When I was growing up down on the rural route, I developed an interest in the fox squirrels and cat (gray) squirrels in the woods down on the creek. My first hunting experience was a fox squirrel that Bud Pennington, an old fellow who lived up the road, pointed out to me as it hunkered tight on a limb.
Mr. Bud’s squirrel dog had treed it. He pointed it out to me, I raised my old double barrel, took aim and pulled the trigger. The squirrel tumbled down in a shower of leaves and I was a thrilled young hunter.
Since that exciting day long years ago, hunting squirrels has been a passion of mine. I don’t think I’ve missed more than a couple of opening days of squirrel season since.
Today, things are a bit different. I don’t chase them as passionately as I did when I was younger.
Today, I have a pet squirrel. Well, she’s not actually a pet; she scoots away when I move too quickly but after a pause, she’s back.
Our yard is home to quite a few squirrels but a particular one kept coming on the porch looking for something to eat. I decided to try something; I dropped a handful of sunflower seeds next to the lounge chair where I enjoy sitting when the weather permits. I sat and waited.
Soon she ventured cautiously onto the edge of the porch, pausing and sitting up to study me and the pile of sunflower seeds. Her eye on the seed pile won her over. She was soon sitting within a couple of feet of where I sat, and she began to eat.
While I am enjoying having this close encounter with the squirrel, as an outdoor writer, I have to report that spring squirrel season is upon us. It begins May 7 and runs through May 29. The daily limit is three with a possession limit of nine.
This leaves me a bit conflicted. While I am enjoying the close encounter with my squirrel on my porch, there are plenty of them in the woods that are there for the taking. I admit that a young squirrel, dusted in flour, salt and pepper and fried like the Colonel does his chicken is a favorite of mine on the table nestled next to a bed of rice slathered with brown gravy, hot biscuits and a side of baby English peas.
I live in the country so it would be a simple matter to sit on my porch, watch for a young tender squirrel to appear and pop him with my .22. However, I have encouraging words for all the squirrels that live in my yard. You guys are off-limits.
I actually once hunted squirrels in spring. It was not for me. Something about trying to down a squirrel with a warm breeze in my face, filtered through green leaves while purple martins twitter overhead, just doesn’t feel right. I never went back.
An outdoor writer friend who hunts squirrels in spring once told me that springtime squirrels are tastier than those taken during the fall season. They feed on tender buds rather than hard mast-like hickory nuts and the flavor is milder and tastier.
Once the spring season opens May 7, go ahead and give it a try. I’ll be watching for squirrels but it will be a particular one.
There are squirrels in the woods and there are squirrels in my yard. I’m going with the one nibbling sunflower seeds at my feet.