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Eos And The Hunter

Author : Harold Richter   Top Author

I am a very fortunate fellow. I am also a reformed hunter. There was a time when I would walk the woods while looking for unsuspecting creatures to dispatch with one well-placed shot. I never did like killing anything, but the thrill of shooting a living target seemed to have priority over the feeling that I was responsible for a creature’s death, at that time. I would use various reasons in attempts to justify this action to myself, and others who might ask why I killed animals.

I have never had to hunt and kill in order to eat. I have always had sufficient capital to go to the local grocery store and buy a portion of meat wrapped in cellophane. However, if a situation arose that required me to find and shoot an animal to avoid starvation, I do not think I would have much of a problem.

I enjoy shooting. I grew up knowing firearms. I understood and used the principles of accurate shooting before I was seven-years-old. I was a leading member of a target rifle team in high school. When I was in the service, I would have to re-qualify on a rifle range once a year. There were four possible outcomes from this test of firearm proficiency. If a shooter could not hit the target reasonably well he would be called “unqualified.” If he showed an average number of hits on the target, he received a “marksman” badge. A better than average shot would get a “sharpshooter” badge, and the “expert” badge was reserved for the best shots. I always earned the expert badge when I qualified on the range. It proved to be a source of pride being able to out-shoot most others.

I really have not done a great deal of official hunting. Although I have been credited with one deer in Oregon many years ago, the majority of my hunting excursions have resulted in no more than long hikes through miles of forested land. I would walk a few miles, set up some targets, which were usually water bottles, or pine cones, spend some time shooting and then walk back. I guess even though I was a very proficient shooter, I was not a proficient killer.

About ten years ago, I moved my primary residence from the city, to a house on a couple of acres in a rural Midwest Florida area. From the onset, I realized that my new place had a problem. It was overpopulated with squirrels. If I hung a bird feeder out, the squirrels would find it, and empty it within an hour. I put a feed trough at the end of my property in an attempt to attract the deer, simply because I enjoyed seeing them. However, dozens of squirrels took over the area, fighting and chasing each other around. There were so many that they chased the deer away from the corn filled feeder with their wild commotion.

This over abundance of squirrels presented an opportunity for me to exercise my shooting skills. I setup a shooting table up about one hundred yards from where the squirrels would congregate and with a twenty-two-caliber rifle, began thinning the population. I would go out and shoot them whenever I saw four, or more squirrels around the deer feeder. After about a year, the population was no longer a big problem. I would shoot a few, every now and then, but no matter how much I enjoyed the shooting part, I never really liked the idea that when I shot them, they would die. Still, it seemed necessary and justified to keep the rodent population in check.

A little over three years ago because I really did not like killing, I made a mental rule for myself, about when I shot squirrels. I decided that I would only shoot them when they were either on the bird feeder, or the deer trough. Not long after that, I realized that even though there were many squirrels still in the area, they seldom jumped up on the deer trough and never messed with the bird feeder. Even the few times when I saw one on the deer trough, it had just jumped up and then down, again quickly. My shooting at squirrels had ceased. I thought this was a bit strange. As if to obey a rule that I had formed in my head, the squirrels in the area seemed to have changed their behavior. I know squirrels would not obey any rule, even if they knew about it, but by adhering to my own rule, I have not had even one occasion to shoot a squirrel in several years.

Then, something even more unexpected started happening. One morning, about six months ago, I walked down my driveway to get the newspaper. I noticed a squirrel standing up in my front yard, watching me. It did not run away like squirrels usually do. It just stood up on its hind legs and watched as I walked by.

I was intrigued by this new behavior, but forgot about it until it happened again on the next morning’s walk to the paper box. This squirrel, instead of making a panic dash for the safety of a tree, was checking me out as I walked past. I decided to go into the garage for some sunflower seeds. When I came out, the squirrel followed me around to the side of the house where I put a plate of the seeds on the ground and backed up a few feet.

As the squirrel approached, I was able to see that it was female. She circled me, and the plate of seeds once and then advanced until she was in between me, and the food. She stood up again on her hind legs, looked me over, then turned and began eating the sunflower seeds.

Over the months since then, there have been many mornings that this unique squirrel has been waiting on the steps, as I walk out of the house. I have given her the name Eos, after the mythological goddess of the dawn. I felt that the name was fitting as most of our encounters have been in the morning.

Eos does not come around every day, but on the mornings that she has shown up, she will quite often follow me around. She will wait while I get the newspaper, open the garage door, get a small amount of seed from a covered plastic bucket and put it into a dish, walk out to the side of the house and set it down on the ground for her. Then, she will hop over to the dish and start eating. A few weeks ago, she did not show up when I went out to get the paper, but as I walked past the garage window, there she was, inside the garage. Apparently, on the previous day, when I closed the garage up for the night, she was inside with my supply of sunflower seeds and did not feel any necessity to leave as the door closed. When I opened the door, she hopped out, stopped, stood up looking at me, and then continued on her way. She had eaten well that night.

I have heard of squirrels in parks getting friendly after a time, as they find visiting people throw the occasional treat to them. After being fed for a while, they figure out these people are not going to hurt them and many times are a good source of food. The squirrels get fed and the people get an up close and personal experience with a wild animal. This type of relationship happens quite often, given the right circumstances.

However, I did not initiate the relationship with Eos. An apparently wild squirrel allowed my approach, without any intention, or lure on my part. The feeling, of being offered trust, where none is expected, or deserved is phenomenal. It is as if this wild creature understood that it was not within me to betray that trust. That trust is a feeling I probably would not have had the chance to experience if I had not decided my hunting days were over. No, I no longer shoot squirrels and yes, I am a very fortunate fellow.

Author's Resource Box

Harold K. Richter, author of “Love, Life, and Laughter in Limericks,” is an enlightened, 61 year old, retired computer technician. In 2002, he moved from Delray Beach, Florida, and is now living in Floral City, Florida, where he enjoys building and repairing computers for his friends and neighbors, but occasionally he takes time out to do some deep space stargazing. He and his wife, Teresa, find comfort in relaxing on their back porch, where he writes some of his poetry and she watches the wild deer.

Harold has a degree in electronics and has done some flying. He has been a cook, a painter, a professional scuba diver, and an electronics technician. He has worked for small companies as well as large corporations, but prefers the more family like atmosphere of the smaller companies.

Harold is a mild mannered and generous man, who says he now lives in paradise. If asked, he will tell you that the best, and most rewarding path a man can take is to be of service to others.

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Tags:   Squirrel, Eos, Hunter, Ex-hunter

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Submitted : 2012-08-17    Word Count : 1385    Times Viewed: 1549