TOWN OF RIDGEWAY at HYDE — The 10th Annual Hyde Area Squirrel Hunting tournament brought back memories of bygone days when dozens of cars and trucks once crowded in-person deer registration stations.
Here, though, the little animals were carried in to be weighed by LeRoy Hubbard, owner of Hyde Store, a country business serving sandwiches and drinks, with a few other goodies and games, but no loaves of bread or gallons of milk.
“Nothing has changed since the first tournament in 2003,” said Bob Jacobson, of nearby Village of Ridgeway. “I’ve been to every one of these and a similar fall event. I see many entrants here but only then and not again until the next year.”
Jacobson was Hubbard’s hunting partner, too, and as with many of the 32 teams, each member went their own way, then headed back to a country store weigh-in, which is how the winners were selected.
“The weather was good this time,” Jacobson said. “We’ve had rain, snow, wind, and you name it over the years. There’s a lot of camaraderie during and after the weigh-in.”
Discussions were varied. Mushroom hunting, bobcat populations, hunting conditions, and fox and gray squirrel differences were some focuses.
So was eating the meat.
Kristen Shea didn’t hunt, but was with her Arena family selling the tastes of squirrel dumplings, with vegetables, gravy, and wine, while mostly men and children took to cutting tails off for Mepps flies and then cleaning the two species.
The Robert’s Road Squirrel Busters (every team had a name) of Logan Rue and his father-in-law, Rick Zimpel, had seven fox and three grays, which tipped the digital scale at 17.11 pounds. They took half the admission cash of $640, leaving $160 for Squirrel Nuts team; $100 for Hunts Pork Chop, and $60 for Watch ‘em Drop.
It was a real horse race with 0.3-pound separating second and third. Fourth dropped to 13.6 pounds.
Fox (usually incorrectly called red) squirrels are considerably heavier than grays. Each of the top four places brought in the maximum 10 squirrels, a good portion being fox squirrels.
This wasn’t a contest of only men standing. Lucas Rue, Jr., Blanchardville; Patrick Shea, Blue Mounds; Caleb Alt, Plain; Jacob Yeakley, Oregon; and little Griffin Polhman, 5, all participated, if not by hunting by accompanying.
Griffin had his father, Carl, of Barneveld, hoist him high to see a table of carcasses waiting to be skinned and cleaned. He had no hesitation in feeling the fur and flicking a squirrel’s ear.
Hubbard and Merl Schoenherr’s rules were heavy on squirrel hunting ethics, including no limit on shells fired, no live squirrels will be weighed, no really young squirrels count, no shooting off feeders, and no culling. Of course all state squirrel hunting regulations must be followed, too.
In case of a tie, it’s a coin flip, not an overtime hunt.