Jeremy Thomas is more than a little excited about Saturday morning, and the squirrel hunter has good reason.
“They’re saying 50 degrees at sunrise, and we’ve got heavy rains coming through between now and then,” said Thomas, of Jackson. “Any kind of serious squirrel hunters, whether they stalk or hunt with dogs, will tell you this is about as good a forecast as we can get.
“For stalkers, the rain expected overnight on Thursday into Friday will leave the ground damp and that makes for more stealthy movement through the woods. For dog hunters, the 50 degrees means they won’t have to worry about their dogs overheating. Early in the season, it could just as easily be 70 or 75 moving up into the upper 80s. The 50s moving only into the 70s is ideal.”
That’s important for hunters, especially this year under Mississippi’s new squirrel season structure that saw the season open statewide on Wednesday (Oct. 1). Gone are zones that showed a staggered zone, north to south that wouldn’t see Central Mississippi’s season open until mid October and Southeast Mississippi’s season until the final weekend of the month.
“I went for a few hours on Wednesday, when it opened, but it was really, really warm and humid,” said Ray Watkins of Vicksburg. “My dog did good for about the first hour maybe 90 minutes and then he started panting and was losing interest. He’s a good dog with three seasons under his collar but he has never done well when it’s warm.
“We’ll be there on Saturday and I bet he starts feeling it, you know gets more in the mood, and he’ll be ready to go. We got three Wednesday but I bet we get a limit or two Saturday.”
Thomas, who prefers stalking, is also confident.
“I didn’t even bother to go on Wednesday and decided to save that vacation day at work to use later in the season,” he said. “Looking at the long term forecast, I knew it would be better this weekend. I scouted a bit the last two weeks and it’s been dry and being quiet as I walked wasn’t easy.
“The leaves crunched, the twigs snapped. If we get the kind of rain they’re talking about, that’ll all change and I will be able to move through the woods more quietly.”
Thomas said he had little trouble finding hot spots while scouting.
“We got good acorn production where I hunt (east Rankin County) and I’ve got some hot trees I plan to concentrate my efforts around,” he said. “Luckily, nobody hunts deer with a bow at my club, so I don’t have to worry about messing somebody up. The squirrels and the deer are hitting the acorns pretty hard.
“I’m going to hunt alone Saturday and then take my grandson Sunday, if the situation is right. By that I mean plenty of squirrels and quiet woods. He’s only 9, so he isn’t that savvy about being quiet.”
The daily limit is 8 squirrels per hunter.