Of Raptors And Rodents

Life On The Back Page - June 2023

Daryl Gay | May 30, 2023

Perhaps I’ve mentioned too many times in this space my love/(mostly) hate relationship with squirrels. Yeah, that had to be how word got out.

On the other hand, who knew that hawks could read?

This time of year, when about all I’m legally allowed to place lead into is a nasty pig or coyote, is mostly for managing my private squirrel herd. So that mid-August or so I can go back to sniping at them from under the carport…

Oh, I detest hogs and yotes with the best of y’all, but scaring one up requires a mite more outlay of time, travel and resources than padding barefoot past my Toyota so as to peer around the carport corner…

Parked directly behind the Yota is my prized Official Georgia Outdoor News Covered Pickup Truck. (Otherwise known as a Chrysler Town and Country. By the time you read this, its odometer will have rolled over to half a million miles. Seriously.)

It’s shaded by a massive oak tree 20 feet from the end of the carport. That tree produces approximately  30,330,336 acorns every year, nearly all of which I eventually manage to step on.

Mostly barefoot.

Oh, it’s not so bad as long as said acorns remain uneaten; it’s when the idiot squirrels have had a three-day feast, calling in compatriots from throughout the neighborhood and scattered their sharp-edged leavings beneath my toes that I have a problem.

Sure, I could wear shoes; but I’d rather take my tip-toed travails out on the squirrels.

So they have the off-hunting season to build up their numbers while I’m also building up.


Every morning, I ease out and gaze upon the yard-dividing wooden wall that runs beneath that oak. I love popping around the corner and catching one mid-stride: he’ll nut up like a statue, freezing as if I can’t scope him out as long as he doesn’t lift a claw.

During squirrel season, that statue thought is usually the next-to-last thing that goes through their heads…

My vexation is that, lately, my tree rates ain’t in my tree!

Just when I’ve suspended the culling process so as to build up numbers—not to mention faster runners and higher jumpers, just before they fall—the heathens seem to have absconded. Decamped. Vamoosed.

And me with a thousand rounds close at hand. What’s up with that?

Every night I assure myself that it’s vacation time, and they’re off to Acorn Atoll or some such exotic retreat, and will be back, unpacked and ready to hijack my yard any day now.

And then, one morning last week…

Oh sure, I’ve been unnerved before. Things in the woods tend to do that to me on a fairly routine basis. But if you want to be stopped dead in your tracks, walk out under the carport and come eyeball to eyeball with what appears to be a 3-foot-tall hawk perched on top of your Covered Pickup Truck!

And should you care to learn how to moonwalk—despite the fact that you just closed the door behind you—have him launch into orbit, flapping and screaming like a banshee.

At the exact instant that his mate—SITTING ON THE HOOD!!!—does likewise!

Three thoughts immediately presented themselves:

1. Yes, I AM just as quick as I used to be.

2. My bladder MUST still be in superb condition.

3. I’ll NEVER get this burgundy door paint off the back of my shorts, acquired while butt cheeks were attempting to claw their way back inside.

Man, situations of this type will make you give up coffee! Not to mention going out the carport door. How far is it to Acorn Atoll, and where can I purchase a ticket?

As soon as my heart quit flopping like a catfish and I could think about anything other than immediate escape, it became all too clear why the squirrel herd hauled.

It’s that time of year to be providing for those little flappers and screamers, and what had recently been scurrying through my trees and along my fence were no more than three squares a day!

And while it’s true that I despise a squirrel, on the other hand I love a hawk. Always have. As predators, they work for a living, hunting down their own and their little ones’ food.

Over the years, I’ve witnessed them attacking and killing three things at the top of my own list: snakes, crows and squirrels. The most impressive was one morning when a huge hawk dove downward onto a flying crow and the sky suddenly looked like a pillow fight with black feathers.

I watched that crow drop like a rock and heard him crash through trees and thud into the ground. It was GREAT! By the way, I was squirrel hunting at the time…

But back to the yard…

On that wooden wall is posted a pair of signs: Beware Of Dog. Possibly, the hawks—who I’m thinking don’t read too good—thought they said Help Wanted, like the other four thousand in town. Out of the goodness of their hearts, they showed up to give me a hand with overburgeoning tree rat numbers.

But I’m still sticking to the idee that any time an all-you-can-eat squirrel buffet presents itself, they’re going to hunker down and take advantage.

I guarantee you, was I a squirrel, one look at that hawk and I’d start packing, too. But now I’m asking around to see if any neighbors have a couple extras. Just for seed, you see…  

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