Who Took You Hunting?

Squirrel_Eating_a_peanut

With the tragedies of this year’s archery season, I decided to take my son out for a Saturday of squirrel hunting.  He’s becoming more and more interested in hunting and the outdoors and I feel that it is my job to encourage his enthusiasm.  I write “my son” and often that’s how I say it as well.  He’s actually my step-son but it’s my belief that when you take a step-son or step-daughter, you accept that you are going to love them like your own.

As usual, he was up before me this Saturday.  He came to get me at around 5 am.  As much as I like hunting, I’m not getting up at 5 am for squirrel hunting.  “Go back to bed.  I’ll come and get you when my alarm goes off.”  Eventually, my alarm did go off and after MANY snooze buttons, I got out of bed and stepped into his room;  He was already awake.

We drove to Sleepy Creek Wildlife Management Area and squared away our gear.  It’s a bit warmer than I prefer for squirrel hunting.  I typically don’t go out until much later in the season.  I enjoy the late fall’s colder weather.  I also enjoy squirrel hunting with a rifle and less leaves on the trees.  But today’s adventures required little more than a couple of bottles of water, jeans, t-shirts, and an old shotgun.  As I took the shotgun shells from their box, I explained to Max (my step-son) how shotguns work and the good and bad of using them.  As with every outdoor adventure we have, I gave him “the talk” about  gun safety.  Repetition leads to retention.

From the parking area, there is an old logging road that dissects the WMA.  With an unloaded shotgun, we stepped from the confines of pavement into the forest, a place for boys to become men.  After we covered enough ground to safely load the shotgun, I talked with him about squirrels and squirrel hunting tactics:  look for mass, take a few quiet steps, then wait and watch, if you find a good location, take a seat on a fallen log and enjoy the moment, watch for any movement of the leaves – squirrel make a lot of commotion when jumping from tree to tree.  Of course, as we started walking, I learned a valuable lesson about hunting with a seven year old.  They are noisy!  Every third step I’d remind him how to walk quietly through the woods.  I’m certain that I said “shhh” and “sit still” more times in one morning than I had in my entire life.  Eventually, I gave up and we just enjoyed walking around and talking about “man stuff.”

Squirrel hunting has a very nostalgic feel to me.  The pressure of trying to harvest deer often becomes all consuming.  Sometimes it’s nice just to get outside, relax, and hunt for bushytails.  As I watched the treetops, I drifted back to the times of my youth and those men that took me hunting.  I thought back to my dad and our adventures.  My dad wasn’t a hunter.  Sure, he went hunting and was certainly successful from time to time.  But hunting never seemed to be his “thing.”  I think back now and realize that taking me hunting probably wasn’t his top choice for activities but realized that it’s important to get boys outside.  This is especially true for boys that long for the mountains.

My grandfather also took me out fairly often.  He was the epitome of a woodsman and could truly live off the land.  He was probably the most successful hunter and fisherman that I’ve ever known.  If he wasn’t taking game or catching fish, no one was.  He always enjoyed telling the story of taking me squirrel hunting and me wanting the Milk Duds.  It seems that someone had littered a paper sack just beside deer droppings on the forest floor.  I noticed the “Milk Duds” that someone had spilled and wanted to have a bite.  It’s probably good that he stopped me.

Later on in life, my brother-in-law took the time to take me squirrel hunting, as did my much older cousin.  In regards to my cousin, even now, he’s a woodsman through and through.  He hunts nearly year-round and is an advanced fisherman.  I wish I could have learned more from him when I had the chance.  We don’t speak these days due to family issues.

Of a long line of men that were worth their weight in salt, I’m proud to be carrying on the tradition of teaching my son.  We’ll start with squirrel hunting and gradually move towards more difficult game.  He is already shooting a bow and arrow so hopefully, he’ll reach a point where HE talks his mom into letting us spend a few extra Saturdays in the woods with our bows.

Take a moment to think back to your younger years.  Most of you probably had someone in your life that took the opportunity to take you to  the woods.  If you did, you should give them a PHONE CALL or VISIT, not a text, email or other electronic communication and tell them “thank you.”

I’d really enjoy hearing who made the effort to take you out hunting or spending time in nature!

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7 thoughts on “Who Took You Hunting?

  1. My father was my teacher. I took a gun safety course at a young age and always heard my father’s advice when crossing ditches or going over a fence. The admonitions were never a reprimands but encouragements to: 1. Never believe the gun is unloaded or on safety, and 2. Always know where the muzzle is pointed and what it is pointing at. This became especially important in group hunts.

    One of our first outings together was a squirrel hunt on a warm autumn day. My father selected a well trafficked area and we both took posts close to each other and sat on the ground in the mildly warm sun. We both fell asleep..

    I was woken by a odd noise that turned out to be the chatter of a large grey squirrel and his rush across the forest floor. He bolted up to a squirrel ramp and sat. A ramp is a fallen branch leading up to the side of the tree. Squirrel shortcuts. He was barking at us and trying to understand why we were in his dining area.

    From a sitting position, I carefully aimed, shot, bagged the squirrel and shattered my father’s Rip Van Winkle state. Quite startled as i recall.

    Later Dad went on to tell me that his father did not shoot squirrels with shotguns, but rather a single shot .22 cal rifle. His goal was to always shoot them in the head and more importantly the eye. He wanted no wasted meat.

    That became my goal in the years that followed. I improved my marksmanship indeed. I wonder now if grandfather was indeed as good as father said.

    I want to believe that he was because that day is still as important and thrilling to me today, as it was 45 years ago. To this day my father shoot the chipmunks and squirrels that rob his bird feeders… with his single shot bolt action .22 rifle.

    • That’s a great story buddy! Thanks. I’ve only napped a few times when out and about but my dad is known to sleep like a baby when “hunting.” I hunt w/ a rimfire rifle as well but I don’t worry so much about hitting the eye as I don’t use any of the head. As long as I can score a headshot, I’m satisfied. It must be an old-school thing as my grandfather always tried not to damage the brains so that he could cook them as well. That’s just not for me. lol

      Thanks for sharing!

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