Outdoor Corner: Oh Well!

Lyle Johnson

So I took to the woods to mark the opening day of hunting squirrels in a spot that I’ve hunted for years. I didn’t get a chance to make a round through the woods to check things out.

That was a mistake, big time. The normal reason is to find out where the squirrels are so no time is wasted setting up in a spot where no squirrels will be feeding. It’s important to be set up in a good spot at daylight to be successful.

Ralph Moran, Brooks Moran and Keith Villeneuve caught these six snapping turtles in Ringgold County, Iowa, in a friend’s private ponds. Largest was 23 pounds, and smallest 17 pounds.

Most wild animals live to accomplish only a few things in life. Eating is the most important, so lots of time is spent accomplishing this survival skill. Since it’s been nearly 12 hours since they had their last meal, they all come out early morning to break their fast.

With Ida’s devastating winds, fallen trees would be a big problem as well. So not only did I need to scout to locate the squirrels, the need to know how to get around the trees and gigantic limbs that fell was pretty important. A look around would have added precious time to the hunt as far as navigation was concerned.

I was taken aback as daylight came to see firsthand the amount of trees that had fallen. This small patch of woods has, or had, some very large oak trees. Some of them are, or were, six feet in diameter. Enough of them fell or had very large branches fall to change the “look” of the woods.

About 15 minutes into the hunt, not a squirrel made an appearance. That was a bit concerning, but I didn’t give up hope. Soon enough, though, I figured things wouldn’t be like a normal opening morning as far as opportunities to go home with enough game for a gravy or gumbo.

About 25 minutes in I saw my first squirrel, which unfortunately was not close enough to shoot. That meant stalking not only through the palmettos, which are quite noisy, but navigating through the freshly fallen trees and limbs.

On the way to the first squirrel, another one made an appearance. Now I had a decision to make. Which one to go after? I made what I thought was a good shot. The squirrel fell but grabbed on to another tree on the way down and escaped mostly unhurt.

I won’t bore you with the excruciating details, but the next three opportunities to put anything in the hunting sack resulted in not getting a shot off. They seemed just to disappear.

I decided to head to a different location, with much the same results. Lots of fallen trees and branches to navigate around and not seeing any squirrels. I had just about given up when, trying to get around another tree, a squirrel pops up out of nowhere, seemingly to just give up its life for my benefit.

The total action for my hunt was; saw five squirrels, shot at two of them but only took one home. That’s certainly not what I was expecting. Got lots of other reports about plenty of hunters who did really well, so that’s a little encouraging.

One thing we had a very dramatic increase in since the hurricane is the population of our mosquitoes. So much so that we qualified for assistance in the control area using airplanes to spray. Heard lots of folks asking what’s with all the low-flying planes flying around for after dark. They are trying t kill mosquitoes.

As I was walking through some areas that had foliage on the ground, each step would cause a cloud of hundreds of mosquitoes to fly up around my legs. I’ve never seen that before, and hope I never see it again.

Besides being a pest and having to put up with bites that usually cause welts, the diseases they carry are one of the primary reason why we should care about mosquitoes. West Nile virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis can be transmitted via mosquitoes, even to your pets.

Mosquitoes must have water to breed, and different species require different types of water to breed successfully. From relatively clean water to grossly polluted water high in organic content, the breeding habitats preferred by many species are as varied as the many kinds of mosquitoes that breed in them.

The mosquito life cycle consists of four stages; egg, larvae, pupa, and adult. In the larval stage, mosquito larvae go through four developmental periods (called instars) before reaching the pupal stage. Mosquitoes can complete their life cycle from egg to adult in as little as 4 days depending on temperature and species.

Once laid, mosquito eggs can lie dormant for up to a year, waiting to be submerged in water and the right temperature to hatch out.

Mosquitoes have an average life span of 2 weeks to 6 months depending on weather conditions and species. Only female mosquitoes seek a blood meal. That’s a good thing as we’d have twice as many bites if the males took part in the action. They need the protein contained in the blood in order to produce their eggs.

Female mosquitoes look for various cues when hunting down a blood meal. They are often attracted to humans by triggers such as our breath (carbon dioxide), body heat, perspiration, and skin odor. Differences in body chemistry and the chemicals in our sweat from person to person can make some people more attractive to mosquitoes than others.  

On average, a mosquito might lay about 100 eggs. Some mosquitoes will lay a large cluster of eggs that floats on the water (called a raft). Other species might lay a few eggs at a time in containers or moist areas that might later become flooded with water.

I often wondered what they might feed on if no blood was readily available. Both female and male mosquitoes need sugar in order to survive, which they get by feeding on plant nectar.

There are 3,000 species of mosquitoes worldwide, 68 of which are found in Louisiana.

More humans deaths (over 700,000 per year) are associated with mosquitoes than with any other animal on the planet.

There are no animals in nature that feed solely on mosquitoes. Therefore, removing mosquitoes will not affect the well-being of animals. And given that many species of mosquitoes blood-feed on birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, mosquito control can also help protect wildlife from mosquito bites and mosquito-borne diseases.

I say good riddance! So 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!