We arrived at a goodly sized patch of oak woods around nine one morning. About eight acres were contained in this piece and we judged that this would give us sufficient hunting for the day.
My two companions had double barreled shot guns, while I had my Osage hunting bow, a beautiful weapon, five feet from nock to nock and weighing fifty pounds. Neither of my companions had ever seen any hunting done with the bow and arrow and today I hoped to show them what great sport it could be.
The gray squirrel was to be our game for the day. We all expected to return with our bags filled, for, from information received, this spot gave us the greatest of expectations. I had been out squirrel hunting several times before but as yet had not been able to bring any down.
The gray squirrel, as the experienced hunter knows, is a wary little animal. So cunning is he that two persons are necessary when hunting him. The gray will, as soon as the hunter comes in sight, hide on the other side of the tree or branch, whichever it happens to be on. If you then circle to get on the same side, he will also circle and thus keep the tree between the two of you. That is why I say that two persons are necessary, for while one watches, the other circles the tree. The squirrel, watching the moving figure, backs around on the watcher's side and thus he is given a decent shot.
I remember on one of my first trips I spied a gray up in a tree of about medium size, but all I could see was a part of his head as he peeked around to look at me. I happened to be alone at the time and circled the tree so as to get a shot. Mr. Squirrel, however, decided differently and kept the tree between us. I chased him around several times and could not catch more than a glimpse as he slipt around the trunk. Then help came and with it success, for while I stood and watched, the other fellow moved around and when the squirrel came on my side I made a lucky shot and got him neatly through the head.
To know what to look for and how to look is a problem that confronts all beginners at squirrel hunting. It seems well nigh impossible when you first try to locate one of these animals. Many times I have passed them up only to have the fellow on my right or left point one out to me.
To the experienced, one who knows what to look for, it is easy. A paw or two, a feathery tip of gray tail, a little black nose is all that is necessary.
One should not look over the tree as a whole, but should start with the trunk and follow up and out the main branches to the smaller ones, looking at all the crotches for a bit of gray. After several trips one soon becomes expert enough to locate one's own squirrel. There is a thrill in being able to look over a tree and spotting your animal crouched and flattened on a limb or in noticing a few gray hairs hanging down behind a branch. Half the enjoyment of hunting the gray squirrel is in finding him.
Soon we were ready. My bow was strung; my quiver at my side contained an assorted bunch of arrows, some with ordinary target heads so that they wouldn't stick in trees, some with small broadheads and some with large, just in case some bigger animal turned up. Be prepared for all kinds of game, should be the motto of all who hunt with the bow and arrow.
We started out, keeping about seventy-five feet apart so that each could help the other if assistance was needed. I was trying my hardest to locate a gray when a shot rang out on my right. And, as if an echo, another on the left. Howard, on my right, had drawn first blood; George, on my left, had been right behind him. Each complacently picked up his game and shoved it in his pocket.
I looked harder than ever now. "My turn next," I told myself.
Something in the tree ahead caught my eye. I looked again, closer. A few gray hairs had moved in the breeze. A gray tail was hanging down behind a branch.
"I see one!" I called out, " but I'll needs some help."
Howard walked over toward me. "Where is he?" he asked.
I pointed. "Right up there by that broken branch."
"I'll circle the other side and you watch him when he moves around. "And," he added, "now is our chance to show me what that weapon will do."
I kept my eye on the squirrel and watched him as he moved to keep the tree between himself and the moving figure.
Using an arrow with an ordinary target head, I drew it full and released. The arrow hit the tree just beside the gray and caused him to start running and jumping. Missed! Well, a close shot and only my first.
George had come over now. "Better luck next time," he said, then added, "but that was a mighty close shot."
"I'll show you yet," I answered.
But I didn't. A half a dozen more misses just as close followed. An intervening branch, a quick movement on the part of the squirrel caused them all to go astray.
Then, just as we decided to go back to the car for lunch and a smoke, I spied another. This time he was out in the leafy part of a branch. Using an arrow with a small broadhead, I drew it back until the barb touched my hand, and then let it go. A hit! That familiar "chuck" as the arrow struck home came as music to my ears. The arrow hit just behind the shoulder and penetrated to the feathers. As the squirrel started to fall the barb caught on a branch and would not drop no matter how hard I shook the tree. There was nothing for it but to climb up after it. I unbuckled my quiver and went up. Reaching out I dislodged the animal and down it dropped. It was a fairly good size one and, I felt, would make fine eating.
I was lucky enough during the afternoon to bring down several more. The day, to all of us, was a success. I believe, also, that I succeeded in showing to my friends that the bow and arrow is not a plaything, but a weapon that contains real sport.