Mississippi bushytails had better beware

Mississippi’s No. 1 small-game animal remains the squirrel, although hunting pressure continues to plummet. Only half the number of squirrel hunters exists in the state than just 50 years ago.

“That makes no sense to me,” said John Weathersby, 67, a lifelong squirrel hunter from Jackson, who hunts primarily in Hinds and Warren counties. “When I was growing up, we hunted squirrels all fall and winter. It was so much fun, and it still is. I know why it’s falling off so bad, and I don’t understand it. There’s a big rush to take kids to a deer stand when they are 4, 5 or 6 years old instead of taking them for a hike in the woods where they can learn so much about the outdoors.

“Whether you hunt with a treeing dog or just stalk, it’s so much fun for kids. I get it that sitting in a shooting house is fun, but not so much as being active and covering ground. It’s like real-life learning about the woods compared to virtual learning, like COVID has done to school rooms.”

Red squirrel
Red squirrel

Jimmy Harris, another veteran squirrel hunter, put it another way.

“It’s just an entire generation gone from the woods, one that won’t learn the importance of habitat conservation, and that won’t develop a concern about or form a relationship with nature,” Harris said, adding, with a big ol’ grin, “and they may never know the joy of a pot of squirrel stew or squirrel and dumplings. That would be a shame.”

Mississippi’s squirrel triple

Mississippi has two game species of squirrel, the eastern gray squirrel (a.k.a. cat squirrel) and the fox squirrel (a.k.a. red squirrel). There are two sub-species of fox squirrel, the bigger bachmani or hill country fox squirrel and the Delta fox squirrel, the latter of which is limited to the western border along the Mississippi River alluvial valley.

Fox squirrel (black phase)
Fox squirrel (black phase)

The Delta fox also has a black color phase, which many hunters cherish. The hill country fox and the gray squirrel can produce extremely rare black and albino phases.

It is possible to score a Mississippi triple, getting a red, black and gray squirrel on the same hunt. The best bet is either on private lands or on WMAs in the Delta.

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Bobby Cleveland
About Bobby Cleveland 1331 Articles
Bobby Cleveland has covered sports in Mississippi for over 40 years. A native of Hattiesburg and graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, Cleveland lives on Ross Barnett Reservoir near Jackson with his wife Pam.

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