry creatures trying to ride something. The closest thing to a real rodeo was a couple's attempt to get a young one to ride a toy bull that didn't even move. Pitiful attempt!

One guy wrote a blog titled "The Great Squirrel Rodeo" that should have been titled "The Squirrel from Hell." Long story short, he spent most of his evening looking for a late night clinic to treat the hole in his index finger that appeared after the squirrel bit through the glove he thought would protect him removing the critter from his living room.

There was another video with a squirrel riding a pine cone that was titled rodeo, but it too was pretty lame. The top of the page award (best spot on the "net" for us web geeks) goes to the East Ascension Sportsman's League!

Prizes are awarded for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place, "total weight," and for "biggest squirrel." All squirrels are donated, cleaned, and cooked up the next day at a Merle Gautreaux's house. Every EASL member is invited to enjoy the squirrel stew and the camaraderie of other members.

I’m not 100 percent sure about how this thing got started, but good money could be bet that the Gautreaux family had a little something to do with it. The weigh-in on Saturday and the supper on Sunday are always held at Merle's ranch.

The winners can't be predicted, and a surprise or two is always in the mix. But there are a few things that can be guaranteed. There are always more excuses than Pillsbury has flour. Some folks will have some success but many won't do as well as expected. That opens the door for a large pile of world class excuses for why they didn't kill any squirrels.

Another guaranteed item on the menu will be quite a large pile of bull-you know what! Light hearted kidding usually leads the way but keeping your rubber boots on after the hunt comes highly recommended. At least until you're safely on the concrete!

One more thing that just might creep into the conversations is a four letter word that seems to plague outdoors folks. It starts with "L" and ends with "ices." They are usually not intentional but they seem to find their way in, even to those with the best of intentions.

On Sunday afternoon, Todd Breaux will prepare a five-star version of squirrel gravy served over rice that you can't get anywhere else. This meal is open to all East Ascension Sportsman's League members. You don't even have to hunt! More fellowship with a great bunch of folks helps pass a great time.

How much is the cost for all this? A ticket for a two-day event of this magnitude could easily top a c-note. But not here. If you're already a member, there's no cost. If not, all you need to do is join the East Ascension Sportsman's League for an annual membership of $20 dollars.

Check out the East Ascension Sportsman's League online at to join. The annual dues are only $20. So, until next time remember to keep the slack out, and set the hook hard. Be safe in the outdoors, and may God truly bless you!

Lyle Johnson is a free-lance writer, co-host of Ascension Outdoors TV and Curator of the Louisiana State Fish Records. He can be contacted at

Outdoor Calendar

EASL Monthly Meeting: 3rd Monday every month, East Ascension Sportsman's League meeting held at Gonzales Fire Dept on Orice Roth Rd. starting at 7:00 p.m. A meal served and special speaker will be in attendance.

Squirrel & Rabbit Season: Oct. 5-Feb. 29, open statewide on private lands only. Daily bag limit 8 and possession limit 24.

Ducks Unlimited East Ascension Banquet: Sept. 26 at 5:30 p.m. - 10:00 p.m. at the Gonzales Civic Center, 219 S. Irma Blvd. $60 in advance /$75 at the door, Couple: $100 in advance / $115 at the door, Greenwing/Youth: $25 in advance / $30 at the door, Sponsor: $285 in advance / $325 at the door. Call Paul Matherne 504-481-0878, or Alden Gautreau at 225-235–1062.

National Hunting & Fishing Day: September 28 at Waddill Outdoor Education Center at 4142 North Flannery Rd Baton Rouge, LA 70814 from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. For more information about this national event, visit or call 225-765-2927.

Rumble On The River Kayak Tourney: Sept. 28--Boundaries in St. Bernard & Plaquemines Parish. Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club event. Open to public. Entry fee $25. Redfish, speckled trout, and bass. BCKFC members Angler of the Year points event. Website:

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