My Childhood Squirrel Hunting and White Ant Gathering

Back in my little village in Northern Uganda years ago as an 8 year old boy, hunting squirrels and gathering white ants were exciting preoccupations for all folks in Acholiland.

Squirrel Hunting

Squirrels were mainly hunted during the dry season. Little boys of my age would try to undo one other in narrating to each other, their heroic adventures with squirrels. It was no doubt, a risky business where deadly accidents would occur along the way. Sometimes I look back and wonder how I made it alive to this prime age because there were things that I now consider too risky for any child to do,  such as extracting the squirrels from the ant hill holes whose chambers, both snakes and squirrels share as their dens. Many young boys would push their heads deep into the ant hill holes, some would come out with snake bites on their fore-heads and die as we looked on. Others would pull out big squirrels that instantly accord them a hero’s status both among their peers and back at home where their family members constantly look to them for a change of diet. No boy growing up in my village had a name to talk about if he could not hunt, kill or trap squirrels for home consumption.

A squirrel dish is usually very deliciously prepared. It is smoked over fire for a day before boiling it in a cucumber stew. The stew is seasoned with ground nut paste and the entire family members would eat with a dynamic appetite. The boy responsible for bringing the squirrel home traditionally eats the head of the squirrel because  society here believes that eating the head of the animal one has killed brings good fortunes for the hunter and empowers him to kill more.

White Ant Gathering

As far as white ant gathering was concerned, we would engage in this economic activity with the onset of the rainy season. This was perhaps the most exciting food gathering experience for the Acholi population. The signs that there would a white ant catch starts with a heavy and prolonged rain in the morning which would then be followed by an equally heavy sunshine from around midday till sunset.

By around 6 o’clock in the evening, the entire village would be embroiled in a beehive of activities, trying to locate ant-hills fertile with white ants and clearing the arena for the white ant harvest. By 8 o’clock in the night, only the sick, the disabled and the very old folks would be left at home. Even those left at home would not be sitting idle to let the flying insects pass them by-they would light grass torches and attract the flying insects into their calabashes. You easily tell it is a white ant night by the shouting and general commotion in the entire neighborhood.

By around 9.30 pm, the hunters return home with sacks upon sacks of gathered white ants. Before family members go to sleep, the white ants would be roasted and feasted upon by everybody. The rest of the catch would then be sun dried and stored for home consumption while the surplus would be shipped away to distant markets for sale.

White ant dishes are often reserved for the most important visitors available, like sons in laws and chiefs. Wives who truly love their hubbies also hide away some white ant dishes from the rest of the family members and serve small amounts to their hubbies by the bedside late in the night. It is usually an ingenious way employed by clever wives to show how much they care, love and respect their hubbies.

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