G. SAM PIATT
PDT Outdoors Writer
It’s been a long, hot summer, but the first signal of cool fall days is upon us. And we’re not talking about football. We’re talking about squirrel season.
Kentucky’s opens Saturday, the traditional third Saturday of August. That’s two weeks ahead of Ohio’s traditional Sept. 1 opener. The daily limit in both states is six squirrels per hunter.
Those traditional family squirrel hunts so eagerly anticipated a few decades ago are not so eagerly anticipated these days.
But many teenagers of that era, both boys and girls, looked forward to shouldering a shotgun and slipping through the woods alongside their fathers, being careful not to step on a twig as they stalked their quarry. Sometimes they just sat down beneath a hickory or oak with fresh “cuttings” on the ground and waited, watching and listening, as the early morning woods came alive – here the twitter of a small bird, there the final hoot of an owl heading for bed after a night of hunting, perhaps the last call of the whippoorwill, the “caw, caw-w-w” of crows on the ridge as they planned their mischief for the coming day.
This was before the age of video games and texting devices.
Those who do go squirrel hunting Saturday will have difficulty getting a clear shot at a squirrel as the August foliage is thicker perhaps than its ever been.
Families used to go for the wild squirrels of the woodlands to supplement the family larder. Youngsters were taught not to kill anything they didn’t intend to eat, unless it was a copperhead or timber rattler (be careful on the latter nowadays in Ohio, for killing a timber rattler, which is listed on the protected species list there, can get you a thousand dollar fine).
Squirrel meat is tasty, especially when served up with gravy and cathead biscuits, maybe some butter and honey.
Here’s a good way to fix them:
Clean and rinse two squirrels, cut them into six serving pieces each, and roll them in flour seasoned with salt and pepper.
Heat about eight tablespoons of bacon grease in an iron skillet, and fry the squirrel pieces until golden brown. Remove them from the skillet, pour off the grease except for about two tablespoons full, add two cups of water to the skillet, and bring it to a boil.
Now return the squirrel to the skillet, turn the heat to low, cover and cook until the meat falls off the bone, which will probably take about an hour.
Now take those hot biscuits out of the oven and enjoy a meal fit for any king’s table.
TAILS FOR LURES
Jim Martinsen, spokesman for Sheldons Inc., which manufactures the popular Mepps spinning lures, has once again reminded squirrel hunters that Mepps is still buying squirrel tails. The hairs are used in making the “skirts” that cover the treble hooks and make that irresistible waving action as the lures are retrieved through the water.
“The tails are a great natural resource and we hate to see them go to waste when we need them so badly,” said Martinsen. “It’s no secret squirrel hunting is way down nationwide so we’re scrambling. (But) The last thing we want, of course, is someone stomping through the woods shooting squirrels just to retrieve their tails. I’m talking about recycling tails from the squirrels harvested by real squirrel hunters, those who still enjoy the sport and that good squirrel stew. We’ve enjoyed doing business with them for generations now.”
The dried and salted squirrel tails can be mailed to Mepps and sold for a nominal fee or, better still, hunters can double the value of the tails by trading them for Mepps lures.
You can get more information on the program by calling toll-free 1-800-237-9877 or visiting their website at www.mepps.com/squirrels.
Pulling the shotgun trigger 10 times and cracking 10 small clay targets on the fly in a row seems a difficult enough task, but doing it 100 straight times – with lots of people watching and a television camera zooming in on your every move – seems impossible.
But that’s what Quinten Smith, a 16-year-old junior at Minford High School, did in winning the 2012 Junior World Skeet Championship in competition with the nation’s best shooters recently at Stockton, Calif.
As featured in a Daily Times article earlier this week, the steady-handed Smith was tied with several other shooters and trailing the leader by one bird when he came up with the perfect score of 100 out of 100 clay pigeons smashed in the .410 gauge event, to win the title.
He was near perfect in all phases of competition, finishing with 397 birds shattered out of 400 thrown – shooting 99 of 100 in 12-gauge, 20-gauge and 28-gauge events.
Smith, who took up skeet shooting when he was 12 years old, said he knew it would take a perfect score in that final event if he was to win the trophy. He said he was happy just to be in the position he was in and so just relaxed and let ‘er fly.
His grandfather, Paul Daniels, was the first to interest him in the sport. His father, Trent Smith, said others who have influenced his son in shooting are Dave Starrett, his shooting mentor; Troy Smith, his uncle; and John Daubenschmidt, a former Navy skeet team member.
Young Smith is a member of the Ashland Gun Club and tries to shoot at the club’s range twice a week.
Skeet, a word coming from a Scandinavian form of the word shoot, is an American form of clay target shooting. The targets are thrown from a metal spring trap from two target houses located 42 yards apart. The targets go at different angles of flight. Seven shooting stations corresponding to the half-face of a clock are located on a 21-yard radius.
Trapshooting, which originated in England in 1830, involves saucer-shaped clay targets thrown by a spring trap, with the shooter firing at the targets at a distance of 18 to 27 yards behind the trap.
The pastime began after wealthy landowners set up much of the hunting land as preserves, so that hunting small game birds was no longer available to small farmers. At first they fired at small birds released from under their hats, but finally someone invented the clay “pigeon.”
The sport of trapshooting came to America in the 1870s and in 1900 the American Trapshooting Association was formed.
PARTING SHOT – After eating an entire bull, a mountain lion felt so good and contented that he started roaring. He kept it up until a hunter came along and shot him.
The moral: When you’re full of bull, keep your mouth shut.
G. SAM PIATT can be reached at (606) 932-3619 or Gsamwriter@aol.com.