Second Annual Brooksville Squirrel Hunt

Getting the kids outdoors and the squirrels out of the garden!

Last Saturday I had the honor of being accompanied into the woods by one of my favorite squirrel hunting buddies, my 9 year old nephew, Owen Flanders. Together we signed up as 1 of 168 teams, competing in the 2nd Annual Brooksville Squirrel Hunt. The brainchild of our hunt teacher, Michelle Payne of Brooksville, this squirrel hunt started as a way to entice kids to put down the electronics for a day and get outside, spending some quality time with a parent or other mentor.

The outpouring of love from the community for this event has been incredible. The 149 youth participants were what it was all about and I am so grateful to Michelle and her great team of supporters for doing so much to provide so many people with an event like no other. Even our own Brooksville City Council, through Councilmember Blake Bell, has invited the winners of the competition to attend the next city council meeting to receive special recognition for their success.

During the morning hunt, I had to take a short break for a call-in segment on the Big and Wild Outdoors radio show. As I was discussing the hunt with one of his hosts, Braden Gunn, my nephew’s tiny shotgun roared as he pulled a fat little walnut splitter from the branch, alive in the air. That has to be the first on the radio! Two of the show’s co-hosts were also active in the hunt that morning, providing live updates from the field as they secured 12 thick tree rats, topping our team’s bag of 11.

Once all the squirrels were weighed at the hunt’s headquarters, Preacher David Hope’s Cowboy Church, the teams were convened to receive their prizes and a variety of other prizes. The team of Shannon Brass and Dillon Pinkston won first prize with their share of squirrels, earning themselves an envelope containing $1,680.00 and some bragging rights. Second place was the team of Kevin Gonzales and Mike Bick, who also ended their day with an envelope stuffed with cash as did our third place finishers, Bonnie and Loki Wood. I’m proud to congratulate each of them on a great morning hunt!

Now, the winners of the hunt were determined by the total weight of a quota of five squirrels. Now, with such a big bag on the line, many people joked how easy it would be to add weights to the squirrels, so DC Simms, a local celebrity white-tailed taxidermist, volunteered to check each squirrel handed over. I sat for a while, watching DC thoroughly investigate each of the chipmunks, and not once did they find reason to suspect foul play.

Of the thousands of participants and spectators gathered for the weigh-in and award ceremony, I never saw a frown among them. Not a single word of discontent or discouragement was spoken. But there were smiles everywhere, old friends catching up, new friends making, and a community coming together, celebrating the harvest and a good day outdoors. It all swelled this old hunter’s heart and he couldn’t be more proud to have been a part of it all. And as for my best friend Owen, he’s devising a new strategy for next year’s hunt. He’s planning on adding some Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies to his mom’s bird feeders to help fatten up our local squirrel population!

As always, if you have any comments, questions, or just want to share your success in the woods, send me a message at [email protected] God Bless and Good Hunting!