Squirrel activity picks up around this time of year

Lyle Johnson
Squirrel hotel; the nest a family of squirrels call home.

A bit of my family history has taken place. After thirty-two years of living on Old Jefferson Hwy. in Prairieville, we’ve sold our house and are building our new home on the lot on the Diversion Canal we bought ten years ago.

Our temporary home is in Livingston Parish with our son, Wesley. So now we get to sit on his porch and have our morning coffee when we get a chance. Frost is where he lives and it’s still rural and he has over an acre of woods behind his house that adjoins a hunting lease.

Deborah and I were sitting out right at dawn last Saturday and the quiet was quite noticeable. There are five or six brown oak trees near the house. These oaks have broad leaves that collect lots of dew so with all the fog we’ve been having, it sounds like rain as the water drips to the ground.

It was quite relaxing as Deborah and I hadn’t started our conversation as of yet and I got absorbed in the sounds and activities of the outdoors waking up. These brown oak trees are loaded with acorns that are quite coveted cuisine among the acorn connoisseurs. (squirrels)

We’ve become well acquainted with several of them in the past couple of months as they make their trek from back in the woods to feast in these oak trees.  Squirrels will actually travel fairly long distances to find the best tasting acorns available and these come to eat every day.

I never tire of watching as they run to the end of a branch in the tops of the trees, pick an acorn with their mouth and run back to a chosen spot to eat the acorn. They repeat those three steps until their stomach is full. However, this day they are doing something a little different.

I noticed one of the squirrels run to the end of a branch and pick an acorn, but instead of stopping to eat, it continued to the ground. After a couple of minutes, the process took place again. It’s getting closer to winter and their feeding habits changed from filling their gut to making provisions for the hard times.

This is the time they begin to bury some food for the winter. The process seems to be pretty simple; pick an acorn, pecan or some other available nut and proceed to find a likely spot to dig a little hole in the dirt or just under the grass and cover it up to use at a later date. When all the available food is gone, they resort to finding their buried treasure.

There’s a little more to the process than meets the eye. I took the opportunity to observe this process in my yard and learned a thing or two. The squirrels don’t have particular spots where they place the food; they just bury them in random spots. I often wondered, “How do they find the pecans when the food runs out?”

They don’t have a built-in GPS and I’ve never seen them with a map with a pencil to mark the spots either. What I have observed is that they use their noses to smell out the tasty pecans or other nuts they’ve buried. The olfactory method is less than perfect so they don’t find them all and this is the neat part.

Every year millions of acorns, pecans and all sorts of wild nuts get buried for winter forage by squirrels. Those that never get found then have the opportunity to germinate and grow into a tree.

We had a small spot in front of the house where we maintained a rock garden with cactus. It was one of the favorite spots the squirrels used to bury pecans. I don’t know if they ever found one as every spring two or three pecan trees sprouted in the midst of the cactus and rocks. Nature is pretty cool; squirrels plant trees!

Youth hunting weekends have been taking place all over the state and Ascension Parish youth are enjoying these benefits as well. Fourteen-year-old Jordan Causey had the opportunity to spend some quality time hunting in East Feliciana Parish with his grandfather, Bobby Causey. On October 30th, Jordan killed his first deer, a doe that weighed in at 110 pounds. Congrats Jordan!

Speaking of the Diversion Canal, I spent a little time fishing off my pier for the first time in a while and was pleasantly surprised. Using night crawlers and a cane pole and a couple of hours of time, I caught 4 bluegill, 1 chinquapin, 2 bass, 1 catfish and a choupique. A couple of days later I caught 8 catfish and this is pretty encouraging as our fish population has recovered from the last two storms. Remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. Until next time have fun in the outdoors, be safe and may God bless you.

Jordan Causey with his first deer, a 110 pound doe taken in East Feliciana Parish.