This Saturday, February 19, I am excited to be participating in the 2nd Annual Brooksville Squirrel Hunt Competition. My teammate, once again, this year will be my 9-year-old nephew, Owen, who is even more excited than I am. He has gotten into a small range of time with a .410 shotgun and a small .22lr “cricket” rifle and can crush any soda can you put in front of him.
The brainchild of our Brooksville hunt teacher Michelle Payne, this squirrel hunt started as a way to entice kids to put down the electronics for a day and get outside to spend some quality time with a parent. or other mentor. And this time last year, her idea turned out to be a huge success attracting 72 two-person teams. Well, word has spread and this year’s competition hosts 168 two-person teams, 147 of those chasers are kids! Now that really makes my old heart feel great.
The outpouring of love from the community for this event has been incredible, with 25 individuals and businesses donating thousands of dollars in giveaways such as prizes and raffle items in support of our young hunters. Kids are what it’s all about and I’m so grateful to Michelle and her great team of supporters for doing so much to give so many people an event like no other to look forward to.
I have had the honor of accompanying many young hunters into the woods, from squirrel hunting to whitetail deer, and for anyone partnering with a youngster for a field trip, I have a couple of suggestions. First, he uses a blind. Yes, I have heard many conversations between veteran bushy-tailed hunters about their distaste for hunting blind. But with a kid along, go ahead and use one. The reason is that although we have trained ourselves, for the most part, to stay still in the woods, the children are still very nervous. But from inside a blind they can go ahead and fidget, stand up and sit down, pick their nose and check their phone without ruining a hunt. And hopefully, without being scolded every few minutes to sit still.
Second, watch out for bugs when taking the kids out. I’ve been out in the woods a lot lately, hunting squirrels and looking for turkeys, and I can promise you that we’re not likely to run out of skeeters anytime soon. Go ahead and double up on the Thermacell, and spray them down with a good repellant anyway. Our biggest obstacle to keeping them coming back for more is making it fun, and no one will have fun while you smash skeeters and remove ticks. A little extra attention there can go a long way.
As always, if you have any comments, questions, or just want to share your success in the woods, give me a call at [email protected] God bless you, good hunting!