HUNTING SQUIRRELS WITH A HANDMADE FLIP
NOTE: Eighty-eight-year-old "Whittling" Sim Lovejoy
of Springville, Alabama, has made flips for 55 years. His children, grandchildren
and extended family get together every year for a traditional, family
squirrel hunt using their flips.
QUESTION: Sim, explain how you began making flips.
ANSWER: I've been hunting with a flip since I was a little boy. When I
was growing up, I would use the red innertube tires off Model-T cars to
make my flips. Those older-model cars had good innertubes. I would make
the flips and then hunt with them. However, when I turned 21, I stopped
making them and began working for a living. Then, after a few years, I
started back. By then, I couldn't get any more of those great Model-T
QUESTION: How many squirrels can you usually kill with
ANSWER: If 10 or 12 of us hunt together, we can get 10 or 12 squirrels.
Once the dogs run the squirrels up trees, we shoot them out with our flips.
QUESTION: What's the difference between a flip and a
ANSWER: You shoot them differently. When you shoot a flip, you give it
a flip when you shoot. A slingshot is what David killed the giant with;
you put two strings on it and wind it over and over. Then you turn one
of them loose and have the other looped around your finger.
QUESTION: Do you ever sell your flips?
ANSWER: I've never sold one of them, and I've made about 1500 or more.
I just give them away. I get a kick out of making them and knowing they'll
make somebody else happy.
How many do you make a year?
ANSWER: 165 or so.
QUESTION: Why don't you sell them?
ANSWER: A lot of people aren't able to afford them, and I get a bigger
kick out of it by giving them to people.
QUESTION: Do you guarantee your flips?
ANSWER: Each of my flips has a lifetime warranty.
If it ever doesn't work or breaks, you can send it back, and I'll fix
it -- if I'm living. Just send me a return address. I get a kick out of
seeing people be happy doing something in sports.
QUESTION: Who's going to make these flips when you can't
make them anymore?
ANSWER: I'm hoping the desire to make them will rub off on somebody. But
my son Lyman will have a problem finding somebody to make them like I
do and is willing to just give away. Lyman buys the tubing, the ammo and
gets the stock out of the wood and I make them.
QUESTION: Do you think you could teach Lyman to make
ANSWER: No. He's made a few, but I've had to make them over to make them
Lyman, how long have you been hunting with a flip?
ANSWER: All of my life. I started when I was four or five years old.
QUESTION: Lyman, why did you begin hunting with a flip?
ANSWER: Because my daddy started making flips. It's really all we had
to hunt with. He would make them out of an innertube and we'd shoot rocks
QUESTION: Lyman, did you get to where you could shoot
ANSWER: I got to where I was really good with them. I didn't kill everything,
but the hunting was about having fun anyway.
QUESTION: Lyman, tell me how to flip hunt.
ANSWER: You can hunt with a dog, but you don't have to. If a dog trees
a squirrel, that squirrel has two options. The squirrel can stay in the
tree, and we'll kill it. Or, it can jump out of the tree, and the dog
will catch it.
QUESTION: Lyman, how do you shoot a flip?
ANSWER: You pull the rubber tubing back just like you pull back a bow.
Every time you pull that slingshot, it's excellent exercise for your arms,
your shoulders and your heart. You put your thumb on the left-hand side,
draw the pocket back to your cheek and eye, and sight it. It's pretty
QUESTION: Lyman, when you release that pocket that holds
the steel ball, you turn your wrist over, right?
ANSWER: If you leave it straight and don't let your wrist follow through,
it'll bust your knuckles. You have to turn your wrist down with the shot.
QUESTION: Lyman, how many people will go on a morning
of squirrel hunting when you go?
ANSWER: Probably 50.
QUESTION: Lyman, how many groups will you break up into?
ANSWER: We'll stay in one group for a while, and let the dogs spread out
and start treeing the squirrels. Then we'll spread out and go with the
Lyman, what will you do when the dogs tree a squirrel?
ANSWER: We'll all get around the tree and shoot at it.
QUESTION: Lyman, what safety precautions do you take?
ANSWER: First, don't stand right behind somebody and shoot. You don't
want to hit somebody in the head. When someone's shooting up in the air,
don't look right up at it. You should also wear safety glasses. You just
need something to cover your eyes. A hat is a great thing to wear. So,
if a ricochet hits you, you've got some protection up there.
QUESTION: Lyman, tell me about the steel balls we're
ANSWER: The steel balls come from Cumming, Georgia, and we buy them in
40-pound boxes. They cost about a $1.50-a-pound, and they're a half-inch
in diameter. Marbles nor rocks are heavy enough. Steel balls are accurate.
QUESTION: Lyman, how long has your family had this squirrel
hunt with flips?
ANSWER: Probably 20 years. Everyone wanted to get together and keep coming
and having fun. Everyone wanted to know if they could come the next year.
There are folks here from Birmingham, north Alabama and south Alabama.
QUESTION: Lyman, how do you aim a flip?
ANSWER: I aim by sight and by feel. It's instinctive shooting.
QUESTION: Lyman, do you line the squirrel up in the V
of the slingshot?
ANSWER: Somewhat. You look at the squirrel with both eyes open when you're
shooting, like a shotgun.
Lyman, how many steel balls does it take to kill a squirrel?
ANSWER: Probably two or three pounds per squirrel. We take 500 pounds
of steel balls on a hunt. I've got 10 pounds with me.
QUESTION: Lyman, who's the best squirrel hunter?
ANSWER: My brother, David Lovejoy. He's good. Ray Cochran is also a good
QUESTION: Lyman, how do you become a good shooter?
ANSWER: Just practice with your flip.
For more information about flipping, send a self-addressed,
stamped envelope and note to "Whittling" Sim Lovejoy at 17079 US 411,
Springville, Alabama 35146. To contact Lyman Lovejoy, write 11520 US 411
Odenville, Alabama, or call (205) 699-5816.
TOMORROW: HISTORY OF THE HUNT