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Small game: habitat is everything

Updated: Aug 20, 2020

Good squirrel habitat on public-hunting lands matches good private-land habitat: big tracts of hardwoods

R. Wayne Bailey-Caswell Game Lands

The R. Wayne Bailey-Caswell Game Lands, covering 18,150 acres in Caswell County, is a mixed landscape of managed fields, hardwoods, pines, hickories, thickets, small streams and steep ridges. Acorn-bearing oaks and hickories supply food for gray squirrels.

“About 50% of Bailey-Caswell has open hickory and upland hardwoods, so gray squirrel hunting is excellent,” said biologist Baranski, who said the Commission also manages habitat for wildlife at Bailey-Caswell.

“We’ve got a lot of young clear-cuts, tons of acres in dove fields and burn blocks, so rabbit hunting also can be really good,” he said. “We have eight fields planted in brown top and proso millet, corn, sun flowers and buckwheat, covering 190 acres.”

Planted fields and burn blocks offer some quail hunting. The birds can’t be hunted on CURE areas (a quail-restoration project), but rabbit hunting is allowed.

Hunters don’t need special permits at this game land.

Butner-Falls of Neuse, Jordan Game Lands

Because these two game lands are near Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, many outdoorsmen visit both to open the year’s first hunting season for doves.

“Butner-Falls has seven managed fields (totaling 200 acres) that are extremely popular with the hunting public,” Baranski said. “Jordan Lake has nine dove fields of 65½ acres.”

Because of hardwoods on both game lands, hunters shouldn’t have any problem finding squirrels.

“The northern end of Butner-Falls is a good place for rabbits and beagles,” he said. “It has more fields and isn’t too developed. At Jordan, the best rabbit habitats are edges of dove fields.”

Jordan contains lots of bottomlands suitable for woodcock hunting.

Croatan National Forest

The Croatan National Forest’s landscape varies from mixed pine and hardwoods to swamps to pocosins, said biologist Clark.

“It has a mixed bag of small game,” he said.

The game land offers popular six dove fields in the Brices Creek region. Permits are required to hunt the first two days of dove season.

Hunting success on rabbits, squirrel and quail varies at Croatan.

“A lot of people hunt rabbits close to the dove fields and at wildlife openings after deer season,” Clark said. “It has former agricultural fields that hold cottontail rabbits and a few swamp rabbits.

“Quail mainly are found at fire-controlled places and transition areas between ridges and swamps.”

Mixed hardwoods and pine forests contain gray squirrels and some fox squirrels.

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