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Black-Powder Bushytails

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Published on: Sep. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 27, 2010

from the ridge's northeast facing slope where most of their den trees were. Sure enough, just after dawn, I heard them coming through the treetops. When the first one paused on a horizontal branch at spitting distance off to my left, I laid the front sight on his head and dropped the hammer.

I wanted to dance a mountain man's jig when that little gray hit the ground. I had bagged my first muzzleloader squirrel! But I had messed up again. By shooting the first squirrel to reach the grove, I had alerted others that were on their way. I heard the sound of their departure through the treetops.

That fall, I finally got things right. A friend told me the squirrels in her back 40 had been driving the family dog crazy. Dozens of squirrels were gathering in a grove of hickory trees early in the morning and late in the evening. They approached through the treetops, leaving the ineffectual canine to run frantically from tree trunk to tree trunk, barking its fool head off.

She agreed to keep the dog in on Saturday afternoon, and I walked into the hickory grove about 2 p.m. Putting a foam pad among the tall weeds beneath the biggest hickory tree, I settled in with a canteen of water, a sandwich, some candy, a good book and my muzzleloader.

I didn't get much reading done. It was one of those incomparable, golden October days better suited to daydreaming and dozing. The squirrels began filtering into the wood lot about 3 p.m., and by 4 p.m. I could see eight. Two were in the tree above me, within good shooting distance. None appeared to be aware of my presence, partly because I had donned full camouflage, including brown and green makeup on my face and hands.

The first squirrel fell practically in my lap. I kept my gun in shooting position after the shot as long as I could stand it, then inched the gun down until the butt plate rested on my knee. There I sat until the squirrels resumed normal activity. It took less than five minutes.

In the absence of visible danger, and with the sun setting on their supper table, the bushytails apparently weren't too concerned about occasional loud noises. I was able to reload quietly and bag four gray squirrels -- two that were in the tree above

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