|Squirrel Hunting the Old-Fashioned Way|
|Squirrel Hunting the Old-Fashioned Way|
Extended Squirrel Season Gives Young Hunters the Opportunity to Enjoy an Age-old Sport
by Ben Norman
My son Doug and I were accompanying Cosby, who is recognized nationwide as a first class squirrel dog breeder and trainer, on an old-fashioned squirrel hunt with a Treeing Feist. After a short, spirited march, we arrived at the tree. Ted eagerly circled and jumped at the base of the big oak to let us know he had done his job. Cosby spotted the squirrel first and harvested the bushy-tail with one shot from his customized Ruger .22 rifle.
Cosby, now retired, was Chief of Enforcement with the Alabama Game and Fish Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation. Although his job was supervising Alabama’s game wardens in the apprehension of game and fish law violators, Alabama’s retired top game warden’s passion has long been chasing squirrels across the State’s hardwood bottomlands with his Treeing Feist and mountain cur squirrel dogs.
"The first animal I ever harvested with a .22 rifle was a gray squirrel. My daddy gave eight dollars for that little Winchester single shot rifle. I got away from hunting squirrels with dogs for a while, but I have been back at it for a good many years now. I know of no better way to introduce youngsters to the sport of hunting than to start them off hunting squirrels."
"As I was saying before Ted interrupted us," laughed Cosby, "squirrel hunting is ideal for teaching young hunters about the sport. They can accompany a responsible adult on a hunt with a dog and enjoy laughing and talking during the hunt. Having to sit silent and motionless for long periods of time can be a turn off to someone just getting started. Many adults who don’t like still hunting get excited over dog hunting, too," Cosby says.
Cosby owns and operates Hickory Ground Kennels [334-562-3124] near Ramer in south Montgomery County. He usually has pups and started dogs from proven parents for sale. Cosby is an active member of the American Treeing Feist Association. This organization registers Treeing Feist dogs, keeps records of bloodlines, and holds several field trials across the southeast. The largest single breed squirrel dog field trial ever was held in Sprott near Marion. This field trial is held annually on the first Saturday in November. Some of the best squirrel dogs in the country compete in this event. Anyone interested in joining or obtaining information on The American Treeing Feist Association can contact Ms. Barbara Coxwell at P.O. Box 204832, Martinez, Georgia or by phone at 706-650-2692.
"Mountain curs and Treeing Feist are hardy dogs and relatively easy to care for," says Cosby. "I like the Co-op dog food and they have the vaccines and other kennel supplies that a dog owner needs."
Cosby is very supportive of the extended squirrel season that became effective several years ago. "In recent years, small game hunting has taken somewhat of a back seat to deer hunting and many young hunters have missed the action and camaraderie of small game hunting. In an effort to provide more squirrel hunting for Alabama’s youth and to better utilize this resource, the Game and Fish Division extended squirrel season through February, combined the north and south zones, and opened squirrel season statewide on October 1. Squirrel season now opens six weeks prior to gun deer season and continues a month after deer season closes. This provides an opportunity for hunters to gain permission to hunt areas that were previously not available," said Cosby.
Squirrel hunters in Alabama have two species to hunt, the eastern gray squirrel and the eastern fox squirrel. The gray squirrel is more plentiful and composes the majority of a hunter’s legal bag limit of eight per day. Grays prefers hardwood bottoms with plenty of oaks. When available squirrels prefer pecans, acorns, dogwood berries, wild fruit, peanuts and corn. During the spring they eat buds, barks, twigs and some flowers. The fox squirrel prefers more open or fringe areas with scattered pines.
Grays prefer to nest in hollow trees as they provide better protection from predators and adverse weather. If enough den trees are not available grays construct leaf nests. The fox squirrel almost always builds a leaf nest and rarely nests in hollow trees.
Cosby reminds parents that the Hunter Education Course is required for every hunting license applicant born after August 1, 1977, and recommends it for every hunter. He also cautions that hunter orange is required while squirrel hunting during times of gun deer season and encourages its use even when not required.
Just as Tim Cosby had promised, we had a memorable hunt. Chasing bushytails up and down the creek bottoms on a frosty October morning with an excited young hunter and a little Treeing Feist squirrel dog will convince anyone that there is no better way to introduce youngsters to the sport of hunting.
Ben Norman is a freelance writer from Highland Home.