Outdoor Corner: A Hunt to Remember

Lyle Johnson
Emily Dyer killed her first squirrel, a fine fox squirrel, while hunting on Richard K. Yancey WMA shooting a .410 shotgun.

I missed the opening day for squirrel hunting last weekend to make a trip to Texas to visit my son, Wesley and his family. Not being able to hunt that day wasn't a deal breaker to see two of our grandkids. It was going to be hot. And hunting with your clothes wringing wet with sweat isn't exactly my picture of the way it's supposed to happen.

The day before we left for Texas I decided to do a little scouting in preparation for the next weekend to get the advantage in my favor. This is a good thing to do that unfortunately I don’t do often enough: take a little walk in the woods to see where the squirrels are feeding.

A squirrel's feeding habit is one thing that has always been fascinating to me. In south Louisiana we have an abundance of oak trees, and for the most part those tasty (at least for the squirrels) nuts are what they eat the most. The trees bear acorns in the summer that ripen in mid-summer and become their go-to food.

There are around seventy species of oak trees in the United States, and Louisiana is home to most of them. Red oak, water oak, and white oak make up the major portion of what we have here, and they are some of the favorite eating spots for those bushy-tailed critters.

The thing that is fascinating is that they will travel a long way and pass many trees that have really good looking acorns to get to a certain, single tree. Let's call them restaurants, something we can relate to.

So as it started my walk, passing a line of six or seven single trees near a property line, I saw several squirrels eating at a restaurant. It looked like a good starting place, but it wasn't a good spot to shoot. I decided that spot would not be my starting spot because there was water, and the squirrels could fall on the other property where I didn't have permission to hunt.

Later on I made it back near that first spot at a corner of the woods when I spotted a squirrel heading to the "strip mall" that I passed earlier. After watching it travel to where the other squirrels were eating I had a thought: "This is the mall entrance where these squirrels turned to check all the eating spots in the strip mall."

In my travels that morning I found two other restaurants where a number of squirrels were having breakfast and a couple of other "convenience stores" where some stopped in for a quick bite. So I left that morning with a plan. My starting spot would be the mall entrance to hopefully catch a few of them passing by. Then I would head to the other two restaurants, passing the convenience stores along the way.

My anticipation would run high as the week went on, and a cold front would pass through on Friday sending the morning temperatures down to the lower 60's maybe even the upper 50's making for a perfect day to hunt.

But this cold front brought unusually high winds with it for this time of the year. Awaking at 5 a.m. and looking out the door, there were howling winds that made waves in the Diversion. I dropped my expectations for success down a little. Well maybe a lot.

But squirrel hunting it would be! So, off to the woods with a videographer to shoot an episode of Ascension Outdoors TV (seen on Eatel channel 4 or 704 and Facebook). We headed to the traffic intersection to set up on our first spot. The hunch paid off. And as daylight came, a big fox squirrel came by. But it gave me the slip before I could get a good shot.

A second one came by a few minutes later, offering me a clean shot but missed twice. The score: Squirrels 2, Hunters 0. This scenario repeated itself for most of the morning. The wind never slacked up, and it denied us the opportunity to see the squirrels from a distance to sneak up on them for an easy shot.

Another disadvantage was the overcast skies that kept it very dark in the woods, making it even harder to spot a squirrel on the branches or tree itself. The score was about 7-0 in the squirrels favor. Then, one was spotted before it saw us, and a mature cat squirrel was put in the hunting sack.

As we were nearing one of the restaurants, we spotted a squirrel at a convenience store. It took a couple of shots but a nice fox squirrel hit the ground. As I headed to retrieve it, another squirrel was seen shopping there. But because of the wind I never saw it until it was running for its life and never got a shot.

The next opportunity is one I'll never forget. We finally made it to the restaurant and spotted a squirrel. One clean shot and it fell to the ground. After waiting for a few minutes to let things settle down I headed for retrieval.

I made a few steps and noticed movement out of the corner of my eye. A squirrel was running in the next tree. I stopped to get a shot, but it was too late. My location had been spotted by not only one squirrel but four of them! All I could do was watch heartbroken as they ran lickety-split for parts unknown.

I headed for the tree where all the squirrels were and looked for the one I shot and never found a sign of it. About 12' off the ground was a little indention where a branch once was, and I saw what looked like a squirrel in it. The way things were going I figured it crawled in there and died. There wasn't a way to get to it so we had to leave it there.

As I walked away looking backwards, I stopped in my tracks to notice that the tree we were looking at was not the tree it was shot in. We walked back to see that the one I shot was right where it should have been. I realized that squirrel in that indention in the tree was the fifth one in that other tree.

We added one more fox squirrel to the bag making four our take for the day. Actually, a half of a limit was pretty good for the conditions. A morning in the outdoors is always good no matter the outcome. 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 reelman@eatel.net.

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.

Fall-N-Tide XV Kayak Tournament: Oct 19 @ Cypress Cove Marina, Venice. Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club event. Open to public. Entry fee $60, fee Oct. 18 meal & Oct. 19 fish fry. Pre-registration required. Website: bckfc.org.

Fishing for Ashley Bass Tournament: Oct 26 @ Doiron's Landing in Stephensville. Entry fee $130 includes boat launch, $25 big bass optional. Benefit for medical expenses for Ashley Lanoux with breast cancer. Call Thomas Lanoux 225-445-3498 or see LA-BASS on Facebook.

Need an event publicized? Contact Lyle at reelman@eatel.net.