Year’s last chance to go hunting

With the sun shining and temperatures unseasonably warm Monday, I decided to try my luck at getting another squirrel or two for my freezer.

I got into the woods a little before 8 a.m. and for the next four hours, the only thing I saw was an owl, about half a dozen deer and four people (two adults and two small children).

One of the adults yelled this question from about 40 yards away: “Is hunting season still in?”

I replied, “It certainly is.” As this person got closer, I realized this was someone who I used to work with at the hospital.

It was apparent this individual did not give hunting season any thought when they started into the woods for a good weather hike. Naturally, they were concerned about not having blaze orange on. I informed them Wal-Mart might have this kind of clothing on sale right now, and they didn’t have a lot to be worried about. People are safer in the woods regardless of what hunting season may or may not be in than they are at any time driving or riding in a car on public roads.

The other adult was a West Virginia Division of Natural Resources employee who had two small children and a dog with him. All three of these people were wearing an ample amount of blaze orange, and the dog had some orange markings on it. Seeing this really made me fell good, because more youth need to be introduced to the joys of the noble sport of hunting.

I have often said parents need to take their kids hunting when they are young, and maybe when they get older, they will not have to go hunting for them.

I didn’t even fire a shot on this short hunting trip, but it still turned out to be an enjoyable outing. First, I have always enjoyed talking with the people who work for the WVDNR. These people are public servants, and all sportsmen and women need to give them the respect they are worthy of. While all state Wildlife Management Areas (WMA’s) are open for public hunting, hunters need to realize that other people have every right to use the acreage in a lawful manner.

In all my years of hunting on public land, there has only been one occasion that I had any trouble with others using the acreage. This happened more than 50 years ago in the Kanawha State Forest near Charleston. I was heading out of the woods to get my car when I happened to come upon a group of people having a fall picnic. Several of the group were quick to express their total disapproval of people being permitted to be in that area with a gun.

I don’t remember all the details of the incident, but it was another outing when I went home empty handed, mainly because I did not see anything to shoot at.

It has been several years since I have seen squirrels numbers this low. The last time may have been in 1993 when Randolph County got a bad snowstorm on the first day of spring. Just about all of the game populations were down that fall.

It was in 1966 when the entire eastern part of the nation got a killing frost for three days in a row in late May. Just about all of the fruit and nut trees froze. Several people thought the trees had been killed. The DNR informed the public they would come back in about one to two weeks, but there would not be any fruit or nuts for that year. That fall there was just about as near to nothing for any wildlife to eat in the woods except for along the river banks.

Several of the squirrels were coming into the cities where people would feed them. There is nothing that can beg for something to eat any better than a squirrel. Where I would go hunting in Roane County, the farmers were nailing field corn on the trees and fence posts so a few critters could have something to eat.

This year about the only nuts that were abundant were black and red oak acorns. This is by no means a squirrel’s favorite food. What next year holds could be anyone’s guess. I just hope the deer and squirrel numbers can increase next year.

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