A funny thing happened on the way to the squirrel woods…
I’ve been having this problem when hunting deer on public land early to mid-season.
I hike in before sunrise or sunset, usually a mile or more. I get set up in my tree saddle hours before I expect to see deer.
Invariably, once I’m up there with my .270, I notice tons of squirrel activity (but as of yet no deer). I’m not about taking shots on squirrel with that caliber.
After the morning sit and through midday, I take my shotgun for a walk.
I’m not expecting deer to be on the move (possibly a mistake).
I use this time to scout, and maybe find some squirrels.
I’ve become famililar with a substantial amount of my home woods this way. But I usually go home empty handed.
To remedy this, I decided I would focus on squirrels for once.
On this particular Wednesday before Thanksgiving I was hunting the edge of a food plot maintained by the National Forest Service.
It’s always full of deer, hog, and turkey sign. My trail cam evidence suggests nocturnal bucks by this point in the season.
Plenty of squirrels had convinced me they were bucks emerging from the woods here though, so it seemed like a good bet.
As I worked my way around the edge of the field, I took note of the mixed hardwood and brushy vegetation. The squirrels I had seen previously tended to be high in the longleaf but lower near the oak, gum, and swamp tupelo.
I spotted a pair of squirrels chasing each other around a dead tree trunk at the west edge of the field, between me and a large and mostly impenetrable swamp 50 yards further.
I crept toward them, using the bare ground in the field to dampen the noise of my footsteps. As I entered a comfortable shooting range, I ducked behind the cover of a nearby copse of trees.
I fired when there was a pause in the action, taking one squirrel as the other fled for the swamp.
It dawned on me as I fetched my squirrel that I didn’t have a way to carry it (other than my hand). I fashioned a stringer from a foot of paracord tied to my belt and cinched the bight of a slip knot down on the squirrel’s leg. I made a mental note to look into game vests.
The squirrel fell to the ground after 10 paces. A stopper would have prevented this, but I wasn’t in my right mind after taking my first bushy tail. Regardless, I was less tied to this solution than it was to me. The pendulum sway of the limp squirrel contributed to it’s being dropped in the first place.
I hunted my way back to my truck, looking for a better method to carry the mess of squirrels I was hopeful to harvest. I dropped the first squirrel in a cooler. After a bit of rummaging, I grabbed a paper grocery sack and set out in a new direction.
The next squirrel I harvested spasmed on the branch where I shot it, then lay still. While cursing my need to climb the tree to retrieve it, another twich flung it from that branch.
It landed on another limb, midway from where I shot it and the ground. Before I could finish grumbling, another convulsion flung it to the ground where I watched it expire.
I picked up the still warm squirrel and placed it into my sack.
I doubled back to explore another section of woods. I placed the sack in a clearing I intended to retrace. As I set it down the bag shook violently with the scratching of a squirrel intent on freeing itself.
The bag fell from my hand as I recoiled.
I waited to see if that zombie squirrel would attempt to escape the bag or expire. Nothing happend.
I approached cautiously. Poked the bag. Opened it. The squirrel lay there as I’d placed it. A death spasm?
Shaken and confounded, I left the bag and wandered to the next spot.
I returned gameless a half hour later. I lifted the bag to the sound of a slow s-c-r-a-t-c-h.
My zombie squirrel turned out to be a stiff sprig of tall grass.
I was thankful to be alone.