- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 8, 2009

OK, so most people think little gray squirrels act oh-so-cute when they’re fed peanuts or popcorn in a city park. They’re harmless little creatures, aren’t they? Well, think again. The bushy-tailed speedsters are absolutely hated by certain humans who live in the distant suburbs or on rural farmlands.

Take, for example, the mild-mannered, sweet lady who lives just up the road from me.

“There are days when I wished every squirrel in the state was dead,” she recently confided after recounting how gray squirrels who lived on her heavily wooded property had stolen nearly every young, green tomato in her vegetable garden.

“I might as well not try to grow tomatoes,” she said. “They do it every year, and I cannot legally do anything about it.”

Neither she nor her husband, who is a hunter, can dispatch the tomato thieves with a gun until September, when the hunting season begins.

One squirrel-hating fellow in Pennsylvania’s Delaware County recently had to go to court, where he was found guilty of unlawfully killing 20 of the little tree-dwelling rodents. The squirrel shooter threw them into a trash can. A neighbor witnessed the goings-on and contacted the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Wildlife conservation officer Jerrold Czech arrested the man and confiscated a 177-caliber pellet rifle. He was subsequently fined $350.

Here’s what bothers me: The shooter bagged 20 squirrels and was fined only $350? That comes to $17.50 a squirrel. Apparently Pennsylvania judges don’t think a squirrel is worth a whole lot compared with a deer or a wild turkey, which always draw heavier fines when taken by scofflaws.

As far as wildlife that steal vegetables, in my case it’s squirrels, cottontail rabbits and deer. Here’s fair warning to all three: If I see you just once more checking out our little Charles County vegetable patch, I don’t know what I’ll do, but it won’t be pretty. OK, you’ve been told!

Learn how to make jerky - Hi Mountain Seasonings has free videos on its Web site that take viewers through the steps of making what it considers the best homemade jerky.

The seasoning company says you’ll learn how to select the best cuts of meat and watch the best way to slice and dice, accurately measure and season, all of it provided by experts like owner Hans Hummel and outdoors writer/videographer Andy Lightbody. If you want to create premium-quality homemade jerky from store-bought or wild game meats, this should be a big help. Visit www.himtnjerky.com to view the free videos.

Why don’t we fly-fish more often? - A reader who signed his e-mail simply “Mike” asked a serious question and then kind of answered it himself.

“I have been reading your articles for many years,” Mike wrote. “You do a great job, [but] how about a little more information for guys like me who fish the tidal Potomac with fly rods or the saltwater guys who fish the Bay? Even the upper Potomac guys fishing for smallmouth on the fly. I guess finding people to report probably isn’t easy considering there aren’t a lot of us.”

Well, Mike, you’re right on all points. But when you cover fishing for a newspaper, you almost have to take care of the wishes of the greatest majority in the angling community, and well over 90 percent use conventional fishing gear, such as spinning and baitcasting reels and rods. However, I promise that now and then there will be some fly-fishing on our pages. Just remember that you’re hugely outnumbered by anglers who don’t fly-fish.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com. Mueller’s Inside Outside blog can be found at www.washingtontimes.com/sports.

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