Does squirrel watching qualify as a hobby. Maybe and maybe not, but I'd rather watch them than shoot them.
When I was a kid, I went for a walk in the woods with my dad's .22 rifle. The woods at the east end of the family farm protected me from the sun making a hot humid day a little bit cooler. As I casually walked through the leaves, I saw a fuzzy blob in the trees. Temptation moved in. I carefully loaded, aimed and fired not expecting to hit anything since I had no elusions of being a qualified hunter. Pop. The squirrel I saw must have jumped into the path of my bullet since I had no training with guns; this was the first time I had pulled a gun's trigger.
My first reaction was shock. My second reaction was to pick it up by its tail and show it to Granny. With tears in my eyes, I timidly brought home my quarry.
Granny looked at the critter for over a minute. Then she pronounced, "We'll have squirrel stew for supper tonight. Whatever you shoot, you must also eat." That sentence wasn't really so bad. Squirrel meat tastes an awful lot rabbit. I ate and was thankful. However, I never went hunting again. I guess I just don't have the makings of a NRA zealot.
Now that I'm older, I'd never think of shooting a squirrel except with a camera. They make wonderful pets as long as you don't fence them in. They are quite energetic and provide entertainment like you'd find at the zoo. They are more independent than cats, more lively than dogs and they can put on a circus without even trying. Besides, they feed themselves, never get bored and seldom bite unless you feed them by hand.
During most seasons, squirrels seem to be loaners as then gather their nuts and prepare for the winter. They hide when you start looking for them and pop up when least expected. Then, when their storehouses are full, they get gregarious and start putting on shows.
I've seen them acting like monkeys as they play tag in the trees. Their best shows come during the fall when they have enough food stored for winter and they are not hidden by the leaves of the trees where they play.
Are squirrels perfect? Not really. They are completely inept at crossing the street. In our apartment complex we see much more road-kill dressed like squirrels than we see looking like cats. You'd think their mamas would insist that they stay out of the streets, but their parents often set poor examples.
Their love of independence is also at question. Just give them a couple of handouts and they become beggars for life. When cut off from welfare, they start sneaking into houses or gnawing on cables.
So, if you want a cheap circus, go hire some squirrels. They can run across telephone lines, jump tree to tree and do acrobatics few humans have tried. The hitch is that they hate circus tents. You have to watch them when they think they're doing their own thing and where the audience doesn't make too much of a racket.
(C) Henry L. Lefevre