Can you smell the coming of fall? Where has the summer gone?
Officially, the first day of fall will be September 23.
A few years back, the fall would have already arrived before the opening of any Connecticut hunting season for small game. Not anymore.
I have already told you about the opening of the Canada goose season on Sept. 1, but there is also another wild critter on the hunting menu starting that day: the gray squirrel.
When I was a kid growing up in the Village of South Meriden, the third Saturday in October marked the start of the season for gray squirrel and other wild critters like pheasant, partridge and cottontail rabbits.
The gray squirrel can now be hunted starting Sept. 1 through Dec. 30. The season then extends Jan. 2 to Feb. 28, 2024.
There is a daily bag limit of 8 squirrels per day and a season limit of 40. Good luck with that.
Going back to my early hunting years in the Village, gray squirrels were No. 1 on the game list of many of the young hunters in our area.
Of course, we lived in a much safer world back then, and the sight of a kid walking down the street or riding a bike with a firearm across the handlebars was NEVER a cause for alarm. Police would give us a friendly wave and some of the neighbors would ask us to bag a couple of squirrels for them.
Any area that had trees that dropped acorns or nuts was a good spot to hunt. I always favored Raven’s Farm, now nothing more than a wonderful memory, and down in back of St. Laurent Cemetery along the Quinnipiac River. The cemetery was a favorite spot because it was right across from our home on Hanover Road.
Our first hunting excursions were with our dad, Mike Roberts. Dad had some favorite spots to hunt squirrels, but many of them were lost to home construction.
We always came back with some squirrels in our game bags and our mom, Jean Roberts, could turn them into some of the most wonderful meals imaginable. And the fact that we could harvest them without going to the market made the meals even better.
Of course, with the early Sept. 1 opening of the squirrel season, seeing them might be just a touch harder because most of the trees will still have full foliage.
If you are a father who likes to hunt and wants to teach your offspring about hunting, I can think of no better way to do it than to take them squirrel hunting.
When you are hunting you are more in tune with the outdoors than when you are simply hiking or walking through a patch of woods. The hunter’s woods can be a very peaceful place as you listen to the various wild sounds around you.
When squirrel hunting, find a spot that you know has some forage like acorns for the squirrels to feed on, then find a comfortable spot to wait for them to show themselves.
While I always enjoyed being successful in my hunting excursions, my favorite time was spent waiting for my quarry to appear. If you concentrate on the sounds around you, it is amazing the number of song birds that will serenade you.
One of my best hunting trips ever was with wildlife biologist Peter Picone. I heard a bird sound I had heard before, but never knew what it was. Have you ever heard of an “oven bird”? That’s what Pete told me it was and, even better, he gave me some facts about it that were amazing.
Some of the best squirrel hunters in the Village were the Hanlon boys, Neal, Mike, Tom and Paul. In fact, because of our boyhood hunts together, Mike Hanlon and I became best friends and made many trips together to the Maine woods for deer. But it was the squirrel hunting in our youth that bonded our friendship.
And when it comes to squirrel hunting memories, I would be remiss if I did not mention our son George. I introduced him to hunting and the shooting sports at an early age and it left us with many fantastic memories.
When it came to small game hunting, George was as good as they get. Many times he would come home with some squirrels and sometimes a game bird for the pot.
After a stint in the Air Force, George ended up working for Delta Airlines in Georgia and fell in love with the game of golf. However, he still remembers the many times we spent together in the woods hunting small game, and he will have those memories forever.
To hunt squirrels, you only need a Firearms or Archery Hunting License. Take a youth hunting and make some wonderful outdoor memories.
See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops, police, firefighters and first responders wherever they may be serving this great country of ours.