By Cam Smith
My buddy from Louisiana called one winter morning and said, “Man, you need to get yourself over to the island for our squirrel hunt this weekend.” He told me they had a shitload of squirrels, their dogs were badass, and they had a secret weapon. He continued, “Plan to spend a night or two and eat like kings.” I was in.
It was still black dark when I got to the landing in Vicksburg. Another truck sat at the bottom of the hill with a Louisiana tag barely lit by dim bumper lights. Dual exhaust thumped smoke into the cold morning air. The guy rolled his window down and I recognized him immediately as an older man I’d worked with in Louisiana years before. In a scratchy voice, he said, “Son, I left home yesterday afternoon and stopped in Mound to pull some slots before I crossed the river. One thing led to another and I spent the night in a shake joint and now the dancers got all my money. I hope they got some coffee at camp.” The ferry captain pulled up and we headed across the channel.
There were 6 or 7 guys in camp, and coffee. After handshakes and intros between bites of breakfast and the typical bullshitting that goes with seeing guys for the first time in a while, we loaded the dogs and guns up in the four wheelers and took off at sunrise. It wasn’t long after we turned the dogs loose that they’d treed. Some men walked; others rode up a little closer. We circled the big oak and peered up into the sky, watching for squirrels to peek over a limb or flick a furry tail in the light of the breaking dawn. One fella yelled, “There’s one!” and before he got the words out, shotgun blasts filled the air. “There’s another one!” More shots fired. And so it went most of the morning. Barks, hollers, shots, whoops, and men yelling at dogs that fought over dead squirrels as they fell from the limbs above. It was awesome, and I leaned over to my buddy and said so. He nodded and with a grin whispered, “Just wait.”
At the next tree, the old man from the landing came hobbling up with a worn-out duffel bag slung over his shoulder. Reaching into the duffel he pulled out the longest fucking roman candle I’d ever seen in my life. Before I could even think about whether it was legal or not, I heard the hiss and punt from the lit candle and colored fireballs started flying into the treetops. Men were whooping and dogs were going apeshit as the sparkles and pops cascaded around us. We were laughing so hard we could hardly shoot at all the squirrels that came diving out of the trees trying to escape the screaming shower of fireballs.
After several long minutes of total chaos the fireworks and shooting subsided, but not the laughter. All the dogs had run to the nearest cover to hide from whatever these crazy motherfuckers were gonna do next. We set our empty guns up against trees and started collecting squirrels—still laughing. Before long the dogs started creeping back up to their masters. It was time to quit.
We headed back to camp where the cook had cornbread and a giant kettle of squirrel mulligan. We ate like kings as promised and then cleaned squirrels. We hunted that afternoon and again the next day, and the squirrels were given no quarter. When it was time to go, we all said our goodbyes. I thanked my buddy for asking me on the hunt and he just said, “Yeah man, it’s always a blast.”