Author Topic: Food sources  (Read 918 times)

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Food sources
« on: April 03, 2005, 05:07:14 PM »
The strategies thread got me to thinking. Since I like to hunt food sources and try to keep track of when they are available I think I will list the food sources here and their timetable.

Our season starts Oct 1 so I will begin there;

Pine cones, the squirrels start cutting cones in late August through September. Mostly Loblolly pine but some Virginia. In our mixed pine/hardwoods the pine is mostly on the ridge tops down to about halfway down the ridge. I mention this because there will be some overlap from pine to the hickories. At this time cruising down the sides of ridges where the pines meet the hardwoods produces well. Keep your ears open as the scales falling from the cones being cut sounds like rain.
Hickories, there are many varieties and the squirrels have a definite preference. The prefered in my area are the shagbarks. Unfortunately shagbarks are not common in my area. Any shagbark found in my area is instantly filed away for future attention. The squirrels seem to hit these the first and clean them up fairly quickly, be ready to move on to what I call "black" hickories. These are pignut hickories I believe. They have a dark tight bark, small to medium thin hulled nut. These are the most common and most productive. They are usually found low along creeks and branches. The shagbarks are scattered and can be found anywhere. There is another hickory in my area, the mockernut that has a light colored bark and big thick hulled nut. The squirrels will eat these though not as readily as the others so these might be for later in the season or if the others have a poor crop of nuts. One tip; due to the desirability of shagbarks I usually hunt them in long term sits as squirrels will come to them all day until the nuts are gone. Again keep your ears open squirrels cutting nuts has a distinctive scratching sound.
Oaks; again many varieties with some better than others. White oaks are always a good selection as well as post oaks. These tend to grow on top of the ridges so cruising ridge tops later in the season after the hickories calm down does well. Others that are good are the "swamp chestnut" aka Basket oak. This oak throws a very large round acorn and is scattered to uncommon in my area. It grows low unlike others. A true staple of squirrels and other wildlife is the water oak usually being dependable to throw a crop every year unlike other oaks that can be cyclical. Water oaks are another low growing tree. These low growing oaks can be hunted by cruising river and creeks banks often using the streambed to keep your approach silent. The nature of oaks is that they may only produce a good crop ever other year so it pays to get out there and see what you got before commiting yourself to hunt that area. Tip; keep your eyes open as squirrels will go out on a limb to pluck acorns off the limb tips. Bouncing limbs are a dead giveaway. Later in the season after all others have been cleaned up go check the chestnut and chinkapin oaks. These throw a big elongated acorn that is bitter and deer and squirrel both hit them last.
Beeches; I usually do not hunt these as they are even more unreliable than oaks. Yet when they do have a crop it is usually a big one and in those years cruise the sides of ridges where you can look into the tops of the beeches in the bottoms. The reason is that beeches grow low and produce nuts in the very top branches.
By late season most of the mast is gone (our season ends Feb 28/9) so the squirrels will be down on the ground. Careful slow stalks through areas of oaks and hickories will catch them looking for hidden and stashed leftovers. Careful because a squirrel on the ground is a very flighty creature. Another thing to check out very late in the season is emerging buds are now on the menu. Check out the maples and tulip poplar. Here too keep your eyes open for bouncing limbs.

All these are general tips for my area in central AL. They may be different in your area. The main thing is get out there and pay attention. Don't just be content with knowing where the squirrel are ask why are they there. Also as with any crop some years are better than others some go out early and see what you will have to hunt this year. Please feel free to tell me what works in your area and if I have missed something here at home tell me that to. Good Luck.
"I'm in the Heart of Dixie, Dixie's in the heart of me."


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