John's Journal...

Hunting Squirrels with Calls and Dogs

Where Have All the Squirrel Dogs Gone?

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

As people started moving from the country into the city, squirrel dogs began to vanish. Having a barking dog that treed squirrels in suburbia would not endear you to your neighbors. Instead of bringing their squirrel dogs to town, many sportsmen had to sell their dogs or give them away. The art of raising and training squirrel dogs all but vanished. However, in recent years, keep men who wouldn't give up the sport of barking dogs and tree-hopping bushytails banded together and formed the American Treeing Feist Association ( These men dedicated themselves to raising, training, hunting and holding competitions with traditional treeing feist squirrel dogs.

What is a Feist?
"To produce my feist squirrel dogs, I start with arat-terrier male," Danny Williams of Clinton, Louisiana, explained. "I think the rat terrier is one of the most-intelligent breeds of dogs. Rat terriers usually are easy to handle and to train. I'll cross that rat-terrier male with a blue-tick hound female. Then I'll breed back the females produced from that cross to rat-terrier males. "This cross produces a highly-intelligent feist with a good nose Click to enlargefor treeing squirrels that generally will bark trees within the first year. Although I also raise numbers of pure rat-terrier squirrel dogs, I've found that adding the blue-tick hound to the rat-terrier bloodline results in dogs that seem to bark more at a younger age than the pure-bred rat-terrier dogs do." Because so many hunters want squirrel dogs and the difficulty of finding them, Williams keeps a waiting list of hunters ready to buy his feists. His puppies sell for $150 each, and you'll have to pay about $500 for a started dog, depending on that dog's abilities. You can take a started dog into the woods and tree squirrels with him the day you purchase the dog. Although this dog may miss a few squirrels and not stand as staunch on the tree as you like, within a few years of hunting, one of these started dogs will have the name and reputation as a top-notch squirrel dog. A finished squirrel dog will sell for about $2,000. I've also heard reports of squirrel dogs selling for as much as $5,000 each. Williams suggests that people buy predominantly white feists, "Because you can see them better in the woods. The further you can see the dog, the sooner you can start looking for the squirrel. I'll usually see the squirrel long before I get to the tree because I can easily spot my dog at the tree." With a white dog, you also can watch how widely the dog's ranging, how it circles when it picks up the scent of the squirrel, and what it does when it's about to settle on a tree. "I think you can learn more about your dog and how he hunts if you can see him better," Williams emphasized. "With a white dog, I think you have a definite advantage." To reach Danny Williams, call (573) 255-3625.Click to enlarge

When the Tough Get Tested:
As the rain came down in sheets one February, Mike Bolton, the outdoor editor of the “Birmingham News,” his son and I hunted with Williams and two other squirrel-dog men, Jim Rhea from Wynne, Arkansas, and Tim Cosby from Ramer, Alabama. Rhea, the two Boltons and I hunted with Rhea's dog, Limb Gripper Ranger. In the driving rain, we only stayed out for about an hour. But during that period, Ranger treed six times. We shot three squirrels, the dog caught two more squirrels in the air as they jumped from a tree, and one squirrel scurried into a hole before we could take him. Hunting with Rhea and Ranger showed me a new breed of squirrel dogs that could find bushytails, regardless of the weather conditions, and catch squirrels that jumped out of trees before hunters got to them. After hunting with Cosby's dog, Horse Creek Monkey, and Williams's dog, Reba, I realized I never had seen any finer squirrel dogs anywhere in the nation than these men had raised and trained. You can contact Tim Cosby at (334) 562-3124.

When You Hunt with a Roadrunner:Click to enlarge
Dog owners train squirrel dogs different ways in various parts of the country. Most breeders train their squirrel dogs to hunt in the woods by allowing them to run back and forth in front of hunters in hopes that the dogs will pick up the smell of a squirrel and follow that smell to the point where the squirrel has gone up the tree. Then the hunters will go to where the dog has treed and take the squirrel. However, Jimmy Warren of Castleberry, Alabama, has a dog I've named the Cadillac version of public-land-hunting squirrel dogs, B.J. Trained in Arkansas in the national forests to hunt squirrels on woods roads, B.J. today runs in front of Warren's pickup as it moves slowly down woods road son public-hunting lands. When B.J. smells where a squirrel has crossed the road, he leaves the roads in hot pursuit of that squirrel. Warren will wait in his car until he hears B.J. barking up a tree. Then he takes his gun, goes to the tree, shoots the squirrel, puts the squirrel in his hunting coat, gets back in his car and lets B.J. road hunt until the dog smells another squirrel. Using this tactic, Warren can cover more ground quickly, walk less than he does when he hunts dogs in the woods and find and take more squirrels.

Tomorrow: How to Buy a Squirrel Dog

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 4