Happy New Year, my friends! There’s a little bit of time left during deer season if you still have empty spaces in your freezer. I’ve got one un-filled spot on my quota for the season and will likely try to fill it soon with my old .30-06. But, primarily, I’ll be turning my attention to the treetops. That’s right, it’s time to start busting some bushy tails!
I’ve been so excited to begin squirrel hunting this year since I have a new partner to chase tree rats with: my step-daughter-to-be, Soleil, who just got her very own tiny .410 shotgun. We’ll be visiting a few favorite live-oak strands out in the Citrus Wildlife Management Area, as well as a few favorite old spots in the Croom Wildlife Management Area. We’re pretty much going to be focusing on public land squirrels and saving our backyard nut-cutters for the annual Brooksville Squirrel Hunt coming up in February.
These next handful of weeks will be Soleil’s crash course in squirrel hunting, leading up to the big competition. Although all of the upcoming tutorials for collecting a fine mess of limb chickens are going to provide plenty of squirrel suppers, that is the best part of it all. I truly love eating them as much as I do hunting them.
First up will be a big pot of squirrels and dumplings. Maybe some squirrel casserole or even a big platter, deep fried, southern style! I don’t have enough space in this column to print each of my favorite recipes. However, if you’d like to try them, you can e-mail me, and I’ll be happy to share.
Now, for her benefit, squirrel hunting is a great way to enter the hunting sport. It has so many lessons for skills she’ll need later when I begin introducing her to big game hunting. Some of those lessons are stealth, quiet, stalking, marksmanship, and, above all, patience. For all hunters, patience is a very important tool, and in this day and age of instant gratification, patience on the hunt can be the most difficult to teach.
We have already been working on gun safety, how to carry her shotgun safely, and how to not only identify her target but look beyond it to ensure every shot she takes is in a safe direction. Also, I opted for her to hunt with a shotgun. Shotguns are limited-range weapons, and when firing up into the treetops, it’s important to know that the unspent shot will fall harmlessly back to earth. Unlike the widely favored .22lr rifle, whose bullet can travel up to a mile away should the shot miss the squirrel and sail off into thin air. To me, that’s way too dangerous of an opportunity for the bullet to come down into a residential area. If we’re going to hunt, above all else, we’re going to do so safely.
If you have any questions or comments about this week’s article, feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]. God Bless, and good hunting!