By Dirk Thayer
The Star Herald
The days are getting shorter and the nights and mornings are getting cooler.
Acorns are starting to fall, leaves are showing the first signs of changing colors and persimmon trees are loaded down with ripe fruit.
I could go on and on about the coming of fall, but these changes also indicate that squirrel and archery season are just around the corner.
I don't bow hunt anymore because my twin sons began hunting with their children and I ended up giving my bow to one son who gave it to the other and both have recently offered to give it back.
They decided to save it as an heirloom to pass down to the grandchildren so that's where I left it.
Here lately I have had a hankering to take it up again, but time has slipped up on me and besides, it now costs an arm and leg to equip a modern day bow. Oh well, maybe next year.
With all that said I am left with squirrel season.
I don't hunt them as hard as I used to, but I still like to get a few to put in a Brunswick stew. When my great aunt was still alive we would always talk her into fixing us some squirrel and dumplings.
That too seems to have become a lost art.
You know, many good things are becoming a part of the past.
I try hard to keep traditions alive and I hunt squirrels at least once a year with one of my boys.
I am sure as my grandchildren get older we will keep that tradition going.
Squirrel season doesn't seem to get as much attention that it used to.
The more glamorous deer and turkey seasons seem to garnish it all.
I am all for both, but I still think you can hone your hunting skills chasing Mr. Bushy Tail through the fall woods.
Hunting them with a good dog will keep a young hunter's attention span occupied.
I can remember coming to Mississippi for opening day of squirrel season when I lived in Alabama.
It seemed like every country home had their lights on well before daylight.
I assumed all were going squirrel hunting.
Squirrels have been a southern staple and I am sure long ago it was the only meat on the table.
I know there are some who think of them as tree rats and would detest eating them, but if times get hard, and they seem to be headed that way, I would hate to see what that person would eat.
To each their own, but I fully agree with the country song by Hank Williams, Jr., "A Country Boy Can Survive".
I know of several around here that keep up the traditional squirrel camp, but even those seem to have lost the enthusiasm they once had.
Perhaps a lot has to do with the timber practices of today.
We just don't have the big timber tracts of hardwood bottoms and swamps we once did. If you do, you either own it or pay a premium to lease.
Pioneers like Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett were known for their squirrel hunting skills and for being crack shots with a rifle.
Most of the muzzles loading rifles of their day were of a large caliber.
These early American hunters had to ‘bark’ the squirrel to keep from tearing up the meat. The term 'barking' came from the practice of shooting just under the squirrel, hitting the bark.
The impact would kill the squirrel without tearing up any meat.
If you have never tried squirrel dumplings, you need to.
Better yet, go find you a grandmother somewhere who still knows this soon to be lost recipe, I bet you will like it.
On the Porch with Dirk is a recurring article written by Dirk Thayer, an avid outdoorsman and stroyteller.