Sure, I could have climbed into my tree stand for a few hours. After all, it was the second day of New York’s archery season and I had been flinging a few arrows into my block target out back with enough regularity to fight off my seemingly chronic target panic and feel confident out to 25 yards.
But the trail cam on the Chemung County property we hunt hadn’t indicated a lot of deer movement, and my buddy’s weekend on the same hill confirmed that. There was plenty of time left in the season, so I headed back instead to my hunting roots.
I’m always sensitive about disrupting a bowhunter, but I knew of a farm on the Pennsylvania side of the border that was wide open, with no bowhunting permitted for a number of reasons.
And plenty of standing corn that served as a squirrel magnet.
Too, it was time for Paula to get a taste of squirrel hunting — and squirrels, which are oft overlooked as great table fare.
The more I thought about it, the more it made sense for Paula to take to the squirrel woods. She had begun her hunting career on spring gobblers, then graduated to whitetails. And it made absolutely no sense to me that a hunter should have harvested more moose (one) than bushytails (none).
I had hunted squirrels since age 12, toting back then a lightweight Harrington & Richardson Topper Junior 20 gauge whose recoil made me wonder if the shot was going to be worth it. But the excuses over the years for not pursuing bushytails — deer, pheasants, smallmouth bass — were many.
So we took advantage of a glorious early October afternoon to hunt squirrels and assist a farmer who was convinced the abundant grays were hauling as much corn as he.
It was a good hunting lesson for Paula, who quickly learned of the grays’ elusive ways. We managed to take several using our Remington 20 gauges, but vowed to return sometime with our .22s for a real challenge.
Several others escaped, taking advantage of the remaining foliage to scurry into the treetops. Paula and I struggled to locate them, working around the tree on opposite sides, changing angles, hoping for a glimpse of a tail, or a silhouette of a squirrel clinging tight to a branch.
We simply enjoyed the afternoon and all October is capable of offering. We vowed to do it again, if before deer season then on a warm winter day in January or February.
A squirrel pot pie awaits, as does the tree stand.