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When I squirrel hunted with my Dad, it seemed he would get us up 9 hours before the squirrel even decided to start it's day. We'd be dressed and headed for the hollow in just a few minutes, just so we could wait in the darkness for the day to begin. There is always that morning chill before the sun finishes it's race to the top, it wakes you up and gets your attention. “You look with your eyes not with your head”, thats what he told us, “keep the movement to a minimum, and be ready”. Time passes and soon the first squirrel joins the ground in a mad, but deliberate search for food. I waited for Dad's instruction as to what I should do next, and soon I had my first squirrel. The plan is to wait for everything to get back to normal, that way the other squirrels don’t know whats up. Thinking about it now, Dad either gave the squirrels too much credit, or not enough? 

 

I’ve learned in the last few years many different tactics on how to bag a tree rat, and they all seem to have their perks. I also can’t say that one is more successful then another. I’ve been thinking about it, and Dad’s tactic was to just spend time in the woods. Even if that meant being in the woods hours early, he was just there to enjoy whatever happened. 


There is a lot to learn in those wooded hills, when alone you really get to know yourself. 

 

I'd love to hear about your "Woods Time".

So share a story, I have a few I'll be remembering for you guys.

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The snow was falling very softly when I first looked through the window, I thought it would fine morning to get a late season squirrel. We were all dressed for a chilly Pa deer hunt, but we were armed with squirrel medicine. As we pulled up to the farm we'd be hunting that morning, I had to jump out and undo an electric fence that kept the beef cattle in. I took a second to look around and I marveled at the beautiful white scenery, I don't think the cows were happy with it's arrival though. I got back in the truck with my brother, and dad. When the warm air hit me, I realized how cold it really was, we parked the truck and "Got Legal". That fluorescent orange takes on a beautiful hue when surround by falling ivory white snow. We made it to the hollow and took a minute to pick out our trees, when the choices were made, we split up. My brother would be in the middle and Dad and I would be the flankers. 

 

I couldn't bring myself to sit on the frozen ground, so I just leaned against my tree. The snow continued to fall, as I scanned the limbs over head, hoping to catch a glimpse of game. The freeing wind picked up and my hands were stinging, I slipped them into my warm pocket and closed my eyes. I had a little jack knife in my pocket so my hand wasn't bored, I just enjoyed the jig bone and the warmth it shared with me. I thought about the seasons past and the ones yet to come, the memories made, and those yet to be shared. A little snow flake put me back into the present when it landed on my nose. I opened my eyes to see the snow as picking up. I looked at my dad's tree and he sat, huddled up with his hand tucked away in his big coat. I looked for brother but he wasn't at his tree, he was slowly making his way to a tree in front of mine, I was kind of surprised that he would be in my shooting view. I couldn't figure out what he was doing until I saw his head dart back and forth, I knew we had game. He made his way around the little hollow in front of my tree, and disappeared from view. I listened for his shot but, I heard nun. I waited, and watched for him to return but I still didn't see him. Finally I just assumed he found a better tree to sit at, and was posted again. I resumed my watch only to find a beautiful old Fox squirrel at full attention. He was looking at were my brother had entered the hollow, with his attention drawn I eased away from the tree and I raised the 20 gauge my grandfather got me for my birthday. 

 

The 20 seemed to roar like cannon in that snowy hollow. The shot echoed off in the distance and soon it was lost, the squirrel fell. He was a little over ten yards when I shot, so I knew I had a good chance at bagging that late season squirrel. The snow was already beginning to stick to his fur when I reached him, it was a beautiful old red in that had called this hollow home for years. I celebrated his life, and thanked God for the memory. It wasn't long till my brother and Dad were by my side. With this being the only action of the morning, we decided to call it quits and head for home. It was still pretty early in the morning when we reached our farm, but it was making out to be a beautiful day. I took my mornings prize down to show my grandfather who I knew had been up for hours. He congratulated me on the old bushytail, and I headed for a warm breakfast and a cozy home. 

Rain, rain, rain. Thats all I could hear on my grandparent's farmhouse roof when the alarm went off. My first deer hunt, and all it could do was rain, I was sick in the stomach with the news of more bad weather. I had hoped it would be a chilled morning and the hunters would be out pushing the woods line, but nobody would be out in this mess. I met my grandfather at the stairway and we looked at each other with that dim hope of good hunting. It wasn't long till we were in the stand and ready for the hunt, the rain continued to fall. My grandfather leaned over, "perfect weather for turkey hunting". I smiled and agreed to that assessment of the weather, and soon the sun was lighting up the morning. It didn't get much lighter because of the heavy cloud cover, but you could see the fields in full view. Straight from the woods line, the turkeys piled out. A decent flock of 23 paraded about out in the open. "Too bad they don't taste better" my grandfather said with a smile, as he glanced at his 222 caliber rifle. I nodded my head in agreement again. I tried to stay focused on the task at hand, a buck. 

 

The hours passed and the only entertainment was the turkeys ahead, and soon the day ended.

The weather forecast wasn't pretty for tomorrows hunt so I was less than enthusiastic at the prospect of another failed attempt. But I was impatient in my greenness. I was a rookie and I showed every sign of being one. Everyone I knew shot their first deer on the first day, so I was automatically disappointed with being the black sheep. That morning felt good, whatever happened, happened. The figure was outlined by the darkness of an early morning, but it didn't take long to realize it was a deer, I wanted a Buck and my grandfather wanted me to just get a deer. I thought it was a doe, but he told me it was a buck, I just figured he wanted me to shoot it so he could have that honor of being with me for my first deer. When I pulled up the scope I was happy to see 6 little points, that was good enough for me. 

 

Soon we all stood around the buck, another tradition was fulfilled on the farm and a memory put into the library of my family.

Johnny,

The family traditions and time you all spend togeather enjoying them is always heart warming to hear.  Thank you for two wonderful stories

Well just a few days ago I enjoyed a lazy float down the kiski river, it was a hot one, so it was nice to stop and enjoy the water. A gentle breeze carried the waters scent all through the air, it made for a relaxing time. We missed out on a good chance to do some fishing that day, but it was a perfect little rendezvous on the river. My brothers tipped their canoe 13 times, so I guess they never got to hot. There is definitely something to the quietness that engulfs you on a lonely waterway like this, so many things happening under the surface of that dull river green. It's still very much alive and hard at work to stay that way, up top, your just enjoying the show those beautiful, puffy, white clouds are putting on. So many things to enjoy on a trip like this, things to recollect and remember, keeping these moments alive by paying homage to them with a thought.

An osprey settles itself on the rivers bank, enjoying a fresh caught fish, his hard work has payed off, and he'll take his rest. The miles seem to fly by through time, and soon the trip is done, but that lazy canoe float scars a new memory on the brain, one to enjoy this winter when I'm stuck inside the house.

The Tahoe plowed along as we climbed that mountain road, snow ever present and steadily falling. The warm air blew all through the vehicle , taking that mornings chill away, but that cold couldn't touch the morning about to spent in the ivory setting. The plans had been drawn out that evening, we'd split up and meet back around 1. With rifles slung over the shoulders I shook my brothers hand, then my uncles. "Good luck guys, and stay safe out there". It's all I could think to whisper the freezing morning. As we turned our backs to head for the woods, my other uncle made his way back to his old stand. That Tahoe idled away, and soon the quietness fell in. There was only one reason to be here, and that was a chance at bagging a Pennsylvania black bear, my family had shared this same quest for years. My Dad was the only one to live that dream up until now, that season left an impression on him for quiet a while. This was the first season without Dad, we had lost him in a car accident months earlier and that hollow feeling was still fresh and sharp.

 

I stopped to catch my breath, I was trying to prevent overheating and sweating, on a day like this, it makes for a miserable hunt. I turned to my new hunting partner... my Mom. She had spent her whole life never taking up a gun in pursuit of game, but here she stood, surrounded by falling snow in a freezing forrest of old giants and mountain laurel. I was too young to be in these woods alone, so my Mom sacrificed a warm stay at home for me. 

 

The flakes sounded like mortars falling around us as the snow kept up, it was time to find a place to relax. It didn't take long to find a perfect spot, a old mossy boulder with a young pine tree growing beside it. We had cover from the snow, a great view of any passing game, and warm place to rest a little. Time passed and we needed to move on, I felt bad leaving the warmth and protection of this makeshift hunting lodge, but bear are always on the move, and especially in the laurel thickets. So we pressed on, after more snow and more chill, we reached the top and took a rest. Each breath you could see it freeze in time, before fading away. We made our way to the edge of the laurels and found a place to take up a stand. We were quiet in these beautiful thickets, always watching and ever present for that foreign sound of.... sound. A black object moving quickly through the thickets will get any hunters blood pumping, and mine was no different. I readied myself for any opportunity to bag this trophy, but I needed a clear shot and view of my target before even thinking about taking the safety off. Then he broke the cover... a big beautiful PA Black..... squirrel.

 

That was the action for the morning, but the beauty and time spent in these quiet old woods was more than a hunt, it was a healing time spent bonding with a loved one, remembering a loved one passed.

Johnny,

So, did your Mom continue to hunt with you?  What a wonderful women to take that action and go so you could keep that season alive after such a tragic loss.

She is a great hunting companion, she is also the best woman I know. I've never met anyone who is willing to sacrifice as much as she has. She stepped in big time for the hole my Dad left, she got us back into the woods and got things normal again. We've enjoyed some amazing scenery together, and she's been there for some great moments, I'll be sharing them soon. I'm biased yes, but she's different from the rest.

 

We got a job together working on a produce farm, we poured a lot of sweat as a family, but we had a ton of fun. My Dad was a great guy, but my Mom is an amazing woman. She got me into this whole crazy knife collecting thing, so it's on her head when I'm in debt. You'll have a chance to meet her at the Rendezvous this year, it's been a tradition to make it up there every year, so as long as she's game we make the trip.

I would be honored to meet such a remarkable women woman Johhny.  And I know she must be because she has raised a fine son

I'm sure there are some good stories to be shared here, So lets hear 'em.

I know there are more than a few members who have experienced a moment in the Woods that will never leave their minds.

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