Talkin' Outdoors

The calendar says it’s mid-August. It’s hot; it’s dry and most outdoorsmen and women I know are spending their days under the cooling comfort of air conditioning instead of braving the sweltering conditions in the outdoors.

Thus, it is admittedly not easy to come up with a timely column this week. Fishing is slow and it’s too early to think about hunting seasons just yet so what’s an outdoor writer to do? I’ve got it — I’ll write about something that has bugged the daylights out of me for years; squirrels that rob my bird feeders despite everything I’ve tried to keep them away.
For years I have lamented and written about my frustration in my inability to keep squirrels off my bird feeders. I’ve suspended feeders from limbs on fishing line and actually watched squirrels slide down the tiny monofilament to reach the feeder.
I’ve had them jump from tree trunks to my feeders at distances that could qualify them for the Olympics long jump.

One feeder mounted atop a steel pole was easy pickings for a squirrel; it had no trouble scooting up the pole to get to the seeds. I watched to see how he did it; he got a running start and was able to scamper up the smooth steel pipe and reach the feeder before losing momentum.

I got the idea if I could make the pole more slippery, maybe the furry rodent would lose traction before reaching the feeder. Borrowing Kay’s container of shortening, I applied a liberal coating to the pole and I felt smug and was thoroughly entertained in watching the squirrel jump on the pole and slowly slide to the ground.   

Squirrels are not easily deterred from doing what they want to do and this crafty creature continued to jump on the pole and slide down again and again. That was all part of his plan, I learned, as he was eventually able to scoot up the pole once the greasy stuff had been transferred to his belly fur. He didn’t seem to mind; he wanted my sunflower seeds more than he cared if his belly was covered in lard. It was a failed experiment but entertaining to watch nonetheless.     

I went to the store with the idea of finding something that would let the birds feed freely without limb rats robbing the feeders. I had seen one advertised that featured a motor that was activated with the weight of a squirrel. It would spin and give the squirrel a cheap thrill of being flung across the yard. However, these ingenious contraptions cost nearly $100 so as much as I wanted to see a “flying” squirrel, I balked at the price.

I saw some that were encased in heavy wire mesh that allowed birds to use their beaks to reach the seeds but keep squirrels away from the feed. However, at around $50, I decided there had to be something else that would work and not dip too deeply into my pocket book.   

Then I spied something that cost less than $10 and that claimed to give me the results I was looking for. It’s called a Squirrel Baffle and features a simple plastic dome mounted above the feeder. A squirrel has to get around it to get to the feed and when he steps on the dome, it tilts and he slides off.   

Deciding to give it a try — a ten spot seemed to be worth investing — I bought one and mounted it above one of my feeders. I hate to brag too soon for fear a squirrel somewhere in my yard is formulating plans to outsmart the dome but after a month, there has not been a single squirrel on the feeder.

It may be too hot to fish and too early to think about hunting seasons but as long as there’re squirrels and bird feeders in my yard, I’ll have something to write about.