Well, it’s November. How fast October flew by! While we do get some nice days in November, we can, for the most part, say goodbye to them for awhile. For most of us, the shorts and flip-flops are in the back of the closet, while the heavier clothes, like an insidious little army, are moving to the front. The air conditioning no longer comes on, but the furnace does. Boats in backyards are filling up with leaves. While a very, very few leaves are still green, they no longer have the luster of life about them. Death of nice weather is in the air.
From amidst all of this gloom, however, a few good things are emerging. Some great fishing action is getting underway, especially for walleyes. The autumn leaves are still sort of pretty. There’s no debating that. The focus of this week’s column, though, is squirrel hunting. This is my very favorite form of the sport. It’s sort of like the panfishing of hunting. In most years, squirrels are plentiful, and not all that hard to hunt. They are found close to home for most of us, and outfitting for squirrel hunting is simple and relatively cheap. On top of everything else, just like panfish, the little critters are really tasty.
There are essentially two ways to go about hunting for squirrels. The first, a personal favorite of mine, is to just head into the woods, pick out a likely looking spot and sit down. Be as quiet as you can during the whole process. Keep a sharp lookout for squirrels. Don’t forget to look behind you. If you see one in the distance, try your best to resist the temptation to get up and go after it. Most of the time, this will end in failure. Let them come to you. If you have a call and know how to use it, this is the ideal situation for that. If, after a reasonable amount of time, you haven’t gotten any shooting, quietly get up and move to a new location. The best times for this are morning and evening.
An added benefit of this type of hunting is the wildlife you get to see while doing it. While sitting for squirrel, I’ve had deer, turkeys, foxes and porcupines, to name a few, pass by very close to me. The weather is usually fairly warm, and there is actually something to be said for the golden days of autumn.
The other method of squirrel hunting is known as still hunting or stalking. With this one, you move quietly through the woods, stopping for a few minutes to look for game before moving on. In my experience, the only time this method works very well at all is when the leaves are wet or the wind is blowing, thereby either allowing you to move quietly or covering up the sound of your movement.
Squirrels do indeed make for some great eating. First, however, you have to clean them, and that can be a bit of a challenge. The guts are pretty foul, and the skin can be really hard to remove. Personally, I have never found an easy way to clean squirrels. The best one I’ve found is to cut a slit in the skin in the middle of the back. Get a couple of fingers of each hand into the slit and pull in opposite directions. If everything goes right, the skin will come off in two pieces. Then, you can remove the entrails and cut the squirrel up. It’s a good idea to soak them overnight in a mild salt, vinegar and water solution before cooking or freezing them. In the future, we’ll look at some specific recipes.
And finally, I have discovered a new hobby. It’s called magnet fishing. It is as simple as it sounds. You get a powerful magnet, tie a strong rope to it, and toss it into the water. You never know what you might pull in.