By Larry Dablemont
A man who lives in the country ought to have a good squirrel dog and I don’t have one. The old-timers I knew back home in the hills would not understand that! Problems, problems, problems! Maybe squirrel dog prices will come down after next week’s election.
The nearest grocery store is many miles away and I can’t afford the gas to get there. Can’t afford baloney and biscuits neither if you factor in the cost of gas to get to the store. So I decided I would go get tonight’s supper through outdoor adventure.
One of my neighbors has a rather large, secluded lake where he has stocked crappie. My own pond has no crappie, just bass, catfish, and bluegill. No body wants to eat fish from their own pond anyhow. You need to save them for hard times.
So I drove my old pickup down through the neighbor’s gate with my .22 rifle and fishing rod one afternoon and in a little while I caught several, ten- to eleven-inch crappie and then went squirrel hunting down in the woods behind the lake.
It was beautiful, still and perfect. This time of year you can forget looking for squirrels in the trees. Just walk slowly along and they will go running toward you, past you or away from you and jump up in a tree and look at you if you, imitate one with a bark or scold. Four gray squirrels did that. Two just went, and gave me no shot, but two did give me an opportunity to have squirrel for supper. I missed one twice and he went in a hole. Even a good squirrel dog doesn’t help when there is a hole in the tree. But when I missed that one squirrel twice, another went to barking at me and I got him in only 3 shots.
Well, five .22 shells are cheaper than baloney and biscuits. My rifle is a dandy, light and accurate and a perfect squirrel gun. On the barrel is printed, “made in the 200th year of American liberty.” I’ve been trying to figure out how old it is. The sights must be off on my rifle. I should only have to shoot 2 shells for 2 squirrels.
I am a little ashamed of that shooting. I fancy myself as a good shot. I once shot flying wasps with that little .22!!! Well I never got some of them, but I never did as poorly as I did that evening! But just because someone fancies themselves as a good shot don’t mean they are. I shouldn’t use that word ‘fancies’ any more. It don’t fit a grizzled old veteran outdoorsman like me. But you can bet that this evening I will improve my squirrel to bullet ratio. I’ve got to get a couple of squirrels for some elderly neighbors down the road.
Anyway, I scaled the crappie for supper that evening, removed head, fins and entrails and fried them whole in a skilletful full of lard, after I fried the squirrel of course. Had turnip greens with it, making it what you call a three-course meal.
The woods is full of young squirrels. The one I got was a mature male that was harder to skin than an old banker. He wasn’t too smart, sitting there in plain sight barking at me. He may be so old he was trying to commit “suicide by hunter”. The tree I shot him out of is a big tri-trunk red oak I built a tree stand in back in ’93. Up high in the fork of it, I carved my initials and a date of 11-20-’93. Sometime I am going to climb up there and see if it still shows. The only thing left of the stand is one old bent board with nails sticking out of one end. It is a place where I spent many hours in the nineties dreaming and wishing and writing. I can still see myself sitting there waiting for a deer, but it is only a fading picture. I had no idea then that someday 1993 would be so many years behind me.
All old time squirrel hunters of another time named their muzzle-loader rifles. Mine is named “Ol' Roger the Ruger.” You can see a photo of it on my blogspot, larrydablemontoutdoors. It is pictured there with that 11- or 12-year old gray squirrel I gnawed on until I just gave up and ate the crappie, which were delicious.
I am going back into the woods every day ‘til the snow flies if things work out like I want. May float a river or two and cuss the low water in some of them. As for now, I am going back to the woods. These days should not be wasted away indoors.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Larry Dablemont is an outdoor writer from Bolivar, Mo.