John's Journal...

Hunting Squirrels with Calls and Dogs

The Greatest Squirrel Dog

Editor’s Note: Many states continue their small-game seasons through February and even further. This week we’ll be discussing squirrel hunting.

Click to enlargeIf not for bed sheets, I never could have bought the greatest hunting dog the world ever knew. "I don't really want to sell my dog Butch," the farmer told me. "But my wife said either the dog had to go or I would. When she came home last week, Butch had pulled all the bed sheets off the clothes line and rolled them in the mud. I tried to tell her what a good hunting dog Butch was. But she informed me that the bed sheets meant more to her than the dog did, and I had to get rid of the dog. Although Butch is a pretty good bird dog, he's Click to enlargea crackerjack squirrel dog." I dug into my pocket and pulled out the $25 I'd made cutting grass and washing cars, painting houses and doing odd jobs all summer. My dad reached in his pocket and pulled out his $25. When the farmer took the money from each of us, my dad, Butch and I formed a partnership that lasted for 10 years. Not only the best squirrel dog that ever lived, Butch also retrieved ducks, pointed quail, ran rabbits and occasionally treed a turkey, a coon or a possum. But he specialized in squirrels.

My dad and I learned a system to cause 'ole Butch to specialize, even though he was a general practitioner. If we jerked a vine and looked up, Butch knew we planned to hunt squirrels. Then all day he'd do nothing but tree squirrels. If we took him out in a field and began to stomp briars, Click to enlargeButch would realize we wanted some rabbits to eat and only would hunt rabbits. When I sat him beside me on the edge of a slough and looked skyward for waterfowl, as soon as webfoots tumbled, Butch would retrieve the quacks like a well-trained Labrador. If we walked along the edge of a field or a briar thicket and told Butch to hunt close and Click to enlargehollered, "Whoa," when he started to run, he knew instantly we wanted to hunt quail. He would shift gears and become a pointer. Honestly Butch wasn't as staunch on point as a 100-percent bird dog. He couldn't stand the aroma of quail for more than about six minutes before he'd have to flush the birds. I never did feel as though I should scold him because I didn't want to break him from hunting quail or discourage him from hunting rabbits. We could put up with a few imperfections with a great dog like Butch. But if we went into the woods and didn't give Butch his signals, he'd chase, tree, point or fetch anything and everything furred or feathered.

However, Butch reached his perfection as a squirrel dog. He'd stay at the tree until you walked up to him and led him away. Butch's character didn't allow him to lie. If Butch said he'd found a squirrel on the tree, you could bet that a squirrel laid somewhere in the top of that tree, perhaps in a nest, or had gotten into a hole. Butch also had the ability to play outfielder. When a squirrel came tumbling from a tree, Butch would have his mouth open and catch and shake the squirrel before the bushytail ever touched the leaves on the ground. Today few people have squirrel dogs of Butch's caliber.

Tomorrow: Where Have All the Squirrel Dogs Gone?

Check back each day this week for more about "Hunting Squirrels with Calls and Dogs"

Day 1: How My Squirrel-Hunting Career Began
Day 2: How and Why Squirrel Calls Work
Day 3: The Greatest Squirrel Dog
Day 4: Where Have All the Squirrel Dogs Gone?
Day 5: How to Buy a Squirrel Dog


Entry 548, Day 3