From Kentucky Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Resources
FRANKFORT, KY – The first hunting season of the fall opens in about two weeks.
Kentucky's fall squirrel season, a 192-day split season that kicks off the calendar of fall hunting, opens on Aug. 20 and continues through Nov. 11. The season opens again Nov. 14 and runs through Feb. 29, 2012.
The daily bag limit is six squirrels.
Ben Robinson, small game biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, said the outlook for the season is excellent.
"Last fall we had a really good mast (nut) crop, particularly the red and white oak groups, with the hickories close behind," said Robinson. "There was lots of food and females were in good condition going into breeding. There should be lots of young squirrels this fall."
The Kentucky Division of Forestry reported on its website that 47 percent of Kentucky is forested, some 11.9 million acres.
An estimated 65 percent of Kentucky forests are composed of saw timber. Since 1988, the acreage of stands of these harvestable, mature trees, has increased by 6 percent. Across most of Kentucky, oak and hickory woodlands are the dominate forest type.
The department's annual mast survey began in 1953 and evaluates the crop of nuts produced by hickory, white and red oak and beech trees. These nuts are the most important foods for Kentucky's forest wildlife – squirrels, white-tailed deer, wild turkeys and bear.
Biologists walk the same route every year and estimate the year's mast crop, based on what they observe.
Hickory nuts begin to mature in August and acorns and beechnuts in September and October.
Weather extremes, such as late frosts and heavy rains in spring along with summer droughts, can limit the amount and quality of mast.
"What we've been hearing is there's another strong crop of acorns and hickory nuts, and walnuts, where these trees are available," said John Morgan, small game program coordinator for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. "Due to the excellent growing season there are also vigorous crops of soft mast (berries and seeds)."
The Squirrel Hunting Cooperator Survey, which started in 1995, supplies information that biologists use to monitor squirrel population trends in Kentucky.
Hunters simply record information about their hunts as the season progresses. This includes the county hunted, hours afield, number and species of squirrels seen and harvested, number of hunters in the party and the number of dogs used to find squirrels.
"The use of squirrel dogs continues to grow," said Morgan. "It's a great way to get back into squirrel hunting."
When hunters are finished hunting for the season, they simply mail in their survey. Postage paid forms are available on request by calling 1-800-858-1549. Logs must be sent to Kentucky Fish and Wildlife no later than May 31, 2012.
Each year, after the survey information is compiled and analyzed, a report is mailed out to squirrel hunters who shared the details of their hunting activities from the previous season. They also receive a new hunting log and a hunting ball cap for participating.
After a hot summer, hunters look forward to getting into the woods again. Squirrel season is the perfect opportunity.
Author Art Lander Jr. has been writing about the outdoors since the 1970s. He is a staff writer for Kentucky Afield magazine.
The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources manages, regulates, enforces and promotes responsible use of all fish and wildlife species, their habitats, public wildlife areas and waterways for the benefit of those resources and for public enjoyment. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife is an agency of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet. For more information on the department, visit our website at fw.ky.gov.