Dawn was just breaking as the sun reached the eastern horizon, daylight barely overcoming the shadows. The crickets and other nighttime insects were ceasing their song as birds and frogs took up their chorus. My partner for the morning’s hunt, eight-year-old Owen Geer, nudged me before pointing upwards into the oak hammock before us. His eyes wide and a smile spreading across his face.
“I see one!” He whispered excitedly, “He’s coming down that tree.”
I too had seen the squirrel and very little time elapsed before the quiet of the morning was broken, by the sound of an ancient, single-shot shotgun; and Mister Squirrel fell. The morning was overcast with intermittent rains and wind, making hunting quite difficult, so it was a good while before another repeated the mistake of showing himself. But, with a lot of patience, my partner was able to submit our quota of five squirrels, to be weighed in by four o’clock that afternoon. See, we had signed up as one of seventy-two registered teams to compete in the First Annual Squirrel hunt hosted by Lake Lindsey Mall and Deli and were eager to make a good showing.
The competition, conceived and organized by Michelle Payne and hosted by Bridie Jones, owner of the Lake Lindsey Mall, was an unexpected success before the hunt even took place. The one hundred and forty-four hunters were fairly an even split between adults and children and that right there filled my heart with so much joy. If you’ve given any attention to this column in the past you’ll know how much I love introducing kids to the beauty of the outdoors! The rules were simple, to submit a five squirrel quota, using any legal harvest method as determined by our Florida Wildlife Commission, to be weighed in and the heaviest five would win.
“Win what?” you may be asking.
The event was a one-hundred percent payout, with fifty percent going to the winning team, thirty percent going to the second-place finishers and twenty percent paid out for third. Fourteen hundred and forty-four dollars were ultimately divided up, amongst the winners. Who’d have thunk it, right?
My little buddy and I? The quota of squirrels we submitted were just heavy enough to earn us a third-place finish. And by four o’clock, the place was standing room only with hunters and spectators awaiting the results with not a frown to be seen. Such a gathering of a happy and diverse crowd was simply awesome. I spent most of the afternoon cornered by my truck listening to dozens of stories of the morning hunt from many of the kids who had competed and their excitement was absolutely infectious.
Following the success of this, the first hunt, there’s no doubt that there will be a second and I can assure you my little buddy Owen and I are both looking forward to it. As always, if you have any questions or a story to share, feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]. God bless and good hunting!