FAIRMONT, W.Va. — It’s not the opening week of buck season, but for some die hard enthusiasts the squirrel season is still their time of year in West Virginia. They won’t be disappointed in 2018.

“Last year we had a decent mast year and it helps them to survive the winter,” said Mike Peters, the Small Game Biologist for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. “The more squirrels that survive the winter, the more that reproduce in the spring, so it makes for a pretty good year this year.”

The mast survey for 2018 is not yet complete but preliminary data would indicate there is enough acorns and hickory nuts on the landscape to spread them out.

“At least in the northern part of the state, the hard mast is pretty good,” Peters explained. “Squirrels are going to be more spread out and not as concentrated as they would be in a poor mast year.”

In some cases, squirrels themselves are mast for other wildlife. Like most small game, they’re a meal for something, therefore you rarely see one more than a couple of years old.

A couple of generations ago in West Virginia squirrel season was as big as the buck season, since in those days hunters didn’t’ expect they would have much buck hunting success. However, the improvement of big game populations in West Virginia and the accelerated popularity of archery hunting has come at the expense of squirrel hunting.

“Turkeys, bear, deer, they do distract from squirrel hunting,” Peters said. “I don’t think any of our small game hunting gets as much attention as it used to, or as it should.”

Chances are good you’ll find plenty of squirrels in your nearby woodlot. If you haven’t been out in a while, maybe it’s time to renew your love affair with squirrel season.