The Squirrel Hunt

It’s cold, but not bitter cold yet. You breathe low and place one foot carefully in front of the other. The crackle of dried leaves and stiff dirt stirs beneath your boots, and the sky is overcast. Later the forecast called for rain, and even in the early moments of dawn you can feel the clouds gathering. You’re out here to hunt what should be one of the easiest animals to bag, the grey squirrel.

When you were in town, you saw them scurrying from tree to tree without a care in the world and even on the road over to your hunting grounds you saw one or two belly up. But here you are now, putting more thought into moving quietly than you have all year, and your little furry friends are nowhere to be found.

You got the itch when you were just a kid. When your brothers went out hunting deer in the winter, you weren’t old enough to go along yet. Instead, you honed your skills with a 20 gauge, pretending that little flash of grey was a 12 pointer. You developed a sharp eye and a quick draw. By the time you were grown enough to join in on the deer action, you were so sure of your hand that it shocked you when you missed your first doe. That was years ago, and here you are again. The air has gotten cooler, and a little frost forms on your mustache from the moisture in your breath. You’ve walked a couple miles now and you’re grateful for the second pair of socks you put on this morning.

Out of the corner of your eye you see a branch that doesn’t quite fit. One, two shakes, and then you see the bounce. Your prey shifts from a high branch over the path to a lower one with remarkable speed. You draw up your shotgun but by the time the butt stock hits your shoulder, the squirrel has melted into the trees. It’s a common occurrence.

So far today it’s happened three times. You crouch beside a big oak and wait. Yes! There he is again! Shifting from one side of a tall maple to another, dead in the center of the trunk. You don’t notice that your gun is already in your shoulder, and as you fire, you already know the squirrel is yours. He falls ten feet from the tree, and when you get to him you see it was a clean kill. He’s a big fellow, with a tail at least as long as his body and yellow teeth protruding from his curled lips. You catch your breath, the adrenaline hitting you in one shot. You notice your hand is shaking a little, and you take a moment to calm yourself.

The squirrel goes in the bag and you go back on the trail.

-By Daniel Ess