We fidgeted and lolly-gagged around all summer waiting for hunting seasons and finally on September 2, they kicked off when dove season opened. The following weekend, teal season was launched and on the first day of October, archery season for deer kicked off in much of the state.
Although I haven’t gone after teal or a deer with stick and string, I did sample some dove shooting opening day.
When I was growing up down on the rural route in Goldonna way back when, we didn’t have deer, nobody hunted doves and the only ducks around our neck of the woods were “squealers” (wood ducks) and you couldn’t hunt them until November. However, there were squirrels and it was a tradition among the men and boys of the community to be in the woods before daylight on the first Saturday in October after squirrels.
I developed my passion for 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.
My first squirrel gun was a 22 single shot rifle with which I had limited success but my first real gun was that old double barrel dad passed down to me when he thought I was ready.
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 you can bet I 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 was not able to check the woods before opening day, but that’s okay because I know a spot with oaks and beeches and I’m betting there will be squirrels having breakfast. Biologists say there should be a fair crop of squirrels this year because of a favorable spring and early summer that allowed acorns and hickory nuts to develop. I’m confident I’ll be able to see the end of a branch do what it does when a squirrel is up there.
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 couldn’t stand a chance sneaking up on a squirrel. Sadly, it’s probably because their dads didn’t take them squirrel hunting to demonstrate how real hunting is done.
Why don’t you try it this season, dad? It’ll pay dividends down the road. I promise.