Kentucky’s fall squirrel season, a 191-day split season that begins the fall hunting calendar, opens by regulation on the third Saturday of each August.

The 2022-2023 season dates are Saturday, August 20 through November 11. The season then reopens on November 14 and runs until February 28, 2023.

.22 rifles, small bore shotguns and small bore shotguns are good choices for squirrel hunting (Photo by Art Lander Jr.)

The daily bag limit is six squirrels.

Cody M. Rhoden, Small Game Program Coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) wrote in the 2021-2022 Squirrel Report that “we expect to see a good hunting season in 2022-23.”

Last winter’s weather was favorable, and statewide 2021 mast production for the three major mast-producing tree groups (hickory, red oak, and white oak) was average, but in the eastern region mast and beech production it was good.

There is a close relationship between one year’s nut production and the following year’s squirrel population levels.

The nationwide survey of mast production began in 1953 and is conducted annually in August. Mast crops were evaluated based on the percentage of surveyed trees bearing nuts: 0 percent, failure; 20 percent, poor; 40 percent, average; 60 percent, good, and 80 percent, bumper production.

White oak acorns (Photo via Flickr Commons)

In the fall of 2021, 43 percent of surveyed white oaks had acorns. This is important to note as white oak acorns are a favorite food of woodland wildlife.

Biologists walk the same route every year and evaluate the next year’s harvest based on what they observe. After compiling this information, there is a clearer picture of what the impact will be, not only on squirrels, but other forest wildlife – white-tailed deer, wild turkeys and black bears.

Weather extremes, such as late frosts and heavy spring rains and summer droughts, can limit mast quantity and quality.

Hickory nuts begin to ripen in August, and oak and beech in September and October. Late winter is when food availability becomes more critical for squirrels and can affect their body condition heading into breeding season.

Art Lander Jr. is outside editor for the Northern Kentucky Tribune. He is a native Kentuckian, a graduate of Western Kentucky University, and a lifelong hunter, fisherman, gardener and outdoor enthusiast. He has worked as a newspaper columnist, magazine reporter and author and is a former staff writer for Kentucky Afield magazine, editor of the annual Kentucky Hunting and Trapping Guide and Kentucky Spring Hunting Guide, and co-writer of the Kentucky Afield newspaper column. Outdoors.

Squirrel hunters can help management efforts by participating in the Squirrel Hunting Associate Survey. The voluntary program, which began in 1995, provides information that biologists use to monitor squirrel population trends in Kentucky.

Hunters record information about their hunts as the season progresses, including county hunted, hours away, number and species of squirrels seen and harvested, number of hunters in the party, and number of dogs used to find squirrels.

When hunters finish hunting for the season, they send their surveys back to KDFWR.

After the survey information is compiled and analyzed, a report is mailed to squirrel hunters who share details of their hunting activities from the previous season.

Squirrel Hunting Associate Survey Results

Some highlights from the 2021-2022 squirrel season survey include:

• The survey detailed 391 hunts in 41 Kentucky counties.
• Hunters spent a total of 902 hours away, for an average of 10.9 hunts per cooperator.
• 28.6 percent of associates said they hunted with dogs.
• Hunters reported seeing an average of five squirrels per hunt, and the total squirrel harvest for the season was 721 gray squirrels and 117 fox squirrels.

Differences in gray squirrels and fox squirrels

• To Eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) may be the most abundant and widespread game animal in Kentucky.

They make their homes in leaf nests and hollows of large trees, in a wide range of rural and urban environments. This includes the remote forests of mountainous eastern Kentucky, farm forests, large river bottoms and along small streams throughout the state.

Gray squirrel (Photo from Wikipedia Commons)

Gray squirrels are quite small. Their head and body length ranges from about nine to 11 inches, their tail adds another seven to 10 inches. Adults can weigh up to 21 ounces.

They do not exhibit sexual dimorphism – there is no difference in size or coloration between males and females.

They have mostly gray, brown fur with a white underside.

Like all squirrels, the gray squirrel has four toes on its front feet and five toes on its hind feet. They hop and skip through the forest, with a bounding stride of two to three feet long. They are strong tree climbers and can descend head first from a tree.

Like deer, gray squirrels are crepuscular – most active during the early and late hours of the day.

Visible year-round in Kentucky, gray squirrels do not hibernate. The gray squirrel is the dominant species in the heavily forested eastern third of Kentucky.

• To Northern Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger) is a salt and pepper grey, with a yellow to orange upper body, pale yellow to bright orange breast and belly, and yellow tipped tail hairs.

Fox squirrel (Photo by Gary Eslinger, US Fish and Wildlife Service)

Adults are typically 18 to 27 inches long, head to tail, and weigh 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 pounds. There is a higher percentage of fox squirrels in small forests and wooded hedgerows of agricultural areas in Central and Western Kentucky.

Squirrels usually breed twice a year; summer and winter. A litter of three to four young is born 40 to 45 days later. The young are raised in the nest and then emerge on their own at about two months of age. Some females may produce litters during both breeding seasons.

Squirrels’ diet includes nuts, twigs, buds, and tree fruit, although they also eat birds’ nests and insects. They are hoarders, gathering nuts and storing them in what is called memory.

Over the years, gray squirrel and fox numbers have remained fairly stable in Kentucky

Squirrel hunting is a great way to mentor youth or anyone new to hunting while learning gun safety and marksmanship.

When you teach them how to walk quietly in the woods, be observant, and blend into the trees and shadows while squirrel hunting, you’re passing on Kentucky’s proud hunting heritage.

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