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BUSY TAIL TIME
IN TENNESSEE…SQUIRREL OPENER ARRIVES
Time to rise and shine early. The woods await you.
The fourth Saturday in August is the traditional opener for the statewide
squirrel season, a day long revered by Tennessee sportsmen.
Opening day has quite a history among the ranks of outdoorsmen across the
Volunteer State. Our hillbilly ancestors were known to just about drop
everything once squirrel season opened.
Not only was the hunting season special for the challenge and sport but it
was a means by which families put food on the table. Today the season is
mostly sport but there are still more than a few who delight at the
thought of fried squirrel, biscuits and gravy.
In the old days when times were tough hunters pretty much bagged a
squirrel with each shot as shells were scarce as was the money to purchase
them. You didn’t waste a shot, which meant honing your skills on sneaking
silently through the woods and sand ditches.
Scouting the ridges and bottoms ahead of time was part of the process.
Knowing where the hickories were and locating fresh cuttings put you in
the right place once dawn chased away the darkness.
City slickers today marvel at the abundance of squirrels in town that dart
across paved streets and thrive off backyard bird feeders. Finding a few
seems an effortless endeavor.
Their rural counterparts march to a different drummer. They may look the
same but don’t act the same.
Country squirrels are a bit different. They’re keen and smart, watching
the woods for anything irregular. To survive they have to be wise and
aggressive. There are no handouts for the busy tails who make their own
way by searching the tall timber or woods lots where acorns provide hidden
buffets way out on the end of flimsy limbs.
Slipping up on squirrels is a game in and of itself. It’s the cat and
mouse approach that thrills most hunters.
Outsmarting them takes time and effort. There’s skill in judging the shot
but just getting to that point in the competition is a big part of the
Maneuvering down the cow paths and log roads; dodging spider webs damp
with the morning dew and quietly choosing steps to avoid the cracking
sound of dry sticks requires time and talent.
Savvy squirrel hunters know there’s several ingredients in the recipe for
a successful morning. There’s more to it than just relying on luck.
From the tall scaly bark hickories come little pieces of cuttings and
sometimes a clumsy gray or fox squirrel fumbles, dropping the whole nut
from high among the branches. The thud of the nut slapping the forest
floor helps announce the whereabouts of the illusive critter that
sometimes drops his guard.
Stop. Look. Listen.
Where is he up there? Now you see him; then you don’t.
Then the silence of the forest erupts to the distress call of a bunch of
bluejays who just announced your arrival to the world. The element of
surprise is no longer on your side once these watchmen spot you treading
on their turf.
Patience will return the sounds of silence. Sitting still is imperative
while all the time keeping a cocked eye toward the treetops as a stiff
neck requires a rub now and then.
Once things come together the blast of a shotgun seems like a cannon
firing. To all the forest your entrance is now known as the descent of the
squirrel falling limb to limb slams the forest floor, confirming your aim
was right on target.
If you’re fortunate to have a youngster sharing the experience then the
first squirrel of the season is even more special. Odds are you fall back
in time, recalling your first hunt and reliving the moment through eager
Opening day of squirrel season helps recall old times of this Tennessee
tradition but it’s a great opportunity for making new memories.
Introducing that young boy or girl to the great outdoors with an early
morning walk in the woods is time well spent.
A hunting trip can teach them patience and appreciation of nature’s
critters by viewing them up close and personal. Seeing is believing.
Sharing time with someone special makes the outing even better. Bagging a
few squirrels is nice but not a necessity for a successful outing.
Watching the woods wake up from a sleepy summer nap means viewing nature’s
classroom up close and personal. Books and video games don’t do it
Nothing beats being there. Season opens Saturday so seize the moment to
travel down a path with a youngster who will follow your footsteps
throughout life. Squirrel season is a great way to start the journey!
Steve McCadams is a professional hunting and fishing guide here in the Paris Landing
area. He has also contributed many outdoor oriented articles to
various national publications.