Outdoors with John Perkovich

Posted: Tuesday, December 20, 2005

We all have those childhood memories and sometimes they even involve our first hunting trips or perhaps some of the first adventures by ourselves. Once I convinced my father that I could handle a firearm safely he often times allowed me to go off hunting by myself for small game. I enjoyed this unsupervised freedom and took advantage of this opportunity every chance I could.

Living in Wisconsin gave me several types of small game to hunt but often times it was the squirrels that I pursued the most. Besides being good on the table you could also sell the squirrel tails to Mepps in Antigo, Wisconsin or trade them for Mepps Spinners. So either way hunting squirrels was a rewarding experience for any young hunter.

As I grew older I learned several tricks to make the squirrels move around the tree giving you a good shot. For example you could hang your jacket on one side of the tree and either throw a few rocks over there or tie a string to the tree holding your jacket and wiggle it to make the squirrel think that was you moving over there. If you stood still on the opposite side of the tree the squirrel would often times move right around the tree allowing you a nice shot.

Some people prefer to hunt with a dog and this also is a very good method of hunting these tree-climbing creatures. Generally the dog will tree them and bark with his paws on the tree he tracked the squirrel to but sometimes the squirrel will have run into a hollow tree or jumped away without the dog or you seeing it scurry away. At other times they might go up a huge pine tree making it impossible to find him.

Another method is using calls as you sit quietly waiting for them to answer your chatter. Once you spot them you wait for a chance to get your gun up and shoot without the squirrel detecting any of your movement.

Perhaps the best method was just sitting still not making a sound and simply waiting for the squirrels to come out to feed on acorns or even a corn field. Just sitting and not hiking around was very difficult for me to do but as I grew older I learned to be much more patient in the woods. After you find a squirrel and shoot it they clean so much nicer warm and fresh then waiting till you get home after hunting to do it. By the time you get the squirrel cleaned often times you will spot another one without even having to move away.

On a few rare occasions your squirrel will hang up in a tree and you might have to climb the tree to get it down or find a long stick to shake him loose. If you’re equipped with a good arm you might be able to throw something up into the tree to dislodge your game or be forced to leave it for one of the predator birds. I never had to leave very much game behind as I usually came up with some type of method for retrieving my game.

Many of the sports shops or bars would have a tail contest each year and whomever came in with the longest squirrel tail would win a few dollars for their efforts. I remember one year I won the biggest tail contest but for the life of me I can’t remember just how long it was.

Once I got home I was very careful that my squirrels were all cleaned properly and washed up ready for the table. I also made sure where I shot them did not to damage any of the meat and they were not covered with hair, leaves, sticks or dirt of any kind. I knew if they were not perfect mom would not cook them.

Well no matter how nice they looked mom really wasn’t into cooking squirrels and no matter how many hints I threw at her she wasn’t going to get very involved in cooking squirrels. She had one way of doing it and one way only.....throw them in her little pressure cooker and after about ten minutes at ten Lb of pressure sit them on the table and say there they are! No vegetables in there with them, no frying them like you would a chicken or any other kind of meat. Yes we ate a lot of them just like that, or should I say we choked them down like that. I tried to explain to her that you don’t cook chicken or beef or really anything like that so why ruin the squirrel meat by boiling it like that? Why can’t we fry it like chicken?

I guess we all lived through the boiled squirrel. But just one time I would love to call mom up and invite her over for dinner and after she was here sit an old pressure cooked something in front of her and say “There it is have at it!” Then simply offer her the same food only prepared a little better.

However I also know getting mom to agree that her pressure cooked squirrel wasn’t very good might be about as easy as trying to swallow a porcupine quill sandwich. Some things might be better off just left alone, but if you see some smoke billowing in the distant skies don’t take it for granted that it is a volcano getting ready to blow, someone might have showed mom this story! See you next week!

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