Rest assured that the squirrels were safe from me. I wasn't really hunting. It was all for show. When I visit my brother back in the woods I just have to get outside and in the last few years he's a bit offended that I don't want to spend all the time with him. In the house. In front of the TV. Ugh. Hunting gives me the perfect excuse to get outside for some tranquility.
I haven't hunted in 40 years. But it is no different now than it was then. I did a little target practice with my brother's .22 the night before just in case I decided to get serious. Besides, I love shooting a .22 and this was one sweet Remington. I could hit a 2 inch square at about 30 to 40 feet. That isn't great shooting but for me after 40 years with an unfamiliar firearm I was satisfied. It wouldn't hurt my feelings if I missed a squirrel anyway.
The next morning it was nearly freezing and not a living thing was hardly moving in the woods. I saw two birds and heard 3 squirrels. The squirrels laughed at me. I sat and listened to the leaves and the laughing squirrels. I was fine with that. Naturally, since I was squirrel hunting a flock of wild turkeys appeared. They were close enough I could almost see their eyes. But since I didn't know if they were in season I just watched them walk over the hill. Proud Tom followed by 7 or 8 hens. They cackled as they sauntered away. I smiled.
(The turkey below is the one I chased across the parking lot into the brush here at the office a couple of years ago.)
I scouted the woods out and found 4 places where the squirrels were eating. The leaves were still on the trees and the nuts were still falling. There were lots and lots of hickory nuts. I think the squirrels are eating acorns for the most part and they'll be back for the hickory nuts later. At least it looked that way to me.
The next morning was warmer and the sun popped out. I saw lots of birds and just strolled through the woods with absolutely no intention of killing a squirrel. I heard the turkeys. I went to the shag bark hickory tree and listened to the squirrel eat above me fully hidden by the leaves. On my way back to the house I saw a gray squirrel on his way back to his little home in the tree. He seemed unafraid and moseyed along. I tried to get him in my sights but he knew just how fast to hop. Like I said. The squirrels are safe from me.
Getting old is funny business. I don't like to kill things and that is why I quit hunting. But somehow being out in the woods by myself just being quiet with a rifle in my hands made me feel young again. I've had a hankering for some fried squirrel too which is what got this whole hunting business started. Just sitting there waiting I felt like the day held so much promise like it did when I was a kid. Of course, the rifle has nothing to do with that, but it is a link to my past. As I get older I find comfort in these old memories of the things I learned. Sitting motionless listening for the sounds of nuts dropping, the rustle of leaves and watching for a branch to shake when it shouldn't reminded me of the days when the opportunity to go into the woods and hunt was an event that I anticipated for weeks and weeks. The day of the hunt we'd get up before daylight and head to the woods to find a spot and wait for the light of day.
Next weekend I go back. Don't worry. The squirrels will be safe from me then as well. I'm sure they will laugh at me again.