Avid squirrel hunter Mark Beason of Jackson knows snakes are a springtime problem for his champion squirrel dogs, but it won’t stop him from spending time in the woods during Mississippi’s first May season.
It opens May 15 and ends on June 1. The daily limit is four per hunter.
“Tell you the truth, I’m not nearly as worried about snakes in Mississippi as I am hogs,” said Beason. “We’ve got so many wild hogs in this state that, if you squirrel hunt enough, it’s inevitable that you will cross paths with them and they can tear up a dog.
“I got a friend who had one of his top dogs get cut deep across its chest by a hog. Darn near killed it.”
Snakes are definitely on his mind, though.
“Wear snake boots and hope your dogs are smart enough or fast enough to not get hit by one,” Beason said. “A copperhead or a moccasin, I think a dog can survive that. I can’t say that about a rattlesnake, though.”
Another concern for dogs is dehydration.
“In January and February, we will hunt from daylight to day’s end, and I don’t really have to worry about them running out of go,” Beason said. “In May, in the heat, just like in October, I constantly monitor them for their conditions and I shorten up the hunts to maybe a few hours in the morning to the final few hours of the afternoon. It’s common sense stuff.
“Carry lots of water for yourself and for the dogs. Overheating a dog is a problem in the warmer months because dogs shed body heat through panting and the pads of their feet, and when the ground is as warm as it can get in May or October, they can’t pass that heat off as quickly.”
MDWFP biologist, avid squirrel hunter and dog trainer Dave Godwin is just the opposite of Beason. Godwin will not take his dogs out in May.
“I have no intention of taking a dog out that season,” he said. “If and when I hunt, it will be still hunting. I had a dog get bit by a copperhead in the summer and I don’t want to ever have that happen again.
“But the main thing is the heat. Even in the winter, I take dogs to creeks and other waters intentionally during the hunt so they can get water. The thing about May in Mississippi is that between the last couple of weeks in April through mid May, it all changes real quick. We go from spring to summer in a few weeks. It all changes so quick and, boom, it’s hot.”
As for personal protection, snake boots are just one of the safeguards Beason said is mandatory, as is guarding against insects.
“I wear a lightweight long-sleeved shirt, but I wear that more for the briars than I do the mosquitoes,” he said. “I carry and use a lot of bug dope to keep the mosquitoes away, and another thing I do that we all need to do is spray my boots and lower pants legs with a good permethrin product to prevent ticks. I don’t put it on my skin, only on my clothing, but it’s the best bet against ticks and you need that.”