It’ll be time to start chasing the écureuil gris in less than a week, an opening day that so many hunters, young and old, anticipate across Louisiana.
Écureuil gris is the French word for the gray squirrel, or cat squirrel, which is ever-present in large numbers here in the heart of Acadiana and elsewhere in the Sportsman’s Paradise. Gray squirrels and fox squirrels will be targeted this Saturday, the first Saturday of October, by thousands of squirrel hunters.
Teche Area squirrel hunters who are unable to hunt on private leases can rest assured there are many squirrel hunting opportunities for them within a short to comfortable drive from New Iberia on three Wildlife Management Areas, which are open to the public. They are, from closest to farthest, Attakapas WMA, Sherburne WMA and Richard K. Yancey WMA.
“We’re expecting there should be good hunting on Richard K. Yancey, Sherburne and Attakapas. Attakapas does good on squirrels year-in and year-out. For some reason, there isn’t a lot of hunting pressure there,” Tony Vidrine, veteran biologist manager for the Lafayette Region, said early last week.
Other WMAs with healthy squirrel populations in the Lafayette region are Spring Bayou WMA, Thistlethwaite WMA and Grassy Lake WMA, he said.
Attakapas WMA has less hunting pressure probably because it’s accessible only by boat as the only WMA in the southern part of the Atchafalaya Basin. However, Vidrine’s squirrel harvest numbers over the past few years there tell the tail, er, tale, for squirrel hunters.
In 2018-19, squirrel hunters averaged 1.4 squirrels per effort, the game biologist reported earlier this summer. The harvest number was based on bag checks opening day and self-clearing permits over the rest of the season.
In 2017-18, the average number of squirrels bagged by hunter effort was 2.4.
“Some of the areas, like Attakapas, don’t get a lot of use and it has one of the highest averages per hunter,” Vidrine said.
The Attakapas WMA, a 27,000-acre area on the western side of the Atchafalaya Basin, is hunted primarily by local squirrel hunters, the game biologist said. Most of the squirrel hunting success is enjoyed on the high ridges along the Atchafalaya River inside in the Attakapas WMA, he said.
There are other choice options for squirrel hunters, of course.
“If I was a squirrel hunter and didn’t know the areas, I’d probably go to Yancey,” Vidrine said.
There are some solid reasons he’d head to that WMA, starting with its immense size of 70,872 acres. There are is a variety mast-producing trees, also, which is important in case one of the species has a subpar mast production.
“That area’s so big and has such a diversity of mast-producing trees. Yancey’s a good area. There’s plenty of room for everybody to hunt,” he said, noting just about anywhere on the public area is a good place to hunt squirrels.
Squirrel hunters should scout forests with mature hardwoods producing hard mast while still offering some soft mast-producing trees such as sugarberry.
Wherever squirrel hunters travel to enjoy the first day of the squirrel hunting season, many are hopeful there weather’s cooler.
“Hopefully, we’ll get cooler weather. Hopefully, if we get cooler weather” squirrel hunting will be at its opening day finest and squirrel hunters will stay in the woods longer, Vidrine said.
The season opens Saturday and ends Feb. 29. There also is a spring season May 2-24.
The daily bag limit during the regular season is eight and the possession limit is 24.
For more information go to http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/hunting/resident-small-game-seasons.