Hunting seasons have started to ramp up with the dove opening becoming a distant memory, teal season has come and gone and bow hunters are already sitting in tree stands starting October 1 as they have for years.
Saturday, October 8, a season opened that I’m afraid has lost its luster it had for eons ever since the folks in Baton Rouge began setting season dates and regulations. Squirrel season around the state opened Saturday and if I had to guess, I’d say that each year, the number of squirrel hunters decline. Why? I don’t have iron clad answers but my suspicion is that there is too much competition coming from a variety of angles.
Adults are busy preparing food plots and deer stands and some who formerly chased squirrels are too busy to fool with bushy tails. On weekends, many have their youngsters with them enlisting their help in trimming shooting lanes and such. Then there are ball games and pep squad practice and a myriad of other activities taking place this time of year. Who has time to go sit in the woods and hunt squirrels?
I developed my passion for squirrel hunting as a kid by tagging along with my dad as he taught me the ropes. Dad packed his old Stevens double barrel 12-gauge, we’d sneak into an acorn flat or hickory ridge before daylight, take a seat on a moss-covered log and wait.
As morning dawned, my dad would whisper instructions to me, his wide-eyed student. “See that limb moving? That’s a jay bird; see how it flutters?”
In a moment, he’d nudge me and point to the end of an oak branch where movement indicated there was something up there.
“That’s a squirrel cutting acorns. See how the movement is different from that of the bird,” he’d whisper.
I’d keep my seat on the log as I watched my mentor ease to his feet and keeping an eye on the squirrel, he’d move easy like a cat, being careful to keep from stepping on a stick or crunching leaves. He’d sneak to within range, raise the old shotgun to his shoulder and I’d always jump when the BOOM went off. The squirrel would tumble to the ground and if he was sure it was dead, he’d let me go pick it up. What a thrill just to be out there with my dad watching him do what I’d soon be doing myself.
Even though several decades have passed since those special days with my dad, something within me wants to keep the tradition alive. I may not hunt squirrels again the rest of the season but was in the woods Saturday morning sitting on a log with my shotgun, waiting for daylight and the first squirrel to move.
The busyness of work has kept me away from scouting so far this year and I might not set foot in the woods prior to opening morning, but that’s okay because I know a spot with oaks, beeches and hickories and my plan was to be there doing again what I’ve done for years.
I eventually moved on from hunting squirrels to trying to outwit deer and turkeys but any success I’ve had was conceived and incubated during those early days when I hunted squirrels with my dad.
There are kids today who have no trouble filled their season deer tags from the comfort of a box stand but those same youngsters would have trouble sneaking up on a squirrel because they have never had the experience.
To me, the essence of hunting involves going one-on-one with a wild and wary creature and outwitting him on his home turf. Nothing gets a hunter’s juices flowing more than coming out of the woods with a bushy tail or two in the game bag.