squirrel hunting

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In a number of 18th- and 19th-century accounts, squirrel hunting is mentioned as popular on a certain fixed day, in terms which make it sound more like a calendar custom than an ordinary sport. In only one or two places does it seem that the actual killing or capturing of squirrels was the primary object of the exercise, and most accounts stress the noise and merriment of the party. In many instances the participants are only armed with noise-making implements, and claimed that the noise would frighten the squirrels so much they would fall from the trees. Each area seems to have had its own special day for the sport, including: Derbyshire (first Sunday after 1 November), Kent and East Sussex (St Andrew's Day, 30 November), Essex (Good Friday and Boxing Day), and Suffolk (Christmas Day). It is possible that these are remnants of excursions to preserve common wood-gathering, hunting, or other forest access rights, and there seems also to have been a general notion that the game laws were not in force over Christmas/Boxing Day. Gerald Lascelles, Thirty-Five Years in the New Forest (1915), 242–5, gives details of proper squirrel-hunting techniques using weighted sticks called ‘squails’ or ‘snoggs’.

Wright and Lones, 1940: iii. 136–7, 188, 261, 277.

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