Jan 23 2019
Squirrels, Feists and Mules
By Clay Newcomb
January 22, 2019
Watch the VIDEO:
The Grey squirrels of the Ozark Mountains quickly transform into nuggets of gold, metaphorically speaking anyway, when two things happen. The first is when they’re being treed by squirrel dogs. A squirrel in the front yard doesn’t get a guy too excited, but when they’re being chased and treed by a trained dog – things get serious. The action of the dog increases their value exponentially. Secondly, when they’ve been skinned, battered, floured and put in hot oil. Squirrel meat is known as a delicacy in many places – the Ozarks of Arkansas being one of them.
This last week we combined squirrel hunting with dogs and mules, the second being a passion of mine. My good buddies Trae Autrey and Michael Lanier are squirrel hunters, period. They take this stuff serious. They both run treeing Feists. These little dogs only weigh between 15 and 17 pounds soaking wet. They’re athletic and gritty little dogs that love to tree squirrels. Michael said, “Their size makes them easy to keep. Squirrels aren’t big animals and you don’t need a big dog to tree one.” When I asked Trae why he liked Feists he replied, “When the squirrels are moving good, a Feist will use his eyes, ears and nose to find squirrels. You’ll tree every squirrel in the woods with one.”
Trae also rides mules. He and Michael often use them when hunting these late season “cat” squirrels (Grey squirrels). The Ozarks had very little mast crop last fall and there just aren’t many around. I can’t tell you where they go, other than they’re hard to find. When food source is limited the squirrels seem to go on lock down, biding their time and energy waiting for the first new food availability of the spring. Using mules allows a guy to cover lots of ground trying to find squirrels. On our hunt we probably traveled six or seven miles, and it would have been a tough day on foot.
On January 18th we left the truck around 8 a.m. and headed into an area that Michael felt was holding some bushy tails. “It’s the only place I’ve found that had some acorns,” he said. We treed two right off the bat and had them in the game bag in no time. Two of us were carrying shotguns and one had a scoped .22. After a few more hours and several miles of riding, we had only the two from earlier in the morning to show for it. We went back to the truck for a mountaintop lunch of fried potatoes and squirrel. However, this wasn’t just any fried squirrel, it was fried in bear oil (also known as bear grease). I brought a pint of rendered bear fat just for the occasion. Many might presume bear oil would have some gamey or “beary” flavor, but it’s actually very mild tasting oil. You can substitute it for any cooking oil called for in frying or any recipe. The squirrels were excellent.
I learned quit a bit about Izzie, the mule I trained, on this hunt. She did fantastic and no problem around the gunshots, dogs and the other mules. As a matter of fact, I shot my 410 shotgun off her back four times. I’d shot a .22 off her before, but this was the first time I shot a louder-type gun. I took great joy in my feet hardly hitting the ground the whole day. That might sound lazy, but after all the training it’s highly rewarding to reap the fruits of your labor. It’s also a lot of good core-muscle exercise to ride a mule for eight hours. At the end of the day we’d had more fun than you could imagine.
Watch for the video about this hunt on the Bear Hunting Magazine YouTube channel coming out on Tuesday January 29. It’s a ton of fun and I think you’ll enjoy it. I’m pretty sure it’s going to break the internet….or least I like it ton.
Photos by Brent Reaves (Reckless Drift Media)