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It's time to hunt bushy-tails

By Staff
Special to the
Advance
The close of deer season has left many hunters with that feeling of "it's all over until next year." But that doesn't have to be the case. Alabama's squirrel season now runs through February 29.
Standing in a hardwood bottom, watching the sun's first rays sprinkle the frost covered leaves with light, can free your mind of its' worries as you scan the treetops for squirrels. Squirrel season now opens six weeks prior to gun deer season and continues a month after deer season closes. This extended season allows many sportsmen to gain permission to hunt areas that were previously prohibited during the early and late squirrel season.
Tim Cosby is an avid squirrel hunter who breeds and trains treeing feist and mountain cur squirrel dogs at his Hickory Ground Kennels [334-562-3124] near Ramer, Alabama. Cosby says "squirrel hunting is ideal for teaching young hunters about the sport of hunting. They can accompany a responsible adult on a hunt with a dog and enjoy laughing and talking during the hunt. Having to set silent and motionless for long periods of time can be a turn off to someone just getting started."
For those who don't have access to a trained dog, walking through the woods and shaking vines that reach to nests and den tree openings can be exciting. Youngsters enjoy shaking vines and become very excited when Mr. Squirrel makes his exit by performing an ariel acrobatics act as he scampers through the tree tops. A minimum of gear is required for vine shaking-a good stand of hardwoods, a shotgun with no. 6 shot, a hunter orange hat and/or vest, proper adult supervision, and you are set. An inexpensive pair of safety glasses will keep falling debris from getting into your eyes as you or your young companion shake vines. Stand hunting can be productive for adults or more experienced youngsters, but remaining motionless and absolutely quiet can be boring to a young beginner.
Squirrel hunters in Alabama have two species to hunt, the Eastern gray squirrel and the Eastern fox squirrel. The gray squirrel is more plentiful and composes the majority of a hunter's legal bag limit of eight per day. Grays prefer hardwood bottoms with plenty of oaks. When available, squirrels prefer pecans, acorns, dogwood berries, wild fruit, peanuts and corn. During the spring, they eat buds, barks, twigs and some flowers. The fox squirrel prefers more open or fringe areas with scattered pines.
Grays prefer to nest in hollow trees that provide better protection from predators and adverse weather. If enough den trees are not available, grays construct leaf nests. Fox squirrels almost always build a leaf nest and rarely nest in hollow trees.
The Hunter Education course is required for every hunting license applicant born after August1, 1977. Hunter orange is required during the times of gun deer season and is recommended by hunter safety experts even when it's not required.