Hunting For Spring Squirrels? Seek Out The Mulberries

Hunting For Spring Squirrels? Seek Out The Mulberries

Arkansas Game & Fish Commission
Arkansas Game & Fish Commission

LITTLE ROCK, AR – -( “Round and round the mulberry bush” is an old nursery rhyme. But a savvy Arkansas squirrel hunter in the spring will take a slightly different route.

The hunter will find that mulberry, a tree, back off a ways and wait quietly. The mulberry is a squirrel magnet in spring, according to a veteran wildlife biologist with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

Mike Widner, AGFC’s small game program coordinator, offers a short and simple spring squirrel game plan: “Find a big mulberry tree with ripening fruit and camp out. Go no farther. Collect eight squirrels. Come back tomorrow.”

Squirrels are hunted by many more people in the fall and winter than in spring in Arkansas. Squirrels commonly are associated with nuts, a favorite food. Hickory, acorn, pecan, walnut – squirrels love them, but these are absent in the spring.

In spring, squirrels eat the buds and flowers of red maples, elms, oaks and other trees and later feed on fruits like mulberries and the winged fruits of red maple. These foods have high energy contents and also high moisture contents that supply squirrels’ water needs, although most squirrels will also drink from available ground water sources. Nuts are still on the squirrel menu, as they also smell out nuts which they buried in fall and winter.

Widner said, “Often, mulberry doesn’t start to ripen until later in the spring squirrel season, but it’s probably the No. 1 late spring squirrel food in areas where it is available. Trusten Holder (former AGFC wildlife researcher) was an advocate of planting mulberry trees for wildlife. Birds love mulberries also. Birds do a good job of planting as the seeds are spread in their droppings. Fox squirrels are still digging up walnuts they have buried, but most acorns are long gone.

“Other foods eaten by squirrels in spring are other early fruits, mushrooms, some buds and green twigs, seeds, insects and insect larvae, bulbs and roots of herbaceous plants, and later, developing crops such as corn and soybeans. Salt is also craved during spring months.”

Spring squirrel season in Arkansas this year is May 16 through June 14. Daily bag limit is eight. Dogs are allowed.

Spring squirrel hunters, though comparatively few in number, tell of some advantages.

The weather is better, excepting rain showers and thunderstorms. The woods tend to be damp, making for more silent moving around for hunters in contrast to fall hunts which can be over crunchy dry ground and brush.

Looking up into green tree tops sometimes lets a hunter see a squirrel more readily than in the fall when leaves are brown, and a reddish brown or gray squirrel blends in.

The woods are nearly empty of people. Turkey season has ended. For most of spring squirrel season, school is underway, making youngsters not likely to be roaming around on weekdays.

When a hunter bangs one or more squirrels this time of year, keeping the carcass cool is more of a factor than in cooler weather. A mesh bag like an onion sack is one choice over putting the squirrels into a game bag or pocket that doesn’t allow air circulation.

The mission of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is to wisely manage all the fish and wildlife resources of Arkansas while providing maximum enjoyment for the people.