Anticipation for the opening day of squirrel season usually makes my adrenaline flow pretty high. It’s usually a time for a break from the hustle and bustle of life for the enjoyment of an annual event that has been a treasure in my life since my youth.
I remember when my daddy brought home a .22-caliber rifle and a .410 and gave one of them to me and the other to Cliff, my brother. That was the start of my hunting adventures that still last until today. When we were kids, our uncle, Bernard Nickens, had a squirrel dog named Whitey who rocked when it came to treeing the furry creatures that usually wound up in a gravy or jambalaya.
My hunting adventures have evolved over the years from going with my dad, hunting with Whitey to enjoying still-hunting with my brothers. There were a few years of going with the same gang to places far off, then introducing my son to the joy of hunting squirrels. No matter with whom or where the hunt took place, the excitement was the same.
Then came the time for my son’s introduction to hunting; that same crack-barrel .410 my dad gave me made it to the hands of my son for his first try at bagging a squirrel. In his hunting instruction, I’d taught him how to load, cock and shoot the gun and off he went. I cautioned him to remember what he learned, be careful and have a good time. He came home with two squirrels.
Let’s fast-forward another 22 or so years; I get a phone call from my 10-year-old grandson, Canaan, to talk about their upcoming visit at Thanksgiving. “Paw Paw, will you take me hunting?” Nothing could have made me happier.
We took some time for instruction and to see if the gun fit. I opened the door to my gun cabinet and took out an old .410 crack-barrel shotgun hoping he could shoulder it OK. It just barely fit his arm length but it was too heavy for him to handle it just right.
We hit the woods right at daylight; it was cool but very dry, so our strategy was to find a feed tree and just wait until a squirrel came for breakfast. Only a few minutes passed by before a cat squirrel came out and exposed itself for a shot.
I had to help Canaan support the gun by placing my left hand under the barrel from behind. I’m sure he was nervous, but he took aim and fired off a shot. The shot didn’t find its mark, so he got ready for another shot. The squirrel came back out and Canaan missed his second shot as well.
The woods calmed down for a few minutes, time enough for a fox squirrel to make its way to the tree. We couldn’t have asked for a better shot as the really big male stopped in the wide open to give Canaan an optimum opportunity. He took careful aim and squeezed off a shot.
The big squirrel fell and hit the ground. The woods broke out in celebration: “I got him, Paw Paw, I got him.”
I pretty much had to hold him to keep him from running through the tall palmettos. We found the squirrel and the photo session began.
You see, squirrel hunting has been a Louisiana tradition for a very long time. Introducing a youngster to this tradition is one of the best things an adult could do. All it takes is a little time along with a healthy dose of patience to create a memory that will last a lifetime.
I’m 62 years old but I remember it like it was yesterday; my two grandfathers taking us fishing and dad, Jerry Johnson, spending his precious time with us six boys teaching us to fish and hunt. The time in a day is the one thing we all have and it’s the same for all of us.
There’s no better way to invest some of it than taking a kid hunting or fishing. The outcome of the adventure compares very little with the time you spend doing it. You will create a memory in that kid’s mind that comes back even when he is 61 years old. Give some of your time away to a kid who needs it.