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Rick Bramwell

After two unsuccessful squirrel hunts near home, I finally began taking stock of my surroundings. I was encountering bushy tails, but they were not in trees. They were feeding on soybeans and would run to the woods when spooked. Closer observation told me why. There are very few nuts.

The only hickories with mast are pignuts. I have a kingnut shellbark hickory next to my barn and know where another is near me. Neither has a single nut.

I went to the best producing white oak stand I know of — located on John and Debbie Hayes’ property. There were a few acorns but not many. Save for one pignut tree, their hickories were barren of mast.

Under the pignut hickory, we found a buckeye and have no clue as to where it came from. I’m told they are in abundance this fall. I found three scoop-shovels full of fresh pignut cuttings in a friend’s yard across Scatterfield from Walmart.

Late frost is the likely culprit, and when this occurs it usually results in a reduced squirrel population the following fall.

Winter and farming practices will also be a deciding factor. Squirrels that have access to no-till fields should find enough to eat. If the farmer plows before winter, then that food source is gone.

Hunters can aid the plight of the squirrel population by killing and eating a few — nothing finer than fried squirrel with gravy.

I like to hunt fox squirrels with a rifle, but the opportunities presented to me thus far require a shotgun. Squirrels running along the ground are tough to hit with a rifle.

I went to Cabela’s last Saturday and was surprised at the lack of ammunition. From working there, I know you must not have empty shelves. They had to get creative because most of the ammo space had been replaced with something else. They did have a decent selection of shotgun shells.

The pandemic — along with nationwide protests, rioting and the fact this is an election year — has boosted ammo and gun sales by more than 300%.

Another problem is in 2014, the EPA’s new regulations made it prohibitively expensive to smelt lead. The last smelting company in Missouri shut down, leaving 900 people without a job. Now we depend on China for our lead and primers. We handed off lead manufacturing to the worst polluter in the world.

Another problem arose when Walmart decided to quit selling ammunition. This added an extra burden distributors were not prepared to handle.

I had a friend recently call and ask if I had any guns or ammo for sale. Lucky me, I won an entire case of .223 at an elk banquet. And I was fortunate to find two boxes of .450 Bushmasters at a gun store about a month ago.

The ammo I’m short on is .44 magnum Lever Revolutions. Larry Lawson gave me a box after selling one of his guns. I tried to order some more from Midway USA. They did not even have it on backorder. They will send an email when they get some in.

During World War II, ammunition was not made for the public. Guys who hunted would work for shotgun shells. It didn’t matter if it was the wrong gauge, others did the same, so there was some trading going on. Could that happen again?

In March of this year, a record 2.38 million firearms purchase background checks were made. For the first six months of 2020, the figure was over 19 million — more than all of 2012.

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