6 Reasons Why Kids Love Squirrel Hunting with Dogs

The Perfect Combination for Young Hunters

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Fast-Paced

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1 | Fast-Paced

Squirrel hunting with dogs is fast-paced and exciting.

Unlike deer or turkey hunting, where a young hunter might spend an entire day in one spot and not see game, hunting behind a good squirrel dog covers some territory. Since everyone follows along as the dog hunts, kids get to experience a variety of wildlife and nature.

When the dog strikes a trail, excitement builds as the chase nears the tree. The tone of the bark goes from chase mode to excited tree yelp. Once you make it to the dog, the search for the squirrel starts, with all eyes peeled to the treetops in hopes of spotting a tuft of hair or a twitching tail. While the squirrels often sit tightly, offering plenty of time to find a rest and take careful aim, they will sometimes bolt from limb to limb, offering only fleeting glimpses and split-second opportunities for a clear shot. 

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Social Event

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2 | Social Event

It's a social event.

While big game hunting is more of a solitary affair, squirrel hunting with dogs often involves a group of hunters. Friends can tag along, making the hunt more fun for all involved. In fact, having more hunters along increases the odds of spotting the quarry. Being able to surround a tree often makes a wary squirrel move from its hiding place to get away from the hunters below, offering a chance at a shot. Friendly competitions on marksmanship often break out to see who can make the best shot on the small and mostly hidden targets.

Unlike other hunting methods where quietness and the ability to be still are paramount, squirrel hunting behind dogs allows hunters to talk openly and move around. 

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Not Firearm Specific

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3 | Not Firearm Specific

It isn’t firearm-specific.

Shotguns ranging from .410 to 12-gauge will get the job done on squirrels, allowing young hunters to choose a firearm that fits both their frame and recoil tolerance. Any action, from single-shot to semi-auto, will work in the squirrel woods. Since following dogs often leads to long hikes, many experienced squirrel hunters often choose lightweight single shots to cut down on the amount of weight they carry.

Later in the year, once the leaves have started to fall, a scoped or open-sighted .22 or .17 rimfire rifle is the perfect firearm for squirrel hunting. Using a rimfire for squirrels is the ultimate way to learn marksmanship. Once a young hunter is adept at making shots on a target as small as a squirrel’s head, shots at big game with a centerfire rifle will seem easy.

Bonus Read5 Great Squirrel Hunting Rifles

Looking for a challenge? Try squirrel hunting with a pistol. You might not take a limit, but you will have a great time trying.

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Whenever

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4 | Whenever

You don’t have to be out at the break of dawn.

If your teenagers are anything like mine, you know how hard it can be to roust them out of bed on a weekend morning. While hunting the first and last hours of the day are most productive when hunting by yourself, a good squirrel dog will find its quarry all day long, making later starts still productive.

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Meat

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5 | Meat

It’s a fine way to fill the freezer.

Well, maybe not fill one up, unless it is the Magic Chef Realtree Xtra Portable Freezer, but hunting with dogs is a great way to kill a limit.

Our recent hunt took place on a hot, windy and dry day, poor conditions for any hunting dog, and we were still able to kill enough squirrels for a few family meals.

Check out Timber2Table for squirrel recipes that will turn your kill into outstanding table fare. 

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Pure Hunting

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6 | Pure Hunting

Today’s kids spend a lot of time sitting in front of various screens of one sort or another. Following a squirrel dog through the woods gets them on their feet and moving. While a good dog will cover four times or more area than the hunters, even a short hunt requires quite a bit of walking.

In most states, squirrels are in season for months on end, offering plenty of chances to get out to chase bushytails. 

It’s hunting in its purest form.

Aside from the dog, squirrel hunting doesn’t require a lot of specialized gear. A small pair of binoculars is about all the extra gear you may need. Bring a water bottle on warm days, and share with the dog if conditions are dry. They are working hard too.

There is no such thing as a trophy squirrel, no antler scores to worry about and no measuring tapes involved. Squirrel hunting with a dog takes you back to when hunting was simple and pure.

My youngest son Potroast has talked about our hunt for days, and he is now convinced he needs a Mountain Feist of his own.

I’m inclined to agree. 

More Realtree small game hunting. Follow Realtree on Facebook.

Editor's note: This Realtree.com post was first published Oct. 31, 2017.

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The excited whine coming from the dog box as we gathered our gear reached a crescendo as Tobby Oaks neared the tailgate. A flash of gray fur burst through the door the instant he unclipped the latch.

Rocky and Miss Squall, so named for her high-pitched squeal when she sees a squirrel, hit the ground with an incredible burst of energy. As soon as the obligatory marking of the territory was finished, both dogs made a bee line for the waiting boys. Between the grins, ear rubs, stubby tail wags and face licking, it was hard to tell who was enjoying the meeting more.

That interaction is just one of the things that makes squirrel hunting with dogs so attractive to kids. Both Miss Squall and Rocky are Mountain Feist, a breed known as much for their love of people as their desire to chase and tree squirrels.

Tobby Oaks, owner of Mighty Oaks Kennels, says the breed makes the perfect family pet. “They are more than content to live inside with the family, but they are all business in the squirrel woods,” says Oaks. He says the breed’s popularity is soaring right now. “Now we have a breed-specific organization, the Mountain Feist Association, Tobby says. The MFA holds breed-specific hunts, keeps lineage details, and spreads the word on hunting with Mountain Feist. The organization holds its annual “Feist Days” event in late October, with hunters from New York to Louisiana descending on southeastern KY for a weekend of hunt contests, fun hunts, shows, and trading of squirrel dogs. In 2015, the MFA successfully petitioned the UKC to recognize the breed and helped define the standards.

Regardless of the dog breed, a hunt with squirrel dogs is the perfect trip to get kids involved in the outdoors. Besides the unmistakable bond between kids and dogs, this type of hunt holds a lot of appeal for young hunters.