AP NEWS

A winter squirrel hunt to remember

February 27, 2019

The forecast was calling for snow turning to rain. “Oh, great,” I thought. I had been planning this hunt for a couple of weeks. It was a simple little hunt, but one I had promised to myself, my brother, my son and of course my dog. I had to go despite the forecast.

The evening before the hunt, we were supposed to get one to three inches of snow, but the actual hunting day was forecasted to be warming with a chance of late evening rain. So, with bags packed, I hit the pillow expecting the worst.

However, the first rays of daybreak showed a completely different reality. When my dog jumped into the backseat of my truck, the sun broke loose of its shady hiding spot enough to reveal bluebird skies and clearing clouds. It was warming fast and all I could think was that the game animals were going to be moving on a day as pretty as this one was turning out to be. I slapped on a pair of shades and hit the highway and pointed my truck north to Jackson County.

My brother beat us to the farm and decided to take a little walk in the sunshine to hunt for sheds and to see if he could find any squirrels active. That’s the thing I’ve learned about hunting squirrels in the winter, it is all about the weather and finding den trees. They won’t be far from their dens and they don’t wander far. Unlike the squirrels of fall, who spend a fair amount of time on the ground gathering or eating food, wintertime squirrels stick close to home.

Having said that, with the sun shining and the temperatures rising into the upper 40′s, the day was shaping up to be a wonderful, enjoyable day afield – squirrels or no squirrels.

I unhooked Boogie’s lead and turned him loose to run in the spring-like weather air. After a couple of hours of being in the truck, the pent-up energy was released in the form of hunting hard. He sniffed the wind, looked up in the tree’s canopy and even stopped to listen for movement. It seemed like only a couple of minutes, in fact we could still see the truck, when Boogie stood leaning against a mammoth oak tree and threw his head back and barked.

When we got to the tree, Boogie was barking and wagging his tail so fast I couldn’t help but feel his excitement. “Boogie says there is a squirrel up there somewhere,” I shouted over the barking. Just then, the squirrel came running down a massive limb and jumped to the neighboring tree’s crown of limbs and swiftly ran in a hole in the bole of the tree. Three jumps and one short run and the squirrel was in its den.

“Wintertime squirrel hunting,” I mumbled under my breath.

But as the day warmed almost to T-shirt warmth, so did the hunting. For the next three hours, our hunting party acted as one team with the dog being the leader. On a bonus day in the winter, I experienced the best day of squirrel hunting I had all season long.

I’m sure glad I kept my promise to take them hunting. It was a simple little day afield but one I will remember for many seasons to come.

Chris Ellis of Fayetteville, West Virginia, an outdoorsman and Marshall University graduate, is owner of Ellis Communications, a public relations agency serving the outdoor industry. Contact him at chris@elliscom.net.