Saturday, September 19, 2009

Jacob’s First Squirrel Hunt

Since the kids are starting to grow up and as fall approaches my hunting season seems to become more absent as the years go by. This year is no exception to the rule. Here in Michigan the early goose season is immediately followed by the opener of small game season then early doe season along with the youth waterfowl weekend hunt all in about two weeks time.

The opening of these four seasons along with the fact that I now have three kids of hunting age has resulted in very little sleep and almost no hunting for me! You know what? I wouldn't have it any other way! This weekend was a tough decision to make for myself along with my two boys. We had to decide what we were going to tackle this weekend and try to make the most of if along with keeping all of us happy, well keeping the boys happy at least.

Jake Looking For Limb Bacon!

We or should I say they decided to opt for the waterfowl hunt on Saturday morning. The plan was to get both boys our for the youth waterfowl weekend which would be Jake's first waterfowl hunt over water. Now the problem was that where we were going to hunt was a marsh that was too deep for Jake to get into even with waders. Mike really wanted to go so I told him to go with my buddies and that I would take Jake out for his first ever small game hunt. Jake was cool with that since all he wanted to do was get out and harvest something since he was now old enough to hunt.

I took Mike up to Birch Run to meet fellow UNJ field staffer Chico Lopez who was going to take Mike out and meet up with Dave to hit the marsh that was a 4am wake-up call! I drove the half hour back home and got another 45 minutes of sleep before waking Jake up to hit the wood lot. It didn't take him long to get his gear together and pop into the truck. I managed to climb into the truck and get it pointed in the right direction. As we drove over to the state park Jake was a chatter box. He wanted to know exactly what to expect for the morning's hunt. I reassured him that all would work out and that I would take him to my new found location where the tree rats hang out.

As we wheeled into the park I was amazed that we were the only ones there! This was going to be great, it was 39 degrees, no wind, and the sun was starting to break the horizon! Perfect! We unloaded at the parking area and I loaded Jake's .22 mag bolt action Marlin rifle that he borrowed from Mike. I then loaded the little Winchester .22 mag lever action that I was going to carry. I made sure that the power was turned down on the rifle that Jake was going to use since he always seems to have a problem looking through a scope this scope was a Bushnell Banner series which worked well for him.

Once we got started down the trail into the wood lot I made Jake take the lead to see just how much he had remembered from Hunter's Safety, it didn't take long for me to see that he remembered all the safety lessons about carrying in the field. I watched him make the necessary carry switches depending on what obstacles he encountered. Don't tell me that a 10 year old doesn't understand firearm safety! As we made our way quietly through the woods, we would stop about every 20 or 30 yards to listen for sound and scan the tree tops for any movement. The woods were becoming alive and I could see the curiosity in Jake's eyes as he had that look on his face of "What was that sound?" I would ask him, "What do you think that was making that sound?" He would give me an answer and if he was right I would give him an ataboy! If not, I would try to let him figure it out without giving it away.

Walking through the wood lot, I would notice odd little things or features that I would point out to him for a later lesson on navigation through the woods. We finally settled up on a spot near where I had seen and heard some squirrels on opening day. We posted up and sat for about 30 minutes listening to the nearby sound of a squirrel going through its morning ritual of having breakfast. Not seeing anything though, Jake asked if we could move into the same location where I sat on opening day. We quietly made our way up a ridge into the exact spot I had been sitting when we heard the chatter of a squirrel in a nearby tree. Jake told me that he thought it was up a tree just in front of us so we both started scanning the canopy for movement. It took about 15 minutes and Jake spotted him first! I told him to get the scope on him and settle in for a shot. It took about a minute for the critter to settle down for a shot from the 'ol Jakester!

He drew down on it and popped off a shot, immediately the squirrel scurried behind the tree and started chattering at him. I told Jake to get ready and wait, he might come back out again. The problem was that Jake was free handing the shot. I told him to rest up against the nearby tree to steady his shot. The squirrel came down the tree and hit the ground eventually popping up on a little stick looking at us. Jake took careful aim and BANG! Down he went! Jake looked at me with a big grin and said, "I got him dad, I got him!" I noticed that the squirrel began to move and I was afraid he would run off so I put another round in him. Jake went over to pick him up and he began to move again, so Jake pulled up and touched the trigger one more time.

Jake's First Squirrel!

As he brought that squirrel back to me with that big grin on his face I was one proud dad! My boy has now become a hunter! After posing for a few photos, Jake was eager to get back to the hunt. We got a game plan together and did another push up towards a different ridge. Once we reached the top we heard more chatter. Jake saw movement in a tree up ahead and wanted to put a stalk on him. We quietly moved into position to a nearby tree for cover. Jake began to scan the tree tops again and found the movement, but this time it was WAY up top! He couldn't get into position to take a good shot so we waited. Finally he got to where he could see the squirrel and tried to put a shot on him. He missed, but the squirrel leaped down to the next limb in plain sight. I wasn't going to let him get away so I put the cross hairs on him and squeezed off a round that brought him to the ground with a dull thud! Jake looked at me and said, "You got him dad!" I couldn't have done it without you making him jump to that other limb, that is what I call team work I told him.

Number Two In The Bag!

It was getting late and I could tell Jake was getting tired so we made our way back to the truck to wrap up his first small game hunt. While on the way back to the truck I asked him if he know how to get back to the truck? He told me no, he didn't know where we were. While looping back through the wood lot I began to show him the odd little features that we saw on our way in. He picked up pretty quick on the direction we needed to head and I let him lead the way back out to the parking area. Without the aid of a trail he picked out the directions we needed to travel and he got us back to where we needed to be. He learned a little more than just how to hunt this morning. I remember getting lost in the woods with my dad a few times and I wanted to make sure that Jake knew how to keep his wits about him even in a small wood lot.

He was excited and tired from the day's hunt. As we made our way home he made the round of phone calls to let all the grandparents and family know that he bagged his first game from the woods! He told the story over and over with more enthusiasm each time he repeated it. I may have missed out on my early doe hunt today, but it was worth it! I got to spend time with my boy in the woods and watch him harvest his first game in the field! I wouldn't have it any other way!

On another note, he told me he wanted to make squirrel stew with his game. I asked him did he know how to make it and he told me he was going to use the recipe from Bob Rich from the "BR Shooting Journal", I can't wait to try it!


Up North Journal Field Staff Chico said...

Great read. Congrats Jake!

Bob Rich said...

Great story guys and nice work Jake! I posted a paragraph from your story on my blog with a link back to your page. This is what I really like to see! Young people enjoying the sport. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Jake!! An awesome hunt and great pictures. I can't wait to read about your next hunting adventure.

Anonymous said...

Great job Jake!! I'm glad you had fun. Let me know how the stew turns out.