Saturday, February 15, 2020

A Southern Hunting Tradition : The Squirrel

Being from the left coast, I've come to love the diversity of the south and its little known traditions.  I have discovered that each southern state has a unique heritage and that one label does not fit all.   One of the things that I have come to love about the south is squirrel hunting.  It's a great way to get outdoors, especially after deer season when for me cabin fever sets in.

Where I'm originally from, most people view the squirrel as some kind of backyard lawn pet.  Here in most parts of Appalachia and other parts of the south, they are considered a valuable source of protein.   There is a vibrant southern tradition of hunting and eating these tree living furballs, and of course, they taste like chicken.  You must understand that squirrel hunting was once a part of survival in the rural south.  In the past, a squirrel stew might have been the only thing on the dinner table.

Hunting with dogs is also an old southern tradition.  Running around after these dogs chasing squirrels is a whole lot of fun.  I meet up with some good friends that I have met through deer hunting near my farm in Houston County, Tennessee.  They grew up squirrel hunting; it is in their blood, part of their DNA.  They have squirrel dogs that tree these little rascals.

So on a cloudy winter morning, we let the dog loose, and we wait for the bark of a tree'd squirrel.   The dogs have tracking devices on them.  You can tell by the bark that they have seen a squirrel and more than likely chased it into a tree.  Sometimes they're there, and sometimes they're not.  They can be hard to see in a tree against a grey cloudy sky like today.

We make our way on four-wheelers towards the sound of the barking. Once we get there, it's easy to determine whether the squirrels have been chased into a hole.  So if we can't spot a squirrel, it's rinse and repeat.  We did get a Red Fox squirrel, which is a larger cousin of the common gray squirrel.

Today was a hard day of hunting hunt we shot 5 and because of overcast skies, we probably lost more than usual.  It was a fun time going after those tree rats, its a great way to shake off the wintertime doldrums.  Now it's off to make some squirrel and shrimp gumbo, cajun style.