“All the leaves are brown, and the sky is gray.” Although I went for many a walk on a winter’s day, unlike the Mamas and Papas in California Dreaming, I would have to say the leaves are gone, not brown. The woods and fields in winter are stark but beautiful.
My winter day walks always included a gun. Most days, from the time I got it for Christmas when I was 12 years old, it was my semiautomatic Remington rifle with the 17-round magazine. It had a variable three to nine power scope on it.
Sometimes I carried my single shot .410. Those days I planned on kicking brush piles on field edges hoping to jump a rabbit. My usual luck was to jump a rabbit when carrying my .22. I shot at a few with my .22 but never hit one. I shot many squirrels with my .410 but preferred the .22.
I was a little jealous of my friend Hal with his over and under .22 and 410. He could switch from rifle to shotgun with the push of a button. But both were single shot, and I liked having multiple rounds in my .22 rather than having to take my eyes off a squirrel I missed to breach the gun and load another round.
I loved my scope, too. Even with good eyes back then, it was amazing how a gray squirrel could run up a big oak tree and disappear. Sometimes there was a hollow for them to hide in, but often they just hunkered down tight to a limb and didn’t move.
About the only way to find them was to scan every limb with the scope, mostly looking for tell-tale ears sticking up. I often gave up before finding them. But sometimes a nest was the logical place for them to hide. The balls of twigs and leaves were very obvious in the leafless tree.
With my .22, I sometimes shot into the nest. I could tell by the sound of the bullet if I hit a squirrel. Since I was shooting blindly into the nest, it was usually a wounding shot and they would crawl out and fall. But I climbed more than one tree to get to a squirrel I heard my bullet hit but did not come out. Finding a wounded one while hanging from a high limb was always a thrill.
I got very frustrated one day when I shot a squirrel and it fell a few feet then got tangled in vines. I could not climb that tree, its trunk was too big to hug and there were no lower limbs. I shot that squirrel and the vines around it many times trying to knock it loose but never did.
All winter when hunting that area, I would go by the tree and look at the carcass of the squirrel that frustrated me so much. I hated to waste meat.
Cold winter days often meant building a small fire to warm my hands while in the woods. On dry days it was easy, with dead leaves and twigs littering the ground. Wet days were a challenge, but finding a cedar tree with somewhat dry lower dead limbs and peeling dead bark near the trunk usually meant success. And I always carried strike anywhere matches with their heads dipped in wax to keep them dry.
Take a winter walk in the woods and enjoy the beauty. Deer season is over and the woods are mostly empty, so you can relax and enjoy yourself.