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NACOGDOCHES DATELINE Blood Sport by Joe Lansdale READ about squirrel hunting techniques at T’S EARLY YET, BUT MIGHTY EAST TEXAS HUNTERS SHOULD GET OUT THEIR guns and oil them up, buy shells, proper clothing and a game bag, and pack a lunch. Squirrel season is upon usin a few months. So, if you do pack that lunch, I suggest something not immediately perishable. But it’s always good to have things ready so when the time comes, you can grab your gear on the way out the door. If Fall squirrel season in East Texas is when normally sensible human beings dream of tall oaks and falling rodents. Many nimrods, as soon as they are off work, grab their guns and head to the thicket. On weekends, they are as thick in the woods as mos quitoes, though more deadly, as a mess of them are drunk. The fuel of choice for hunters everywhere seems to be fermented and brewed hops that, if taken in large enough quantities, can make bird-watchers or campers resemble their prey. It is best during this time of year to abandon outdoor activities and wear a red cap in Ithe house. That’s what the squirrels would do if they had a choice. Sugar Bush Squirrel on the hunt PHOTO BY KELLY FOXTON Squirrels, part of the rodent family, known scientifically by the name Big Ole Tree Rat, are thick in the East Texas woods. They’re wily critters spotted flittering through tree branches and can be identified by their outfit: brownish coat, sporty tail, no shoes, no hat. Occasionally among them is the rebel wearing blackor red-tinted fur, and even a smaller variety that carries a glider and is known as the fly ing squirrel. The latter may carry packs of smokes under rolled-up sleeves and have thuggish attitudes. Squirrels travel light, so they’re not impaired by luggage, and are constantly on the move. They are known to yell insults at hunters below in a kind of chattering, barking manner of speech that usually trans lates as, “Don’t shoot.” I believe the limit on these animals is 10. Once shot, their suits must be removed, as well as what’s in their pockets. The underwear, a light coating of skin, stays. When prepared, they taste like squirrel. Hunting these animals is called a sport. The problem with this term is simple. The objects of the sport don’t have a team jersey and aren’t playing. They don’t even get to carry the ball. They are just trying to get by with an acorn sandwich and a quickie so they can produce more squirrels, and they aren’t really all that fierce. I have hunted and killed and eaten a lot of them. So though I haven’t had the taste of squirrel in my mouth for 30 years or so, I’m not a hypocrite and can’t be told I just don’t understand the culture and tradition of hunting. I didn’t grow up in New York City under a hotel awning with a bank account and a trust fund. I grew up in the East Texas culture of strutting manhood, firearms and constant quoting of the Second Amendment \(and absolutely no knowledge of any of and backwoods raised at that. Let’s admit what’s going on here and not dignify this sort of thing as a sport. My dad, a sometime squirrel hunter, told me once that if the squirrel can’t shoot back, it’s not a sport. His point, I think, was that people, males in particular, like to kill things. The meat is part of it, but the need to hunt to eat in this day and time is less necessary than when I was growing up. While you’re at Walmart buying chicken, you can get a can of creamed corn. If you think I’m telling you not to hunt, I am not. I’d rather you be hunting critters than me, but let’s just don’t call it a sport. There’s a thrill that comes from shooting at something and seeing it fall. That’s the driving, primal factor. Ask a bird dog. They’ll tell you. Even Hemingway, known for his love for hunting and fishing, once spoke honestly of it when he THE TEXAS OBSERVER