Show me a hunter who can consistently bag a limit of squirrels, and I will show you a hunter who successfully can bag any big-game animal in the world.
The squirrel is complete master of his tiny portion of the wood lot, and it takes a careful hunter to creep within shotgun or .22 rifle range.
I grew up on squirrel hunting, as did a lot of you on the gray side of 40. Back in those days the successful deer hunter was a curiosity and generally a person who traveled to western Maryland's mountains or the Eastern Shore's marshlands.
There were loads of squirrel hunters, though, and the king of the hill around my section of Baltimore County's Worthington Valley was usually one of the Hudgins boys -- Gordy, Bobby or Aubrey. Seldom did they go out with their full-choked Model 12 Winchesters when they didn't come back with a bag full of tasty bushytails.
I remember opening day of squirrel season sounding a lot like what we hear about the opening day of deer season nowadays. The 100-acre wood lot directly behind my boyhood home reverberated with the booms of neighbors' shotguns tracking gray or fox squirrels. Occasionally, if I listened real hard, I could detect the sharp bark of a .22.
I had targeted last Monday for a morning of squirrel stalking a few days earlier and had just the spot picked out -- a large wood lot near Uniontown that was surrounded on three sides by unharvested cornfields and intersected by a couple of old logging roads long forgotten.
My plan was to slowly work my way around the edges, hoping to collect corn raiders and to take advantage of the bounty being offered by the numerous old hickory trees, heavy with ripe acorns.
Because I expected most shots to be at ground feeders or through the heavy foliage that the trees are still holding, I carried my old 12-gauge, full-choked Model 12 pumpgun loaded with high brass #6 Super Xs.
In a few weeks, when the leaves are off, close stalking will be next to impossible, and I will replace the shotgun with a superbly accurate, scoped .22 rifle.
I managed to get to the edge of my wood lot just as the sun broke over the eastern horizon. We had a heavy frost that morning, and I paused a little longer than usual to enjoy the beauty of the sparkling fields.
By moving a few steps at a time, pausing and listening, then proceeding cautiously, I managed to put four gray squirrels in my bag within an hour and a half. Two were stuffing themselves with acorns under spreading hickory trees, one was running from one of the cornfields when my load of #6 shot caught up with it midway up a tree's trunk. I got the fourth as it feasted on a ripe corncob.
After covering half of the wood lot's boundary, I ducked inside and slowly worked my way back to my starting point by following the traces of one of the long discarded work roads.
This took another hour and allowed me to fill my daily half-dozen limit. Both grays were taken from high trees -- one as it scampered from limb to limb, a second as it plastered itself against a tree's trunk.
Squirrel season continues through Jan. 31, making it one of our longest, and you can fill out a limit right up to the last day. Thanks to an exceptional mast crop throughout Carroll County this year and minimal hunting pressure, the season outlook is excellent.
Fishing tourney winners
Brian Morgan, Dan Confer, Steve Lewis and Don Frizzell were big winners among the 293 anglers participating in last Saturday's Fall Fishing Tournament at Piney Run Park.
Morgan's 5.69-pound largemouth and 12-year-old Confer's 1.01-pound crappie earned each angler a $200 grand prize. Frizzell and Lewis won $100 each for their second-best 2.84-pound bass and .89-pound crappie, respectively.
Check deer at a station
Carroll County has six deer checking stations this year, and any whitetail you bag here must be taken to one.
The stations are: Bauerlein's Meats, Inc., 1046 Carroll St., Hampstead; Bullocks Meats, Route 32, Westminster; C&C; Taxidermy, Bachman Valley Road and Route 30, Manchester; Fish Maryland, 2030 Liberty Road, Peddlers Square Shopping Center, Eldersburg; Gun Shack, 101 S. Main St., Mount Airy; Hatfields Country Meats, 502 E. Baltimore St., Taneytown.
Fly fishing show
The Mid-Atlantic Council Federation of Fly Fishers will present a Fly Fishing Show and Conclave on Nov. 12-13 at the Ramada Inn in Gettysburg.
A banquet is set for Saturday, featuring an auction and raffles. At the show, there will be fly casting and tying demonstrations, more than 40 tackle vendors, book authors and numerous seminars. Call (301) 241-3666 for details and reservations.