AUTHOR'S NOTE: Last time in Part I, as you may recall, our hero was on a journey from the Squirrel Master Classic in Alabama to Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee.
After two days at the Squirrel Master Classic and way too much good Southern cooking at the Southern Sportsman's Lodge in Alabama, I am back on a plane to Charleston, West Virginia. The old Chevy gets me home, and I literally dump out one suitcase and cram things into another, Dotzie the cur dog jumps in the truck with me — and we are off.
The destination is Reelfoot Lake to meet up with my squirrel-dog buddy Kevin Murphy for a video project we have been scheming on for some time. Dotzie and I pick up cameraman Logan Bockrath on the way, and we proceed through the night to Tiptonville, Tennessee.
I have read about and thought about visiting Reelfoot Lake for years, and now here I am. Reelfoot has an incredible history that started in 1811, when a series of earthquakes rocked this area so hard its tremors were felt as far away as Quebec and it caused church bells to ring in Philadelphia. Huge crevasses opened up in the earth, and between the now nonexistent Reelfoot River and the nearby Mississippi, it all filled with water and the current lake is the result, all 15,000 acres of it.
Standing on the lakeshore at sunrise, I quickly realize this may be the proverbial sportsman's paradise. With miles of shallow water, cypress trees, Spanish moss and lily pads, you might think this is Louisiana, not Tennessee.
Reelfoot is the home of lots of fishing. Crappie fishing is very popular, and I am surprised some fishermen are out on the lake now, here at the end of February. I have always heard about Reelfoot's duck hunting, and I soon realize that I will have to return to the area and explore it for the fishing, ducks, turkey and, oh yeah, squirrels, which is what we are here for now.
Maybe you don't hunt or fish? Well, Reelfoot has an amazing array of wildlife and birds to observe, including a large population of nesting bald eagles. If you are interested in sampling the wide variety of what Reelfoot has to offer the sportsman, contact John Fagan at Grays Camp or visit reelfoottourism.com.
Kevin and I are here, along with first-time hunter Jillian Bottge, to shoot some squirrel-hunting video footage, and we spend a day and a half tramping the area near Reelfoot. Dotzie and Butchie, Kevin's dog, tree several squirrels as we introduce Jillian to the wonderful world of squirrel dogging. Being out here with a first-timer like Jillian, I once again am struck with seeing all there is in the hunting world through the eyes of a new hunter.
So many of the things that we as longtime hunters take for granted are pointed out almost by the minute. Jillian is like a sponge to the things about hunting that Kevin and I are trying to relate to her, but it seems she continually sees something about the hunt and the natural world around us that I would not have thought to bring up. It was a wake-up call for me to be more observant and recognize all the things hunters need to appreciate and be thankful for.
Hunting any new area can be an eye opener, and this locale is so flat compared to the hills of home in West Virginia that it's a welcome relief. The swamp-like conditions are intriguing, and the first day produces, among other things, the bonus of a big swamp rabbit. This was all big fun, but as anyone in the business can tell you, attempting to do video is work, and at night Dotzie and I crash at the lakeside cabin.
By Sunday morning, Logan and I are on the road back to the Mountain State.
I roll into the driveway late at night and crawl out of the truck, numb from the trip. I'm glad to see Helen and home, and I know I will need a few days of recovery with deadlines piled up to the ceiling. The Squirrel Master Classic is always fun, and Reelfoot Lake was truly amazing, but there is that thing about home and your heart.
Now where am I going next?
"The Trail Less Traveled" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.