Outdoor Corner: Opening Day Blues

Lyle Johnson

“Opening Day.” Those two words have caused as much excitement as just about anything an outdoor enthusiast might hear or is thinking. Man, what anticipation comes when those words are uttered amongst a couple of guys or gals who love spending time in the outdoors.

In Louisiana, it’s usually associated with hunting as most of our fishing seasons are never closed. Shrimping, red snapper and a other saltwater fish are the only seasons that open and close in Sportsman’s Paradise.

Spencer and DeShae Gautreau spent their anniversary at their new location in Old River catching this fine mess of bass, sac a lait and bream.

Once again, this Saturday 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. This one is just going to be a little different.

For the southeastern portion of our state, this season’s opening morning might even bring a tear to your eye. It will for me. We’ve experienced many hurricanes before the opening day of squirrel season, but none like this one.

Right now, the oak trees are full of ripe acorns that will not only sustain the squirrels that are alive now but are more important to the next crop of squirrels that will be born in the late winter in 2022.

This years’ crop will survive OK as they can feed on those acorns that are still in the trees left standing. They will also survive later in the season on those that are on the ground. Another issue is the amount of young squirrels that did not survive the hurricane.

The catfish are biting again on the Diversion. Here’s a 15 pounder I caught off the pier on shad. Returned it to the water to live for another day.

I saw plenty of photos of infant squirrels on social media that were found and now being raised by well-intentioned folks. A considerable amount of infants weren’t found and died or became some other animal or bird’s easy picking meal. Nature is sometimes not nice.

So, unless you’re a turkey hunter, 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.

Just like the other hurricanes we’ve faced that’s created a new set of circumstances that will change what you do a little. First of all there’s the mosquito factor. All that water lying on the ground in puddles made a perfect scenario for a prime hatching opportunity.

According to Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries biologists who have spent time in the field recently, there’s an excellent crop of mosquitoes. So many in fact that the state qualified for airplane fogging to help kill them. So insect repellant is a must or the squirrels will easily spot you swatting them and if you’re not careful, they’ll certainly hear you screaming those words of profanity as they feast on your blood.

More than ever, a few hours spent in the woods just looking around would be well worth the investment of time. Instead of just finding the trees where the feeding is taking place, you might need to find out the correct path to navigate all of the fallen trees. Just like we visit our favorite restaurants on a regular basis, the squirrels like to feed in a certain tree. If you can find a couple of those trees beforehand, your percentage for success goes way up.

Back to the hurricane effects; many of the younger ones didn’t survive the hurricane’s winds, so the ones we’ll be hunting are older and smarter. You’ll have to be a little more careful as you sneak up on them. Not to mention the fact that it’s not rained in a while (thank God), so the ground will be dry and noisy.

Another good idea would be to take a look at your shells. Make sure they haven’t rusted or been effected by the weather. Then get “Ole Betsy” out and make sure everything is clean and all the mechanisms are working properly. Shoot her a time or two just to make sure if you have a place that is safe to do that. You just never know about something going wrong, and it’s best to find out about it at home and not in the woods.

Oh yeah, make sure you’ve gotten your new license if you need one. Hunters under the age of 16 need to have their hunter safety course in order and accompanied by an adult. Safety is the most important part of the equation; too many times we read of accidental shootings that cause serious injury or death.

But on the flip side, those of us who prefer to go fishing will find this weekend nearly perfect to be on the water. Although the hurricanes dealt our freshwater fisheries a serious blow, some fish are being caught in the Atchafalaya Basin and Lake Verret closer to home.

The saltwater action has been furious since the storms if you can find a place to launch. That’s not that easy today. Speckled trout and redfish are moving into the fall and winter spots in the marsh and are feeding on the new bounty of bait that those storms have provided. Plastics and live bait are working about equally well and the cooler it gets the better the plastic baits will produce more.

So if you choose to head out for some hunting or fishing this weekend, until next time, remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. Have fun in the outdoors, be safe and may God truly bless you!

Outdoor Calendar

  • Squirrel and Rabbit Season: Oct. 2 through Feb. 28. Daily bag limit eight; possession 24.
  • Deer/Archery: Oct. 1-Jan. 31, State Deer Areas 1, 2 and 4; Oct. 1-15, State Deer Areas 5, 6 and 9, bucks only, then Oct. 16-Feb. 15; through Jan. 15, State Deer areas 3, 7, 8 and 10. Either-sex take allowed except where noted.
  • Open Recreational Seasons: Red snapper (all days with new 4-fish-per-day limit), greater amberjack, several snapper species and all groupers except closed for goliath and Nassau groupers in state/federal waters.
  • Delta Waterfowl Banquet: 5:30 p.m. Oct. 13, L’Auberge Casino, Baton Rouge. Corporate, Gold, Platinum-level tables. Tickets/sponsorships. Call Jonathan Walker, (225) 810-3294/(225) 276-6380.

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