Squirrels abundant in most of Kansas; season ends Feb. 28
PRATT — February is a down time for many hunters, but the Kansas woods still provide a challenge for avid outdoorsmen and women. Squirrel season is open through Feb. 28, and this elusive tree-dweller offers Kansans an exciting late winter hunt.

Kansas has two species of squirrels — the fox and the gray. Fox squirrels can be found throughout the state just about anywhere trees are abundant. Windbreaks and wooded riparian corridors, as well as larger forested tracts, can provide excellent hunting. Abundant dead-leaf nests in trees are good indications 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. They are also more difficult to hunt. 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, making the hunter more visible. Move slowly into a wooded area with nests and nut-bearing 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, 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.