Are you smarter than a squirrel?
A NEW SQUIRREL HUNTER recently told me that he had been outsmarted by squirrels for three days in a row. I would have called BS on this had he not added that he only started squirrel hunting three days ago. That’s par for the course.
Frankly, I have been outsmarted by squirrels my whole life.
I started squirrel hunting when I got my first air rifle as a kid. Back in those days, it was basically pest control, meaning that my mom and dad wanted my brother and me out of the house.
I was tasked with spending my summer trying to keep squirrels from decimating my dad’s prized pear tree. To accomplish this, my brother and I made a blind under a picnic table in the yard and shot any squirrel that showed up on our side of the tree. That is to say we shot no squirrels.
The end result was that we spent the better part of a summer under a picnic table – which meant mom and the squirrels always knew where we were. For a while dad thought we did a good job of protecting his fruit trees too, right until he looked at each pear on the far side of the tree.
These days, I hunt squirrels differently – primarily because it’s tiring to carry a picnic table through the woods. Otherwise, it’s very much the same. The squirrels are on one side of the tree and I am on the other.
If you think about this, it’s strange: one of the animals has a well-developed, logical brain and the other hunts squirrels. If the
hunter in question had any sense at all, he would leave the squirrels alone and hunt something that had a comparable IQ – for instance, mushrooms or tree bark.
Having acknowledged that, I still enjoy hunting eastern gray squirrels because they present quite a challenge and are actually pretty good food as far as small game goes. Also, I am hoping that one day I will run into a stupid one.
You do get those on occasion – provided that occasion is right after you unloaded.
In the U.S. where squirrel hunting is extremely popular, they have spring and fall seasons – and, as you might imagine, a lot of hunters with very low selfesteem. How cagey are they? Despite the generous hunting seasons, no conservation group or wildlife agency has ever had to worry about their numbers going down.
In fact I once read a book on squirrel biology that suggested that, for every one squirrel you see, you probably walk by ten. Those ones are quietly laughing at you.
Despite this, sometimes the stars align or you lap a squirrel by chasing it around a tree trunk. On those days you come home with a fine small game animal that is locally grown and eats good food such as nuts, seeds and fruit. If you are a fly tyer or simply want to surprise your spouse by sprucing up her hat, you also get a nice tail out of the deal.
Even so, squirrel hunters are still a rare breed in this province. I think their sense of survival and skill at evasion is probably the main reason squirrel hunting hasn’t gained popularity in Ontario.
Maybe, it also had the fact that we have way too many trees.