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Author Topic: Making of a squirrel dog  (Read 940 times)

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Offline WV Sawmiller

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Making of a squirrel dog
« on: December 27, 2017, 02:41:29 PM »
   In my teens and early 20's I was fortunate enough to have one of the world's best squirrel dogs. She was a little 17 lb, smooth haired, curly tailed dog whose mother was a dash-hound/basset mix and the father was supposed to be a beagle but may have just been a good fence climber. It is one of the most enjoyable ways to spend some time just walking through the woods on a nice sunny day and even more fun to take a kid along and let the dog do the work then when you get to the tree let the kid make the kill.

   I now have Sampson, a little rat terrier, who is my knock around buddy. He loves to bark at a catfish and has helped me track wounded deer on occasion. I always hoped he would be a squirrel dog but never took much time to train him. Lately when I go put out hay for the horse and mule Sampson has been riding on the hay bale on back of the ATV with me. He's a pretty good ATV rider. At the top of my pasture is a bench, a relatively flat area, with several walnut trees. We had a good crop of walnuts this year and every time I ride up there several squirrels, mostly big fox squirrels but occasionally a smaller gray or cat squirrel, go running up the hill. For the past week when this would happen I would yell at Sampson to get them and he'd take off chasing them. Usually they'd give him the slip by getting through the field fence. To tell the truth, if he were a braver dog I think he could have caught several but he's a bit timid. Several times he did chase one up a tree and he'd rear up and I could get him to bark at them. Pretty quick they'd change trees and get outside the fence. I'd praise him and give him a treat when we got home so he seemed increasingly excited about our little trips.

   The past couple of days I have started taking my little Ruger 10/22 with me. Today things clicked and as I got up there I spotted one fox squirrel and raced up to him and he ran up a small crooked poplar tree. Sampson jumped off and took off the opposite direction and I figured he'd be right back but suddenly I heard him barking on the hill side and looked over and sure enough he'd spotted, chased and treed another fox squirrel in a big poplar on the pasture fence line.  Before I could get over and get a shot on it the squirrel changed to a small walnut and ran down to ground and up the hill with the fence keeping Sampson from following. I went back to first tree and fortunately the squirrel was still there and I got Sampson to come then got a shot on it. I shot him in the heart and he jumped out and ran a few yards with Sampson after him and caught him. I praised Sampson and gave him the skin and innards when I cleaned the squirrel back at home.

   We have 4 more days of deer season then another month of small game season and I figure I will take Sampson back out a few more times and see if we can improve his training.
 

 
 

 
Howard Green
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Offline JV

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Re: Making of a squirrel dog
« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2017, 03:39:08 PM »
In my younger days I had a little female rat terrier that loved to hunt.  I would find a good tree to sit under and relax.  She would walk around close by looking and sniffing.  She rarely barked but would sit at the base of a tree and look up.  When she did there was always a squirrel above.  A lot of times the squirrels would come down the tree headfirst and bark at her.  One more squirrel in the bag.  She chased rabbits by sight instead of tracking by smell so you had to be quick when she jumped one.  Watching her dig rats around an old corncrib was a sight.  Eventually all you could see was a tail sticking out of the hole.  Sure miss that little dog.
John

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Re: Making of a squirrel dog
« Reply #2 on: December 27, 2017, 05:19:01 PM »
WV wish you lived closer I have a female beagle that loves to hunt   the squirrel thing is best for her she cant catch them moles in the yard she looks like a fox puts one ear to the ground then backs up a little and all 4 feet are together and pounces then starts digging up comes the mole shakes it then on to the next  she does the same thing with  snakes    rabbits she runs faster than them and catches them rips them apart and looks for another  >:(  I always wanted a good rabbit dog one that listens and one that runs only rabbits/ small game  well I have one that listens and catches the rabbits if she would bring them back whole it would be great but there close to hamburger by the time I get there  ;D

Offline WV Sawmiller

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Re: Making of a squirrel dog
« Reply #3 on: December 27, 2017, 05:31:38 PM »
   My grandfather had an old retired bluetick coonhound named Gypsy and a little rat terrier named Cricket he hunted squirrels with. Gypsy was too old to hunt coons but would trail a squirrel for an hour before she treed it sometimes. Cricket stayed close to Grandpa and hunted as much by sight as smell and on the way to the hound treed squirrel Cricket would often tree 3-4 Grandpa would kill.

    Both parents of my squirrel dog were good rabbit dogs  but she, Bertha, never chased a rabbit her entire life. I/We killed hundreds if not thousands of squirrels over her and later she became a good coon and possum dog. She once treed an Armadillo and she treed a wounded bobcat I had shot then went home and got her to help recover it. She even treed a stray cat one time but if it did not tree she was not interested in it.

   Bertha would also bay snakes but had a different bark when she had one of them treed. She sounded the same way the night we caught the armadillo which I killed with a K-Bar.

    Bertha would tree squirrels by sight as much as by smell. I remember she once treed and I parked a kid on one side of the tree then walked around so it would turn to his side. It did and he shot it and Bertha immediately moved to another large oak and treed. The kid stayed still and I kept walking till he saw it and shot it and Bertha did same thing again and we killed a 3rd one in a 3rd tree. The kid never moved from his first spot. I think when he would shoot the other squirrels would flinch and Bertha would spot the movement and go tree the next squirrel.

   The only time I ever saw her refuse to hunt was when she treed a squirrel and my wife missed it a couple of times and it ran in a hole. I am a world class squirrel twister and cut a switch to twist him out but when I'd poke it up the hole the squirrel would chatter and my wife was afraid I was hurting him and made me quit. Bertha came back to the tree 2-3 times and I kept carrying her away so finally she quit and went home as if to say "I did my part and you're not interested in helping we're done." Normally I'd twist and get the squirrels tail wrapped around itself on the switch ( a pencil sized greenbrier vine with lots of thorns is best) then pull him out and toss them to Bertha who made short work of them. Caution - once you get the squirrel's tail tightly wrapped just hold steady pressure and every time he gives a bit pull him down a little more. Pulling too hard and too fast will result in only squirrel tail stew for dinner.

   If you ever get an opportunity to go hunt squirrels with a good dog I promise you will have a blast.
Howard Green
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Offline curdog

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Re: Making of a squirrel dog
« Reply #4 on: December 27, 2017, 07:59:57 PM »
 

  

 

Running my curs is my favorite way to squirrel hunt. Here's my dog Streak, he's going on 8 years old,  but still loves to hunt. He's 3/4 mountain cur and 1/4 treeing walker. I wish I still had as much time to go as when I got him as a pup.

Offline WV Sawmiller

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Re: Making of a squirrel dog
« Reply #5 on: December 27, 2017, 09:34:31 PM »
Curdog,

   Good looking buddy you've got there. I know you have a lot of fun with him. I wish more people could experience a nice day in the woods with a really good squirrel dog and a couple of kids along.
Howard Green
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Offline curdog

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Re: Making of a squirrel dog
« Reply #6 on: December 27, 2017, 10:12:26 PM »
Curdog,

   Good looking buddy you've got there. I know you have a lot of fun with him. I wish more people could experience a nice day in the woods with a really good squirrel dog and a couple of kids along.

You're right about taking kids along. I've taken some of my buddies and their kids and they had a ball. I'll leave my gun in the truck and let the kids do all of the shooting. I'll tug vines and stand back and watch....

Offline samandothers

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Re: Making of a squirrel dog
« Reply #7 on: December 27, 2017, 11:37:59 PM »
Seen dad twist squirrels out of trees as kid when we would hunt.  Really neat to see it happen.

Offline gspren

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Re: Making of a squirrel dog
« Reply #8 on: December 28, 2017, 11:32:06 AM »
  Some of my earliest hunting memories are with my Grandpa and a squirrel dog. The dog would take off in the woods and bark treed, if the dog acted like he wanted to climb a tree there was a squirrel there. Back then you needed to be 12 to hunt in PA but I went with Grandpa starting about 9, he said he couldn't spot them anymore so he'd wait until I pointed them out then his 16 gauge double would bring them down. In later years I realized that he probably often saw them first and just waited to let me be part of the hunt. I still have that 16 double and the screen is getting blurry.
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Offline WV Sawmiller

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Re: Making of a squirrel dog
« Reply #9 on: December 28, 2017, 12:11:29 PM »
   Yeah, its way more fun to watch your young "helper" shoot a squirrel than to shoot one yourself.  I'd let the dog tree the squirrel then post the shooter in a good spot and walk around the tree. The squirrel would turn the tree keeping it between me and him till the shooter had a clear shot. We would also shake vines in likely looking trees especially ones with good looking leaf nests and sometimes we'd chase a whole family out of the nest.

   Lacking a dog we'd walk through the woods shaking trees with nests and circling around big likely trees watching for a squirrel to turn facing one of us. Sometimes a big nest would just unfurl and we'd find it was actually a big old coon sleeping in a crotch in the sunshine.

JV,

   Back to your silent dog - I've had them like that and hunting them with a good barker will sometimes teach them to bark on tree too. Part of Sampson's training has been teaching him to speak to get his treat in the house. Now when he trees and looks up or even when chasing something if I yell "Speak" he starts barking so that has been an integral part of his training. Some people used to put a little bell on silent dogs so they could find him on tree or hear him coming in the case of deer dogs, which was a common hunting practice in the deep south.
Howard Green
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Dad always said "You can shear a sheep a bunch of times but you can only skin him once"

Offline Autocar

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Re: Making of a squirrel dog
« Reply #10 on: December 28, 2017, 04:28:30 PM »
We have two Yorkies that will tree squirrels and raccoon's all day , funniest thing I ever saw them do was a raccoon started up the tree and the little guy was hanging on it's tail getting dragged right along.
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Re: Making of a squirrel dog
« Reply #11 on: December 28, 2017, 04:38:38 PM »
The wife's dog does a good job. Just has no courage. She treed 2 raccons right behind the house. Each time I had to get the big halogen light out. I can't hold a flash light and shoot at the same time.  :D
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Offline JV

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Re: Making of a squirrel dog
« Reply #12 on: December 28, 2017, 05:47:47 PM »
Howard, that little terrier not barking wasn't too much of a problem as she usually stayed in close where I could see her.  She opened up on rabbits but chased by sight. 

She didn't chase deer though like the old black and tan I had.  He took off after some deer just as we got in a field next to a woods.  I yelled at him but he kept going.  They went out of sight over a rise with him running full bore behind.  Shortly, he was headed back toward me with a big buck head down on his tail.  I walked back home and no dog in sight.  Looked in his dog house and saw his nose sticking out.  It was a long time before he went after a deer.

Due to nerve damage, my legs won't let me walk in rough ground anymore.  I still have fond memories of the dogs I have had in years past.  I lost my 13 year old yellow lab last spring and haven't had the heart to get another.  Farm and hunting dogs have always been part of my life.  Treat them right and they are friends for life.   ;)
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Offline WV Sawmiller

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Re: Making of a squirrel dog
« Reply #13 on: December 29, 2017, 10:20:28 AM »
JV,

   I'd love to have seen that buck chasing the dog. I once saw a chihuahua chase a nice 6 pt buck across a chain link fence I was putting up around our church cemetery near Albany Ga. My son was about 6-7 and yelled at me to look and I turned around and saw it. The owner was down in the swamp trying to get his hounds to chase a deer while the little guy was doing all the work.

    Bertha used to stay pretty close to me when we were hunting. If I wanted to go coon hunting and went to the river, dropped the tail gate and sat on it like my buddies all did, she'd sit right there with me. If I walked through the woods she'd course 50-100 yards around me till she spotted hen treed something. Was still handy to have her bark on tree. She would run right up a leaning tree and i've seen her jump up 5' on a 12" tree and bear hug it while she smelled where a squirrel had climbed.

    She looked very much like Sampson does in the pictures above but she weighed 17 lbs and he only weighs 13. She was much more aggressive about attacking a squirrel, coon, possum or armadillo than he will ever be. Even when he barks at a catfish and tries to nip at him he will run back when you shake it at him.

   We used to take smaller kids with a BB gun along. They'd shoot into a likely looking leaf nest and chase out the squirrels in there when there was not a handy vine to shake and the tree was too big to shake. I once shot into a nest and I guess it stung a squirrel who thought his brother had bit him and they started fighting and the whole nest erupted in squirrels fighting and coming out. One time we were hunting and I was carrying a BB gun and my older brother had his Stevens double 20 gauge and dad shook out a squirrel. Every time he'd stop I'd shoot at him and he'd jump then my brother would shoot where he had just been. As I remember he eventually got away from us and my brother said it was my fault. Probably was.
Howard Green
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Dad always said "You can shear a sheep a bunch of times but you can only skin him once"

Offline WV Sawmiller

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Re: Making of a squirrel dog
« Reply #14 on: December 29, 2017, 12:58:56 PM »
 

    
Took Sampson back up on the ATV with me and we treed another squirrel and he seems real proud of it. I'm looking forward to a warm sunny day to take a longer walk with him and the girls.
 

 
 

 
Howard Green
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Dad always said "You can shear a sheep a bunch of times but you can only skin him once"

Offline WV Sawmiller

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Re: Making of a squirrel dog
« Reply #15 on: January 06, 2018, 03:59:52 PM »
  Better do this in stages as system ate my whole post when it did like my document extension and I wasn't computer saavy enough to save the rest.

   I'll start with attaching the re-saved document I wrote years ago on how to twist a squirrel out of a hole. I wrote it to pass along to my grandkids but you can keep it as a reference and try it if the opportunity presents itself.

   (Guess I better save more often as just ate it again.)

   Its bitter cold here and I looked out the window at the willow tops whipping in the strong wind and almost did not take my rifle as no self respecting squirrel would be out in this weather but it is light weight and on a sling out of the way. Matoaka (18 y/o Aussie), Sampson and I went to the barn, fed the mule and horse and locked them in their stalls. Sampson jumped on top of the half bale of hay on the ATV and Matoaka ran along side us.

   Through the over-aged stand of Norway Spruce planted for Christmas trees long ago, along the ATV trail, through the gate/opening in the cross fence to the bench with the walnut trees where the squirrels have been hanging out. Drove slowly but did not see anything above or on the bench then spotted 2 fox squirrels on the slope below so I raced over towards them stopping just short of a rollover and yelled for Sampson to get them. Both ran up the same large poplar in the pasture next to an old rusty barb wire fenceline from 60-70 years ago. I leaned on a small maple and shot the first squirrel. He bowed up then started falling and running down the tree a few feet at the time and I knew Sampson would be ready for him so I walked to the other side, got another rest and took me several shots to connect with the second squirrel high in the top of the big poplar and swaying limbs. Once hit he fell right out. I thought the other squirrel had fallen but Samson was there so maybe not.
 

 
At the base of thee tree I found a 3" hole with blood and hair so pretty obvious where the squirrel went. I tried a 3, 8 and finally a 10 ft piece of barb wire before I reached him and he scolded at me. I could not get the barb wire to rotate so I went and pulled down a young wild grapevine and sawed off a 12' piece where it was about 1/2" diameter with my Leatherman. I split the end and spit on it for good measure and sent the vine up the hole till the squirrel scolded again. I started twisting and almost immediately it hung. I started pulling and periodically I'd get slack and think he'd pulled loose. Then I'd pull the vine tight and could still feel weight on the end.
 

 
Finally the tail came out and I got a leg in the pliers of my Leatherman and started pulling. The squirrel came out and grabbed my bare hand. I slung him free and Sampson jumped on him then the squirrel locked on to his left ear. As I have said before Sampson is not the world's bravest dog. He yelped and Matoaka jumped on him for it so while both dogs chases/ran from each other I chased down and dispatched the forgotten squirrel still attached to a 12' grapevine.
 

 
A well chastened Sampson with a sore ear.
 

 
Two  big male fox squirrels. With today's weather inside game cleaning is in order.
 

 
A couple more battle scars to add to the rest.
 

 
The last Fox squirrel I shot. Floured and fried brown in a cast iron skillet, loosely wrapped in foil and floated on an inch of water then cooked at 15 lbs pressure for about 12-15 minutes till tender.

   I was happy to see I can still twist a squirrel out even in a complicated scenario like this one turned out to be and not lose an injured game animal. It has been over 30 years since I tried to do so.

   Sometimes the small game hunts are just as much fun as the big game hunts. I enjoyed today as much as many successful deer hunts. I look forward to training my granddaughters and especially my 1 y/o grandson just like my grandfather taught me.
Howard Green
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Dad always said "You can shear a sheep a bunch of times but you can only skin him once"

Offline Chuck White

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Re: Making of a squirrel dog
« Reply #16 on: January 07, 2018, 10:56:34 PM »
Can't open your "squirrel twisting.doc" without a lot of screwing around!

We used to retrieve dead or wounded coons that managed to get back into their tree den with the use of a stick of a small tree that has had splits in one end!   We would insert the stick (fuzz stick) down into the coon's access hole until we would feel it hit the coon, then we would maintain contact with the coon while we would twist the stick and it would bind in the coons hair and when we couldn't twist it any more, we would pick up on it and lift the coon up out of the den!  Worked really well!
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Re: Making of a squirrel dog
« Reply #17 on: January 07, 2018, 11:42:39 PM »
Chuck,

   You done busted another dam. Here goes my coon twisting tale.

   I heard Bertha treeing late summer or early Fall. she was barking behind our place where there was a wet weather branch and timber that had not been cut in 30-40 years or more. I grabbed my old pump Stevens .22 and walked back there to see what she had. My Rabbit beagle, Yellow River Leader, tagged along.To this point Bertha had only treed squirrels and bayed a few snakes so I was not expecting anything else. When I got there she was barking up a broken off Red oak stump about 9-10 feet tall and 12-13 inches in diameter. There was a 3" hole about 3' high so I figured the squirrel had gone in there. I cut a handy greenbrier vine about 3' long and ran it up in the hollow and started twisting. It hung quickly but I could not pull him out. The hair on my switch was red so I figured I had a Fox squirrel which were really rare in our parts. After several attempts/failures I figured I'd have to come in from above.

   I stepped up with one foot on the hole and looked over the top and instead of a fox squirrel I saw a big coon curled up with his tail over his eyes. I tore a slab off the side of the stump and started poking him with it and he finally climbed over me and jumped out on the ground. Bertha ran and grabbed him and Leader lunged forward howling mightily till the coon slapped him across the face and Leader suddenly remembered unfinished business back at the house. Of all the rabbits he had chased in his career he never had one attack.

   The coon was a big one and he quickly got Bertha upside down on the ground and I grabbed him by the tail and pulled him off. Then he jumped on me and I kicked and beat at him till Bertha grabbed him again. We repeated this exchange several times until he decided he could not whip both of us at the same time so he broke and ran to a hollow bay tree 30-35 yards away and ran up in it.

   I went home and got a burlap sack and an ax and traded my rifle for a .357 magnum Ruger Blackhawk. Leader refused to come back with me and Bertha was still barking at the tree. When I got there I decided to cut the tree. I started about a foot high and after a couple of whacks a thick section broke off and I spotted the coon's tail. Figuring if his tail was there his head was about 2' up the tree so I grabbed the tail. Bad move - he was curled upside down and commenced to try to chew my hand off. I flung him loose and Bertha and I went another round then he gave up and ran to another bay tree 20' away and up the hole there (Seems like all bay trees are hollow).

   I cut a 3-4 ft switch and ran it up and started twisting and got it hung in the hair of his side. Once tight I'd pull steady till I just about ran out of stick and I'd turn loose with one hand and pull out my pistol and get ready. He'd slip back up, I'd reholster my pistol and try again. Finally he pulled out before I was ready. A few more fancy steps and he ran to the 3rd bay tree on the edge of the branch main stream. It was not running this time of year but there was a washout hole there nearly 3' deep.

   I tried twisting some more and the coon would keep slipping free so finally I figured I'd try something new. I took out my pistol, eared the hammer back, reversed it and pointed it up the hole and pressed the trigger. There was a dull thud, a lot of scratching and bark and mud falling and finally the coon fell out with a big hole through his chest and head. Bertha grabbed him and backed up into the washout grinding him on the bottom. I guess she finally ran out of breath and released him.

   I praised her greatly and loaded up and took the coon home and cleaned it and gave it to my old neighbor who loved them.

   That was the first coon I ever killed with Bertha but after that I'd take her out at night and we killed many coons with her. She did not bark till she was right on them so often they were up small saplings and such.

   In fact when the Scuppernongs and wild muscadines were ripe I knew she was going to tree a coon or possum every night. If I was lucky it would be around 10:00 pm, if not it might be 3:a.m. but she sat there and barked till I came and shot it.
Howard Green
WM LT35HDG25(2015) , 2009 4wd Dodge PU, Kawasaki 650 ATV, Sthil 440 & 441, homemade logging arch (w/custom built rear log dolly), JD 750 w/4' wide Bushhog brand FEL

Dad always said "You can shear a sheep a bunch of times but you can only skin him once"

Offline Chuck White

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Re: Making of a squirrel dog
« Reply #18 on: January 08, 2018, 06:55:13 AM »
That's quite a story!   ;)

Sounded like you needed a little relief a few times Howard!   :rifle:

~Chuck~
Retired USAF (1989), Retired School Bus Driver (2012), and now a Mobile Sawyer
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Basic mechanical skills are all that's required to maintain the Wood-Mizer.
I LOVE MY SAWMILL

Offline WV Sawmiller

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Re: Making of a squirrel dog
« Reply #19 on: January 11, 2018, 12:30:37 PM »
   Well, I see the gallery is still off line. I'll post a couple of new pictures when it is running on all 12 cylinders. (I worry all these new improvements to the FF may make it so fast my pore old laptop won't be able to keep up with it.) :D

    Pretty much same scenario as previous situations. It is a cloudy, calm day and in the 50's I guess. I topped the hill onto the bench on my ATV with Sampson riding on the back of half a bale of hay. Nothing on the bench but on the slope bellow I spotted another fox squirrel headed to the same big hollow poplar I shot the last 2 out of. Stopped and walked around the tree an saw him moving to the back side. I finally propped up and saw just an inch or so peeping alongside the tree truck near the top. I got the crosshairs of my little 2.5 power Weaver scope on it and when I shot I heard the wet Plop indicating a solid hit and he fell right out. Sampson grabbed and shook him and I hung him on a fork of a low limb so he could bark some more and praise his efforts.

   This was another big male fox squirrel. I see that makes 4 out of the last 5 have been males which seems odd. I wonder where the females are hanging out? Also I have nearly always killed gray/cat squirrels and I see these fox squirrels have a lot tougher hide and are a lot harder to skin. Need to pressure cook them to get them tender enough to eat too.
Howard Green
WM LT35HDG25(2015) , 2009 4wd Dodge PU, Kawasaki 650 ATV, Sthil 440 & 441, homemade logging arch (w/custom built rear log dolly), JD 750 w/4' wide Bushhog brand FEL

Dad always said "You can shear a sheep a bunch of times but you can only skin him once"

 


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