Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

August 18, 2013

MARTINO: Hunting squirrels is tradition for many

Martino recalls squirrel hunt that sparked his passion for outdoors.


Kokomo Tribune

---- — I always have liked the month of August. It was the month of my late father’s birthday and it also opens the door of the upcoming hunting seasons. It begins with squirrel season which comes into play Aug. 15. Then dove and the early goose season follow a few short weeks later and by October, the woods are filled with archers seeking deer.

I think for many, hunting squirrels was the gateway to a lifelong passion for the outdoors. I will always remember my first trip with my dad. Thick ribbons of sunlight sliced through the woods as dawn broke. The stump I was sitting on was cool and damp as my eyes surveyed the tree tops.

“Now it’s better to sit still and be quiet,” Dad said, before moving away to another stump.

It didn’t take long before small limbs twitched as a squirrel jumped from one branch to a tree directly in front of me. I look at Dad with eyes wide from excitement. He smiles and gives me the nod. The woods echo with the blast from my little .410 and I have my first bushytail. I remember looking back at my dad and getting his solid wink of approval. Something I rarely received back then as a rambunctious and I’m sure, annoying, child.

We move to another spot full of oak trees. I keep staring at the squirrel taken earlier, now laying on the ground beside me. It doesn’t take long before another moves through the network of branches. I get the nod from Dad and slide a cartridge in the gun, but this time with confidence. I soon have my second squirrel. I look over at Dad again for his approval. But this time a valuable lesson is learned.

In the thick stand of trees, the woods look the same. As I walk from tree to tree looking for that squirrel, Dad just sat there.

“It’s over there,” he finally said, after letting me amble around for a few minutes. “Always pay attention to where they fall,” he added — sage advice I have never forgotten.

It was that single morning which ignited my passion for hunting activities.

When it was over, we loaded up in our old Chevy station wagon for the short drive home. I remember Dad showing me how to clean those bushytails. After soaking in saltwater overnight, Mom delivered a feast of fried squirrels, cooked in a cast iron skillet. Gravy with fried potatoes and onions accompanied them to the table.

Although not much of a hunter, my father loved the outdoors. Us kids were fortunate to have him in our lives. Because of him I am thankful for the honor and privilege of passing on the tradition of hunting to my own sons, grandchildren and friends.

A lifetime passion all began in the month of August, with something as simple as a morning squirrel hunt with my father. And I know many have similar experiences.

“My first hunting experiences were chasing squirrels with my father,” explained business executive Mark Strafford. “I think that’s how most people get started, and if not, it should be.”

Hunting squirrels requires little investment and is made perfectly for introducing children to our oldest tradition. The weather is usually nice and there’s always the promise of action. So don’t let the month of August slip by without taking a youngster on a short squirrel hunt. You may never be forgotten, while at the same time igniting a passion for the outdoors among a child.

And you too can say, “It’s always better to sit still and be quiet!”

TOURNAMENT RESULTS

• The Indiana Bass Federation is one of the most prestigious statewide tournament circuits. Participants include some of the most experienced and successful anglers in Indiana. The IBF recently concluded a tournament staged on the Ohio River near Lawrenceburg.

After the lengthy weigh-in, crowded by numerous onlookers, it was Kokomo angler Jeff Rude who captured first place in a dominant fashion. He swept the contest with five fish totaling just under 12 pounds, surpassing second place by more than 2 pounds. Rude also claimed the well-attended event’s “biggest fish” award with a largemouth barely missing the 5-pound mark. Most of his fish came on a blue flake plastic worm.

• Jerry Pickett and Wayne Eades claimed first place at last Monday evening’s Kokomo Reservoir open team bass tourney, sponsored by Cardwell Built Construction. They grabbed first place with four largemouth bass weighing 5.97 pounds. Mat Temme and Dennis McKee finished second with four fish topping out at 5.70 pounds. Darla and Steve Kelley had the tourney’s “big bass” after weighing in a largemouth tipping the digital scales at 3.08 pounds.

• Dennis Goff and Mike Nolder claimed first place at last Tuesday’s Mississinewa Reservoir, Delphi-Delco team bass tourney with four fish weighing 6 pounds, 7 ounces. Second place went to Bob Rose and Wayne Nolder with three fish totaling 5 pounds, 10 ounces. A 2-pound, 10-ounce bass landed Kyle Hobbs and Bob Taylor the tourney “big fish” trophy.

John Martino is the Tribune’s outdoors columnist. He may be reached by email at jmartinooutdoors@att.net.