Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Squirrel Hunting (Cumberland Saga)

Blain struggled with the fact that he never really knew from one day to the next what work he would be assigned. In fact, it could change drastically from one hour to the next and that rattled him.

If the cow pulled up the stakes on the lead-line, Blain had to drop what he was doing until Bessie was rounded up and secured. In all fairness, it wasn’t just Blain. It was all of the “manpower” of three households.

Sarah shared Bessie with two other households and milked her every third day. Blain thought it was stupid to have Bessie staked out on the pasture that ringed the cultivated ground when it would have been a much shorter walk to have Bessie in a barn close to the houses and to feed and milk her there.

Sarah disabused him of those notions. “I would rather put a bale of hay into a barrow and take it out to her than to have to shovel shit into the barrow and roll it out to the garden and spread it. A lot cleaner this way, too. On the pasture, Bessie shits and then walks away from it. A cow can’t do that if it is locked in a stall. She would wallow in it and I would have to scrub her teats before I milked her.” 

Blain liked milk and butter and cheese. When Sarah put it that way, he saw the benefits of doing it her way. But it was still a chore to collect Bessie. She seemed to enjoy her moments of freedom and was not eager to have them end.

Sometimes the change in assignment was fun. Like the morning after the math lesson, Sarah said “The weather broke. This is a good morning for you and Lliam to go squirrel hunting.”

Lliam’s face broke into a HUGE grin. “Now your talkin’!”

Sarah scolded Liam. “Mind your manners.”

“Bring back four fox squirrels if you can or six gray squirrels. I wanna make meat-pies” Sarah said to Lliam.

Lliam scooped up a small day-pack from the pegs in the mud-room and dissppeared into his room only to emerge seconds later carrying two guns.

Lliam definitely had a spring to his step as he chattered away at Blain. “The best way to learn this is to learn-by-doin’”

“We are gonna swing by ol’ Roger and Alice’s house and pick up Tuffy, their dog. He is an ace squirrel dog. Then we are gonna head out to a patch of shagbarks that are slow to open. I reckon the squirrels will be working them as long as the weather stays sunny and the husks ain't fully open.”

Then, Lliam did something Blain dreaded. He handed Blain one of the guns.

“What is this?” Blain asked. Not exactly disgusted but VERY uncomfortable.

Oblivious to Blain’s discomfort, Lliam said “That is a Crossman 2100 pellet gun. It used to be my main hunting gun until I up-graded.”

Then, apologetically, he added “I had ta move the scope over to this baby” as he patted the gun he was carrying. “You are gonna have to learn with iron sights, just like I did.”

“Uncle Sig says that if you can learn to hit with a gun with a rough trigger and sights then you will never miss with a good gun.”

“Forgive my ignorance, but what is a Crossman 2100?” Blain asked.

Yesterday was Lliam’s day to be the wide-eyed newbie while learning algabra. Today was Blain’s day in the barrel.

“Its an air-rifle” Lliam said as if that explained everything.

“You mean a BB gun?” Blain asked.

Lliam rolled his eyes. “You CAN shoot BBs in it but they ain't very accurate. A true rifleman uses pellets.”

Blain wasn’t very clear on the concept but he was willing to go with the “...learn by doing…”

Tuffy looked like an oversized Jack Russel Terrier and Blain asked if he was.

“Nope” Lliam said. “He is a Feist” as if that explained everything. 

As they made their way through the woods, Lliam had Blain practice shooting at walnuts hanging from trees, rocks and just about any other target of opportunity.

“You know, I am not a total rookie at this” Blain protested.

Lliam said “No?” in a very neutral voice.

“I have been playing video games for lots of years” and as soon as the words were out of his mouth Blain realized how lame they sounded.

As they approached the stand of hickories, which Blain was surprised to remember from when he, Sarah and Mary had hunted mushrooms and persimmons, Lliam showed him how to walk quietly through the dry leaves.

It was slow-going. Gently scrape a little patch to clear a patch of dried leaves and to then plant just the ball of his foot on the exposed dirt. One step at a time.

It took even longer because Lliam  led them along a circuitous path that put the knife’s edge of the ridge between them and the first stand of hickory trees for the stalk in.

They hunted for five hours and worked three stands of nut trees.  Llaim shot two of the squirrels while they were on the ground and unaware of their presence.

Three more were collected when Tuffy, the dog, promenaded around the nut stand. Tuffy walked with an exaggerated strut and held his tail high-and-proud.

The wary squirrels circled the tree trunks to stay out of Tuffy’s sight.

Lliam let Blain take the first shot. Then Lliam played clean-up.

Blain killed the last squirrel. It was his first solid hit.

It fell from the tree, slowly. Dropping from one branch to the next...gripping the new branch while its strength seeped away. Then it fell to the next, and the next and finally the ground.

Blain asked "Why didn't you finish him?" thinking that it was cruel to let an animal die so slowly.

"I seen that you hit him solid. I wanted this one to be all yours" Lliam responded.

Lliam had been skinning the squirrels as they harvested them. “The skin comes off a lot easier when they are fresh” Lliam had explained to Blain. "Nothin' harder to skin than a cold squirrel."

On the last squirrel, a black-phase gray-squirrel, Lliam had Blain skin it using the method Sig had taught him.

“Make a horizontal cut through the hide between the anus and the tail.” Llaim told Blain.

“OK, that is pretty good. Now extend it around the sides a little more.” he said.

“Yup. Just like that.”

“Now step on the tail and grab his hind legs….and slowly pull up.” he said.

Then he looped some baling twine around the squirrel’s head and showed Blain how to put his boot through a loop in the twine to hold the squirrel head-down while Blain gripped the tag of belly-skin and pulled it up, off of the squirrel’s hind-legs.

If gutting a squirrel right after you shot it was "easy", Blain was never going to let one cool off.

“Ma will gut them and cut them up after we get home” Lliam explained Blain as he tucked the squirrel carcass into his day-pack. “Good shooting!”

Blain asked Lliam why he had stuffed the skins into a separate plastic bag and saved them as well.

“Waste not, want not. Roger boils the skins to make glue” Lliam told him. "Roger makes and sells dulcimers. Giving him the hides is how I make-it-right for borrowing Tuffy."

Next Installment


  1. With all you have had to deal with, I didn't want to ask but was missing the story-telling. Very glad to see it today. Question: "Tuffy" or "Buffy"?

    1. Should be Tuffy. Thanks for catching that.

  2. I'm also glad to see the Cumberland series continue. You describe the process very easily. If you have any favorite knife models you want to describe, us knifeaholics wouldn't mind that either :^)

    Glad to see you wrote in a pellet rifle. I killed my 1st rabbit with a Daisy 880, something I wouldn't normally do, but the range was inside 10 yards and i knew i could hit a vital area. Pellet rifle are very versatile - I've killed mice INSIDE home with a single pump to reduce ricochets. Then pumped up to full power for rats on power lines when they were hitting my brother's pigeon homing pigeon loft. Pellet rifles are relatively quiet compared to even a .22lr and are light to carry and can be shot inside many city limits. Urban dwellers can use a Crosman 397 (.177) or 392 (.22) for vermin control.

    Thanks again for the submission - I enjoyed it very much.

    1. There are some very low power 22 loads available that are as quiet or quieter than an air rifle.
      In particular, Aquila Colobri and Super Colibri.

    2. Very true, but finding it for sale can be challenging. I particularly liked the CCI Quiet at 710 fps (advertised) but hard to find, at least around here.

  3. I remember the look of bewilderment and true astonishment, when my new college roommate (a city kid), learned that I had killed, cleaned, and eaten squirrels: "What? How many?" - - - "Hundreds."

    He just could not even fathom that it was real or possible.

  4. And yes - hot skinning vs cold skinning is a very real thing.

  5. Thanks for the continuation of the Cumberland sage. I really enjoy the writing

  6. Boiling the hides for glue has MY Attention.

    Do TELL please.

    1. Here is another:

  7. here ya go

    1. Thank You!! Awesome!! Finally, a use for small raggy hides.

  8. We keep rat terrier mixes as pets. What great dogs. The local squirrel, rabbit, opossum, rat, mouse, mole, moth, bee, hornet population doesnt agree.

  9. I've shot, skinned, gutted, cooked and eaten all manner of critters and will testify that squirrels are the absolute worst to skin. Wish I'd had a mentor to teach me the benefits of hot skinning.

  10. Back in the day or, Back in the 1900’s when I was in school at Iowa State we as students could get a “Game Tag” for $25. Rabbit, Squirrel and even pheasant. Deer was another $25 tag. We ate like Vikings. I remember my cold squirrel lesson like it was yesterday. “You going skin that? My roommate asked. Me: “Nah, I’ll just skin ‘em when we get back to the house” (first time squirrel hunting of course). Impossible. I skinned strips off till I was done. Roomie drinking beer smiling the whole time. 4-5 can’t recall but never did that again. He’ll still bring that up if I give him a chance. Those were good times. All those woods are gone. Stripped clean and flat by big AG. Edges are where the game was.


  11. The YT video on how to skin a squirrel is pure gold. I've sent it around to some friends.
    Many thanks for continuing with your fiction and all the information you give. Merry Christmas!


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