Editor’s Note: ‘Along the Trail’ is a weekly column written by David Hewitt of Switzerland County; and covers all things dealing with the outdoors, from hunting and fishing to woodsmanship.
It’s that time of year again – 90 degree days, humidity so high that you can wring out your shirt, typical Indiana weather just as squirrel hunting season is set to open.
I’m not much for chasing busy tails this time of year. I’ve never been a fan of dew soaked, foggy, damp mornings and catching unseen spiderwebs across my face while I slip through the hickories and walnuts looking for tree rats.
No, I’m not crazy about squirrel season, but what’s a guy to do? Archery season is still almost two months out and you can only fish so much in this kind of weather.
So, rather that sit at the house and sweat, I’ll sweat in the woods.
Besides, some of my motivation behind squirrel hunting is that it gives me an excuse to do some more scouting for deer season. The late summer woods can give me some hints about where to look this fall for whitetails. Besides hunting a few stands of shagbarks and pignut hickory, I’ll check the oaks and their acorn crop and hope to find a heavy mast. A white oak laden with nuts is a virtual candy store for a deer as well as squirrels.
Squirrel season also gives me a chance to dust off my hunting skills that have been put on the shelf the past few months.
In my mind, I’m Indian quiet when sneaking through the woods, but in reality, I’m more like a heavy footed rhino walking on rice crispies. A few failed early morning stalks on a keen eyed gray squirrel will soon get me back into hunting mode, physically and mentally. Squirrel hunting has a way of making you slow down, to take your time and choose your steps wisely as you sneak your way under a Walnut tree with nut shavings raining down.
Another benefit of getting after the little rodents this time of year is that if you’re lucky, you might be able to catch some late season blackberries still ripe and ready for picking. I know a fence row that produces every year and I’ll never fail to snag a handful. My “go to” hunting spot is overrun this year with berries after being logged a few years ago, and I suspect if the squirrels don’t cooperate, I can pick a quart or two and add it to some vanilla ice cream at home.
But, my main reason for hunting squirrels is that it gets me out there, in the woods. Out amongst the wildlife, the birds and the trees.
Sure there’s poison ivy and mosquitos, oh – and ticks – and yes, the spiderwebs that for whatever reason are always head and face high, but I’m outdoors, doing what I love. The trees are full and thick, with plenty of rain this year. The locusts buzz with that late summer buzz and the August morning sun takes its time to penetrate through the trees. The blue jays will fool me as they feed on the same nuts as the squirrels do.
I’ll make a few – well more than a few – unsuccessful attempts at sending an arrow skyward towards an unsuspecting squirrel and listen afterwards as my target barks and chatters and pops his buck teeth at me, mocking my bow shooting skills; but I’ll still be out there, doing what I love because I am a hunter.
I am a bowhunter.
– David Hewitt