Not many years ago, I wrote a column in which I lamented the treatment I was getting in the Maine woods. Don’t get me wrong; my fellow deer hunters were treating me fine. And even though deer weren’t participating in my (supposed) deer hunt, I was OK with that.
It was those darned red squirrels that were driving me nuts.
They scurried to-and-fro, sounding exactly like deer. More accurately, I suppose, they sounded exactly like what I assumed deer would sound like if deer ever scurried close enough for me to hear them.
If that wasn’t enough, the squirrels also served as an early warning system for all the (supposed) deer in the woods, climbing high in their trees and (I think) telling those deer exactly which tree the lazy hunter (me) was sitting in. At least, that’s what I think they were saying. I had a hard enough time with Spanish — never took squirrel — and I’ll admit that I’m guessing.
The icing on the cake, you may recall, was when my little red nemesis climbed up my tree, perched five feet over my head and began pelting me with bark.
Last year, when the squirrel (or a dead-ringer for the bark-chucker) showed up, I got serious. I got mean. I — well — evicted the little loudmouth.
Rest assured, I did not harm the squirrel in question. I did not touch him (mostly because I was afraid he’d bite me, and I didn’t want to have to explain a festering squirrel bite to a doctor — and I certainly didn’t want my editors to make me write about it). But I got him. Man, did I get him.
I found that squirrels apparently are not fond of portly, middle-aged, tree-bound hunters who make mean, nasty faces at them.
I bared my teeth and mouthed silent snarls (wouldn’t want to have scared away all those deer, mind you), and after a few minutes of that, the squirrel got scared and ran away.
At least, I think he got scared. He might have thought I’d totally lost it, and may have decided that he’d rather not socialize with such a maladjusted heathen. But either way, he ran away.
And he never came back.
For awhile, I thought that was a good thing. Today, as deer season reaches its halfway point, I realize that I was wrong.
You hear that, Mr. Squirrel? I was wrong.
Over the past couple of years (since I acted so rudely, Mr. Squirrel), I’ve found that the woods are not the same. Well, let me rephrase that: The woods are exactly the same when it comes to the number of deer I’m seeing (zero).
But a few years ago (when you still were around, Mr. Squirrel), I could count on at least a few thoroughly exhilarating false alarms every single time I went into the woods. Remember? You’d sneak around, doing your best deer tromp. I’d perk up and get ready to finally fill my deer tag.
Then, after a few tense minutes, you’d pop out from behind a tree and laugh. Man, you’d laugh.
Later that day, you’d do the same thing. And the next day. And the day after that.
Now, things are — well — boring.
I still sit in my tree stand. I still wait for deer. And still, nothing happens. Nothing.
One day, I decided to spice things up. Get this, Mr. Squirrel. You’ll love this.
I ate a granola bar.
I know, eating a granola bar doesn’t rate very high on the spice-it-up scale, but that ought to show you how slow things have been. As a matter of fact, that granola bar was the high point of hunting season so far.
So, if you’re out there, Mr. Squirrel, I’ve just got something to say.
I’m sorry. I miscalculated. If you come back, I won’t make mean faces at you. I won’t try to scare you off. I won’t complain when you do your deer imitation.
In fact, if you come back, I might even offer you a piece of my next granola bar.