I entered the woods with a .410 in hand, a Henry, lever action, traveling as light as I could, knowing that the heat would soon become intolerable. I walked through what I call "my hot spot", but nothing was moving, the grass was still, the blazing disk of the sun slowly rising and blinding though the branches. But the trees were still. Motionless, with not even a breeze to sway a leaf.
30 yards away I spotted a flicker along the trunk of a tree. Was it imagined, a bird or a leaf and an over active imagination, or the actual reason I get up so early in the morning to be here? People laugh when I tell them that I squirrel hunt, joking that their yards are full of them. In the woods they are smart, not on porches or eating bread off the lawn like suburban tree rats, but sharp, aware, ready and rarely relaxed. Waiting to be attacked by coyote, or fisher-cat, or hawk, or man. These are the survivors, a higher breed of squirrel, animals worthy of respect, higher evolved. An intelligent and skilled master of escape, with no fear of heights, able to balance on the thinnest branch, and vanish before the eyes of a man, making us look like a fool.
Squirrels sense impending danger, usually, but this squirrel was preoccupied, focused on some fallen nuts, unaware of the distance closing between us. I raised the shotgun and put the bead on the silhouette. It was clear, sharp, motionless. This was too easy. But what about the distance? Longer than I usually shoot, out of range? I pulled the trigger. The gun recoiled but I didn't feel it. I cycled the lever, readying myself should the squirrel awake and run, or thrash, making it's way into the swamp or hole or and empty hollow in a tree. And another squirrel might appear. I was ready. But the carcass lay motionless, dead, as still as the roots that it lay against. 5 minutes into the hunt and I had one in the bag, my low expectations forgotten, replaced with excitement, and hope that this would be the day that I brought home my limit once again. I was amazed at how the flicker of a tail and the thump of a gray hitting the ground can fill me with such excitement.
This was a better morning. Squirrels running in pairs, circling trunk like the threads of a screw. I bagged 5 of them, over 2 hour of time, each in different groups. By 9:00 it was too hot and I was tired. It was a fun morning, but I look forward to first frost.
A shout out to the Boy Scouts of America for doing an amazing job of cleaning out the area two weeks ago. You guys are a credit to your generation.
Firearm: Henry .410 5 shot lever action
Ammo: Winchester 2.5" 6 shot