Squirrel hunting is a prevalent pastime for many enthusiasts across the United States. A well-trained squirrel-hunting dog can make all the difference for those looking to take their hunting to the next level. These four-legged companions can help locate prey and provide a valuable extra set of eyes and ears.
Many dog breeds excel at squirrel hunting, and choosing the right breed for you and your hunting needs is essential. In this article, we will explore the best squirrel hunting dogs and what factors to consider when selecting one, as well as provide tips on training, equipment, hunting techniques, safety and ethics, and hunting stories and experiences.
Choosing the Right Breed
When selecting a squirrel-hunting dog, there are several breeds, each with unique characteristics and hunting abilities. Here are some of the most popular species:
Best squirrel hunting dog
1. Feist – The Feist is a small, agile, and energetic breed known for its ability to climb trees to chase squirrels. They are also great at digging and flushing out squirrels from their hiding spots. This breed is typically friendly and loyal but can also be stubborn sometimes. Training and socializing are vital for this breed.
2. Mountain Cur – The Mountain Cur is a medium-sized breed known for its stamina and determination. This breed is excellent at tracking and treeing squirrels, and they are also versatile and can be trained to follow other game as well. They make great companions and are highly intelligent but require plenty of exercise and stimulation.
3. Treeing Walker Coonhound – The medium- to large-sized Treeing Walker Coonhound breed is renowned for its excellent sense of smell and capacity to track game in various settings. They are great at treeing squirrels and are highly trainable. This breed is typically friendly and affectionate but can also be quite vocal.
4. Beagle – The Beagle is a medium-sized breed known for its exceptional sense of smell and ability to track game.
Beagles are great at monitoring squirrels, but their size can make it difficult to climb trees to chase prey. They are friendly, loyal, and highly trainable but require plenty of exercise and mental stimulation.
5. Redbone Coonhound – Medium to huge in stature, the Redbone Coonhound is renowned for its athleticism and long-distance tracking skills. They are great at treeing squirrels and are highly trainable. This breed is typically friendly and loyal but requires plenty of exercise and mental stimulation.
Factors to Consider
Selecting the right breed is a great starting point, but there are many other factors to consider when choosing a squirrel-hunting dog. Here are some things to keep in mind:
1. Size – The size of your hunting dog is an important consideration. If you plan on hunting in dense forests, a smaller dog may be more agile and better suited for the terrain. If you plan on pursuing in open fields, a more giant dog may be necessary to cover more ground.
2. Temperament – The temperament of your hunting dog is also essential. You want a dog that is loyal, trainable, and friendly. Some breeds may be more independent or stubborn, so research and select the right breed for your hunting style and personality.
3. Hunting Instinct – Your dog’s hunting instinct is also crucial. You want a dog with a strong drive and desire to hunt and the ability to track and locate prey. Some breeds may be better suited for specific hunting environments or techniques, so it’s essential to consider this when choosing a dog.
Training Your Squirrel Hunting Dog
Training your squirrel-hunting dog is essential for a successful hunting experience. Here are some tips for basic obedience and scent training:
Basic Training Tips
1. Keep it positive – Positive reinforcement is critical when training your dog. Instead of criticizing or disciplining your dog, try rewarding it for excellent behavior with food or praise.
2. Start early – The earlier you train your dog, the better. Puppies are more receptive to training and can learn basic obedience commands early on.
3. Consistency is critical – Consistent training is essential for success. Set up a daily routine, stick to it, and be patient with your dog as he learns.
4. Commands to teach – Teach your dog basic obedience commands such as “stay,” “come,” and “leave it.” These commands are essential for safety and control in the field.
Scent Training Techniques
1. Develop a scent – To train your dog to track squirrels, you must develop a smell. Rubbing a scent trail on the ground, using a freshly killed squirrel.
2. Use scent tracking exercises – Start by hiding a squirrel’s tail in a small area and allow your dog to locate it using its sense of smell. Gradually increase the difficulty of the exercise.
3. Practice treeing – To train your dog to climb trees, place a squirrel in a tree and encourage them to follow it. As your dog becomes more confident, gradually increase the tree’s height.
Equipment and Gear
The right equipment and gear are essential for a successful hunting experience with your dog. Here are some critical items to consider:
Essential Hunting Gear
1. Leash – A sturdy leash is essential for controlling your dog while hunting.
2. Hunting vest – A hunting vest can protect your dog’s torso from thorns and other hazards while hunting.
3. Tracking collar – A tracking collar can help you locate your dog in the field, especially if he separates from you.
Recommended Firearms and Ammunition
1. 22-caliber rifle – A .22-caliber gun is suitable for squirrel hunting and is easy to use.
2. Shotguns – Shotguns can also be used for squirrel hunting, but be sure to use a small shot size to avoid damaging the meat.
3. Ammunition – For rifles, use .22 LR or .22 Magnum. For shotguns, use #6 or #7.5 shot size.
Squirrel Hunting Tips
Finding Squirrel Habitats
1. Look for trees – Squirrels prefer trees, especially those with dense foliage, so look for areas with many trees.
2. Listen for sounds – Squirrels make a lot of noise when they move around, so listen for rustling leaves or branches.
3. Look for food sources – Squirrels love acorns and other nuts, so look for areas with many trees that produce these.
1. Still hunting involves moving slowly and quietly through the woods to locate squirrels. This method calls for diligence and persistence.
2. Stalking – Stalking involves moving slowly and silently toward a squirrel that has been located. This technique requires good stealth and patience.
3. Treeing involves encouraging your dog to climb a tree where a squirrel has been located. This technique requires good communication and teamwork with your dog.
Safety and Ethics
Ethical Hunting Practices
It’s essential to always practice ethical hunting practices to ensure the sustainability and health of wildlife populations. Here are some ethical hunting practices to keep in mind:
1. Obey regulations – Always follow hunting regulations and laws and respect the limits and seasons.
2. Respect wildlife – Always treat nature respectfully and care and avoid causing unnecessary harm.
3. Use clean kills – Always use clean and humane kills to avoid causing undue animal suffering.
Safety is a top priority when hunting with your dog. Here are some safety precautions to consider:
1. Always wear protective gear – Wear appropriate footwear, clothing, and eye and ear protection to avoid injury.
2. Practice firearm safety – Always handle firearms safely and understand how to properly load, unload, and aim.
3. Have a first aid kit – Always carry a first aid kit with you in case of injury or emergency.
Hunting Stories and Experiences
Part of the joy of squirrel hunting is sharing stories and experiences with other enthusiasts. Here are some ways to share your own experiences and learn from others:
Share Your Stories
1. Connect with others – Connect with other hunting enthusiasts online or in-person to share stories and experiences.
2. Keep a journal – Keep a journal of your hunting experiences to track your progress and learn from each hunt.
3. Share on social media – Share your photos and stories on social media to connect with others and build a community.
Notable Squirrel Hunting Moments
1. Oakie – Oakie, an American Pit Bull Terrier, set a world record in 1983 for capturing 26 squirrels in one minute.
2. Furface – Furface, a Beagle, won the 2005 Purina Squirrel Dog Championship, with his owner attributing the win to Furface’s exceptional hunting instincts.
3. Boomer – Boomer, a Mountain Cur, won three consecutive hunting championships in Ohio in the late 1990s, making him a standout in the hunting community.
Selecting the right breed, training your dog, having the right equipment, and understanding important safety and ethical considerations are all essential for a successful and fulfilling squirrel hunting experience with your dog. By taking the time to research, train, and prepare, you can create a rewarding partnership with your furry companion and enjoy the thrill of the hunt together.