Squirrel season opens in a couple of weeks in my state, ushering in the official start of the 2010-11 hunting season.

Generations of hunters learned their way around the woods in the pursuit of squirrels. Part of that was likely a product of necessity. Whitetail deer – today so common they are becoming an overpopulated nuisance in many areas – were few and far between; turkeys even more rare.

However, wherever you could find a patch of hardwoods (or, early in the season, a wooded creek bottom) squirrels could likely be found. They were hunted because they were available. In the process they provided a graduate level classroom in woodsmanship.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of interviewing a gentleman who had bagged a 200+ class deer, which turned out to be the new state typical record. It had been a difficult hunt through hard weather and rugged terrain; one that had taxed the guy’s woodland skills, which were formidable.

During the course of our conversation I asked him how he had learned to hunt. He look at me as though I’d asked if he knew how to spell his name.

“Hunting squirrels.”

Did he still hunt squirrels?

He again looked at me as if wondering if my journalism degree had come by way of a correspondence school.

“Well, yes. When I’m not deer hunting.”

Me too. And the season opens a week from Saturday.