A Texas Family Connects With the Outdoors… Through Squirrel Hunting.

Shelby Lee Johnson, hunting squirrel; a recent kill displayed by Shelby’s father, Royce. Photographs by Jody Horton. Texas Monthly

Royce Johnson, 65-year-old farmer, says in an article in Texas Monthly, “I’ve got nothing against computers, but I find them so boring. I can sit on a stump just about anywhere in the woods and be fascinated for hours.”

Is he talking about farming? Nope. Johnson is a squirrel hunter.

Philipp Meyer followed Johnson and his son out into the wilds of Texas to see squirrel hunting close up. He found a culture of outdoorsmen who love the woods, the hunt, and feel keenly the environmental losses the region has experienced due to the replacing of slow-growing hardwoods with faster evergreens by paper companies seeking to maximize production. (Editors note: see comment below)

Johnson and his son have an understanding of their particular patch of the earth that only comes by constant contact with it, a contact growing increasingly more rare in our technology-saturated age. Meyer writes,

“Kids here don’t need Michael Pollan to tell them where their food comes from. They can look at an acorn and tell you the type of oak it fell from; they can name most of the animals that live or pass through the forest. They know that the squirrels they shoot in the morning will be eaten for lunch—and not just by people in camp.

… When you come out to a place like this, you get a sense that God was pretty complete in his operations.”

Comments

  1. Enjoyed this post and the Texas Monthly article on many levels. It takes me to a world that I thought I knew well but never really experienced.

    One nit-pick . . . at the TM story notes, the changing forest actually has driven out the squirrels (who need the acorns and nuts from the hardwoods) while the deer have been able to adapt to the paper mill feeding pine monoculture and edge habitats created by clear cuts.

    As I look out the windows of my suburban house and see the fat city-squirrels (who are thriving in the oaks and don’t have to worry about a fox or hunter, just the occasional killer Toyota), I am reminded that the rural to urban migration affects many species, not just us humans.

  2. Thanks for the comment John. I agree the article was a good reminder of the impacts we can have on the world in both the obvious ways and also the not so easily seen ways, such as driving out the squirrels.

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