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RISE AND SHINE
CAUSE IT’S SQUIRREL TIME!
By Steve McCadams
Snap! Crackle! Pop!
Sounds like a breakfast cereal ad but it also doubles as the slogan for
opening morning in the squirrel woods where clumsy bushytails fumble
hickory nuts from high in the treetops.
Finding a tree where squirrels are hitting the breakfast buffet and
cutting acorns or nuts in the predawn hours requires an allusive approach.
Sly maneuvers, keen hearing and clear eyesight are prerequisites to
This cat and mouse game is what the sport is all about when the August
opening descends each year on the traditional fourth Saturday of the
month. The time to rise and shine is here.
Long before shots are taken the squirrel hunt puts you deep in the timber
where you can wake up with the woods. Distant dogs bark their “I’m over
here” announcements to a quiet world waking up from a summer sleep where
damp dew paths lead you further into nature.
Bluejays seem to be the keepers of the castle, announcing your intrusion
to everyone. Slipping past them is like trying to hide dawn from a
rooster; it ain’t gonna happen! They have home court advantage and it is
the hunter who is the visitor.
Down the sand ditches of a rural Carroll County backwoods is where I used
to open the seasons of my youth. Scouting ahead of time helped me find the
scaly bark hickories on the ridges and plan my approach when fresh
cuttings were discovered on the forest floor.
Veteran squirrel hunters know that every oak, gum, and hickory don’t
necessarily attract squirrels at the same time so it takes some effort to
find out where the bushy tail banquet is being held. I learned from the
guiding hand of a patient father how to negotiate the woods and slip
around silently in my scouting expeditions.
When opening day finally arrived I knew exactly where I wanted to be long
before the first rays of daylight chased away darkness in Dixie. I’ll have
to admit there was always a fear factor. Walking down the pitch dark
ditches and cow trails were unchartered waters for a youngster.
Entering the woods before dawn was much different than daylight excursions
and the little flashlight just didn’t shine bright enough to show all the
critters. Would I wake up a sleepy snake? Walk into the web of a black
widow spider? Touch poison ivy or spook some skunk into spraying their
“beware of me” perfume?
When you’re alone in the deep, dark woods you hear a lot of unfamiliar
sounds and your mind creates a few more to go with them! With every snap
of a stick I thought some bugger was hot on my trail. Stopping suddenly
found a pounding heart drowning out the ability to hear but soon reality
returned and fears of the unknown subsided.
Mosquitoes always seem to know I was coming too. Maybe those bluejays
squawking alerted them as to my arrival. Applying some repellant, which
was referred to in those days as “mosquito dope”, seemed to curtail their
appetite at times but once the squirrels started moving I’d forget all
about the annoying buzzers that were out for blood.
Now and again I pause and relive some of those outings of my youth and
while I seem to have trouble in the modern day era remembering names or
what I went into the next room to retrieve I have vivid videos in my mind
of squirrel hunts from yesteryear.
Every year when squirrel season opens I catch myself going back in time,
wishing I was young again and striking off on a safari with my little
.410-gauge double barrel. I remember where the old pear trees were loaded
and how sweet they tasted when leaving the woods with a heavy game bag
full of grays with a bonus rusty fox squirrel mixed in at times.
I’d like to think there are some other kids planning to do the same thing
Saturday morning when the season opens. Perhaps a dad taking a youngster
on that first hunt or a youngster begging to go off to another part of the
woods on their own and begin the long journey on the road to becoming an
Hopefully there are a few still left who yearn to explore the opening
morning of squirrel season where you can be alone in the woods but never
lonely. Time with dad or granddad showing the do’s and don’ts and leading
Maybe, just maybe there are a few who are willing to turn off their cell
phones and put down the video games long enough to admire the wonders of
Here’s hoping you’ll introduce some boy or girl to the outdoors this
weekend. The limit on squirrels is ten. The opportunities to make memories