I personally gave a stranger a nice Christmas present last week. However, I didn't know about it at the time, and, unfortunately, the stranger was someone who trespassed onto 40 Acre Pines and stole my tree stand. I found out about it in the usual way I guess, John and I had walked in on the afternoon of the Friday before Christmas for an evening sit only to find the tree barren of stand. I'd like to say I was mad, or at least madder than I was, but I mostly just felt a profound disappointment in my fellow man. Merry Christmas, jackass!
Anyhow, on to better things! Today, the last of my holidays, I decided I wanted to go squirrel hunting. Now mind you, I haven't been squirrel hunting since Duran Duran were a hot new band, so its kind of a novel idea idea for me. I read a bit about it online to renew my faded memories. Like every other form of hunting, people have strong feelings about which behavior is noble and pure and which will result in old southern ladies saying "Bless your heart" to your face while calling your ancestors trash behind your back. Some are of the "if you can't nail one in the head with a .22 you don't need to hunt it" school. Others talk of .410 or 20 gauge shotguns.
Well, I doubt I can hit a target roughly the size of a quarter at 40 or so yards with an off-the-shoulder .22 round, even if my scope was sighted in (which it isn't). Neither do I have a .410 or 20 gauge shotgun. I do, however, have an good old Browning A5 12 gauge with a lot of character. If you go looking at Remington 12-gauge #6 shot game loads, they have a picture of a squirrel right on the box! Can't go wrong there, right?
A quick search of the FWC website revealed that the WMA section in Etoniah Creek State Forest was hosting an open small game season. There we go! I was familiar with parts of that Forest from the Trailwalker program and its only about 40 minutes away. During my previous visit I became acquainted with one of Florida's rarest native plants, the Etoniah Rosemary. ECSF contains the only known population of these plants on public land.
|Bardin and Palatka's to the east, Grandin, Florahome and Putnam Hall's to the west. I'm sure you know the place!|
Yesterday was one of those perfect, cool, sunny days we get in North Florida this time of year, right before a truly cold front comes through (its to be 22 tonight ya'll! brrrrrr). I arrived at the WMA about 2:30 and after a little scouting decided my hunt would be in the bottomlands next to Etoniah Creek itself. I parked at the picnic area were West V Road crosses the creek (its on the map above).
|Etoniah Creek from the West V Road bridge, with a healthy crop of eel grass.|
That was the only sign of a live squirrel I heard for the entire two mile stalk. Which is, I believe, by far the farthest I've ever walked though the woods of Florida and not seen a squirrel. I guess I can blame hunting pressure, or the breezy conditions of the afternoon, or even my own loudish footsteps across the crispy dried leave. I only half buy the last one, I've seen enough squirrels to feed an orca while tripping along trails, sounding like an elephant on meth. Judging from the silence in the woods and the self-check station on the way out, nobody else was getting any meat that afternoon either.
Regardless, it was a very pleasant walk. I returned along a woods road, hoping I'd scare up a rabbit. Of course, that didn't happen, but I wasn't really expecting it to either.
|Not super easy to hold an iPhone and an A5.|
|To infinity, and beyond!|