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OUTDOORS COLUMN: Hard-time squirrel luck

Bob Kornegay

Bob Kornegay

Well, it’s at last time for me to go squirrel hunting and I’m looking forward to it. As documented many times, I’ve always loved pursuing, harvesting, and consuming the tasty little “tree rats.” In fact, I’m of the opinion that squirrels provide perhaps the finest wild game meat there is.

So why do I habitually wait until late October or early November to begin my quest for a freezer full of dressed-out bushytails? After all, squirrel season opens in Georgia in mid August.

For me, it’s just too hot to hunt squirrels as early as the Georgia DNR says I can. I don’t care to copiously perspire when I hunt, and there are too many mosquitoes, ticks, and such lurking in the squirreliest places. Therefore, I wait until the weather’s more seasonable and the bugs are on a downward swing. Then I grab my .22 rifle and passionately begin my squirrel hunting endeavors.

I can already taste the fricassee, the squirrel-and-dumplings, and the smother-fried quarters. I can also see my annual “Hard-Time Squirrel Luck” looming just over the sporting horizon. You see, hard-time squirrel luck has afflicted me since I first became a hunter of squirrels back in my youth.

There was the time, for example, I shinnied up an oak tree and stuck my bare hand into a hollow, hoping to capture the young squirrel inhabiting the cavity for a “pet.” As I extracted the little rodent, firmly attached by his teeth to the end of my thumb, I discovered that squirrels do not take kindly to intruding human appendages. Take my word for it, incisors that can gnaw through hickory nuts can do mean and nasty things to digital extremities.

Then there were the squirrels Cletus Monroe and I used to shoot in Clete’s backyard when we were boyhood hunting buddies. Fattest, tastiest little buggers you ever stuck between two halves of a biscuit. We’d just wait for them to gather at Clete’s dad’s bird feeder and knock them off at a range of three feet with a Red Ryder BB gun.

Despite the fact that squirrels are notorious bird-seed thieves, it turned out the elder Mr. Monroe wasn’t baiting them for his son and me to harvest. He pointed this out by doing mean and nasty things to another human extremity good taste will not allow me to mention here. He later let it be known in the same fashion that the mourning doves flocking around his bird feeders weren’t fair game either.

Needless to say, bird-feeder squirrels are no longer on my prey list. This day and time, my hard-time squirrel luck most often centers around the fact that most of the squirrels that inhabit my favorite stretch of hardwood swamp bottom all choose to high-tail it for the next county when I decide to go hunting. It’s really weird. From spring through early fall, I enter the woods and am literally overrun with squirrels of all species. I see gray squirrels, fox squirrels, flying squirrels, chipmunks, and even a mutant or two I cannot identify.

Somehow, the squirrels that are legal game all seem to know I’m not packing my trusty .22 during spring and summer. They are also probably aware that I am absolutely pitiful when it comes to throwing rocks. Then, by late October, of course, they all mysteriously disappear.

Be that as it may, it is time for me to go squirrel hunting. As in seasons past, I’ll bag a few, miss a few more, and be gloriously happy just sitting on the ground beneath an old, gnarled oak tree. The forest floor will delightfully cool that portion of my anatomy heated up by Mr. Monroe those many years ago.

And so what if my game bag isn’t full when I get home? I’m not greedy, and, heck, I certainly wasn’t mad at a bunch of squirrels when I left to go hunting.

Besides, how many folks as lazy as I am want to skin more than two or three of the aggravating little scoundrels anyhow?