A lively Mountain feist, a nice autumn day, and a favorite .22 or single-barrel shotgun make a great combo for young hunters
Tobby Oaks neared his tailgate, and the excited whine coming from the dog box on the other side reached a crescendo. We were gathering our gear as Oaks unclipped the latch, and a flash of gray fur burst through the dog box door and past us.
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 feists, a breed known as much for its love of people as its desire to chase and tree squirrels.
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,” he says, adding that the breed’s popularity is soaring right now. “Now we have a breed-specific organization, the Mountain Feist Association. The MFA holds breed-specific hunts, keeps lineage details, and spreads the word on hunting with Mountain Feist," he says. The organization holds its annual “Feist Days” event in late October, with hunters from New York to Louisiana descending on southeastern Kentucky 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.
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