Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Squirrels and memories...

      It's already daylight as we head out the door and down the road to our favorite stand of hickories and oaks. The air is cool and crisp, fog hanging in the low spots and dips...A cruel tease or maybe just a preview of whats to come, but I'll take it! The dog days of August can return tomorrow and the fall like weather is a welcome reprieve from last month's triple digits.

      Dew soaks our pant legs as we skirt around the bean field and step into the woods. I can just barely see my breath as I exhale in the cool air. The recent rains have softened the forest floor and what had been like a carpet of popcorn was now an earthy, soft path under my feet. I slip down the old two track logging trail keeping my eyes focused in the tree tops as I listen for any sign of their presence. A couple of whitetail does spot me and make their escape through the woods. I take my seat on a huge, old red oak log that fell victim to a lightning strike and breathe in the woods...The damp soil, the decaying leaves, the scent of the autumn air all mingle together and bring my senses alive. It's good to be back among the trees, it's good to be hunting...

      My wait isn't long as I hear the familiar “rnt, rnt, rnt” sound of a squirrel grinding his incisors on a hickory or walnut...I try to drown out the noise of screeching blue jays and the singing of nuthatches as they flit from limb to limb...There! There he is...high up a shag bark, pieces of nuts raining down giving him away as he enjoys his early morning breakfast. I watch the little rodent make short work of his meal and hop to another limb for his next treat. Still too high for a shot, so I kneel down and wait and wait and wait some more, knees aching and reminding me of my age...This battle of wills goes to the squirrel as he's content to gorge himself comfortably 35' feet above me and I'm unwilling to launch an arrow knowing it will be forever lost in space...

      I make my way down the trail, amazed at how quiet the woods have become...I lean up against a massive old beechnut, carved full of initials and listen for another bushytail, hoping to catch one on the ground for my recurve. As I scan and listen, the woods take over and my mind starts to drift. In the blink of an eye, I'm a 12 year old kid again, transported back to some long forgotten squirrel woods. An H&R 12 gauge over my shoulder as I stumble through the trees trying to become a hunter...In my mind, I'm about ready to take aim when the “crack” of a .22 snaps me back to reality...

      I turn and head back and as I round the bend in the logging path, I see my son and the smile on his face says it all as he holds up his prize. I nod my approval as we silently part ways again, looking for more squirrels and for more memories, old and new...