Lawson writes . . . sharing thoughts and memories

August 16, 2010

Possum Hunting

Filed under: Uncategorized — lawsonjolly @ 5:00 am

I know . . . you don’t have to tell me.  It is opossum!  But where I grew up, you forgot the “o” and just said possum . . . and the accent dragged out “poss . . sum.”

Possum hunting was a big night adventure when I was growing up.  I began to go on possum hunts when I was very young.  My mother and father were sponsors of the church youth group, and Friday night possum hunts were the choice of outings.  Even after I got older, possum hunts were the thrill for several of us fellows.  I had learned the hunting methods early and continue to do it as I had seen it modeled. 

Sometimes we had dogs and sometimes we did not.  The dogs made it easier and more fun.  There was the thrill of hearing the dogs and then the howl that they had a possum treed!  The only escape for a possum from the dogs was to climb a tree.  As the dogs would seek to climb the tree, the possum would move further out on a limb.  When we would arrive with lights, we could search the tree until the possum was spotted.

Possums are nocturnal.  They favor the darkness and secure  areas.  When we did not have dogs, we would simply make a lot of noise going through the woods and stop and search the trees with our flashlights.  It was effective, but much less thrilling than with dogs.

When frightened, the possum will growl deeply. Of course, the possum can give the impression that it is dead.  It can mimic the appearance of a dead possum.  Thus comes the saying, “playing possum.”  With the many lights shining on the possum, it is virtually frozen.  It cannot move because it is blinded by the light.

Once the possum was spotted in the tree, one of the fellows had to climb up the tree to catch the possum.  If the possum was in reach, all lights stayed on the possum so it would not move.  The tree climber would seek to get the tail of the possum.  Although the possum can curl up when held by the tail, it cannot reach up to bite the person.  Most of the time, the possum was dropped to the ground below.  Hopefully, it fell in the open sack held by those on the ground.

If the possum had gone out too far on a limb for the hunter to grab the tail, the tree climber would shake the limb furiously to cause the possum to fall.  When the possum hit the ground, most everyone backed away.  Fortunately, there were always those brave young men who would catch it and get it in the gunny sack.

We had a neighbor who housed possums, and whenever a church group might go hunting, the neighbor would turn loose several of the possums prior to everyone getting to the woods.  That meant that most often when a possum was caught, he would be given back to the neighbor.  I often wondered how some of those possums felt about being “recycled” again and again!

The possum hunt always ended with a bonfire and something to eat –no, not the possum!  Possum hunting for church groups got replaced in the years to come with more “sophisticated” activities.  But I tried to resurrect the idea years later when I served a church and took the youth group on a possum hunt!  Those Texans didn’t have the same appreciation as Georgians!

I got away from those early days . . . but I didn’t get away from the possums!  They are all over our yard at night and in the trees!  But, my attitude now is — don’t bother me and I won’t bother you.  We are getting along quite well!



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