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P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

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Friday, September 28, 2012


It's nearing the time of year when I used to get "squirrel fever."

No, that's not a disease or allergy. It's a state of mind.

The fever hit in anticipation of squirrel hunting season, which opened in mid-October.

I have over the years been ridiculed incessantly about killing and eating squirrels, but I'm here to tell you: Don't knock it 'til you try it.

In recent years, I have not taken the time to hunt, but I spent countless hours hunting when I was younger. It was a way of life in the mountains. In fact, for my ancestors, wild game provided a primary source of meat, so hunting was much more than just a sport or pastime.

I haven't thought too much about hunting, although I do miss eating squirrels and other game.

But my youngest son, who had never expressed an interest in it, recently asked me if I would teach him how to hunt. The interest was apparently prompted by some very old home movies we watched, way back during a time when hunting was as routine as, well, going to the grocery store.

In the movies, there are many scenes of my relatives sitting on logs near the woods or dressed in hunting garb or just simply enjoying the outdoors. Of course, guns pop up from time to time as well.

"I want that experience," my son said.

I asked him if he would have any problem killing an animal and he said, "No, because I'll eat it."

Good answer.

We were always taught that we eat what we kill, or make sure it is eaten and not wasted.

Okay, I admit, a squirrel is a cute little animal, or rodent as I've been told many times, and some people may squirm at the idea of shooting one of these little bushy-tailed critters. But it has never been the actual shooting part that I enjoy.

I love being in the woods and I enjoy the hunt itself (well, in the case of squirrels, the hunt is a matter of picking a spot where squirrels have been spotted in preseason scouting trips, and waiting). But I have never liked killing game.

If the shooting part was all that was involved, I would not do it.

The truth is, I'm a carnivore. I eat meat, and I like eating meat. I eat all kinds of meat, as well as poultry and seafood.

I tried being a vegetarian once and it lasted for four days. I became so weak and ill-tempered, I don't think I would've survived without a thick, juicy steak on that last day of an ill-conceived plan.

Furthermore, I am not ashamed of liking to eat meat. I think we were intended to do so by our maker.

And I am not a hypocrite. I will not eat meat, then shy away from killing what I eat, allowing someone else to always do the "dirty" work.

I have known people to criticize hunters as they chomped down on meat they brought in a store. Hey, somebody had to be responsible for slaughtering the animal. Besides, wild animals provide pure meat, untainted by any of the who-knows-what is added to commercial feed these days, not to mention how the meat is processed.

Yes, I have missed being in the woods and the hunt, but what I miss most of all is eating the squirrel.

A squirrel has a distinct flavor, kind of nutty, woodsy, as you would expect. It's probably one of those flavors you either really love or don't like at all.

Many of us grew up eating squirrel, with gravy and biscuits, for breakfast, or for any meal actually. Those meals are great any time of day.

I am happy my son wants to learn how to hunt, and he'll also learn how to process and then cook any game he kills. And when we sit at the table and enjoy a meal of squirrel, biscuits and gravy, it will be a great treat and, I'm sure, will bring back many happy memories.

It also makes me happy because I think everyone should know how to hunt, prepare and cook game. The way this world is going, we may see a day when a convenient trip to the grocery store to purchase neatly wrapped meat is a thing of the past. We may have to be as self-reliant as our ancestors were.

If we can be.

I think I feel a fever coming on again.

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