I sat on my back deck this week enjoying the warm autumn weather, a slight breeze which came and went, and the changing leaves of the woods in the back lot.
Staring into those trees I suddenly noticed a series of limbs shaking far more than they should have been for the severity of the breeze. Then I heard the tell-tale signs of squirrels “barking.” Over the course of the next 45 minutes I observed four squirrels–one fox squirrel and three gray squirrels–putting on a performance which no Broadway show or blockbuster movie could rival.
Squirrels are interesting creatures, but I don’t think we pay them enough attention. They have two speeds; dead still and full blast. Their habits are fascinating how they can rocket up the side of a tree as easily as we wave a hand as a form of expression. They’ll navigate a series of limbs, from tree trunks to the slightest twigs, and traverse the canopy of the forest almost unseen. I have no idea if they are “territorial” but they clearly become agitated with each other. They will chase each other around a tree, up, down, across the ground and then suddenly stop on a dime and stand statue still listening to their surroundings. It’s the “theater of the outdoors.”
Sure, like most of you who read this I enjoy hunting, I enjoy hunting a LOT. However, just being an observer has its own rewards. I generally do a lot of my squirrel watching in a tree stand. To truly watch wildlife you have to remain still and remain in place for an extended period of time. About the only time most of us get a chance to do that is during deer season. While we’re waiting on a big buck, we generally get a rare chance to observe what’s truly happening all around us.
I’ve had squirrels jump up on my boots in a tree stand. I’ve had turkeys close enough to touch with the end of the gun barrel. Once I had a fox observing a conversation I had with my brother from three feet away and we’ve all had deer come in close before taking notice of our presence. I feel sorry for those who are not outdoor enthusiasts and don’t get to share those kinds of experiences. For those who are unfamiliar with hunting, there tends to be too much of a focus on the animal killed. Make no mistake, taking home game is the name of the game, but there is so much more to hunting than a single shot on an animal.
I once heard a speaker who wrote a book about modern day children who experience what he called “outdoor deficiency disorder.” I can’t imagine a child growing up without those experiences, but clearly many have and more are doing it right now. There’s nothing to clear your head faster than simply being an observer of the outdoors. It’s my version of the “reset” button and hopefully yours too.