the Squirrel Hunt
by N. Ray Maxie
several years during my early teens, while growing up in Northeast
Texas, my family and I attended church services every Sunday, morning
and evening, in McLeod.
We lived near the Rambo Community in the backwoods country of Southeast
Cass County just a few miles from McLeod.
Since my Dad and I were avid hunters, we always kept a real good squirrel-hunting
dog around the farm. Squirrel and dumplings, or fried squirrel were
often mighty fine meals at our house during those lean years. A good
dog could help supply many meals for the family, whether it was squirrel,
raccoon or 'possum. Plus, sometimes with the right kind of dog, we
might even bag a wild hog. But, that's a whole 'nother story.
The dog we had during the time of this story was Poochy, the little
white Feisty dog that had been given to me by our family friends Bessy
and Bud Stevenson several years before at Huffines.
They gave me, a six-year-old kid at the time, the puppy just for spending
the night with them. Poochy had become a fine little squirrel dog
and he lived to be thirteen years old, giving my family and me many
years of hunting enjoyment.
During the 1940's and '50's it was customary for rural church families
to invite the preacher home with them for dinner after church service
each Sunday afternoon. That was always the "decent" thing to do since
there were no public eating establishments for miles and miles around.
On this particular Sunday, it was my parents' time to play host. So,
after church, the preacher drove along and followed us out to our
We were all enjoying conversation with the preacher while lavishing
the wonderful fried chicken dinner Mom had prepared. Soon the subject
of squirrel hunting arose. Just outside the window was Poochy, lying
there in the yard anxious to go hunting. Before long the preacher
asked, "Is that a good squirrel dog out there?" Dad said, "Yep! That's
a mighty fine little dog and we'll bag 8 or 10 every hunt." And that's
all it took to pique the preacher's most sincere interest to go hunting.
After a while our guest said, "I would like to go hunting. I've never
been. Will y'all show me how to squirrel hunt?" Oh boy! That was it!
Dad always loved to give lessons to an unlearned, uninitiated, but
otherwise highly educated professional man.
So, soon after dinner, Dad and I got our squirrel guns, squirrel tote
bag and some shotgun shells for the hunt. The three of us headed out
for the nearby woods. We had an extra gun for the preacher to carry,
too. Poochy was all excited, jumping around and yelping, ready to
go hunting. Most anytime you walked out of the house with a gun, he
knew it meant the hunt was on and he really got hyperactive and psyched
After walking for awhile in the woods, we observed Poochy sniffing
a squirrel "trail" along the ground. Dad would say, "Let's slow down
here for a minute and give him time to search out that trail." Meaning
the dog was searching the scent "trail" path a squirrel had left on
the ground. After a lot of sniffing the ground and the air, Poochy
could tell which tree the squirrel had last gone to and he could be
high up in the branches.
As we waited and watched the dog, he soon "treed"; meaning Poochy
had decided which tree the squirrel was in. So he sat down to bark
up that tree. He would intently look up in his chosen tree, barking
loudly while excitedly scratching at the trunk. All those actions
indicated Poochy was certain the squirrel was in that tree.
Walking up near the selected tree, we all began to search the entire
tree for the squirrel. You may have at one time or another, heard
about a "lying" dog. Or maybe some old timer say something like, "You're
just lying like a dog." Sometimes a dog would "lie" and tell you a
squirrel was in a tree when he actually wasn't. Or, he might just
be confused by the movement of the squirrel. Those little bushy-tailed
rodents would sometimes "tap" a tree and move on. "Tapping" a tree
means that the squirrel will run and hop on one tree then move on
along, maybe tapping several other trees. That excessive movement
often confuses a dog. But not my little Poochy! No! Never! I cannot
recall a time in my hunting experience with Poochy that he lied. Not
one time! He was always sure.
As Dad and I stood in one place near the chosen tree, the preacher
slowly began to circle the tree, looking all around for the squirrel.
As he moved to encircle the tree, the squirrel would move or slither
around the tree to avoid him. That made the squirrel move in our direction
and we could then see him. Taking a shot with his "Long Tom" squirrel
gun, Dad would knock him out. Falling to the ground, we picked up
our prey and put it into the hunting bag. Moving on along, we followed
Poochy until he treed again.
The next five or six times the dog treed, preacher would circle the
tree and either Dad or I would knock the squirrel out as it turned
in our direction. The preacher had not killed a single squirrel. Before
long he asked, "Why haven't I bagged a squirrel yet? What am I doing
wrong?" Dad told him, "Just wait until the dog trees next time and
I'll show you what's happening."
We walked through the woods for another 15 to 20 minutes and we soon
heard Poochy tree again. As the three of us walked up near the tree,
Dad said to the preacher, "Now you wait right here. Stand here and
watch that tree real good while I walk around it." As Dad circled
the tree, the squirrel turned in the direction of the preacher. He
quickly saw it and raised his gun, knocking the squirrel out. With
a great big East Texas smile on his face, preacher suddenly became
one happy hunter.
Soon, our young man-of-the-cloth confessed, "Now I see what y'all
been doing to me. I just killed my first squirrel, ever. I think I've
got the hang of it now. Come on boys, let's go get some more."
For the remainder of the hunt, Dad and I managed to turned the squirrel
in the preacher's direction and let him knock it out each time. He
then had an enjoyable time squirrel hunting. An experience he would
tell his family and friends about for a long time.
It was lots of fun back then, watching the dog work, barking and treeing
squirrels. Then, shooting and knocking them out of the tree. Plus,
lest we forget, the main benefit was getting food for the family.
Returning home with the bag limit for the day, our Sunday guest told
my Dad he had really enjoyed the experience and would like to do it
again sometime, real soon.
N. Ray Maxie
"Ramblin' Ray" >
December 1, 2006 Column