Dec. 8, 2021
Randy Zellers Assistant Chief of Communications
SPRINGDALE — The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is launching a new event this January celebrating small game hunting, and it’s hopeful that it will become an annual celebration. The inaugural Big Squirrel Challenge will take place at locations across Arkansas Jan. 7-8, 2022.
Participants can start hunting 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 AGFC’s 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 the AGFC 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, .17- or .22-caliber rimfire rifles are comfortable for hunters of all ages to carry and shoot, and shotguns from the tiny .410 to 12-gauge duck guns can be used with no. 4 to no. 6 shot if you’re able to stalk within range.
“Squirrels are just a great way to introduce someone to hunting,” Maynard said. “The focus is still on having a good time and less on bagging a trophy. This event isn’t looking to change that, just to give people a little something extra to enjoy from their day in the woods with a friend or family member.”
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 in The Natural State.
Arkansas’s squirrel season is from May 15 until the last day in February each year. The daily limit is 12 squirrels. Visit https://www.agfc.com/en/hunting/small-game/squirrel for more information on squirrel hunting. Visit https://www.agfc.com/en/education/calendar/public-event/arkansas-big-squirrel-challenge-2022 for more information on The Big Squirrel Challenge. More events are available at the AGFC’s Outdoor Skills Network Calendar.