Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014 | OUTDOORS
Squirrels offer challenges, excellent table fare
There’s not much going on at 3 a.m. in regard to quality television, but on occasion, I’ll catch a decent deer-hunting program that piques my interest, or gets me marginally fired up to actually get out and hunt. On a recent morning at around 3 a.m., I was on about the third feeding of my infant son, who isn’t fond of sleeping during night-time, when an hour of hunting shows had me thinking of getting outside for a while. And since it was well before daybreak, and I was wide awake, my mind began formulating a plan of action.
Since last year’s hunting clothes likely still have last year’s bloodstains on them, and the warm weather and mosquitoes have yet to die off, I’ve held off on bow hunting. And even with the resolution that’d I’d actually get out and try the duck opener for once, I instead went the easy route and decided on chasing squirrels for a few hours. I dozed off again, and by the time I got things moving it was around 9 a.m. before I finally made it to the woods.
It would have been nice to be out a bit earlier, especially with temperatures rising steadily as the day progressed, but sleep was feeling so much better. The squirrels would still be there when I arrived anyway, and since they hadn’t likely been hunted since the early ‘90s, I took my chances and expected a good hunt regardless of the warm weather, or the relentless mosquitoes.
The woods were brilliant, coming alive with the changing fall colors as clouds slowly gave way to the sun, and soon, a pair of squirrels could be heard barking in the distance. I closed in, and within a half-hour, I had already bagged my first squirrel of the day. And, while skinning my first prize, another could be heard in the distance, and that too, hit the ground a few minutes later.
The morning was shaping up to be better than anticipated, although skinning squirrels tends to be a bit difficult, and more time-consuming than I hoped it would be. But I’d taken a quick glance at a YouTube video, and before long skinning squirrels became less of a chore and a bit more rewarding. Taking tips from a longtime squirrel hunter like my father-in-law, was also an added bonus, but on placing my third squirrel in a small cooler of ice, it was getting close to closing time for me. The weather turned muggy and the bug spray was wearing off. The squirrels that remained or had been seen scurrying for high ground were nearly impossible to see, with trees still heavy with fall foliage.
In just a handful of hours I was back home again, rinsing off the morning kill and quartering them for what would later be a delicious slow-cooker meal that was even appealing to family members who wouldn’t otherwise eat something such as a squirrel. My daughter loved the darker meat as well, and came back for a couple of helpings. It wasn’t much of a meal, but more of a taste of what’s to come in the next month or so, as I continue to enjoy something I did more in my youth.
It seems as though fewer people are hunting squirrels for various reasons. Many opt for deer hunting instead or simply don’t want to go through the hassle of cleaning them. Some people may also be finding it a bit tough to find .22 shells these days, but it doesn’t take a brick of shells to take down a few squirrels, and it could very well be the most challenging and exciting form of hunting for kids. My only regret from hunting that day is that I wasn’t able to share it with someone else, especially my nephew or younger cousins, who fantasize about killing a big buck, but might benefit more from starting out on squirrels.
With squirrel hunting, there’s no need to “play the wind” or be concerned about using too much bug spray. Squirrels don’t care. There’s no real need to be extremely quiet and a pair of jeans and a dark shirt are the only camouflage you really need, and oftentimes, squirrel hunting is easier with two people, especially after a squirrel gets into the treetops.
Some of the best squirrel hunting of the year is yet to come, especially as temperatures and leaves start to fall, but as simple as squirrel hunting can be, it also offers challenges suited perfectly to the beginner and still great for the grown-ups.