Squirrels abundant in most of Kansas; season ends Feb. 28
PRATT -- February is a down time for many hunters, but one often over-looked game species is abundant and active in Kansas -- the squirrel. But the season ends Feb. 28, and time is running out for those who want to hunt this elusive tree-dweller.

Actually, Kansas has two species of squirrels -- the fox squirrel and the gray squirrel. Fox squirrels can be found throughout the state just about anywhere trees are abundant. They are at home in windbreaks and wooded riparian corridors, as well as larger forested tracts. Large, leafy nests in trees are a good indication of population density. Fox squirrels are active at midday and spend a good deal of time on the ground. Mature fox squirrels may weigh up to 3 pounds.

The gray squirrel's range is limited to the forested regions of eastern Kansas. Smaller than fox squirrels, grays average about 1 pound. More difficult to hunt than fox squirrels, grays are most active around sunrise and sunset, usually spending midday hours in a tree hole.

Both squirrel species are usually hunted with a .22 rifle although novices often start with a small-bore shotgun. The best time to hunt is on calm, sunny days because squirrels often stick to dens when it's windy. Winter hunting can be more difficult than summer or fall because trees are bare, but this shouldn't deter the avid hunter. Move slowly into a wooded area where with nests and mast (nut) trees. Then sit quietly and listen for the cutting sound of a squirrel cracking nuts or scrambling through the trees. If the squirrels are out of range or don't appear, move carefully after 20 minutes or so and take another stand. Many hunters use a squirrel distress call, especially in early fall, which can pull curious quarry in for a closer look. Chatter or bark calls work well, too.

Excellent squirrel hunting can be found on wooded public hunting areas, and there is typically little hunting pressure, especially in late winter. Permission to hunt on private land may also be easy to obtain due to lack of competition from other hunters.

The Kansas squirrel season runs June 1-Feb. 28 with a daily bag limit of five and a possession limit of 20. With only a few days in the season, it's time to grab the .22 and head for the woods. For a internet video on Kansas squirrel hunting, go to the KDWP website and click "KDWP TV" in the top right-hand corner of the page.