The Fall Hunting Ritual....Buy the Shell!

The Fall Hunting Ritual….Buy the Shell!


Twas Season…One of Dad’s Last Days, a box of Super Speed ​​Winchester shells, marked $3.50 in the box in 1964. (Press Pros Feature Photos)

You can set your watch with that… My dad goes to the local general store the day before squirrel season to get his annual stockpile of ammo. None of that, including dad, is available anymore.

“I’m going to Getaway,” He said on a Friday afternoon after school.

“Squirrel season opens tomorrow. I thought you might want to go with me to get some shells.”

That’s really all the stimulus my dad had to throw in to get me in the car for a trip to Little Getaway, Ohio—about five miles away—and a trip to the Ervin Humphrey general store. Grape soda was a dime bottle in 1962. A large bag of Snyder’s potato chips was a quarter. But best of all, Irvine had the best stock of .22 rifles and rifle ammunition this side of the county seat, Ironton. September meant hunting, and the hillsides and creek bottoms of Lawrence County in those days were prime place for squirrels, rabbits, and quail…and every ten-year-old was in pain the day he was old enough to take up arms and partake. But first, everyone from Symmes Creek went to Humphrey to stock up on shells.

My dad always gets the same thing. He loved hunting with his rifle, so he was going to have a box of Winchester Super-Speed ​​#6 high speed for rabbits and squirrels… and a box of #5 for the annual Madison County (London, OH) pheasant hunt in November. He’d say big cocks always took a little longer to drop one, and my dad knew how to do it. It was an excellent shot.

Humphrey’s general store had it all…and a bottle of pop was a dime.

Of course, no trip to Humphrey would be complete without local gossip, and the men of the community were sitting on feed bags and stories of the trade… while a ten-year-old walked the floor sucking that bottle of grape, wishing Dad would get what we came for So we can head home. The sooner, the better – sleep a restless night and wake up at dawn to reach the walnut groves that once inhabited the hills above Symmes Creek.

When he finally made the purchase, Mr. Humphrey asked me what my father had been photographing this year.

“Pack of 5 and 6 – Super Speed,” I cried, unable to hide my anxiety.

He smiled as he reached back on the shelf and lowered one box out of each, and moved it across the table to Dad.

“They’ve gone up a bit this year,” Mr. Humphrey frowned. “It’s $2.50 a box…10 cents a box.”

Dad didn’t bother complaining. He paid a ten dollar bill across the counter.

“I’ll also need a fishing license,” he added, for an additional $4.75 at the time.

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We quickly got out the door, in the car, and on our way home.

“I thought we were going to a big tower in the apartment tomorrow morning,” Dad said. “For some reason you see fox and gray squirrels there. I think it’s because the pond is so close, between the woods and the cornfields. ‘Foxes’ love corn too. As much as it’s warm, I bet they’ll have food and water before they make it that day” “.

He always knew her. My father was an excellent squirrel hunter, and preferred a shotgun over a .22 in the closet because he liked to carry it…and he taught me, “If you miss, don’t worry about pellets carrying a mile and hurting someone.” safety first.

After a turbulent night I woke up to the smell of my mom frying bacon. And when we left the house at six in the morning the light was not yet there. Dad fished in a pair of blue denim coats and stuffed six red Super Speed ​​shells into one deep pocket. The big nut in the apartment was about a quarter mile walk and within fifteen minutes of climbing the hill and soaking in the morning dew we arrived just in time to take a seat…wait!

He preferred to sit with the sun on his back because it made him easier to identify, and when we settled on the edge of the nearby Sassafras Grove, it didn’t take long for things to come back to life.

At once we heard the clatter of a squirrel rushing to the side of the large bark acorn. I wanted to alert him, but my dad already knew. “Shush,” he whispered, his eyes fixed on the top of the tree and rustling in the leaves. I saw it first, I think…a narrow limb swooning while a fox squirrel the size of a domestic cat scrambled to its tip for a breakfast prize. The range was likely 30 yards, perfect for the full throttle barrel of an old Ithaca 12 gauge; And that gun shot tightly. I knew the routine – at this range, hold about six inches in front of the squirrel pieces so no meat would spoil the body. Wait…wait…and wait patiently for the squirrel to turn around and give it the right opportunity.

The big nut stood on its own for years…it finally fell into a gust of wind.

On the boom of old Ithaca I saw a great fox flapping, then grabbing its tip. But the high speed did its job and a second later smashed through the branches all the way to the sedge and ragweed that grew under the tree. The cattle had trampled them on the ground, and as they fell I could clearly see the squirrel–and began to chase after it. Dad extended his arm to me to keep me.

“Not yet,” he warned. “wait.”

Within two minutes of silence I saw what was waiting for him. There were not one, but three squirrels in that tree at the time of the first shooting. In an instant one of them began to slide down the trunk towards the lower end. My father intercepted him before he disappeared from view on the back side of the tree. However, stop me.

“There are two more there,” he smiled. “We’ll wait,” he said, and handed me the two spent shells.

Photo of my dad, Glenn Foulkes, on the last day in the woods with squirrels together, October 2000.

There is nothing more pleasing to a hunter’s senses than the smell of an intoxicating shotgun shell. Nothing before, or since, has smelled like it. And while I was enveloped in my sensory fantasy, “Boom,” the 12-gauge barked again…and “Boom,” again.

Now it looks like squirrels are raining from that nut tree.

“You can go to them now,” he said, breaking his rifle and letting out two more Winchesters smokers. Within 30 minutes of sitting down to watch, we had a maximum of squirrels – two red and two gray – and on our way home.

My dad said, “This isn’t a bad morning at work.” “There’s plenty of shells left for the rest of the season, and it might be enough to chase the Thanksgiving bunny. Bunnies don’t need a lot of killing. #6 will do just fine,” he explained.

I thought of it again last week on the first day of squirrel season, and that annual ritual of going to Humphrey to buy grapes and buy shells. The store has been closed for years – it was closed when I passed by this summer.

And believe it or not, I still have one of these boxes, dated 1964…I’m pretty sure the last case of rifle shells he personally bought.

For an unheard of price… $3.25!

Covering outdoor events on Press Pros is proudly sponsored by Olde English Outfitters in Tip City.


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