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Squirrel hunting wraps up hunting seasons
Jerry Davis
Jerry Davis

Squirrel and rabbit hunting punctuate a year’s hunting, with wild turkey hunting periods beginning another era.

Young hunters and parents carried bag limits of gray and fox squirrels into an out building near Hyde Store, where owner Josh Cartwright set them on a digital scale to give bag limits total weights.

Forty-three two-hunter teams had paid $10 a hunter to hunt these species as long as they were back by 3 p.m. January 28 for the weigh-in.

Total weight determined the winning team who received half the $840 entry fees. Three other teams received lesser amounts using up 100 percent of the entries.

Forty-five is the most teams ever entered during 15 years.

Sometimes teams pay the admission and don’t show, in part because the fee must be prepaid.

This was the 15th Annual Hyde Area Squirrel Tournament winter contest, usually following a fall hunt. Daily bags of five fox or grays, or mixed were allowed by each hunter. Possession limits of three times the daily bag were not allowed to be scaled.  Other rules had to be strictly followed, including following all Wisconsin’s game laws.

Teams bringing in fewer than 10 squirrels almost never finish in the money. Still lesser numbers were weighed and penned beside a catchy, original team name, most with nut, squirrel or a hunting term ascribed such as Gone Nutz, Rock Nut Busters, and Getting Squirrely.

Cartwright took over the Hyde Store from the previous owner several years ago vowing not to change a thing about the way “LeRoy” started squirrel day 15 years earlier. Some years there has been an autumn and winter event.

Sometimes the tails are donated to Mepps and the meat eaten at a feast at the store in this unincorporated community of Hyde, within walking distance of the Hyde Chapel, Hyde Blacksmith building, Hyde Mill, and an active resident Bald Eagle nest.

Easton Jenson, an 8th grader from Dodgeville, carried his and his father Tyler’s bag in to be weighed. Tayten Knight and father Kyle did the same with seven squirrels totaling 11 pounds. The winners usually have 16 or 17 pounds of freshly hunted small game mammals.

Wisconsin’s squirrel season ends Feb. 29, 2024. Hunters must have a small game license costing $18: $9 for ages 12-17.

The season opens in mid-September. Hunters generally carry .22 caliber scoped rifles and shoot long rifle cartridges.

Don Martin, at Martin’s in Monroe, sells new and used .22 rifles with used gun in the $89-$149 range and a good bolt action new rifle starts at $269. Rifle scopes begin at $50 and up.

Ryan Muckenhirn, at Vortex Optics in Barneveld, said a new Vortex scope made specifically for a squirrel rifle starts at $129.

Some hunters use squeaker calls.

Year-round squirrel hunting is permitted by landowners or occupants and family members, on their land, with other Wisconsin rules and regulations applying.

What a difference a warm spell is having.  Winter ice and snow activities are dwindling, except for the lake sturgeon spearing season opening February 10 on Lake Winnebago and upper lakes. This is a great spectator recreation, too, and with mild weather it is worth the drive.

Bald Eagles continue to draw spectators as the birds begin their egg laying and incubating seasons.

A few green things are poking through, including skunk cabbage and a variety of ferns. The walking fern, but without large fronds, is worth the find growing on rocks.

Turkeys and pheasants are beginning to gobble and crow, as well as display for hens and fighting for dominance.

Wisconsin’s DNR Wildlife Section is showing signs of financial stress from license sales shortfall. The live wild animal showings at Portage are being discontinued. Some hunters, followed by politicians, have talked of changing the gun deer season in northern Wisconsin. May science, not emotions and jerk reactions, prevail.

— Jerry Davis is an Argyle native and a freelance writer who lives in Barneveld. He can be reached at or at 608-924-1112.