Sentinels of the Woods

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Squirrels – even though they totally trash the front yard with acorn shells from my

pin oak trees, and even drag big acorns in from a couple blocks away, you still

gotta’ love em’. They hang upside down from the trunk of the tree, chase each

other around through the branches and drive the dogs absolutely bonkers when

they hang there and taunt them.

Last Saturday morning I sat overlooking a big soybean stubble field in a last ditch

effort to put venison in the freezer. The end of the pasture directly behind me

was home to numerous Hedge Apple trees. Hedge Apples are a staple for

squirrels during winter, and the ground beneath each tree was littered with piles

of freshly chewed Hedge Apple flesh.

The morning was as calm as Kansas mornings ever get; I don’t like deer hunting

when it’s so calm. A good breeze moves the tall grass and tree limbs around

slightly, making a littler noise in the process and allowing sometimes bumbling

hunters like myself to get away with a little more noise and movement. The

resident squirrels must have suddenly noticed my presence and I soon became

the object of their scolding. Squirrels use a barking/chattering sound to scold

intruders and once you know that sound you will never forget it. They start with

sort of a barking sound followed by several quieter almost clucking sounds, during

which their bushy tails twitch and jerk with each note, and then the whole ballad

repeats itself over and over again.

The first irritated squirrel made its displeasure known from somewhere to my left,

barking and clucking incessantly for several minutes, then a second displeased

protester joined in from my right. Its scolding began like the cries of a blue jay and

ended with muffled little clucks. I figured by then that every deer in the township

was on high alert, and just when I figured the woods couldn’t get any louder, a

third objector joined the clamor.

This went on nonstop for a good twenty minutes, then as if someone had thrown

a switch, all was instantly silent! I’ve never heard scolding squirrels quiet

themselves so abruptly. It kind of spooked me; I was afraid Bigfoot or Moth Man

might be about to pounce on me from behind!

Suddenly the overhanging branches in front of me began to dance slightly, first

one then another, as if a breeze had developed. “Odd,” I thought “that the whole

tree would not move at once.” I began hearing a muffled chattering sound of

some sort and looked up to see one of the resident squirrels that disapproved of

my presence, starring at me about six feet above my head and rebuking me with

funny little mumbling sounds as it danced from limb to limb.

I went home to breakfast with no deer but satisfied that I had been in the front

row for yet another theatrical performance by some of God’s critters. As noisy

and obnoxious as they are, and as badly as I’d like to run the whole lot of em’

from my lawn, they are comical and amazing little creatures…….and they taste

just like chicken.

Steve can be contacted by email at [email protected]

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