Planting the Seed of Squirrel Hunting

My goal here is to take you back in time to show you how being introduced to squirrel hunting has brought me to where I am today, along with laying the ground work from my start.  From planting the seed, to seedling, to growing into the squirrel hunter I am today.  My background is in horticulture so the seed reference is fitting for me. One thing I stick to as a squirrel hunter, even in everyday life, is to never stop learning.  You'll be the same person five years from now, except for the people you meet and the information you digest.  Now that the philosophical ground work has been laid, lets go back in time.....

Seeds of Squirrel Hunting Planted 1
I've mentioned in previous journal entries about being a sour puss about taking pictures and here is a prime example! The picture still embodies how the seed was planted.

 

Most often in the case of something being passionately expressed in your life, it happens through a parent, grandparent or mentor.  In my situation it was my Daddy and Pa who planted this squirrel hunting seed in me.  Hunting in general was implemented, and through this I found that squirrel hunting excited me most.  Spending that time with family and learning how to use a "dangerous thing" i.e. your firearm safely, are memories and lessons I never want to forget.  I also plan on passing them down to my daughter, and anyone I have the capability to mentor to.  Being under this constant supervision and correction, allows you to build that safety/skill muscle you need to become an efficient/responsible hunter.  

Seeds of Squirrel Hunting Planted 2 The two mentors I speak of in the above text, along with my younger brother, Missy and Duke.

 

Constant reiteration of how to handle a firearm in a safe manner, along with hunting under my Daddy and Pa's tutelage, allowed me to begin hunting without supervision at the age of twelve.  My brother and I had been supervised with safe gun handling practices, and had proven that we were capable of being responsible enough to redeem a little freedom.  This amount of freedom is completely inherit upon the maturity of the child.  We were obviously evaluated correctly, because as of today I have the same amount of holes in my body that I was born with, and I intend to keep it that way.  This move toward freedom gives you a great feeling of accomplishment.

Squirrel Hunting with Shotguns 2 It's not necessary to be completely camouflaged out to bag a few squirrels. As a NC State graduate and reformed fan having any evidence of ever being a Tarheel fan should not be allowed to reach the public's eyes.

 

My Mema was also a driving force in my squirrel hunting passion.  Rarely did she ever squirrel hunt with us, but it was a load of fun when she did.  She was a tough old lady being raised with 11 brothers and sisters.  She knew her way around a firearm, and gave us that cherished memory of tagging along for a hunt or two.  Her gun of choice was a double barreled, 20 gauge, coach gun. Short and stout, just like her.  She introduced a very fun aspect to squirrel hunting.  Always entertaining, and that's something I took away from her hunts with us.  I use it to this day.  My hunting buddies would tell you right now, that hunting with me you will be sure to be entertained.  Thanks, Mema.  

Squirrel Hunting with Shotguns I'm completely convinced that the only reason we had such a good hunt was:
1. I had a waist bandoleer of 25, 20 gauge shotgun shells.
2. My brothers Reebok pumps were pumped to the max!!!!

 

Another aspect that came from this passion to squirrel hunt was the lesson of giving and humility. Passed on again from my two hunting mentors.  An area I hunted in as a youth had a struggling economy and as a result we would give our squirrels away to the less fortunate.  I had no idea that blessing them with these squirrels would have more of a blessing on myself.  Just remembering and writing about what it felt like back then to hand over this gift of squirrels makes me a little teary eyed. If you are doing it right, the giver receives the greater reward than those that were gifted.  Let me take you to that place, so you can feel "vicariously" through my writing just what it felt like.   

I remember a hunt where we took eight or so squirrels in a morning hunt.  Back in those days we would put the squirrels in a plastic grocery bag.  By the time you've got eight in the bag you are at capacity.  We'd drive about 2 miles down the road to Miss Ola's house, actually a small, rundown 1200 or so square foot double wide.  Ola's daughter and son also stayed with her, as Miss Ola was up in age and had difficultly getting around.   We'd pull in the drive, gather our squirrels and knock on the door. When the door would swing open, usually her son would have a huge smile on his face. "How y'all doin' this mornin'.  "Look like y'all had a good mornin'!"  "Thank y'all so much!"  "Y'all don't know how much of a blessing this is."  Looking straight into the house, there would be Miss Ola sitting on her stool at the oven, in the kitchen.  Miss Ola, "Y'all boys brought me some squirrels?"  "I can't wait to get them skint up and in the pot."  "Thank y'all so much."  There'd be some small chitchat after this, then we'd always let them know that we were appreciative for them to take from us, and that hopefully we'd have an equally good afternoon hunt and be back with another bag.  Miss Ola has since passed away, but her children still inhabit her place.  If we happen to hunt that area we always stop by to give away our quarry.  It always blesses me more to give away our take, to someone who needs it more than we do.  That's the lesson to take away from this story.

Squirrel Hunting with Semi-autos 1 Ahh the Marlin Model 60, jeans that were too tight, a 5 panel barn roof hat, and a belt buckle the size of a hubcap. Welcome to the high school squirrel hunting years.

 

After mastering the shotgun as an effective squirrel hunting tool, I graduated to the .22 rifle.  That added fuel to the fire for squirrel hunting.  The accuracy, combined with a quieter report of a .22 rifle were aspects that make it my go to choice today.  

Squirrel Hunting with Henry's My how we change over the course of a decade.

 

Thinking back for a second it comes to mind that Pa's old bird dog, Missy, helped make squirrel hunting more enjoyable.  You could come out of the house with your rifle and she'd come to attention.  She'd take a big stretch from being laid up, and sound off with a growl/howl noise that said, "I'm ready if you are, let's go!"  She bust off towards the woods and before you had a plan she'd have a squirrel treed.  Missy was suppose to hunt quail.  She was considered a "drop" bird dog.  From what I'm told a cross between a pointer and a setter.  What I know is she was a self trained, squirrel treeing machine.  If you couldn't get to her tree fast enough, she'd come looking you, or move to another tree.  Formally this was incorrect behavior for a squirrel dog, but it didn't matter to us.  We weren't in a competition hunt, it was for fun and food.  She'd give you a workout because she had no perception of range.  Where she treed was where she treed, and you better put your hustle on because she was on a time limit.  Sometimes when she'd see us, and we could visually mark the tree, she'd head off looking the next squirrel.  Those were some good times spent chasing that dog through the woods.

Squirrel Hunting with Missy This dog use to keep us in high gear in the squirrel woods!

 

We also got a dog before I graduated high school.  A female Jack Russel terrier named Boo.  Boo wasn't a very big dog.  A short legged, wire haired, gun shy, house dog.  One summer while painting the interior of my parents house, we used a live trap to catch a squirrel.  Boo's whole demeanor changed.  She would bark and chase the squirrel around the cage.  Upon release, Boo would tree the squirrel.  Problem was she didn't break her gun shyness until about her third year of hunting.  Missy may have aided in that effort.  Boo was so short her undercarriage would drag the leaf litter in the woods.  She was an excellent hole dog, and great for tight spaces.  She also had zero fear of a wounded squirrel on the ground.  She'd sail in on a squirrel like that, with the thought she was a dog twice her size.  Boo like Missy have since passed on, but they left there mark on me as a squirrel hunter.  They are the reason I have two "squirrel dogs" myself, and continue to enjoy squirrel hunting with a dog.  

Boo treed on a Squirrel After ingesting a half a block of rat poison, and being bitten 3 times by two different copperheads this ole pup went to her grave with the ambition to tree a squirrel.

 

I hope my story of emergence to maturity within squirrel hunting has left you with a desire to try squirrel hunting.  There is so much more than just hunting a squirrel, learned in the woods.  Humility, safety, grace, discipline, education, freedom, responsibility, happiness, friendship, these are all within this thing I participate in called squirrel hunting.  I hope you see it goes deeper.  So many life lessons learned.  If this article has moved you, please share it or comment below.  I'd love to hear your stories.

 Squirrel Hunting with the Remington 597 Traditional Thanksgiving Squirrel Hunt Traditional Thanksgiving Squirrel Hunt 2

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Gerald Dickerson June 4, 2015 at 2:18 pm

Another excellent read Nate. Thank you.

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Big Daddy September 14, 2015 at 3:08 pm

Many, many fond memories. Enjoyed the trip down memory lane, well done.

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Larry Hooker February 24, 2016 at 6:11 pm

Great tale, reminds me of my own journey to become a hunter. I don’t Squirrel hunt as much as I used to but it and Rabbit hunting will always be close to my heart. I have a very good friend from down Hope Springs way who is a SHF (Squirrel Huntin Fool) and we have made a pact to hunt whenever he passes through town. I usually hunt Pisgah National Forest near my home in Asheville.
Anyway, great site, good information and great stories.
Take care

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