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Today is October 15, 2018

Outdoors

Youth and squirrels: A perfect combo

Youth and squirrels: A perfect combo

Squirrels are the perfect game animal when introducing youth and other newcomers to the hunting experience. Photo: Tony Kinton

    The memories are many and go back to childhood. If restricted to personal participation, these began when I was 11. But recall exists from times even earlier.
    Even before I took to the woods with my dad, I saw him come in from an early morning or late afternoon squirrel hunt and empty a worn and stained game vest on a wooden table outside. Squirrels for the most part, but occasionally there was a rabbit or duck or quail in the mix.
    None of this was done for recreation; it was simply a trip to the grocery stores found in various woodlots near home—a curious and misunderstood tactic by many in today’s society. The contents of that ragged vest were an integral part of our food supply during open hunting season.
    My primary chore in those informative years was to assist in the skinning of game, particularly squirrels. My dad’s old system of cutting a small slit in the back skin and pulling in opposite directions practically demanded two individuals. Yes, there were perhaps better methods touted and even demonstrated, but my dad had his way and that was that!
    The common grey squirrel found scattered across Mississippi is viewed now through a variety of lens that color the final picture. Some see squirrels as cute little boogers that dart about in city streets and perform acrobatic maneuvers along power lines. They do this.
    Some may see them as obnoxious little rodents that deal as much grief as possible by nesting in suburban attics. They do this.
    But the squirrel hunter is likely to view them in an entirely different posture. Squirrels, to these fortunate ones, are a worthy game animal that exists in abundance and affords a protracted season—somewhere approaching six months. I appreciate the squirrels’ cuteness and pronounced gymnastics and am alarmed by their housing arrangements when my own abode becomes theirs as well, but that last image mentioned above is the one I adopt, for I am a squirrel hunter.
     A relatively new form of nose-wrinkling disgust often found in this second decade of the 21st century comes from the mere suggestion that folks still eat squirrels. This disconcerting idea would not have been prevalent in 1958.
    The jacket-and-tie restaurant practitioner may writhe in angst and antiseptic oblivion at the thought of anyone actually consuming a squirrel. But for common and poor country folk of days past, that was not the case. Still not for some of us. The older squirrels were then and are now put into a stew that was and is more than glorious. The younger specimens fried crispy brown and perhaps smothered in gravy can be considered fine food. Served with hot biscuits, fried squirrels offer a presentation fit for nobility.
    Perhaps the most endearing element of squirrels is that they are a superb game animal. Far distanced from the backyard variety, a truly wild squirrel is fully cunning, difficult to hunt. An accomplished squirrel hunter is a refined and well-versed hunter no matter the game. And in addition to those long seasons that seem to go on forever, squirrels afford a great measure of action, much greater than petrifying in a deer stand while hoping a whitetail wanders by.
    This is not to take away from the state’s most regal wild thing, but the fact is that deer hunting can be hours and hours of boredom interrupted by 20 seconds of explosive exhilaration. That has a peculiar appeal that none of us desire to give up, but in contrast, squirrel hunting can be one episode of fast-paced doings after another.
    Should an old codger such as I elect to introduce a new hunter to the woods and fields, that old one could do far worse than take that novice to viable squirrel haunts. This newcomer will there have the opportunity to develop and refine skills such as stealth, eye and ear acuity, pin-point shooting and potentially repeated success. Not a bad way to begin it seems.
    Mississippi is fortunate to have many thousands of acres of good squirrel habitat, much of it open to public use. And long seasons have already been noted. There is included in those seasons a spring season and even youth-only hunts scheduled on some areas and with special, set-aside dates for the purpose of getting young hunters into the woods, And while it is not illegal to have such things along on a squirrel hunt, encourage youngsters to leave their electronic gadgets behind.
    Two months remain in the fall/winter season in the state. As a result, there is ample time to get out and give squirrel hunting a try. It holds the potential to become a favorite pastime.

 

    Tony Kinton has been an active outdoors writer for 30 years. His newest book, “Rambling Through Pleasant Memories,” is now available. Order from Amazon.com or Kinton’s website: www.tonykinton.com.

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