Squirrel hunting

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When we talked about huntin,’ it was almost always, without question, squirrel huntin’ we were talking about. There were a few bird (quail) hunters around,  but they were considered a step above ordinary hunters.
Big city living has changed my whole perspective about squirrels. Town squirrels are fearless. They know that nobody is going to be shooting at them. I’ve actually called one up to my bench in the corner by making his snarling, quacky sound back at him.  Grey squirrels are what we have in this town, and, I suspect, in most Alabama towns. I’d love to see some fox/red squirrels, but, I don’t know why, they just don’t come to town around here.
Those old fox squirrels are a lot bigger than the greys, and a little bit slower. An old boar squirrel can be pretty tough eating. Well, that’s what I remember. I haven’t eaten any kind of squirrel in 60 years or more. I just don’t crave squirrel meat any more.
But I remember when they were a delicacy, something special to add to our rather pedestrian menu of peas and cornbread and an occasional fried chicken.
But, just like ‘coons and ‘possums, they were elusive prey. I well remember the first squirrel I killed. It was a foxy. I had an old Remington .22. Espy Leger, I think it was, showed me how to rake away a little spot so I wouldn’t make so much noise in the leaves.
There was a big holly tree directly on the other side of Yellow Creek, right where Little Yellow Creek empties into it. I sat very still, alert, listening, the mighty hunter stalking his game. Something moved high in the holly. I got a shot and took it, and a big old fox squirrel came down with a whomp.
I had to go downstream a hundred yards to find a footlog. Then I hurried back up the other side and found my first squirrel, dead as a doornail. My .22 long had killed him cleanly.
Mother fried him, just as she would fry a chicken, and I thought it was excellent. But, as I say, don’t bring me any squirrel anymore, I’m no longer hungry for them.
Wild squirrels are exceedingly cautious and suspicious.  It takes skill and know-how to get a shot at one. I can walk through the hardwoods out by the Ridge Field today and not see a sign of a squirrel. My nephew, on the other hand, can go out there for a half hour and come back with the limit. I don’t know how he does it. He’s just a regular Daniel Boone, I suppose.
Now there was one place where we asked people not to hunt. That was down by the gulley below the barn, where some huge trees grew. Sometimes, while milking, I could see the squirrels playing down there, through the cracks in the stable wall.
But they wouldn’t come to the trees around the house, except rarely. I guess because they realized they’d get shot if they did.
Editor’s Note. Most people born after, say 1960, are not aware that, until the late 1950s the only wild game north of maybe Selma were rabbits, squirrels, quail and doves. Beginning in the 1950s the state conservation department began stocking deer and wild turkeys as row-crop agriculture decreased.
Rabbits and quail require a trained dog and doves, access to a field where corn or small grain were either harvested or planted. Squirrel hunting, on the other hand, required only a .22 rifle or a single-shot shotgun.
Bob Sanders is a veteran local radio personality, columnist, author and raconteur of note. He can be reached at bobbypsanders@gmail.com.

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