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Squirrel Challenge highlights small game

by Flip Putthoff | December 21, 2021 at 1:00 a.m.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is launching an event in January to celebrate small game hunting. The inaugural Big Squirrel Challenge will take place across Arkansas Jan. 7-8.

Participants can start hunting on public or private land (with permission) at noon, Jan. 7 through 30 minutes after sunset, then hunt again 30 minutes before sunrise until around noon Jan. 8. The biggest three squirrels from each team will be weighed (field-dressed with skin on) at one of the following locations by 2 p.m.:

• J.B. and Johnelle Hunt Family Ozark Highlands Nature Center, Springdale

• Gov. Mike Huckabee Delta Rivers Nature Center, Pine Bluff

• Forrest L. Wood Crowley's Ridge Nature Center, Jonesboro

• Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center, Fort Smith

• Fred Berry Crooked Creek Nature Center, Yellville

• Rick Evans Grandview Prairie Nature Center, Columbus

• Camp Robinson Shooting Range, Mayflower

• Mike Freeze Wattensaw Wildlife Management Area Headquarters

Prizes and trophies will be awarded in three divisions: youth (two hunters under 16 with an adult mentor or an adult and single hunter under 16), adult (two hunters 16 or older with no dogs) and open class (two adults or youth hunters in any combination with dogs). In addition to medals, the overall winners in each division will receive Gamo Air Rifles. Drawings also will be held for all participants who turn in a squirrel after the event.

With all of the focus on deer, ducks and turkey in the modern hunting world, relatively few hunters take the time to appreciate a good day in the squirrel woods, but Eric Maynard, assistant chief of the Game and Fish education division, hopes the event will spark some renewed interest in small game.

"It's hard to imagine with all the deer that are harvested now, but there was a time when squirrel hunting was one of the only games in town, especially on public land," Maynard said. "It wasn't until after some dedicated work by Game and Fish and other conservation agencies that deer populations rebounded to the levels we see today. During the meantime, if you went hunting, small game like squirrels and rabbits are what you were after to put food on the table."

In addition to being plentiful practically anywhere in the state, squirrels offer multiple opportunities to shoot on most outings. Small .22-caliber rimfire rifles are comfortable for hunters of all ages to carry and shoot, and shotguns from the tiny .410 to 12-gauge shotguns can be used with size 4 to 6 shot.

Maynard says many of the facilities also will have fun activities for participants from noon to 2 p.m. the Saturday of the event, with each location offering a little something different. Registration is not necessary to participate, just show up with your best three squirrels from the day's hunt and enjoy some fun focused on small game.

Arkansas's squirrel season is from May 15 until the last day in February each year. The daily limit is 12 squirrels.

Print Headline: Squirrel Challenge highlights small game

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