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Photo: Squirrel Hunting - A lifelong passion

As your local paper’s outdoors writer, I know I’m not supposed to fill this column with words based on my opinion.

It is my duty to educate and inform you of all things outdoors from a perspective drawn from my nearly 25 years of being an outdoor industry professional.

My obligations include but are not limited to insider industry news, new product information, local tidbits about hunting and fishing trends as well as the occasional hunting story from my travels across this country and abroad.

Having said that, there are on occasion some topics that drive me personally and professionally that I can’t resist writing about.

I understand that you can’t always please everyone, especially as vast as the subjects of hunting and fishing are.

For example, if you are into fall fishing for walleyes and you spend all your time and energy this time of year in pursuit of those toothy critters, and I write about hanging a tree stand for deer, you may simply not be engaged with my words.

I get that.

On the other hand, if I only pick general subjects to cover in hopes to reach all audiences, this column could quickly turn into a real snooze-fest.

So here it is: this week’s column topic and admission.

I love squirrel hunting.

I mean, I really love squirrel hunting and every aspect of it, from the early season with the leaves still on the trees to the late-February season when the hunting is all about dodging the winter’s sometimes brutal weather.

I am obsessed with the sport.

My love for squirrel hunting began when I was a child, and my first memory of hunting was squirrel hunting.

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Our neighbor invited my family to join him for an afternoon hunt. I had no clue or even what to expect, other than it felt like I was being invited on a very adult activity and I had better be on my best behavior.

The magic of the day was a squirrel dog named Jip.

My role on the hunt was to run after Jip when she was barking up a tree and help the older participants locate the squirrel.

I took my role seriously and I was good at it.

Call it beginner’s luck or being at the right place at the right time, but that hunt made me who I am today — a squirrel hunter and someone who keeps a working dog whose main job is to hunt squirrels.

I have often thought that if I didn’t have a squirrel dog, would I still be a squirrel hunter?

I admit I feel an obligation to my dog to hunt with him as much as possible, so I am not sure of the answer.

There have been a few times in my life that I didn’t have a hunting dog and I still hunted, but admittedly it wasn’t as much fun.

Having a good hunting dog, access to an area with lots of squirrels, and the energy and excitement of a young hunter to go along, is my one of my favorite ways to spend the day in the fall woods.

My dog is getting older. This will be our 10th season hunting together, so I feel the urgency to hunt with him as much as possible this season.

With our West Virginia season open for nearly six months, 170 days to be exact, I plan on doing just that.

West Virginia’s squirrel season is open from Sept. 11 until Feb. 28.

Chris Ellis is a veteran of the outdoors industry. His book “Hunting, Fishing and Family from The Hills of West Virginia” is available at Contact him at

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