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October Signals Frosty Mornings and Squirrel Hunting
A Country Boy Looks Forward to Squirrel Hunting
Growing up here in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina hunting was an activity most of us boys looked forward to every fall. Squirrel season always opened around the middle of October and by then, most of us had already accumulated a good supply of ammunition for our shot guns and rifles. I had been hunting with my dad so many times as a boy and was the designated "carrier" of the game he hunted and harvested.
For the most part, daddy enjoyed night hunts. He always had a black and tan hound or a treeing Walker he would train for those special times of hunting. The hounds always knew when a hunt was about to take place and when they would see daddy coming towards where they were tied to release them from their chains carrying his old Ivory Johnson 16 gauge they would bark and get all excited. When he would go hunting daddy always carried along a burlap sack in which live possums that we caught were placed until we would get back home. After the hunt he would put the possums we had caught in a wire cage or underneath one of my mama's big wash tubs. We never ate the possums he caught but he would use them to train the younger dogs and later release them back to the wild for another evenings hunt.
Those burlap bags containing two or three grown possums would soon get heavy for a sprouting boy to carry. Hunting at night and following an adult with the only light meant getting smacked by tree limbs or blindly walking into brush. Somehow back in those days it just didn't seem to matter much, we were with our daddy enjoying something he loved to do.The darkness of night and brisk air of fall hinting of frost combining with the smell of hardwoods burning in the fireplaces and wood stoves in the mill village made the night sky and horizons over mountain tops a site to behold. Millions of stars in the Universe and sometimes a big yellow moon seemed much like a fairy tale world with our lives exempt from any cares or worries and stress. The excitement and sounds of the hounds barking on the trail let us know a critter was about to be put up a tree.Off in the distance the sound of a lonesome train whistle and engines struggling "I think I Can" making the journey up the Saluda grade.
We learned how to walk through the woods and not make a sound. I pretended to be an Indian sneaking through the forest hunting much bigger game. We learned the terrain above our mill village which was filled with nooks and crannies and small streams and the hills covered with hard woods, pine and mountain laurel. This came in handy for me as I grew to be a teenager and and my daddy bought me my first shot gun, a Winchester 20 gauge which I still have today. I had shot bigger gauge guns but the 20 gauge he bought for my 14th birthday at the Western Auto suited my size. The old Long Tom 12 gauge my grandpa had used and killed so many squirrels had a kick that would blue your shoulder and give you a bloody nose if you weren't right careful.
With October right around the corner, my memory of hunting squirrels comes to mind. The trees will have started to turn into a picturesque landscape and early frosts will warrant long sleeve shirts,a jacket and a good cap. As a young boy I would hurry home after school so I could get my chores done so I could get my trusty Winchester and a pocketful of shells and go a hunting for squirrels.I would save part of the lunch money daddy gave me each Monday to purchase three shotgun shells at the Community Store in the mill village.
We lived right on the woods line and I spent many an afternoon walking old logging roads. I knew where the biggest and best hickory trees were located and the squirrels would be busy cutting nuts. Sometime they were so busy it sounded like a war zone with hickory nuts falling on the ground covered with leaves. Many times getting a shot off with a shot gun was hard because I would be out of range and my shot would only be wasted. Still I found a great deal of pleasure sitting on a fallen tree or an old stump just listening to the chatter of the squirrels and the occasional woodcock who seemed not at all happy a human was invading his space.
I always managed to kill two or three squirrels before darkness arrived and time to go back home to clean and butcher my squirrels. Mama would always put them in the refridgerator and fry them for breakfast making biscuits and gravy. As a youngster we ate lots of fried squirrel and rabbit, My daddy love eating squirrel brains and would crack the skull with one of moms stainless steel serving spoons.
My sons never knew much about squirrel hunting, possum hunting or even coon hunting.. As an adult I have long since abandoned hunting any game. There are lots of squirrels in my back yard and we have an abundance of other wildlife in this area. The deer have migrated from the remotest mountain areas to feed on the corn of some of my neighbors as well as black bear who have recently played havoc on the late sweet corn crop.
October has now come and fall descends on our beloved mountains, the cyclic changes of nature are once again heralding in the cyclic changes of nature. For some of us, the memories of our youth are brought once again of a time when life was much simpler and a boys fancy was spending time in the woods hunting squirrels and pondering the issues of life.
- Fried Squirrel Recipe
Nice n easy fried squirrel recipe.