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More than just a squirrel hunt

By By Otha Barham / outdoors editor
March 5, 2004
Most of us who love hunting will try to squeeze in last minute hunts for given game at the very end of the season. One day you look up and you are in the last week of the season and something tells you that you didn't schedule enough hunts to carry you over until next fall and a new opener.
This year, when the deer season closed, I knew I had some making up to do in the squirrel hunting category, and my situation was urgent. Doug Marshall graciously volunteered to relieve my anxiety. He and his squirrel dogs help control squirrel populations hereabouts.
Three of us took off for some Lauderdale County cutovers where hardwoods had been left along Alamucha Creek. We were Doug, myself and his dog Lady.
Now Lady is a friendly little squirrel dog who turns all business when she is cast into squirrel woods. But there was a fly in the ointment here. You see, Lady, on her last hunt before this one, had, during the course of her squirrel treeing, accompanied another of Doug's dogs in taking off on the fresh scent trail of a deer.
Bad Dog
Such action is frowned upon mightily by squirrel dog owners. Typically and understandably, Doug was unhappy about the deer chase, which cost him worry and time in the search and recovery effort.
In the course of correcting Lady's behavior and venting his frustration with her transgression, he had expressed his feelings to the little dog when she got through chasing the deer. Our hunt would be her first chance at redemption.
Doug wondered if his corrective communications had gotten through to Lady and Lady wondered if Doug was through with his hands-on lecturing. It turned out that she had learned her lesson well and had decided that her true calling was to tree squirrels and ignore deer scent. There were fresh deer tracks all about on our hunt, but Lady skipped over them without so much as a sniff. She spent her time checking at the base of every squirrely looking tree in sight.
It so happened that the combination of my poor shooting and the fact that the first squirrel treed was half a football field high in the tree resulted in a squirrel on the ground that had not yet expired. The squirrel dashed for a nearby hole and Lady beat him there. The feisty little dog grabbed the squirrel in her jaws, and as his last act, he bit her on the nose.
Good Dog
This turn of events caused Lady no small amount of dismay, as well as considerable bleeding. Then and there, she embraced revenge. And she began to thrive on it. Deer scent long forgotten, she started treeing squirrels with blood in her eye, so to speak. She treed eight or nine squirrels and we got abut half of them. All were in very tall trees, one in a pine with all its main limbs up where a squirrel could hide far above the surrounding treetops. That squirrel could not have been in a safer tree.
As with every dog squirrel hunt I can recall, this one was loads of fun with plenty of action. Tired legs, some empty shotgun shells, a warm .22 rifle barrel and a sack of squirrels are cures for arthritis and many other human ills.
I can't know what ailments that plague squirrel dogs are subdued by a squirrel hunt. But as Doug snapped a leash on Lady's collar at the last tree and headed for the truck, I thought I saw a smile on her face.
Much more than being your everyday squirrel hunt, this one was a story of a squirrel hunter and his dog emerging from a serious encounter of sin, punishment and forgiveness, to find each other in a strengthened relationship of mutual purpose.