Oaky Woods Squirrels With The World Champ
Fun for the kids and great exercise for older generations make hunting squirrels with dogs a pretty good deal.
This is the way squirrel hunting ought to be—fast paced, lots of shooting opportunities and loads of excitement. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with sitting under a big oak and waiting for the squirrels to come out, but I’m telling you that hunting squirrels with a good dog is a boat load of fun and will get you wanting to come back for more excellent squirrel hunting.
I haven’t had this much fun pursuing small game in quite some time. I’ll warn you that if you try it, you’ll be hooked, too, and may soon be scanning the GON Classifieds for a treeing feist squirrel dog. But before I get ahead of myself, let me tell you about two avid squirrel hunters, a world-champion squirrel dog and our recent hunt.
On Dec. 5, Jason Moore and Lamar Allen from the middle Georgia area, got together with this writer to do some squirrel hunting on Oaky Woods WMA. Jason is an avid squirrel and coon hunter and works as a mortician and business manager at the Heritage Funeral Home in Warner Robins. Lamar works in the business office at Robins Air Force Base, and they frequently get together to squirrel or coon hunt.
On this hunt, Lamar brought along his two sons, Fisher, 11, and Bridger, 7, both students in the Bleckley County School system near Cochran. Squirrel hunting with dogs is a great way to get kids enthused about hunting as it’s fast paced, provides plenty of shooting opportunities, and working with a good hunting dog is pretty much a guarantee of success.
Jason got involved with hunting as a young boy when he was taken squirrel hunting by his grandfather, J. L. Moore from Effingham County, down near Rincon in southeast Georgia. Lamar also credits his dad and other family members for getting him involved in hunting.
Jason has had a lifelong dream of competing and winning the feist dog championship, and he is amazed that it finally happened! Jason knows that his granddad would be so proud if he was still alive. Jason has had the opportunity to share his love of hunting with his two sons, Blake, who is now in the Marines, and Ben, who is a senior at Perry High School. He plans to hunt with both of them when they get together over the Christmas and New Year holidays and share some good times in the woods.
On this day we were not just hunting with a good squirrel dog, we were hunting with a world-champion dog! Jason is the owner of Joeblack Cope, a treeing fiest that competed in and won the world-champion title after a rigorous competition among the very best squirrel dogs in the USA. The United Kennel Club sponsored the championship event, and it happened in Hardin, Kentucky, with the finals on March 28, 2021. This dog has been winning contests for a while. Joeblack Cope was the winner of Feist Days, The Yatesville Class and UKC Dog Of The Year 2019,” which are just a few of his accomplishments.
I was curious about the dog’s name as Joeblack Cope. The movie “Meet Joe Black” came to mind, and it stars Brad Pitt as the Grim Reaper on earth who collects souls and creates mischief. Anthony Hopkins plays a man who will soon meet death and the Grim Reaper comes into his life to create a great movie plot that explores life and death issues and how the characters cope with those problems. It was not lost on me that an undertaker owns the world-champion dog named Joeblack Cope, and I asked Jason how he came up with the name.
Surprisingly, he said he bought the dog from Johnny Jude, a professional squirrel dog hunter and breeder in West Virginia, and he already had that name. He decided not to rename the dog because they were a perfect fit. Isn’t it just a little ironic that a mortician owns a dog named after the Grim Reaper in a movie? Yes, it is amusing, and Jason has a great sense of humor and takes it all in stride.
The woods we were hunting were mainly oaks and hickories along Big Grocery Creek, a meandering small stream that runs through the middle of Oaky Woods. It is ideal squirrel habitat. Nearly all the leaves had dropped off the trees. A recent rain had softened up the ground clutter, and the temperature was in the mid 50s. There was a warm sunshine after several cold and dreary days. The day was a blessing, and we were optimistic as we turned loose Joeblack Cope from the dog box. Jason put a tracking collar on the dog, just to make sure we could keep up with him
Joeblack Cope hit the ground running, and it wasn’t two minutes later that he cut loose with his enthusiastic yelping, hot on the trail of a fresh squirrel. We hustled over to his location and found him looking up a tree and barking like crazy. If Joeblack Cope could talk, he would have been saying, “There he is boss, in this tall oak tree. Get him!” It was great to see a champion dog at work.
Joeblack Cope did his best to try and climb the huge tree as he would get a running start and lunge at the tree trunk. He reached heights of 8 feet easy, and if there were such a thing as dog Olympics, he would be a serious competitor in the high jump.
Try as we might, we couldn’t see the squirrel, which is usually the case, but Bridger, Fisher and Lamar walked around the tree trying to get a glimpse of the squirrel. Normally the squirrel tries to lie flat along a large limb on the opposite side from the pursuer. The squirrel then continues to shimmy around the limb and remain “invisible” as the hunter moves around the tree. This elusive cat-and-mouse action can fool the dog, but we hunters (with supposedly superior brains) have devised an effective strategy. The five of us scattered around the tree as Jason grabbed a large muscadine vine that reached up the tree and shook it. The squirrel decided he couldn’t stand the pressure and moved.
Fisher called out, “I see him!” Then he raised his 20-gauge shotgun and drew a bead on the brown spot at the top of the very tall oak tree. However, the squirrel was too high, and the shot was ineffective. The squirrel seemed to disappear, and we soon decided to give the squirrel a free pass for the day.
We had hardly given up on that squirrel when Joeblack Cope let loose with a treed bark on another squirrel, maybe 75 yards down the creek. We rushed ahead and found two squirrels among the treetops. Fisher and Bridger cut loose with their shotguns, and one squirrel hit the ground. Then another squirrel decided to make a quick getaway through the tree branches and Lamar homed in on him and dropped him into the leaves.
This type of fast-paced action was repeated numerous times and as quickly as we could put squirrels in the gamebag the dog would run off just ahead of us and tree more squirrels. The dog did excellent work, and I quickly saw that this method of hunting is much more productive than stand hunting for squirrels.
The dog quietly slipped through the woods and treed up any squirrel around. The trick then was to get to the tree quickly before the squirrel escaped to other trees, but Joeblack Cope could not be fooled. He watched the treetops, and if a squirrel moved, he moved, too. That’s one reason he is a champion. We hustled from one spot to another, getting in some good exercise in the process. We probably covered a mile or more in our short morning hunt from 7:30 to 11 a.m. and bagged four squirrels.
We were in constant action and had several squirrels that dived in a squirrel nest or a knot hole that got away, but that was OK. We could have bagged more squirrels if we had hunted longer, but success with Jason and Lamar is not measured alone by the number of squirrels in the bag. They both had plenty of frozen squirrels in the freezer, so just getting outdoors with friends and family is a big part of the success.
This type of hunting is fun for us older hunters, but it’s also a great sport to introduce young hunters into the fold because it moves fast with plenty of shooting opportunities. Like rabbit and coon hunting, squirrel hunting with a good dog adds a lot of enjoyment to the hunt and the hunters get a great deal of satisfaction out of watching the dogs work.
It was also a great learning opportunity for the two young boys. Fisher found a wild boar skull with big tusks, and he had to take it home to add to his trophy desk. We also got in a geology and history lesson as I took the group to the Oaky Woods sand dollar cliffs where they both found sand dollars from where central Georgia below the fall line was covered by the ocean many years ago. This is a hunt that they will remember for the rest of their lives, which makes it very special.
We used one dog on our hunt, but Lamar had his dog in reserve in the dog box if needed. I know from experience that when you get more than one dog on the ground, they can become competitive and range out too far. This is good news for prospective squirrel hunters who want to expand into dog hunting with minimum mouths to feed. Other than the dogs, our group’s list of needed equipment was small. All used old single-shot or pump shotguns because they are inexpensive, light to carry and get the job done.
A .22 rifle will also work well for a squirrel glued to a branch, but since many of our shots were at running squirrels, the shotguns were the right choice, said Lamar. He had a 20-gauge pump with a full turkey choke, which is great for squirrels high in a tree, but for a squirrel dashing through the treetops, it can be challenging.
According to the United Kennel Club, performance events tailored for cur and feist breeds are based on treeing game. Dogs are hunted on wild, free-ranging game outside of enclosures. In the cur and feist programs, dogs are separated by similar breed and hunted against dogs of the same type. With the UKC there are five cur breeds and two feist breeds. Cur hunts include opportunities for coon as well as squirrel. Feist hunts are for squirrel only. Dogs are hunted for two hours using a points system where the handler and dog teams are credited for treeing the most wild game as accurately as possible and making the fewest mistakes in the process. More information and rules can be found at ukcdogs.com.
Good squirrel dogs are hard to find, said Jason. To make the search more challenging, there is no recognized breed that is readily identified as a squirrel dog, but the feist is as close as it gets, he said.
The word “feist” is an ancient one referring to a small, often noisy dog. Like the cur breeds, the feist breeds were developed in the rural South by breeders who needed low-maintenance dogs to hunt small game. Feists were often the result of crosses between hunting hounds and terriers. Today’s treeing feist is the result of generations of breeding for performance, and it is still primarily used to hunt squirrels, although they are also used to hunt raccoons, rabbits and flushing game birds.
The treeing feist was recognized by UKC on Nov. 1, 1998. Another group, the American Treeing Feist Association was founded in 1985 in Columbus by a group of individuals who desired to promote the feist breed of squirrel dogs. Contact them at https://americantreeingfeist.com.
The dogs are precious commodities to UKC and ATFA members who are avid squirrel hunters. A registered feist can fetch a princely sum ranging from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, depending upon the dog and the depth of the purchaser’s pocket.
Jason says squirrel hunting with a good dog is very special, and if you try it, you’ll be hooked. He told GON readers to reach to him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100065635112742 if you have any additional questions or interests.
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