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Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Hunters had to make some choices this past Saturday. It was the opening of the urban archery season. It was the first Saturday of the dove and goose seasons. It was opening day of the squirrel season.
I was pleasantly surprised at the number of sportsmen who chose squirrel hunting. This activity has been in decline, overshadowed by interest in other species, particularly deer.
My old squirrel hunting partner, Billy Leonard, and I were talking about that Saturday.
"It is a sad thing that kids can go directly to hunting turkeys and deer," he said. "They seldom try squirrels."
That's their loss. Squirrels are fun and challenging. When you hunt them, you are exposed to all the elements of woodsmanship and marksmanship. Learn to hunt squirrels and you have the basis for successfully hunting anything else, including big game.
Saturday was a prefect day for squirrel hunting, crisp, bright, pretty much windless. And there were plenty of squirrels if you knew where to look.
Squirrels benefited from an excellent mast crop last fall. The abundance of food sent them through the winter in good shape. Add to that, the winter was mild. Survival was good and females produced large and healthy early litters.
Not so this time. Mast isn't available like it was last fall. The deeper we get into late summer, the more reports I have of poor mast. Leonard believes all the rain we had was harmful to mast production. It is the kind of season where you first have to find the food, such as a grove of hickories, in order to find the squirrels.
A poor mast year impacts squirrels a number of ways, Leonard points out. Their second litter of the year will be smaller, if at all. And they can become more guarded and spooky.
What hurts most of all, a poor mast crop this fall points to poor hunting next season.
So have fun, while you can.
Putting the squeal on feral hogs
Feral hogs are being called a "four-legged ecological disaster," and their impact has not escaped Virginia. Officials of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries have scheduled a meeting to discuss ways to deal with this threat to native wildlife.
Representatives of a number of organizations have been invited to participate in a stakeholders meeting scheduled Sept. 18 in Sandstone.
New populations of wild hogs are showing up in several parts of the state, where they compete for food with native wildlife species and cause damage to wild and agricultural lands.
DGIF officials say the hogs destroy turkey, grouse and quail nests. They also prey on fawns. They especially are destructive to wetlands and are know to carry diseases.
"Unfortunately, we are not immune to this problem in Virginia," said Bob Duncan, executive director of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. "We expect the outcome of this meeting to be an organized, informed network of stakeholders that will support initiatives aimed at successfully controlling feral hogs in Virginia."
Just over a year ago, the DGIF established a Feral Swine Committee. Wildlife officials have been identifying a growing number of previously unknown feral hog populations in Virginia, Duncan said.
It is illegal to release feral hogs in the state, but that isn't keeping some people from doing so. Legislation may be necessary to deal with the problem, officials say.
Heading the committee is Aaron Proctor, DGIF biologist Aaron.Proctor@dgif.virginia.gov.
This camouflage makes you stand out
Ever since Jim Crumley of Botetourt County designed modern camouflage, the purpose of the product has been to help hunters blend into their background. Now there is a new design with the purpose of letting you be noticed.
It is called "Flage" and it is the work of TWN Industries, Inc, the leading water transfer printing supplier. Rather than using drab colors, Flage comes in a bright purple and gold combination that is shaped into blocky, iconic World War II patterns rather than the modern patterns of limbs, leaves, bark and vegetation. You will be more likely to see this on main street rather than in the backwoods.
"This pattern is for the person who wants to stand out not blend in," the company said. http://watertransferprinting.com/pr_35_Flag.html.
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