The Delight of Small Game

Squirrels are wary, and if the squirrel you are watching doesn’t see you, chances are another one will and alert the other squirrels to your presence. (Photo by Russell Graves)

By Russell A. Graves

Gripping the gun and slipping from my truck to the edge of the tangled underbrush was as close as I could come to time travel. My nephew at my side, we walked the edge of the brush trying to jump a fat cottontail from its hidden haunts. The walk was the same as it was the first time I traipsed the trail back when I was 12 or so, my slice of northeast Texas heaven.

From an agricultural standpoint, this land is marginal. Thin topsoils underlain by thick, black clay does its best to grow threeawn and blueberry juniper but isn’t much for growing forage for livestock.

Therefore, the worn out cotton farm that Bo and I explore isn’t used that much at all. Instead it is a patchwork of wildrose and briar thickets, pecan lined creek bottoms, old farm buildings and knee high grasslands. In other words, it is small game heaven.

Technically, small game refers to refers to ducks, quail, doves, and in some circles, coyotes and bobcats. But upland small game like rabbits and squirrels is what many think of when the subject arises. And small game is what introduced me to hunting.

For much of my boyhood and even into adulthood, I’ve wandered the pasture in search of cottontails and sat in solitude and watched for squirrels in the pecan trees. Now that I have my nephew at my side, it feels right to reintroduce someone to the delights of small game on our inaugural foray after the season’s first frost.

I know: big game hunting is king in Texas and always will be. People (including me) like antlers, and there is no changing that. However, there is something magical about a day spent walking through grasslands or sitting quietly amongst hardwood trees waiting for a chirpy squirrel to appear. If you are like me, it is a magic that transports you back to your childhood.

To read more pick up a copy of the October 2018 NTFR issue. To subscribe call 940-872-5922.