This Saturday, February 19th, I’m excited to be participating in the 2nd Annual Brooksville Squirrel Hunting Competition. My team partner, once again, this year will be my 9-year-old nephew, Owen, who is even more excited about it than I am. He’s gotten in a little range time with both a .410 shotgun and a tiny .22lr “cricket” rifle and can flatten any soda can I set in front of him.
This squirrel hunt, the brainchild of our huntmaster Michelle Payne of Brooksville, began as a way to tempt children to put down the electronics for a day and to get outdoors to spend a little quality time with a parent or other mentor. And at this time last year, her idea proved to be a huge success by attracting 72 two-person teams. Well, word has gotten out and this year’s competition is hosting 168 two-person teams with 147 of those hunters being kids! Now that really makes my old heart feel mighty good.
The outpouring of love from the community for this event has been incredible, with 25 individuals and businesses have donated thousands of dollars worth of items to be gifted as prizes and raffle items in support of our youth hunters. The kids are what it’s all about and I’m mighty grateful to Michelle and her great team of supporters for doing so much to give so many people an event like no other to look forward to.
I’ve had the honor of escorting many youth hunters to the woods, from squirrel hunts to whitetail deer, and for anybody pairing up with a youth for a trip afield, I’ve got a couple of suggestions. First, use a blind. Yes, I’ve listened to many conversations between veteran bushy tail-busters about their dislike of blind hunting. But with a kid along, go ahead and use one. The reason is that although we’ve trained ourselves, for the most part, to remain still in the woods, the kids are still full of fidgets. But from inside of a blind they can go ahead and fidget, stand up and sit down, pick their nose and check their phone without ruining a hunt. And hopefully, without being scolded every few minutes to sit still.
Second, please be wary of the bugs when you’re taking the kids out. I’ve been stomping around the woods a lot lately, squirrel hunting and scouting for turkeys, and I can promise you that we are not likely to run out of skeeters any time soon. Go ahead and double up on the Thermacell, and spray them down anyway with a good repellent. Our biggest obstacle to get them coming back for more is to make it fun, and nobody is going to be having fun while swatting at skeeters and picking off ticks. A little extra attention there can go a long way.
As always, if you have any comments, questions, or just want to share your success from the woods, give me a shout-out at [email protected] God Bless, Good Hunting!