First Annual Squirrel Hunt – Hernando Sun

DThe sun was barely breaking through when the sun reached the eastern horizon, daylight barely outweighing the shadows. The crickets and other nocturnal insects stopped singing while the birds and frogs resumed their chorus. My partner for the morning hunt, eight-year-old Owen Geer, nudged me before pointing up at the oak hammock in front of us. His eyes widened and a smile spread across his face.

“I see one!” He excitedly whispered, “He’s coming down from that tree.”

I, too, had seen the squirrel, and it was only a short time before the silence of the morning was broken by the sound of an antique single-shot shotgun; and Mr. Squirrel fell. The morning was cloudy with intermittent rain and wind, making hunting quite difficult, so it was a while before another repeated the mistake of showing himself. But, with a lot of patience, my partner was able to deliver our quota of five squirrels, to be weighed at four in the afternoon. Look, we had signed up as one of seventy-two teams registered to compete in the First Annual Squirrel Hunt hosted by Lake Lindsey Mall and Deli and we were itching to put on a good show.

The competition, conceived and organized by Michelle Payne and presented by Bridie Jones, owner of Lake Lindsey Mall, was an unexpected success even before the hunt took place. The one hundred and forty four hunters were quite even between adults and children and that right there filled my heart with so much joy. If you’ve paid attention to this column in the past, you know how much I love introducing kids to the beauty of the great outdoors. The rules were simple, submit a quota of five squirrels, using any legal capture method as determined by our Florida Wildlife Commission, to be weighed and the heaviest five would win.

“To win that?” you may be asking

The event was a one hundred percent payout, with fifty percent going to the winning team, thirty percent going to second place finishers, and twenty percent going to third place. Finally, one thousand four hundred and forty-four dollars were distributed among the winners. Who would have thought, right?

My little friend and me? The squirrel quota we submitted was large enough to earn us a third place finish. And at four o’clock, the place was full of hunters and spectators who awaited the results without frowning. Such a gathering of such a happy and diverse crowd was just amazing. I spent most of the afternoon cornered by my truck listening to dozens of stories from the morning hunt from many of the kids who had competed and their enthusiasm was absolutely contagious.

After the success of this first hunt, there is no doubt that there will be a second and I can assure you that my little friend Owen and I are looking forward to it. As always, if you have any questions or a story to share, feel free to contact me at [email protected] God bless you and good hunting!