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Next week brings start of long-haul squirrel hunting season

By STEVE VANTREESE

Here come Kentucky's most generous hunting opportunities.

Kentucky's traditional squirrel hunting season long has opened on the third Saturday of August. Next week brings that third Saturday â “ Aug. 16 this year â “ day one of Kentucky's "fall" squirrel season.

The season runs all the way through Feb. 28, broken only by two days of closure, Nov. 8-9, for the opening weekend of the firearms deer hunting season.

The season obviously opens in summer and runs deep into winter, but it encompasses fall and that's where it gets the name. The 195 days of hunting represent the state's longest-running game season.

And that doesn't even count the five weeks of spring squirrel hunting that Kentuckians have in May and June. There are far more days when Kentuckians can hunt squirrels than days when they can't.

Even so, the early part of the traditional fall season â “ the late summer period, actually â “ is when more hunters spend more time in the pursuit of the plume-tailed rodents. It's not the most productive time for taking squirrels, but there remains a strong attraction in hunting the new season's opening day and the next few days thereafter.

The only variation in regulations this year is merely the calendar shift â “ the date change required for the season to begin on that third Saturday of August.

All other regulations, including bag and possession limits, are unchanged. Hunters still can take six squirrels a day, while the possession limit after two or more days of hunting is 12.

Most hunters wield shotguns for squirrel hunting, especially during the early days of the season when foliage restricts visibility in the woods. Shotgun ammunition must be loaded with shot no larger than No. 2 pellet size. Yet, hunters also can use rimfire rifles or .22 caliber handguns, muzzleloading rifles, archery gear, crossbows or pellet-firing airguns.

Dogs can be used for hunting squirrels, and some choose to follow the pursuit from the saddles of horses or mules â “ all perfectly legal. With the right bird licensing, squirrels may be hunted by falconry.

Hunting licenses are required for squirrel hunting, of course, unless one is younger than 12 and in the tutelage of an adult. Kids ages 12-15 must have a youth hunting license, and all older must have a regular hunting license.

Every hunter born on or after Jan. 1, 1975, is required to have and carry certification from completion of a hunter education course. An exception is made for hunters younger than 12.

n The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources will accept registrations beginning Monday for mentor-youth dove hunts in September. The managed hunts are for youngsters 15 and under and accompanying adults.

The hunts are free but limited in the number of shooting stations available, so those who wish to participate must make reservations for available slots by phoning the KDFWR at 1-800-858-1549 7 a.m.-3:30 p.m. CDT beginning Monday.

In this region, a mentor-youth dove hunt will be held on opening day of dove season, Sept. 1, on a private field in Livingston County. The field is .6 mile east of Carrsville on Ky. 135 on the left.

Clark's River National Wildlife Refuge again will host mentor-youth hunts Sept. 6 and 7. The field is about two miles north of Symsonia on the west side of Ky. 131. Only ammunition with non-toxic shot is allowed on the refuge.

Public hunting on private fields in the program opens Sept. 6. The Clark's River NWR field opens to public hunting Sept. 8.

n The Land Between the Lakes' Woodlands Nature Station just recently held its annual Hummingbird Festival, but other activities run through the month of August to let visitors enjoy the annual hummingbird migration and swarms of the tiny birds around Nature Station gardens and feeders.

Today, Aug. 16 and Aug. 23, the Nature Station will open at 9 a.m. for 10 people to photograph hummers during their most active time of the day. They also can photograph butterflies, native plants and the center's captive wildlife, including rare red wolves. Reservations, by phoning 270-924-2020, required. Fee: $10.

At 3 p.m. each Sunday through August, visitors can view a screening of "Hummingbirds 101," a presentation in the Nature Station's theater.

At 10 a.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesday, visitors can help refill Nature Station hummingbird feeders, experiencing birds up close in a program aptly called Hummingbird Feeding Frenzy.

At 2 p.m. each Thursday of August, a bird program will show in the Nature Station theater. Screenings include "Migration Miracles" this Thursday, "Hummingbird Folklore" on Aug. 21 and "Beautiful and Bizarre Birds of Land Between the Lakes" on Aug. 28.

Programs with no stated fees are free with Nature Station admission: $6 for age 13 and older, $3 for ages 5-12, free for younger kids. For more information on Nature Station programs, phone 270-924-2299.

Steve Vantreese is a freelance outdoors writer. E-mail outdoors news to outdoors@paducahsun.com or call 270-575-8650.

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