Hunters Notice Historically Low Population of Squirrels, Big Iron Ore Creek Opening Season Winners - October 9, 2014
Submitted by Lynn Johnson
Squirrel Hunters and Campers at the Big Iron Ore Hunting Club
Winners of the 2014 Big Iron Ore Still Hunting Contest: (Top to Bottom) Deanne Sample, Hunter Sample, Jared Wiggins, Jesse Wiggins, Hunter Sample, Kyle Bush, Brett Clark, Briar Sample.
The first week of a historic squirrel season is coming to a close. Unfortunately, it is historic because of the lack of squirrels in the wilds of East Texas. We are witnessing the lowest population of squirrels in our area in probably a century or more.
This setback however didn’t deter campers and hunter from gathering at the Big Iron Ore Creek Squirrel Camp on October 1st, 2014. Hunters left before dawn each day to be in the woods at daybreak to stalk their prey. Many who easily returned with a bag limit of ten in years past have considered themselves lucky to return to two or three this year. Many a hunter, including yours truly, zeroed more than once.
The squirrel population has been decimated by the drought in recent years with hunters estimating well over 90% mortality due to starvation. No spring squirrels were harvested so far with signs pointing to the spring rut being missed entirely. With the entire population of squirrels being older this season, hunters hope young squirrels just now being weaned will soon emerge giving support to a much needed recovery.
With so few squirrels being harvested, the squirrel camp had to supplement meals with wild pig, catfish, and even elk. When there were enough squirrels to cook, they were old and tough; something remedied by slow smother frying them in gravy. Needless to say, nobody went hungry.
The first week of season culminated with the annual Big Iron Ore Still Hunting Contest where hunters compete to return to camp with the most squirrels before noon. Usually this involves the first hunters to return with their bag limit of ten, but not this year.
Kyle Bush won the adult division in 2014 with seven squirrels that he assures us were not harvested in his back yard. He was followed closely by the “Wiggins Boys” (father Darren, and sons Jesse & Jared) with five each. Third place was awarded to Deanne Sample who showed up just before the deadline with four.
The youth division was won by Brett Clark, who won the contest last year. It is rumored that he will move up to the adult ranks next year which is bad news for the old-timers. Following closely behind Brett was second place winner Hunter Sample and his younger brother Briar Sample. If their name sounds familiar, they are the sons of Deanne who places regularly in these events.
Sunday, October 5th families and friends gathered together for supper at the camp with more dishes and desserts than you could shake a stick at. All of us hunters, campers, and 42 players are grateful for another great beginning to the hunting season. It is good that we can still gather together every October to celebrate the East Texas tradition of squirrel hunting.