Squirrel hunting long has been one of my favorite outdoor pursuits and it’s something I’ve written about in other outdoor columns.
It’s no big secret that I probably prefer it to deer hunting — squirrels are much easier to cart back to the truck — although I still feel that compelling urge to take part in the annual craziness that is the whitetail deer rut in Kansas.
Squirrel hunting is much less stressful, though, and presents a very similar challenge, at least when using a rimfire or air rifle.
I also drag my faithful companion, “Bunny the Squirrel Hound” — yes, she’s had that moniker used in print before — to the squirrel woods with me on many of my outings.
Bunny is an eclectic mix of dog breeds that I guess involves red heeler, Catahoula cur hound and possibly rat terrier.
This is almost too much of a “good” thing sometimes, when it comes to tenacity and grit.
Bunny is great at finding downed critters in the thick fall leaves, but most of the time, she sits next to me in my hide, watching the treetops for movement. She also can tree squirrels if we end up striking out sitting still.
This dog loves the outdoors and sometimes I go just to take her outside.
There have been a few hairy incidents in the field, including her discovering the equivalent tenacity and grit of a large badger, but we always have a good adventure.
Most of Bunny’s life has been in more rural areas than we now live in and she becomes somewhat frustrated that we can’t shoot the squirrels out of the pecan tree in the back yard.
I’ve pointed my finger and yelled “bang” at squirrels she has treed, only to get that dirty look only a hunting dog can give you when you miss.
She finally has figured out that town squirrels are only for chasing and not eating. I also told her they taste funny, but I doubt she believes me.
Squirrels are not the only abundant wildlife at my current abode in Newkirk. The town seems to have a large population of red and silver foxes.
One nice red specimen seems to wait in the neighbor’s back yard each morning, watching the four-pack of dogs that lives in the house, before venturing into the fenced area in the back yard.
I’ve watching this little critter grow from a small kit to a full-sized red fox since first seeing him a few months ago.
Of course, Bunny and her canine companions have spotted him watching them, and the fox usually disappears the way only a fox can.
He — or she — doesn’t seem too concerned about the dogs, just mostly curious about what it probably considers the strangest litter of foxes in the world. The dogs bark at everything that moves anyway and the funny-looking “red dog” is no exception.
Now, this saga probably would have fallen to the back of my mind to join the other antics of animals, both wild and domestic, that I’ve observed through the years. However, one morning a few weeks ago, an interaction between Bunny and the fox really stuck in my head.
That morning, Bunny and I were the first living things stirring in the household and, of course, we had to go outside to enjoy the nice morning.
The fox was outside waiting, as usual, safely in the alley and behind the chain-link fence that surrounds the back yard.
It took Bunny a moment to notice the fox, but when she spotted the critter, the two animals locked eyes in a quizzical stare.
They nearly mimicked each other as they turned their heads side to side, studying each other.
It was one of those moments when I wished I was more tech-savvy and had handy access to video equipment, or at least my cell phone.
This lasted for what seemed to be several minutes, until both animals slowly inched their way closer to the fence that separated them.
The fox finally trotted off slowly when Bunny came a little too close, but neither dog nor fox showed any fear or urge to eat the other animal.
I swear they were having some sort of discussion that only they could comprehend.
It was one of those moments that reminds me how much I love the wild — even if it’s only the wildlife in my back yard — and the sometimes surprising dynamics of nature. Hopefully, the fox and squirrel hound can continue their conversation on another morning.
Enjoy life in the wilds…
Dirt Roads and River Beds is a nature column written by Arkansas City native Cody Griesel.