The wonderful deep blue fall skies are here and gun season for deer is still almost four weeks away. So, unless you bow hunt (and I do,) it leaves you with other options for getting away to the outdoors. A great option is to take some time to hunt squirrel.
Squirrel hunting in the fall was as much a part of my fall hunting as bream fishing was part of my summers. Back then, there was no bow season in October. No compound bows, cross bows or even recurvebows used by anyone that lived in our “neck of the woods” but, that was not something that we longed for. We knew the deer season would be in soon enough and we had pleanty of time to get a freezer full of deer meat, even if the season did end a month earlier than is does now.
Squirrels and rabbits were the first game animals we hunted each year and we were as excited about it as we were to hunt deer, maybe more so. Deer hunting was a slower, harder type of hunting back then, mostly due to the human errors we made. There was many days I spent hunting deer in jeans and a flannel shirt with no scent cover and little concern for wind direction. We just sat where we found a trail since nobody planted greenfields back then, I guess that is one reason I still prefer to hunt in the woods rather than on a greenfield most days.
I was allowed to tag along with my dad and older brother on squirrel hunts as soon as I was out of diapers and still remember daddy saying I could go hunting if I could walk fast enough and not pee in my pants. It helped me to “get trained” probably six months sooner! And daddy would ride me on his shoulders at times to help me keep up. The next February, I turned four and considered myself “ready to hunt”. That fall, daddy issued me a 12 gauge single barrel shot gun that was a hand-me-down from my brother. It had a lump in the barrel about four inches from the end where my brother had allowed the end to get in the mud unnoticed and on the next shot it distorted the barrel. Daddy took his torch and a hammer and slowly worked the barrel back down to almost round while he kept it glowing cherry red from the torch. I remember watching him perform the repair in awe. As a child, I thought my daddy was able to fix most anything! And all through my childhood, he proved he could!
Well, the next trip to the woods at the advanced age of four, we were all hunting together and daddy decided it was time for me to “get my first squirrel”. We had walked a long way through the beautiful hardwood swamp on a neighbor’s land and daddy pointed out a squirrel in the top of an oak tree feeding on the acorns that were “raining” lazily down. I had already shot the old Iver Johnson several times at some cans and was confident with it. I lined up the shot and when the squirrel hit the ground with a loud “plop” I was as proud as a hunter standing over a 12 pointer! The great thing was, in just a few minutes I got to take another and then another! We all had old army surplus green canvas field bags and when I got back home with my three squirrels in my own game bag, I thought I was a great hunter! Some memories stay with you. That was 1959 and I have forgotten a million memories since then but, that one stuck!
Now squirrel season last on over into February and I like to hunt then since the leaves are gone and the squirrel are easier spotted. But, nothing is better for squirrel hunting than a early fall day with the vibrant beauty of the fall woods.
I still make it to the squirrel woods each fall for atleast one trip so I can prepare one of my favorite squirrel dishes such as fried squirrel with broth gravy. This is an easy and very tasty dish made by first boiling the cleaned and soaked squirrels in lightly salted water for an hour or more, even overnight is fine. Rinse the squirrels and cover them with water in a boiler pan and par-boil them to tenderize the meat. This is not always necssary but, it does make them more tasty and the broth they make from the boiling water is very flavorful. Flour and fry the squirrel in a skillet. when finished, add a few tea spoons of fesh flour to the skillet making sure there is enough oil to make your gravy base or “roux” as some call it. Brown the base over medium heat, stirring constantly and when you think it is brown enough to suit you add the broth to thin it down, again add the broth slowly while stirring to determine when the gravy thickness is to your liking. Serve with bisquits and white rice or mashed potatoes. It is mighty good!
Back to the hunt, Squirrel hunting is a great way to allow success to come to young hunters. They can use a small caliber shotgun such as a 410 or a 20 gauge with #6 or #7.5 shotshells and with a little prior practice, they can take squirrels! It makes for some memorable mornings in the early fall woods. Afternoons are good too, but the monring light make the spotting of the game a bit easier for those learning the ways of the woods.
For adults, squirrel hunting with a 22 rifle is a challenge! a squirrel on the run from tree to tree can be harder to hit witth a 22 than a dove with a shotgun! Stalking and taking squirrels with your 22 rifle is also a great way to home your spot and stalk skills for the upcoming deer season, not to mention you can cover alot of your deer hunting ground and get in some good scouting for rublines and other deer sign. Try a few squirrel hunts! The season is in and the time is now!
More next week, until then..