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Outdoor Corner: Opening Day

Lyle Johnson

Wow, what a week of awesome weather we’ve had! Usually, a few days before the opening day of squirrel season I’m trying to figure out how little clothes I can get away with because of the heat.

Our opening morning squirrel bounty. Five cat squirrels and two fox squirrels for the table.

On occasion we’ve had cool mornings for that first hunt, but that’s a rarity. Sweat and mosquitos are the memories that are most often relived in my mind. This day would be very different. Mid to lower 50s was the forecast at daybreak with light winds. The possibility of wind would be the only issue.

As promised, the temperature was 54 degrees with no wind as we entered the woods. I was accompanied by Nathan Catlin. He would be shooting video for our November episode of Ascension Outdoors TV if we had success on the hunt.

I’d spent a few hours scouting to enhance my chances so I was pretty sure that we’d get some opportunities to take a few squirrels home for some future gravies or gumbo.

As we walked through an open field, the only adversary we might encounter would be the very bright Harvest moon that was still out with Venus right below. It was full two nights before, but you couldn’t tell because of the light it was putting off. The spectacle has another name, Hunter’s moon.

Sinclair Babin poses with her Dad’s take of squirrels on opening weekend in Ascension Parish.

Hunter's moon is mentioned in several sources as the Anglo-Saxon name for the Full Moon of October. This is the month when the game is fattened, and it is time to start preparing for the coming winter. Traditionally, this included hunting, slaughtering and preserving meats for use in the coming winter months.

My hope was that it would live up to the Hunter’s Moon so we would prosper in our quest. We set up on our first spot, long before legal shooting time and began a low volume conversation about how our plan would work.

Lo and behold, we both spot a squirrel feeding then running down a branch in the pitch dark and both of us said, “Oh no” at the same time, hoping it wasn’t a sign of things to come.

Our concerns were short-lived as the sound of acorns falling from trees let me know that the bushy-tailed animals were on the prowl, getting ready for their morning feeding. Things were getting ready for some action.

When the first squirrel was spotted it was still too dark in the trees to get a clean shot. For about five minutes I watched that squirrel scamper to the end of a branch, get an acorn in its mouth, then run down the branch to eat it. The scene repeated itself three or four more times before the decision was made to take the first shot.

After dispatching the first squirrel of the season it was still pretty dark. I made a decision to wait before going to pick it up. We didn’t disturb too much and the possibility of another squirrel coming to feed was pretty good.

Soon after, I began to hear acorns dropping in a different tree, so I turned my attention in a different direction. Sure enough another squirrel showed itself and was quickly dispatched. I fetched them both and they were big, male fox squirrels.

By this time the wind started blowing just enough to move the leaves making it difficult to spot a squirrel. This slows down the effort because everything looks like a squirrel and it takes more time to examine every movement. It was still early, so we waited some more hoping to get one more before we left for another spot.

The scenario repeated itself as I heard more acorns dropping from another tree close by. After about five minutes a cat (gray) squirrel came out. Another shot and number three was on the ground.

I made the decision to move on to another area knowing we had a location where another feed tree was located hoping to get one more. We got in the location. but did not see anything. As we waited, a cat squirrel came to feed. Being in its pathway, it was easy to put number four in the hunting sack.

We made it to our second spot, and that’s were things went south. I spotted a big fox squirrel that gave us the slip, never getting a shot off. On the way to a big white oak tree, I lost my bearings and messed up the entry. Never saw a squirrel there and things got worse.

Heading to another spot I see another fox squirrel, fire three shots as the squirrel escapes. Man, could it get any worse? I’m afraid so. A few minutes later two cat squirrels appeared. I fired off two shots with another miss.

Shaking my head and wondering what is going on, another cat squirrel comes to the same tree. One shot and miss again. It’s really off the rails by now. By this time I’ve seen enough squirrels to fill my limit to no avail.

Things calm down as I gather my wits. About 10 minutes later one comes to the same tree, gives me a clean shot. Number five in the sack. As I was waiting to retrieve it, number six appears in a big oak next to me. It finally gives me an open shot. Number six on the ground.

Number seven came about 10 minutes later as I began to hear acorns hitting the ground in another tree behind me. I listened to them hitting leaves and knew it was a squirrel but couldn’t see in the tree. It slipped out to the end of a branch giving me a clean shot.

I called the hunt after number 7. The morning feed was about over, and I had all I wanted to clean. The hunt ended one short of a limit but that didn’t matter. I had plenty enough of opportunities that went off the tracks at one time.

My mouth is watering as I’m looking forward to a gravy with biscuits or squirrel with andouille gumbo that my wife, Deborah, will be cooking soon. So until next time, remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. Have fun in the outdoors, be safe in the outdoors and may God truly bless you!