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5/21/2020
Publisher’s Note: As referenced in the May-June 2020 print issue of On Wisconsin Outdoors, the Ellis column Memorial Day-Trading it all… directs the reader to this website for stories of Americans in battle during World War II and Vietnam.  Posted in the April 30 Ellis Blogs on this website Tanks in a Mine Field is the eye witness story of 709th Tank Battalion gunner John “Mike” Kunnen during the bloody battle of t...
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Gary Greene’s Memories from an Old Hunter……#44

My father took me squirrel hunting a few times, but until we could drive ourselves, my mother was the taker of squirrel hunters.

During September of 1966, hunting buddy Mike Swan, my mom and I got up extra early to greet the opening minutes of the squirrel hunting season. The night before, I had played a junior varsity football game, and at 2:00pm, that afternoon, I was suiting up for the varsity game. I didn’t figure I had any chance of playing, since I never practiced with them and it was just a token “suit up” to have a few sophomores experience the sidelines.

The oak and hickory trees were still green and full of their summer leaves. That made it much more difficult for us to find squirrels hiding high in the upper branches. My mom just enjoyed the walk and being with her son and his friend as she no longer carried a gun.

Mike and I each had .22 rifles with scopes, but I can remember how terrible my scope was. First, the degree of amplification was about 1.5X and if you moved the rifle scope as the squirrel moved, the entire sequence would be a blur to the eye. You also had to have just the exact distance from eye to scope or the target could not be seen, but having those scopes were really big time to us.

We walked the slopes of those forested hills that were beautifully manicured by a herd of dairy cows. The land, near Waterford, was owned by a friend of a friend that worked with Mike’s father in the carpentry business. Most days, we would run into the cows as they grazed the wild grasses between those majestic trees.  At first, the cows would be interested in us, almost charging us with boldness, but as we approached closer and they were confronted, they ran off like the scared local bully.

 Into my thirties, until it became a subdivision, I still hunted those wooded hills. One fall morning, around 1980, I made my annual opening day journey to Waterford and I witnessed that numerous trees had been cut down, a rough gravel road meandered through the woods, several basements had been dug, and no trespassing, no hunting signs were posted everywhere. I haven’t returned as I wish to remember it as it was when I used to dream of those upcoming hunts.

Back to that fall morning in 1966, I also loved hunting there because of the occasional fox squirrel we would harvest. They were real trophies to us. That morning, was a disappointing hunt as I believe we went home without firing a shot. Since we got up around 5:00am and walked for about four hours in 80 degree heat, I was extremely fatigued and had a good case of squirrel neck from hours of our eyes searching the tree tops.

I had to be at the high school at 11:00am to get prepared for the varsity game, so I never got to rest, but it really didn’t matter as I knew I wasn’t going to see the playing field.

Surprisingly, I got called into the game in the fourth quarter as a substitute defensive back on the right side.  My first three plays, Union Grove ran sweeps with a 240 pound running back with three lead blockers and my job was to remove as many blockers as I could. My normally quick feet felt like they were still loaded with the manure from that morning’s cows. In each of the three sweeps, I recall being knocked off my feet in three different directions. I don’t believe any of those blockers ever broke stride as I was airborne like the spiraling wings of a helicopter. Coach put the starter back in for me and that was the extent of my playing time. To relay the strength of our varsity team, I became a starter the following week.

It definitely was a sophomore mistake as I never hunted again on a game day. My son Nate had a similar situation in high school when a senior defensive end got hurt in practice and Nate worked the entire week at that position with the varsity. This time, instead of playing, the well prepared sophomore Nate stood on the sideline the entire game and we could have gone hunting.