A Squirrely Obsession


The two-week buck season in West Virginia is over now and my current obsession is squirrel hunting. Around here, the people I’ve talked to who go squirrel hunting use either a shotgun or a .22. Ammo for a .22 long rifle is getting hard to find. I’ve tried using both my .22 and a 20 gauge and have had no luck so far, but I’ve only tried a couple times. Squirrel season runs until the end of January, though, so I have lots of time left! There is another doe season at the end of December, so I’ll be attempting to shoot a deer again then, but so far, based on my hunting endeavors overall, the creatures of the woodlands have no need to fear.

I’ve tried for two years now to shoot a deer with no success. I’m inexperienced, of course, and also tend to get caught up cooking over Thanksgiving week with my kids here and don’t get out as much as I want to. It’s a challenge, and I’ll keep trying. I have now gotten to skin, gut, and butcher several deer–between family and neighbors letting me practice and learn on what they’ve shot. (If someone tells me they’ve shot a deer, the first words out of my mouth are CAN I GUT IT?) I’ve learned to hang deer. I’ve learned to skin and gut them. I even gutted, skinned, and quartered a deer in the woods, and I did one, entirely–from skinning and gutting to butchering, with nothing but my pocket knife. Then I went to Cabela’s and bought a proper set of hunting knives. Because doing the whole thing with a pocket knife was kind of ridiculous!

One of these days, I’m going to finally shoot my own deer, so all this skinning and gutting and quartering practice is so that when that day comes, if I’m alone, I’ll know how to handle the deer. It’s what to do with the deer after that seemed the most difficult to me. I can always try until I eventually manage to shoot one, but I need to know what to do with it afterward in case I’m alone. I feel pretty confident about that now, and I really love that sense of confidence. Occasionally, I do butcher a goat–but I’ve always taken them to a processor. (Same with deer–we’ve always taken them up to the high school for processing in past years.) I love having the knowledge to process my own meat. I’ve always liked the idea of raising my own meat, but to know I can process it myself, too, is an amazing thing. Despite my lack of actual success in bagging game so far, the past year or two of educating myself about firearms and hunting and processing has been a huge confidence boost, and it presents an ongoing challenge that I really enjoy. To me, it represents that next step in learning how to be self-sufficient.

I wish I’d learned more about hunting when I was a kid. My dad took my brothers hunting, but never his daughters. Those were the days when life was a little more sexist. But it’s never too late to learn! And so, in the midst of all my deer hunting efforts, I got to thinking…. How do most people start hunting? Often, as kids, and that often means squirrel hunting or other small game (such as rabbit). They’re plentiful and the season goes on for months. This offers more opportunity to learn to hunt and to practice processing an animal. People don’t talk about squirrel hunting as much as about deer hunting, it seems. Deer hunting is like the big excitement! But since I’ve gotten interested in squirrel hunting and started bringing it up around men–hired men, neighbors–I’ve learned that quite a few men do squirrel hunt, not just as kids but as grown men. (I’ve yet to meet a woman around here who squirrel hunts, but I’m sure they’re out there! But I tend to talk to more men than women anyway.)

So, these days, I’m like a kid, learning to hunt, and working on my squirrel skills. I’ve watched all kinds of squirrel hunting videos. I talk to every man I meet about squirrel hunting–what kind of gun do they use, and if they use a shotgun, what kind of ammo. Some people will only use a .22, but a lot of people also use a 12 or 20 gauge and find that easier even if you have to pick out the lead shot. (And as I mentioned earlier, .22 ammo is actually a problem to find anymore.) And did you know they make squirrel calls? I’m going to get one and try it out. And, of course, I’ve been inhaling squirrel recipes. I’ve eaten squirrel before, and like it. I just watched a video with a squirrel fricassee recipe this morning and it looked delicious!

I’m going to get a squirrel. Soon. I’m determined. Do you squirrel hunt? If you do, tell me about it! I’m obsessed.

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Me, hanging with my new Marlin 30-30, ready for hunting.
First of all, I need to apologize because I took vacation without saying I was taking vacation. That was because I was so into my vacation.

However! I’m back and with excitement.

This Monday started the two-week buck season here. We have had a non-stop problem with poachers here since we moved in. Yesterday, it came to a head and we were able to catch one of the poachers in the act.
This is Ross (orange hunting vest) and my neighbor Jim, standing by the blue pickup, with two game wardens in the background.

On Tuesday afternoon, we spied a truck and two four-wheelers pull up on a road up the hill across from our farm. This is property that is also part of this farm and we have seen poachers pull deer down the hill and load them in the past. This time, the four-wheelers went up, then came back down, then left with the truck. Ross took his four-wheeler and went up the hill, found another pickup truck but no one there. We were sure we had a poacher. Ross parked his four-wheeler at the bottom of the hill. I called game wardens and my neighbor Jim. My neighbor Jim came to help block the road with his pickup. That was the only way out from the top of the hill. I was worried about Ross confronting them alone. Luckily, game wardens arrived before there was a confrontation.
This is the game wardens driving up the hill. Ross went up after them with his four-wheeler. My neighbor Jim went with him, and Ross’s dad also went up once he got back. (He was at the store when this was going down.)

The poacher was caught red-handed with a shot deer. He was charged with trespassing, illegal possession of wildlife, no hunting license, and a vehicle registration two years out of date.

He admitted to everything, said he’d been planning to stay all day, shoot all the deer he could, and that was his family coming to check on him–who we spotted and gave him away. He said he had 160 acres of his own, but hadn’t gotten a deer on his land so he decided to come hunt ours.

He left with over $600 in fines and I hope he enjoys his $600 deer.

And I bet this farm is off his to-poach list now!

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The Slanted Little House

"It was a cold wintry day when I brought my children to live in rural West Virginia. The farmhouse was one hundred years old, there was already snow on the ground, and the heat was sparse-—as was the insulation. The floors weren’t even, either. My then-twelve-year-old son walked in the door and said, “You’ve brought us to this slanted little house to die." Keep reading our story....

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