Go Squirrel Hunting.. PLEASE!
The Eastern Grey Squirrel; Sciurus Carolinensis. I don't know who comes up with those scientific names but the boy must have been from the Carolinas and couldn't spell. I would have called them Scurrius Paininthebuttocksious. We've all been there. The weather is perfect, the rut is in full swing. Your stand is surrounded by 5 huge scrapes and a dozen 2 to 3 inch thick cedars that have been rubbed virtually limbless on one side. Your trail camera has revealed to you that a 150 class buck has been walking within 20 yards of your stand between 7:45 and 8:20 am every morning for the last two weeks. You have reached your stand an hour and a half before daylight, you made no sound, your scent blocker is working so well a bloodhound couldn't find you 20 minutes after walked down the street. You are downwind of the trail he comes in on and your camo is so perfect you could swear a tree waved at you thinking you were one of his family members. You are wearing camo contacts. You blacked out the whites of your eyes. Your tree stand is placed in the most stealthy location you have ever been and you shinnied up the tree this morning so quietly it would have made any Navy Seal jealous. You are perfectly situated for the shot when you begin to hear the deer walking. Your eyes are fixed on the trail upon which you expect his approach. There is the sound again. It has to be the granddaddy buck that you know is in there. After 20 long minutes of hearing him walking slowly closer and closer, your eyes feel like they may bleed you have been staring into the woods so intently. Suddenly from the last place you last heard the slow, methodical steps, a happy little tree rat appears. Rummaging around in the leaves for the winter's store of acorns. You breathe, it has to be the first breath you took in like 15 minutes. You check your watch. No problem, you have 33 minutes before that magic time is over, but it doesn't matter, you are here for the long haul, planning on taking that bruiser home. Over the next hour all you see are three squirrels positioned perfectly around you in a 60 yard triangle. One off to the right will get down and rustle the leaves for a while and then one on the left. Then the one behind you. Then the one to the right jumps on a limb and begins to announce to the world with hideous screeches that he saw a hunter scratching his nose and he plans to make this noise until said hunter is so frustrated that he looks at him through the scope on his 7mm and contemplates sending him to squirrel hell. (There is no squirrel heaven) Which will reveal his location, of course, to the rest of the creatures in the woods. You check your watch. Where could your huge buck be? It is a quarter 'til 10, he is very late. However, you haven't given up hope.
There is the sound again on the trail where you first heard it this morning. You listen intently because you happen to be looking dead in the wrong direction when you hear it. You analyze the sound with perfection. Before you begin the slow agonizing 180 degree turn of your head you realize with 100 percent certainty that you are hearing the same old squirrel you have been hearing all morning. Same rustle pattern, same little scurrying noises. The back of your head itches. You reach up to scratch it and “whhhheeeeeooowt” you hear the all too familiar sound of a deer who has just busted you and is now blowing at you. You don't know whether to wheel around on him quickly or to try and freeze and hope he will stay... “whhhheeeeeooowt” again he blows and this time it is accompanied with the crashing sound of a large bodied deer running through the brush, you spin around quickly only to see a huge set of antlers disappearing through the thick brush. Now, all three squirrels are sitting on limbs screeching out their victory song knowing that Bambie's daddy owes them a pile of acorns for helping him reveal the whereabouts of the hunter in his area.
Not everyone knows about the contract that deer have with squirrel, nor does everyone know that chipmunks are subcontractors of squirrel to do the same job. All of this was revealed to me in a dream after a particularly cold morning that I will heretofore refer to as “The incident”.
It was bitterly cold, much colder than a normal deer hunting morning in GA. (the first factor leading to “the incident”) I had planned to hunt a ridge overlooking a large expanse of river bottom that was teeming with deer sign. It was getting late in the season and I was itching to put some deer meat in the freezer, so “trophy buck” was not the only thing on my mind, but this location held lots of promise for either. I arrived at my tree with plenty of time and made my way up to the desired location. It was a large white oak that was precariously growing on the slope of a steep drop off that flattened out for 70 yards or so to the banks of the Alcovy River. Just getting up 15 feet or so in the tree put me an easy 40 feet above the ground on the lower side. I could see for what seemed like 3 counties across that river bottom. Never-the less, at daybreak I realized that I had placed my stand right next to a den tree. (The second major factor leading to The Incident) Now, many of you may not know what a den tree is. A den tree is a very special place, where a wood pecker has abandoned an old nest or a limb fell off a tree with heart rot and a hole has developed through to the hollow area. A perfect place for a family of squirrels to reside. I don't know what the correct name is for a family of squirrels but I am guessing that it is “coven”. I digress. At daybreak, two of the little demons decide to join me in my stand tree. (Third factor in “The Incident”) They were working vicariously together for quite some time and effectively dropping every last white oak acorn from the leafless tree like rain. It was slightly annoying. However, at least they weren't scurrying around in the leaves below me. Then, squirrel number three shows up. (3b of “The Incident) Now, I'm not sure who this character was but apparently he was like the obnoxious drunk cousin that shows up only for family reunions. Squirrel one and two were fine together but this number three guy immediately started in on number one. I only wish I had had an interpreter. The conversation was amazing, and there was no doubt that it contained language that could not be repeated in a publication such as this. Those that hold the high office of censorship would likely have blushed and did that flippy thing with a hanky and exclaimed “Well, I've never!” These guys were going at it. So much for the peaceful woods at sunrise, I was amid a redneck family squabble over who took too many of the acorns that the buck had piled up for them for saving him from the hunter last week. Then number one decided to bum rush number three. (factor 4) I was ring side for the first UFC squirrel match. They ran and fought and screeched and ran some more. Upon recounting this story at the emergency room later the well-meaning nurse tried to explain to me that this was a pre-mating exercise that squirrel do. I thought that tree-hugger needed to go back and watch some more animal channel. These two were doing anything but “pre-mating”. It seemed more like a pre-castration exercise to me. I digress again. After a while of watching I settled into my stand and decided to watch for deer again, in spite of the gentle swaying of my tree that was happening as an effect of their sprinting from limb to limb. I was lulled into rest and had almost blocked them out when I am sure I heard one say something about the other one's mother. My attentions were rallied back to the UFC in time to see squirrel one hot on the tail of squirrel three coming down the trunk of the tree straight at my head. My back was to the tree mind you, and so as I leaned back to look up I realized that in about half a second they were going to run directly over my face and I was suddenly about to become an active part of the first UFC squirrel match. The last time I saw them they were about 4 feet above me, on my side of the tree, running directly at me, faster than any two tree rats I have ever seen. (Factor 5 in full swing) Thinking back on the incident I guess I could have just shot at them with my 7mm but all things safe about gun handling tell me that wasn't the best idea either.
I mentioned that it was unusually cold. Well, I was unusually bundled up that morning. What? I have thin blood! I also get really cold when I am tired. I also hate being cold. I know, not much of a good mix for a duck hunter at heart. Yet, again, I digress. I was bundled up, a bit, and my rifle was laying across my lap. I had my left hand at the pistol grip and my right hand on the fore-end. My arms and the rifle created sort of a lopsided circle. As those demon possessed rodents screamed down the tree at my head, I attempted to duck into that lopsided circle, covering aforementioned head (and face). However, something in the bulk of my bundle, snagged something else on my lap-lying rifle as I raised it to cover my ducking head, forcing the rifle to roll sideways, in effect placing the scope directly into the hole in which I was attempting to duck into. POW! (The Incident) Just in case you ever wondered, the scope mounts on your rifle are very hard when slammed intently into your forehead. The pain was searing. Directly above my left eyebrow, it felt like someone had just nail-gunned a “stupid” sign onto the front of my skull. The warm trickle immediately started down my left cheek and I knew what I was facing. The string of expletives at such a high decibel level cleared the woods of all wildlife within a quarter mile. I literally never saw another hair on either of those tree rats. I have no idea where they went.
I know you want to know... I took photos of my head with my flip phone to try and assess the damage. after 15 minutes, the bleeding stopped and it seemed to go numb enough to stay for a while. An hour and a half later I shot a doe on a full sprint, right handed, and ruined the contract she had with the squirrels. Ha. Man wins. Sometimes.