Backwoods Extreme with David Orlowski

DAVID ORLOWSKI

My foot locks up mid stride. Just like that, a slight movement changed the view in front of me.

It wasn’t that I didn’t stare holes through the oak leaves littering the understory in front of me before moving. I checked several tree trunks, one at a time. I knelt slowly. I glanced around, but still nothing.

The motion of standing back up was so slow that it felt as if I was a cloud drifting across the sky at midday. I once again scanned every inch of leaf-covered ground along with the tree bases for anything out of place.

Nothing, zilch, so I decided I would have to sit and wait the critter out at his own game. Then, in a flash, I saw gray hair appear out of the corner of my eye, then stop, and a gray squirrel hung twitching on a low branch.

As that gray ball of fur clung camouflaged against the matching gray/black bark, I thought about how challenging squirrel hunting can be sometimes. As I moved ever so slightly into a better shooting position, his head rose and he started twitching his tail in alarm, then froze.

He knew something was nosing around his core area and was waiting on his senses to reassure him it was safe before making the next move.

I ever so slowly raise my .22 rifle and place the scopes cross hairs on his head. I notice his ears are locked in an upright position and his nostrils twitch ever so slightly. His black eyes never blink as he stares intently into the day’s bright sunshine.

While his head is froze in position, I gently squeeze the trigger and hear a slight pop. His gray fur barely becomes a spot as he drops among the brightly colored oak leaves littering the forest floor.

I exhale gradually after being tensed for the last few minutes and make my way over to collect my hard-earned prize. He’s laid out length-wise in the bright sun rays breaking through the forest canopy.

He looks natural, laying sprawled out, belly down, just as if he could spring into action and be gone in a second. After collecting my trophy, I relish the brief moment of hunting adventure I’ve enjoyed and head off in search of more challenges to come.

So if you like excitement and a challenge that will greatly improve your buck hunting, then squirrel hunting is for you. It will prepare your eyes for noticing the smallest details along with testing your stealth as you sneak silently among forest woodlots. Besides improving your hunting skills, you’ll be able to enjoy some squirrel pot pies like your mother made for you as a young hunter.

With the season already open, it’s a good time to locate some acorn woodlots and corn patches. With a limit of six squirrels a day, it makes for an enjoyable day alone or with your kids.

It’s time to get back out there and enjoy what we enjoyed in our youthful years afield. As we’ve aged, we’ve drifted off to partake in hunts for bigger game and forgotten how much joy small game has given us.

Yes, the squirrels are out there, but any competition for them is surprisingly little to none in this day and age. Of course, once upon a time, it was every man’s game but with archery and all the additional hunting seasons available, the small game ranks have declined dramatically.

Even so, those of us who spent many seasons hunting them with our fathers and grandfathers will still spend some time each year hunting squirrels. It’s not only for the sport and excellent table fare, but it’s a way to reach back through time and reconnect with those who first introduced us to the sport.

David Orlowski is a writer, hunter, fisherman and outdoor enthusiast from Potter County. He is a member of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association.