Squirrel Hunting: Gaining Popularity
By Mark Wallace
With the increase in cost of hunting for large game animals, such as deer,
turkey, elk and mule deer, the interest in small game hunting has increased in
Most of us that were lucky enough to be raised in the rural
areas enjoyed the times spent squirrel and rabbit hunting with our family, and
in most cases this meant hunting with a dog. Now this dog wasn’t just the
squirrel hunting dog, but was the watchdog for the farm, kept foxes out of the
chicken house, and deer out of the watermelon patches. This was the same dog
that followed the children through the woods and, unknown by the kids, kept the
snakes out of their path.
Today the art of squirrel hunting with dogs is
a little more specialized. The dogs are registered and bred just for the treeing
of squirrels and in some cases the animals are doubled up as squirrel/coon dogs.
With many breeders getting into the business, it is very important that
you take the time and make several hunts with offspring and parents of the cross
you are looking to purchase. I like to see breeding operations and breeders that
are not puppy mills, as some call it, but are true enthusiast about the art of
squirrel hunting and are diligent in the breeding of their animals.
have had the privilege to be best friends and hunting partner with one of the
best in the business. Owen Brayson and I met at a local trial many years ago and
we hit it off from the start. Owen has a true love for his dogs and the hunt.
Owen raises Feist at his East Boley Kennels strictly for squirrel hunting and he
has some interesting methods of starting his dogs even before their eyes are
To understand the method, you first must understand what senses
and traits a squirrel dog must possess to become a Champion, or even a good dog.
The sense of smell is the number one arsenal in the dog’s bag. To sharpen and
ready the young pups when they are just a couple of days old, Owen will place a
harvested squirrel in the brood box for the pups to smell and snuggle with while
the mother is allowed some much needed running time.
With this early
introduction to the squirrel, when it solely relies on its only sense it can use
--- smell, it makes it easier for the dog to pick up the scent when you begin to
work with the juvenile animal on sight and smell. The other reason that smell is
important is because of the way the dog must work out what tree the animal is
in. If you have ever watched a good squirrel dog work, they will run through the
woods with their nose to the ground, in the air, and smelling up and down every
tree they come in contact with. Do you know what they are smelling? Some believe
that the squirrels have to hit the ground for the dogs to have a successful day
or that they have to be feeding. Although both are sort of right and help the
situation out significantly, it is not necessary for the squirrel to hit the
ground, just that the squirrel’s bladder is full.
When the squirrel moves
from tree to tree it is urinating, the urine falls to the ground and the dog can
pick up the trail and follow it to a specific tree. When the dog hits a hot
tree, he will usually check himself by making a circle around the tree to ensure
that he has not over or under run the scent trail. When the dog is sure of
himself he will stand and tree.
The other needed senses are sight and
hearing. When a squirrel becomes treed and pressure is put on him, they will do
what is known as timbering. Timbering is when the squirrel moves through the
branches of several trees. A good dog must be able to then pick up the squirrel
on sight and follow him until he can be treed again or the squirrel is holed up.
With the years I have spent in the woods with Owen and his dogs, I have
become accustomed to accurate dogs and being able to put money on when his dogs
tree. As with everything it comes down to invested time and effort. Purchasing a
great bred dog and taking him out once or twice a month is not going to make a
good squirrel dog. You have to be able to hunt the dog several times a week,
even if only for a couple of hours.
If you have the interest in hunting
squirrel with dogs, be it Feist, Mountain Cur, Black Mouth Cur or any of the
other favorite breeds, be sure to get with your local squirrel hunting club and
make a few hunts. It will bring back the glory days of your childhood and you
will remember what fun it was to hit the woods with a great dog and enjoy the
companionship of the animal and your friends. Be sure to take time with your
young folks and teach them about the harmony needed for humans and nature to
co-exist and, as always, get outdoors and enjoy what God has given