Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Squirrelly Distraction

I've been lax with these updates.  I have three or four things I'd like to write about soon, on topics ranging from rambles on current hunting topics to a day I spent with my brother.  I should have a big post coming up in December, borderline Catalina in scope and definitely competing with it for one of the coolest hunting-related things I've ever done if I get lucky and fates come together. However, those stories are for other times, mortal coil willing. 

Right now I'm just going to tell you about a quick little squirrel hunting trip I took in a WMA near my house recently.  Now understand, I certainly was trying to get a squirrel, I've read some mighty tasty-sounding recipes for them lately, but mostly I was just using this as an excuse to take a Sunday afternoon stroll in the woods with my little Marlin 60.  The Marlin is just about my favorite of all my guns, it's just a neat little rifle, light and well-balanced and more accurate than I am.  I know that certain rotary-magazine .22's are more popular with the crowd that likes to dress up guns like Barbie dolls for guys (I kid!) but this one suites me.

Its also a Decepticon named Mini-Meg
The WMA I went to consists of a group of separate small tracks ranging from about one half to one square mile in area.  It isn't exactly exemplary habitat for busytails but it could be worse.  Mostly pine and freshwater marsh but there are plenty of turkey oaks in the pinewoods and clumps of sand live oak and laurel oak here and there.  When I got to the parking area for the tract that was my first choice another couple of guys were just getting out of there truck and heading down the trail.  Since they were the only other vehicle, I decided to leave them to their solitude and head down the road to my second choice.  I feel there's no need for crowding each other, for sure.

As soon as I pulled into the second (vacant) lot a big, fat squirrel jumped right up into a nearby tree and glared at my vehicle.  Cheeky little f-er, of course a neighboring house was right behind him so he was as safe as in his mother's nest as far as I was concerned.  Whatever, I got my gear out, slapped on my survivor orange cap and took off down the trail. 

What I was working with.  Meager but not hopeless
In this case the trail was the remains of an old logging railroad that cut cross the sandhills.  I'm sure it was once full of rail cars straining under huge loads of arrow-straight "yalla pine", oozing tar from their freshly severed heartpine hearts.  Those days are long gone, and the area is now filled with young longleaf planted by the FFS for habitat restoration.

The wind was picking up a bit, so standing and listening wasn't working as well as it could have.  I basically picked a few clumps of oaks out using my phone and decided to walk to each in the couple hours I had left before dark.  I saw a few turkeys during my wandering, and one remarkably calm gopher tortoise, but no sign of squirrels besides a few haggard looking dreys. 

I like toitles!
I finally tracked back to the old rail bed and followed it across to the other side of the property, headed for the largest group of oaks I'd picked out from the aerials.  When I got there I first saw it was indeed a nice grouping of mature white and red oaks, and then I spotted multiple dreys that did not appear to be condemned by the Squirrel Safety Authority.  This was more like it.

I picked a spot to sit with a bit of cover with a good shot at several nearby oaks.  Seconds after I got situated a bushytail started fussing at me from behind my back.  Great thing to me about squirrel hunting, I see and hear them all the time in town so when one shows up its not a huge shock, unlike being up close and personal with a deer or turkey.  I calmly waited, hoping this one's curiosity would bring him around for a shot.  Of course it didn't, and after five or ten minutes it shut up and went about its business.  I heard a few more in the distance, then saw a big one making its way towards me then way from me across the branches. 

Suddenly my heart skipped because something huge jumped up right next to me (or it seemed like it)!  I snapped my head involuntarily to look and saw a big ass turkey flying right up to roost not 20 yards away.  Regular butterball this was, balancing solo on a low branch, peeking around its prodigious girth to look back at me, its beard flopping into view.  

So, yes, irony strikes again.  Here I am, hunting squirrels, when a delicious tom turkey presents itself, shaking its rump provocatively with a come-hither shimmy.  If this had been private land I'd been finishing off turkey leftovers for lunch today, but of course, the WMA I was on has no open season on the thunder chicken (except for archery season, which is long over with).  Guess that's one more temptation I managed to withstand, its getting to be a way of life. 

Anyhow, as you probably guessed from the roosting turkey it was just about dark, so I soon gave a sigh and arose, scaring Mr. Tom in the process (although he didn't really go far).  I went ahead back across the old rail bed in the falling darkness, gallon ziplocs I had brought in my pack extremely empty. 

So that's about it, just a nice evening in the woods with a bit of a twist here and there.  Oh, and just in case you were wondering if any blood relative of mine can kill a deer, here's a pic of what my nephew, who's barely a teen-ager, shot last week.  We were thinking of getting it mounted for his Christmas but my brother wants to wait until January, with his luck he'll kill a bigger one before then.


  1. HA! It's nice to see I'm not the only person who goes "hiking with a gun". I've just spent two hours reading your blog instead of cooking dinner (don't worry the venison wasn't quite thawed anyway). I'm looking forward to more posts.

    1. Thanks! I definitely appreciate it. I've got a few more posts the works, just been slow getting them finished. I just read your most recent post, love it! I'll definitely give the others a look when I get a chance.