In Texas, everything is bigger, especially when it comes to the history of hunting. Hunting opportunities exist for alligators, javelinas, wild hogs, mule deer, pronghorn, turkeys, ducks, and upland birds, especially quail. However, when it comes to game animals, there is one creature that is head and shoulders below the rest—the squirrel—yet has a hunting history that predates that of the state’s famous white-tailed deer. It can be exciting and tough to go squirrel hunting. Finding your targets will require you to use both your eyes and ears, but the reward will be worthwhile. So, when is Texas’ squirrel season?
Squirrel hunting used to be more than just a recreational activity in the eastern half of the state. It has become less popular as land use techniques have altered and deer populations have increased. The good news is that you can still take on the challenge and opportunity to hunt down the cunning bushy tail. Knowing the ideal time to go squirrel hunting is vital, and Texas is no exception. Below, we will learn about the Texas squirrel season and other interesting facts.
When is Squirrel Season in Texas?
In the 51 East Texas counties with the state’s highest concentrations of squirrels, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has established two hunting seasons for these game animals, one in fall and one in spring. The 2022–23 season dates are October 1–February 26 and May 1–31. 10 squirrels, gray or fox, can be taken in one bag daily.
The 10-per-day bag restriction is still in effect in the 157 Texas counties outside of East Texas, where there is no closed season for squirrels. Where squirrels are nonexistent or found in extremely small quantities, there’s no squirrel season. 46 counties in the Panhandle and far-west Texas do not have a squirrel season. Moreover, a hunter must possess a valid hunting license to hunt squirrels in the Lone Star State.
What Squirrel Species are Considered Game Animals in Texas?
In Texas, there are eight kinds of squirrels that fall into three categories: flying, tree, and ground squirrels. Only two species of squirrels are considered game animals: gray or “cat” squirrels and red or “fox” squirrels, both tree squirrels, and you’ll see why once you’ve hunted them. Due to their agility and skittishness, hunting them successfully necessitates patience and discretion. Many squirrel enthusiasts like to go “still hunting,” moving slowly and silently through the woods while listening for the twitch of a bushy tail or the sway of a branch. Others prefer tracking dogs when hunting, which is allowed if you have the landowner’s consent on private property or are in authorized public areas.
The fox squirrel is larger, weighing up to 2.5 pounds compared to the 1-1.5 pound gray squirrel. These large squirrels, which may be found from East Texas to Central Texas and have a cinnamon-orange underbelly, are the most common in the state. They favor upland forests that are more open and have a lot of oak, pecan, hickory, and other mast-producing trees.
The deep forests that can be found in the broad bottomlands that line rivers and streams in eastern Texas are the kinds that gray squirrels love. The majority and concentration of squirrels in Texas are found in East Texas, and up to 75–80 percent of those are gray squirrels.
What Are the Best Tools for Squirrel Hunting?
Most squirrel hunters use a .22 caliber scoped rifle or a shotgun loaded with #4 or #6 shots. Early in the autumn when most trees still have leaves on them, and it is challenging to get a clear shot at a squirrel traveling through leafy cover, shotguns are particularly successful. The .22 caliber can be used more frequently late in the season when most trees have lost their leaves and shooting opportunities are more frequent.
As mentioned previously, some squirrel hunters in Texas pursue their prey via still-hunting, which entails going through the woods slowly and quietly, pausing regularly, and frequently sitting at the base of a big tree to carefully examine the forest canopy for squirrel movement. Autumn hunting is most successful in places with many red or white oaks or other mast-producing trees. During the autumn and winter, squirrels prefer to feed on acorns and other hard fodder, such as hickory nuts and pecans.
Few Texas squirrel hunters use canine hunting companions. These squirrel dogs, which are mainly small/medium terriers or feisty terrier breeds, hunt along the forest floor by detecting the scent of foraging squirrels, pursuing them to the tree they climbed when they left the ground, and barking to alert the hunter that the dog has cornered a squirrel.
Where are the Locations for Squirrel Hunting?
What, where, and when are just a few considerations when deciding where to hunt in Texas. The annual public hunting permit entitles you to almost all of the benefits of the hunting state program, including flexible access to public and privately leased properties for hunting. East Texas has several public hunting options, even though most squirrel hunting takes place on private property.
Large swaths of the Sabine, Davy Crockett, Sam Houston, and Angelina national forests are open to squirrel hunting. Additionally, holders of Texas Public Hunting tickets have access to dozens of tracts through the state’s public hunting program run by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, including state wildlife management areas, leased private property, and portions of national forests.
How are Squirrels Cooked and Eaten?
Young squirrels that have been quartered are typically fried in a cast iron skillet, similar to how chicken is cooked and served with homemade biscuits and gravy. The meat of larger or older squirrels is typically prepared in stews or as the main ingredient in dishes like “squirrel and dumplings,” where the lengthy boiling process softens the occasionally hard meat.
For decades, East Texas and most of the southern United States have enjoyed squirrels as a traditional, even staple, dish. The thin, dark meat of squirrels, also known as “limb bacon” or “limb chicken,” lends itself to several classic recipes.
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