Season opens for squirrel, black bass

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The upcoming weekend is a very important one for sportsmen. Saturday is the opening of squirrel season and black bass season in Ozark streams. These two events are set to open on the fourth Saturday in May each year.

The stream bass season opening is an event that is eagerly awaited by many fishermen each year. When the season opens, anglers need to be aware that the daily limit on bass is 6. When we refer to black bass, this includes Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, and Spotted or Kentucky Bass.

The bass taken from most streams must be at least 12 inches in length in order to comply with the regulations. However, there are some streams that have more restrictive regulations on Smallmouth Bass.

In Butler County we have such a stream, and that is Ten Mile Creek. In Ten Mile Creek from Highway B in Carter County to the confluence with Cane Creek in Butler County there is a more restrictive number limit and length limit on Smallmouth Bass.

On this part of Ten Mile Creek, Smallmouth Bass must be at least 15 inches in length and the daily limit is 1 fish. Anglers are allowed to take a regular limit of bass from Ten Mile Creek, but only 1 Smallmouth Bass is allowed that must be 15 inches in length.

Anglers taking other black bass from Ten Mile Creek must abide by the daily limit of 6 and the minimum length limit of 12 inches.

In other words, an angler can take a limit of 6 black bass from Ten Mile Creek, of which only 1 can be a 15 inch or larger Smallmouth Bass.

The opening of squirrel season is also Saturday.

The daily limit for squirrels increased to 10 a couple of years ago. Squirrels are very plentiful this spring. The large acorn crop from last fall coupled with a mild winter can be attributed to a good squirrel population.

During the spring turkey season I observed squirrels in all locations that I visited. While there are better numbers in areas with mature timber and den trees, squirrels could be found in most forested areas.

The only problem that I see with squirrel hunting this weekend is the predicted hot temperature. Squirrels are normally less active during hot weather. I suspect that hunters will find most of the animals on the ground feeding on left over acorns from last fall. Hunters should be patient and not move quickly.

I don't have a squirrel dog and must hunt using the technique called still hunting. This involves slipping through the woods while listening for squirrel activity. I move very slowly and listen for squirrels moving on the ground or in the trees. I wear camouflage clothing and try to blend into the woods. Try to stay in the shadows of the trees with the sunlight at your back. Squirrels have very sharp eyes and notice movement, so move very slowly. Many times squirrels will hear you and jump up on the side of a tree. If a hunter remains still the animals will resume normal behavior.

Hunters can use shotguns, rimfire rifles, archery, or air rifles to take squirrels. I prefer to use a 22 caliber rifle to hunt squirrels. It takes more patience to take squirrels with a rifle, but I prefer not to eat squirrels taken with shotguns.

Squirrel hunting is a popular Ozark tradition that has faded somewhat in recent years. The decline in squirrel hunters allowed the daily limit for squirrels to be increased to 10 animals. The reason for the increased limit was the resource was being fully utilized.

I've outlined a couple of good reasons to get outdoors this weekend. Hunters need to remember the fundamentals of firearms safety, and remember that there will be others in the woods this weekend. I hope that everyone has a safe outdoor experience this Memorial Day weekend.

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