Mississippi’s ninth spring squirrel season opens monday

Published 2:33 pm Thursday, May 11, 2023

BROOKHAVEN — Mississippi’s ninth spring squirrel season opens May 15 for a little over two weeks of hunting action in Mississippi. Hunters can finally get revenge on the squirrels who mocked them during turkey season or eliminate the noisy tree rats before they disrupt a peaceful deer hunt in the fall. 

Squirrel hunting in the spring is relatively new in Mississippi with its inaugural season in 2014. Rick Hamrick, small game biologist with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, said in previous years the season was created as a chance for hunters and their squirrel dogs to get more time in the woods. Heat, mosquitos and limited participation is one reason the season is only two weeks long but it is still a great chance to get outside. 

Hamrick said the season has a limited impact on populations for the fall. Squirrels are typically done breeding by May and the season poses little risk to squirrel production, squirrels breed twice a year. Baby squirrels are typically born in June to August and January to March each year. 

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“During this time they are in a lull of breeding activity which is part of the reason we have the range of season dates for the spring season. It also was set up to minimize conflicts with turkey hunting,” Hamrick said. “We looked at how it could coincide with breeding. We are at the tail end of the winter period and most of the young should be weaned by now. You won’t have any young abandoned squirrels relying on a parent.” 

One old myth you might hear about the spring squirrel season is you will encounter pregnant squirrels. The myth is not entirely true although Hamrick said it is possible but rare. Hunters are more likely to encounter a pregnant squirrel during the month of February in the fall season. 

Squirrel hunting in the spring has not shown any noticeable impact on populations, he said. MDWFP’s pamphlet on squirrel ecology points to food quantity and quality being the biggest driver for squirrel population levels. 

Spring hunting is similar to the early fall season in October in terms of hunting tactics. Hunters can use dogs to tree squirrels or spot and stalk ol bushy tail as they slip through the woods. Leafy cover means hunters should always be aware of what is beyond their target and to be sure of their target especially if shooting with a .22 rifle or handgun. 

Shotguns can also be effective in squirrel hunting. Shot size depends on how high you expect to shoot and how many BBs you plan to pick out of the meat. No. 7 ½ and No. 6 shot are typical squirrel hunting loads. Be sure to check regulations if hunting public land because some require non-toxic lead or steel shot to be used. 

Food sources remain important in spring squirrel hunting tactics. Stores of mast crops such as acorns, hickory nuts and beech nuts have likely been consumed or sprouted by the spring season. Instead, fruits, insects, flowers and budding branches are food sources for squirrels in the springtime. 

Find mulberries, blackberries, pawpaws or other fruits in the woods and you might be in business for spring squirrel hunting. Listen for squirrels barking in the trees or the raining of dew as they jump from branches in the early morning. On calm days, paying attention to branches can help key in on locations of squirrels. 

Hunters do not need to worry about removing young squirrels from the population. A squirrel’s life expectancy in the wild is 18 months. Hamrick said some squirrels are likely to die due to  hunters, birds of prey, cats, snakes and cars. Unlike managing for bucks by protecting young deer, age protecting squirrels is not a thing. 

“You can tell if it is a juvenile squirrel. They are slimmer looking body wise. You could make the argument that maybe you are taking squirrels predestined for predation because they tend to be more susceptible to harvest. An older squirrel gets old because they evade predation,” Hamrick said. “There isn’t a real management recommendation for allowing squirrels to grow bigger. I don’t think it would be a substantial case for a management recommendation.” 

Hamrick said last year that on hot days the squirrels may not move around as much to conserve energy. Meat spoilage can be a concern on long hunts during hot weather so the sooner you can get a squirrel cleaned and on ice the better. 

Squirrel season is open at Copiah Wildlife Management Area, the Homochitto National Forest and private lands during the springtime.

Spring squirrel season is one of the last chances to hunt until September Canada Geese, teal and dove season. Frogging is open until September 30, 2022. Raccoon season opens July 1 and nuisance animals such as coyotes and feral hogs can be hunted year-round.