“Paddle Faster, I Hear Banjos”

Today’s post comes to us from Scott Leysath, host of the all-new series Dead Meat.  You can watch Dead Meat on Sunday’s at 9:30 E/P, Monday’s at 12:30 AM and 6 PM ET, and Thursday at 10:30 AM ET.

Last November, on my way from the Tallahassee airport to the Florida Panhandle, also known as the “Redneck Riviera”, I caught that clever saying written across a convenience store T-shirt.  I get it, the “…Banjos” reference was to the “Deliverance” movie and we know what happened to those guys.  Funny.

I was headed to Apalachicola for my first Dead Meat TV shoot.  I’d spent some time with friends in the area in the past.  One year, we went upriver to check out the opening of squirrel season.  I recall camo-clad locals, young and old, drifting along feeder creeks looking for squirrels.  The air was alive with the smell of charcoal and the sound of gunfire.  It was like the movie “Apocalypse Now”, only the aroma wasn’t napalm, it was grilled gray squirrel.  “Deliverance” meets “Apocalypse Now”…

The Apalachicola squirrel opener is like no other.  I’d heard that kids leave school early so they can get a jump start on going upriver and into the forest where many of their families have camps, houseboats or they just pull up and claim a high spot on the water.  While planning the trip, I’d actually had a hard time finding someone willing to take me and the crew to join in the fun.  The local guides would rather shoot squirrels than babysit a bunch of Yankees and miss out on one of the biggest deals all year.  Now, I’m no stranger to the South.  My father was an Alabama farm boy, my mother hails from Florida and I grew up in Virginia (OK, not really the South).  It doesn’t matter to these guys, I’m still a Yankee.  Adding insult to injury, I’ve called California home for many years.

Bacon Wrapped Squirrel

Through a friend, I found Tommy, a local fishing guide, to take us to his family’s cluster of houseboats and do some squirrel hunting.  Tommy’s group is also legendary for putting on a big time opening weekend fish and game feed that’s open to anyone with a boat and a cold beer.  You can’t get to most of the camps by land and, if you don’t know your way around the meandering cypress swamps, you can get turned around easily and lost for days.  During the shoot, Tommy told me about the best way to hide a dead body in the forest, but his accent was so thick that I only caught about every third word.  I spend a lot of time in the South, but we’re going to need subtitles for Tommy.  Anyway, I got the message – don’t mess with Tommy.

Tommy’s wife, Melinda, knows her way around a camp kitchen as well as any I’ve met.  There was stuff wrapped in bacon, fried, grilled, stewed and skewered.  Best of all were the iced coolers loaded with briny, perfect-sized Apalachicola oysters – my favorite oyster in the Universe.   They had greens, beans and muscadine wine that was served in a jelly jar.  Of course, we were there to shoot squirrels so the food and drink gave us an incentive to get out, whack a few tree rats and come back to camp for the after-the-hunt chowdown.


It’s easy to understand why the Apalachicola natives might want to keep a lid on the squirrel opener and not let too many people know about just how much fun they have with a boat, a gun, a campfire and a great group of friends.  At no time did I fear for my life or feel the need to “paddle faster…”  OK, maybe a couple of times with Tommy, but I’m sure it was just my imagination.

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