By Feb. 1, Jeff Thompson and his feist dogs, Fred and Ethel, will have led well over 100 squirrels to their demise since the season opened in October.
“We’ll double that number by the end of the month, I promise you,” said Thompson, of Vicksburg. “Fred and I will be out there every day we can, even if it’s only for an hour or two.”
Thompson is a squirrel hunter; he doesn’t hunt anything else, not ever.
“I grew up in a family of deer and duck hunters but just never found either to be what I enjoyed,” he said. “Then, I met this man who had a treeing feist dog named Highball. I was a senior in high school, and football season had just ended. I played ball with his son, and all he ever talked about what squirrel hunting with his dad and his dogs. I finally got him to invite me on a hunt, and buddy, let me tell you, I was hooked on it. That was 40 years ago, and I have never wanted to hunt anything else since.”
Thompson is a health nut and a nature freak.
“That’s probably why I like squirrel hunting so much,” he said. “For one thing, I get a heck of a lot of exercise behind my dogs, and I get it in some of the prettiest places in Mississippi. And, I eat a lot of squirrel, and I think it’s as healthy a protein as there is, and the tastiest. Obviously, most of the best recipes for it aren’t that healthy — fried or smothered in dumplings, but I walk that off the next day I go hunting.”
A good crop
February is a busy month for Thompson. It’s when his days are full of invitations to some of the best hunting lands in the state.
“I have a lot of contacts, business contacts, with a lot of people throughout Mississippi and Alabama, too, and many of them are members of some of the best hunting camps around,” he said. “Once deer season ends, my phone rings constantly. It actually starts about Jan. 1, and I start lining up hunts with friends who enjoy a good squirrel hunt behind a good dog. If there’s a promise of a kid or two going along, then I get real excited. Ain’t nothing better than watching a kid’s excitement when Fred and Ethel tree a squirrel and we get to the tree.”
Mississippi’s season runs through Feb. 28. The limit is eight per day, per hunter. Thompson said he’s enjoying a great season with the best yet to come.
“We seem to have had a long run on good acorn crops in most of the state,” he said. “The squirrel population this year is the product of the acorn production last year, and so on. That’s what biologists have told me, and my experiences back that up. Me and Fred, and me and Ethel, we had a lot of limit hunts in October, November and December, and on Jan. 1, we had four hunters, and we all got limits before lunch.
“I expect February will be bang-up. That’s when we get to hunt some of those great hunting-camp lands that haven’t been squirrel hunted all year. And with all the leaves gone and the acorns all down, we should be treeing squirrels all day every day. I can’t wait.”