The annual 4th of July party at my Aunt Rhonda’s house is always fun with 100 or more family and friends and lots of great food. This year was no different. We had recently given my Aunt Rhonda and Uncle Bobo an elk to hang on their fireplace, since they had wanted one for a long time. As everyone arrived, they would admire the impressive elk above the fireplace and the conversations would begin. Then the question came up. How did I get started hunting and what has contributed most to me being successful hunting big game with a bow? It wasn’t the first time I had been asked this question, it comes up quite often. I can honestly say that what has helped with my big game success is not big game at all. It is, in fact, one of the smallest.
A recent family gathering triggers memories of a small game animal that has led to some big-time results for the author.
When I was five years old, my Dad started taking me squirrel hunting. We had spent a lot of time in the yard practicing with a .22. He showed me how to safely handle and accurately shoot it. From opening day of squirrel season each year, I was in the woods with Dad and hunting every chance I got. I’m only fifteen years old, but I’ve had ten years of hunting experience. You can learn a lot in ten years.
Squirrel hunting has taught me many things. Patience, knowing the vegetation and animals where you’re hunting and how to use the terrain to close the distance between you and the game you’re hunting are all things that can be learned. Patience is learned in many ways from hunting these critters. One way is waiting on the squirrel to get around the tree just right to get a clean head shot. If you’ve ever hunted squirrels in the top of a poplar tree, then you know what I mean about patience. Since it’s such a small target, it also helps me with my accuracy when shooting even bigger game. I’ve learned about animals and the trees and plants they prefer to eat or live in at certain times of the year as well.
The author (right) and her sister Adriana have fun seeing who can shoot their limit of squirrels first.
Similar to big game hunting, the land can be used to your advantage when squirrel hunting too. My family and I also have a game we play while squirrel hunting. Around home where we hunt, there are gray squirrels and fox squirrels. The gray squirrels are much more common, but you’ll occasionally see a fox squirrel. Sometimes I pass up a gray squirrel cutting on a big hickory nut, just to get a shot at a fox squirrel. Since they’re bigger and more colorful, we consider them Boone and Crockett squirrels, so if you get one of those you’re doing well.
Now that I’m older, when I’m squirrel hunting different things throughout the woods will remind me of other hunts. When I walk through the woods and smell pine trees I think of elk hunting in the mountains. When I smell the musky dirt smell, it reminds me of deer hunting in the fall. Little did I know when I was five that squirrel hunting would be so helpful to me when I was hunting a big, screaming bull elk.