September 12, 2011
Dawn broke cool and quiet with only a hint of a breeze. The aroma of fall leaves was drifting on the breeze. There was some fog rising from the valley below where the river wound its way through the bottoms and pastureland. It had been a good year for hickory and the squirrels were already cutting in the shellbark and pignuts. In years past, the squirrels had often cut out the hickory and moved by the time the season opened around the 15th of October. This year would be different. This early September season would provide some good shooting before the squirrels cut out the hickory and dispersed throughout the woods in search of acorns.
The first sounds I heard were those of a few scolding crows. Then some songbirds woke up. I was concentrating on the birds when a rustle of leaves high in the hickory in front of me caught my attention. I could see the leaves moving and knew it was a squirrel pulling off hickory nuts, but I just couldn’t see him. I was hunting with a Winchester Model 52 Sporter and low velocity hollow points and needed a good clear shot at a sitting squirrel. I could hear the squirrel cutting the nut but couldn’t see it.
Then I caught another glimpse of movement and picked up a second squirrel scampering up the 60-foot-high shellbark. It too went out on a limb and pulled off a nut. The mistake it made was to then go back to where the limb joined the main trunk of the tree. There in the fork of the limb the big gray sat up and began to work on the nut. I squirmed into a good solid position, resting my hand with the forefend of the rifle against the trunk of the tree I was sitting by. The squirrel continued cutting as I put the tiny Lee Dot in the scope on his head. At the crack of the .22 the squirrel pitched out and hit the ground with a thud. The forest got quite again. I let it lie there while I began to again search for the first squirrel. After a few minutes it, too, began to cut on a nut. This time, its movement betrayed it sitting high on an outer limb. Another crack of the .22 and a second hit the ground, adding to the ingredients needed for a great dinner of squirrel, gravy and biscuits.
The options for hunters in September are many and varied. Over the years, the Division of Natural Resources has searched for ways to increase hunting and fishing opportunities. Providing more time in the fields and on the streams is a priority. When reviewing any change to the seasons or bag limits, the first consideration has to be the welfare of the resource. We must be ever vigilant to make sure that any change doesn’t have a negative impact on the game and fish.
After several years of consideration and review of information, it was decided that we could in fact provide some early hunting for squirrels, bow hunting for deer and muzzleloader hunting for deer. This year, our hunters will add squirrel, dove, goose, deer and coyote to the game that can be hunted in September. Whatever your pleasure, the opportunities are there this September. If at all possible, introduce another person to the out-of-door activities of hunting and fishing, especially a youngster or two. That old axiom still rings true that “if you take your children hunting you won’t wind up hunting for your children.”