Squirrel Hunt With A Bonus

By By Otha Barham / outdoors editor
Nov. 21, 2003
The other day I again was favored by Mother Nature because I chose the be in the woods hunting squirrels. Stalk hunting squirrels seems to always provide a bonus or two from the natural world. Sometimes we are treated to a surprise and sometimes we witness the expected some welcome duplicate of a sight or sound that has blessed us before.
Granted, just being in the autumn woods affords gifts to most hunters. Squirrel hunters have no edge here. Just this week I saw a giant bobcat cross my greenfield during a deer hunt. He was the biggest and most beautiful one I have ever seen.
But several days ago I had an equally rewarding incidental benefit in the squirrel woods where long walks in the woods tend to yield abundant inspiring experiences.
My plan was to hunt squirrels in the hardwoods that surround a large pond. Approaching the pond before daylight, I heard wood ducks chattering on the water. There were two or three flocks splashing here and there while making all their sounds, from that characteristic whistle to quiet purrs. As daylight arrived, a piercing whistle, almost reaching a scream, would startle me as a bird came or went in flight, its piercing call dutifully duplicating exactly the same sound coded by nature itself long ago to be understood fully only by wood ducks.
Sneak Play
I widened my planned route to stay just far enough away from the pond so as not to disturb the ducks. I managed to take five squirrels by eight o'clock without flushing the birds. Now and then I would sneak close enough to see the water, small ripples on the glassy, still surface of which revealed the locations of individual ducks. When I got lucky, a gorgeous drake, one of Gods finest conceptions of design and color, would glide by my little opening, its beauty causing me to involuntarily catch a short breath and hold it.
I don't know how many more squirrels I could have bagged toward a limit that still morning if I hadnt kept watching the wood ducks. But it doesn't matter. A sidelight became a highlight. Just like the time in Scott County when a racoon crashed out of a leafy nest as I pulled on the muscadine vine when I, of course, expected a squirrel. Just like the time when a flock of huge Canada geese flew overhead in the morning fog, so close to the ridge top that I could almost touch them, causing me to forget about squirrels for a moment.
If there is a hunting activity we take more for granted than squirrel hunting I don't know what it might be. And what is odd about this is that it is one of the most challenging and rewarding of the outdoor sports.
And furthermore it is the sport that probably introduced more of todays hunters to the hunting tradition than any other. We probably don't recount a particular stalk of a particular squirrel with the exuberance displayed by the safari hunter who dropped a charging Cape buffalo, but hardly a squirrel hunt is spoken of without affection.
That is except for the hunts when the bushy tailed rascals outsmart us and in so doing heighten our determination on future hunts.
Not That Easy
The casual observer might view a squirrel hunt as simply strolling through the fall woods and pot shooting squirrels as they show themselves. Hunters know that it is not like that. Woods squirrels, as opposed to town squirrels, expect a lot more danger and they have the eyes, ears and speedy feet to avoid it.
The squirrel hunter who carelessly drags his or her boots in dry leaves or makes quick movements or coughs even slightly or wears bright clothes will not bring home many squirrels. Squirrel hunting is like golf or bowling; the tiniest mistakes will sabotage the score.
My plea is for us to give stalk hunting for squirrels its due. Top billing; prime status. Its a lot easier to bag a deer from a comfortable shooting house with a scoped rifle while it grazes unsuspectingly than to drop a squirrel scrambling up a vine-covered tree with a tree branch across your face and a sawbriar twisted up in a pants leg.
If an interlude of testing your woodcraft and stalking skills and bagging some of nature's endearing experiences interests you, try stalk hunting squirrels.