Getting kids outdoors and squirrels out of the garden!
This past Saturday I was honored to be accompanied to the woods by one of my favorite squirrel hunting buddies, my 9-year-old nephew Owen Flanders. Together we were signed up as 1 of 168 teams, competing in the 2nd Annual Brooksville Squirrel Hunt. 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, spending a little quality time with a parent or other mentor.
The outpouring of love from the community for this event has been incredible. The 149 youth participants were 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. Even our own Brooksville City Council, via council member Blake Bell, has invited the winners of the competition to attend the upcoming city council meeting for special recognition of their success.
During the morning hunt, I had to take a short break for a call-in segment on the Big and Wild Outdoors radio program. While discussing the hunt with one of their hosts, Braden Gunn, my nephew’s tiny shotgun roared as he rolled a fat little nut-cutter off the limb, live on the air. That’s got to be a first for radio! Two of the co-hosts of the show were actively participating in the hunt as well that morning, giving live updates from the field as they secured 12 chunky tree-rats, besting our team’s bag of 11.
Once all of the squirrels were weighed in at the hunt headquarters, Preacher David Hope’s Cowboy Church, the teams were then called up for their awards and assorted other prizes. The team of Shannon Brass and Dillon Pinkston won the top prize with their quota of squirrels, earning them an envelope containing $1,680.00 and some hefty bragging rights. In second place was the team of Kevin Gonzales and Mike Bick, who also ended their day with a cash-stuffed envelope as did our third-place finishers, Bonnie and Loki Wood. I am sure proud to congratulate each of them on a great morning’s hunt!
Now, the winners of the hunt were determined by the overall weight of a quota of five squirrels. Now with such a large purse on the line, lots of folks joked about how easy it would be to add weights to the squirrels, so DC Simms, a celebrated local whitetail taxidermist, volunteered to check every squirrel turned in. I sat for a while, watching DC thoroughly investigate every single squirrel, and not once did he find reason to suspect foul play.
Of the thousands of participants and spectators gathered for the weigh-in and award ceremony, I never saw a frown amongst them. Not a single word of discontent or discouragement was uttered. But there were smiles all around, old friends catching up, new friends being made, and a community gathered together, celebrating the harvest and a day well spent in the outdoors. It all swelled up this old hunter’s heart and I couldn’t be any prouder to have been a part of it all. And as for my best buddy Owen, he’s thinking up a new strategy for next year’s hunt. He’s planning on adding some Little Debbie oatmeal cream pies to his mom’s bird feeders to help fatten up our local squirrel population!
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 and Good Hunting!