March 31- April 2, 2017
The adventure begins as the hunters gather at the the Verhoog’s to caravan into the wilds of Surprise Valley and to Cedarville, California. This is the 2017 hunt organized by Kelly and Norm Verhoog. Many of these folks have been participating in the “hunt” for over 17 years. We had among us an orthopedic surgeon, a cardiac surgeon, law enforcement folks, a couple of Lieutenant Colonels, two nurses, two musicians and entertainers, a botanist, and a social worker. Although there were several stops along the way, the general directions from Redding were “stay on 299 east until it turns into a dirt road…then you are there”.
First stop was for the boys to eat lunch at a little hole in the wall in Fall River. There we met another customer who also stopped at the Foster Freeze to get her Cockapoo an ice cream cone…sweet. Shortly after that, the boys headed in different directions to find the “perfect field full of ground squirrels”. The girls headed into the very fashionable town of Alturas for lunch.
We first visited some cute shops where we bought such things as sling shots, squirrel nuts and reindeer farts. Oh yes…we all needed to pee and the only public restroom open was at the local hospital, where we again gathered. Are you getting the picture?
Now let me explain…these targeted squirrels are ground squirrels, much like a gopher. They are responsible for destroying 1/4 of the alfalfa crop and their burrows wreak havoc on the live stock that graze in those fields. The farmers love the squirrel hunters. It is a win-win situation, except, of course, for the squirrels. On Friday night, as we were saying grace, the final line was “may the squirrels rest in…pieces”.
The place we stayed was called Surprise Valley Hot Springs…built on top of bubbling hot springs…out in the middle of nowhere. Each unit had its own private hot tub filled with hot mineral water from the springs. The heat for the unit was also from the hot springs and even though it was in the 20-30s at night, we had to use the a/c to cool down our unit from the 80’s to make sleeping possible.
Saturday was spent spread out on the valley floor at various farms where permission to shoot was granted. I asked Norm how they knew the farm owners and established a relationship that allowed us to use their property? He answered that they were all patients of his…he had replaced a hip or a knee or a shoulder. Lunch was enjoyed at a home built in 1873.
Because we were real novices at this and Doug had not killed a squirrel yet, we were gratefully assigned to Patrick who spent his whole day teaching us the art of squirrel hunting (and to keep us from shooting anyone else). Thank you Patrick. He was so patient with me and kept at it until I shot a squirrel. I was pretty happy just shooting at the mounds…they didn’t run away!
At dinner that night we tallied our “kill” and came up with 999 + my 1…I was impressed. A couple of the guys actually had counters attached to their camos.
The girls did some shopping “in town”. I got my friend Carole a spice called “Chicken Shit”….looking forward to trying it. I also found a large array of pine coffins that could be purchased to your exact dimensions.
Sunday, Doug and I enjoyed an hour or two so hunting for Indian arrowheads. We found a lot of chips of obsidian and portions of tools used to grind seeds into flour. Norm and Sherry both found arrowheads. These may be 2000 years old according to Norm.
We drove just east up the road to where 299 becomes gravel at the Nevada boarder and found a herd of Antelope. We also saw about six wild Mustangs…amazing.
The drive back to Redding was delightful…the spring colors have to be appreciated because many of these lush green hills will turn brown as summer approaches.
A good time was had by all-except for the 1000 squirrels!