"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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Five Months of "Nimrodery" Begin August 15
Copyright © 2007 by Bill Scifres

The first day of the squirrel season no doubt is languishing in third place in terms of popularity with outdoors folks in Indiana--maybe the Midwest--but it is more than just an opener for bushy tails; it is the beginning of all hunting for the year. Only upland game and deer seasons are bigger.

Indiana’s squirrel season opens August 15, as usual. But there have been some changes this year. We again apply season dates to the entire state, north and south of U.S. 40 no longer are involved. It also extends through January 31, 2008. The squirrel season had been split north and south for several years to give dog hunters more time to hunt south of Highway 40. Now they have the entire state and biologists of the DFW do not think it will affect the game adversely.

Many conservative hunters see the DFW as a group of people bent on getting more for all hunters at all costs to the wildlife resources for whatever they may gain. Politicks are not necessarily excluded.

However, I know hunters who do not look kindly on the concept. I am more or less in the middle.

But for all practical purposes (I think we can throw out crow and frog hunting), it is the beginning of everything we hunt. That takes in more than five months of “nimrodery.”

On September 1 a special short season on teal (ducks), Canada geese, doves and some insignificant early migrating game birds with the first bow season for deer coming October 1. Otherwise, we have in store opening seasons for the other game birds and animals we hunt. And the opening of the squirrel hunting launches all of it. So although we have vastly fewer hunters who try their luck with bushy tails, it is big among the outdoors set.

It used to be that the folks of darkened homes were deep in slumber about 3:30 or 4 a.m., then the town would awaken and bleary-eyed ladies would turn out a hot breakfast for their mates and male children. When the last gulp of food went down the chute, the men departed with guns, and the ladies went back to bed for more shut-eye time with visions of platters of fried squirrel.

The scenario still unfurls that way in the hinterlands--a terribly romantic thing--but the art of squirrel hunting is fast being forgotten. And it’s a shame.

I remember an opener--I think it fell on August 10--when my father’s boss came to go with us to the big hill woodlands of Gilliad Hills in Scott County. I was sitting in the back seat, my little Springfield .22 resting between my knees.

As the car rambled over the country roads the sky turned pink in the east, and Jake Boyer, my dad’s boss, turned to me and asked: “Whatta you go’in to do with that rifle with the grays?”

I opined that I would do OK, and my performance backed my optimism, as I came out of the woods about 9 a.m. with three grays and a fox squirrel, all head shots. I didn’t say a lot about my misses. The men had bagged one squirrel between them.

In the ensuing days and weeks--even months and years--I revisited the big woodlands in the wilds of Scott County. It was about 14 miles, but long before daylight I would place my rifle on the handlebars of my old fenderless bicycle and pedal the dirt/gravel roads across the rickety, old Slate Ford Bridge and east to this wonderful new woods. It was a hardwood wonderland.

On my first trip there my father had warned me of the enormity of the woods (it was easy to get lost there) and to keep sight of a small stream that bisected the woods and crossed the road. I listened to his advice.

However, there were other dangers--at least in the mind of a 13-year-old boy. One time just after daylight I was sneaking an old timber trail on the top of a hill when something (a panther, I thought) emitted a wild scream that put the hair on end on the back of my neck.

I got two long-rifle hollow points out of the bullet box and went looking for whatever it was, determined to hold my fire until the range was point-blank. I figured it was best to be on the offense. Even though the earth was wet from rain, I found no tracks.

Later, when I heard my first doe scream, I realized that my panther may have been imagination. But it was a squirrel hunting adventure that will be with me always.

It also begs the question: Do we have big cats in the wilds of Indiana? I would say you can mortgage the farm and bet that we do. My big Scott County woods is probably gone now but we do have a few other places environmentally suitable to big cats. 

DON”T FORGET--This is the week for the opening of the State Fair (August 8), and the free Wild Game Dinner (August 11). Don’t miss the dinner at any price. It is free (all one must pay is the fair admission and parking). It is the best collection of fish and game as food I know. But it would be nice to offer blackberry cobbler or persimmon pudding for dessert: noon Saturday at the Natural Resources Building, northwest corner of the Fairgrounds Track. Doo-Dah! 


All columns, essays, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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