Memories squirreled away
Sunday, October 09, 2005
RICHARD SCOTTFor The Birmingham News
Tim Cosby knew he was about to cross a threshold in his life when the men called him into the woods for a shot at a prized game target.
He had just arrived home from school when he heard the dogs barking in the woods behind his house, followed by the sounds of rifle fire. He grabbed his own .22 rifle, took off for the woods and quickly found the hunters and dogs.
"The dogs had a squirrel treed and the men let me shoot," Cosby said. "I well remember shooting that squirrel. It was probably a lucky shot but I hit it. All those men were bragging on my shot and patting me on the back and really just making it out like me shooting a squirrel was the greatest thing that ever happened - and to me it was."
That was the beginning of his love for squirrel hunting.
Now, as the retired law enforcement section chief for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Cosby can often be found in the woods from Oct. 1 through Feb. 28.
Let someone else sit in a tree stand or a shooting house. Cosby would rather be on the move, working his Feist dogs and having the time of his life.
"I don't deer hunt much anymore - I might go twice a year with a muzzleloader," Cosby said. "My primary focus is squirrel hunting and I really enjoy it for a lot of reasons."
Those reasons weren't always so obvious to Cosby.
He grew up in a time when deer and turkey weren't prevalent throughout Alabama. His first hunting lessons were learned by chasing after small game, such as squirrel, rabbit and quail. His first hunt was spent sitting still with his father, waiting for the squirrels to come out of hiding.
Like many young hunters who assume bigger is better, Cosby eventually turned his hunting attention to deer and turkey and left squirrels behind.
"I thought if I had 30 free minutes during deer season I was supposed to be somewhere deer hunting," Cosby said. "It became a passion and over the years I killed a lot of deer."
All that started to change in his mid-40s when he moved to a rural area and a friend gave him a Feist puppy that reawakened the passion of his childhood. It didn't take long for Cosby to realize all he had missed.
"I wanted to get back to my roots," Cosby said, "and found out there were a lot of other people rediscovering the enjoyment of hunting squirrels with Feist dogs."
It's a sport where the dogs and hunters are usually on the move in search of the next squirrel. While most hunters don't really go deer hunting "together" because they usually hunt in separate areas or have to be quiet if they sit together, silence and solitude are not factors when hunting squirrels with dogs.
"I really enjoy the social aspects of it," Cosby said. "I meet a lot of people from all over. I've had people drive here from as far away as Iowa and Indiana. I've had calls from Minnesota and Michigan and sent pups to faraway places. We have field trials that draw people from several states. I just enjoy meeting and talking to those with the same interests and forming friendships."
Cosby also enjoys taking kids hunting. He participates in an annual youth squirrel hunt in Barbour County and goes out of his way to make squirrel hunts possible for kids, using the opportunity to teach young people about respect for nature and gun safety.
"They can be outdoors; they can walk and talk and be part of a group," Cosby said. "They can kick sticks, laugh and carry on. Nobody's saying `be quiet.' Nobody's saying, `I can't believe you missed! How in the world did you miss that big buck?'
"It's a squirrel. Who cares if you miss? We'll have another treed in about five minutes. It's just a whole different hunting experience for them and they need that experience."
Cosby has even been known to - wink, wink - get outhunted by some of his young hunters.
"There's nothing like a kid shooting a squirrel you missed," Cosby said, "and he will let you know he killed a squirrel you missed."
The dogs also play a special part in the squirrel hunting experience because of their relentless energy and enthusiasm.
Cosby raises and trains Feists and describes his canine hunting partners as "even-tempered dogs that makes great house pets as well as hunting dogs." But make no mistake: Feists are indeed feisty, intense dogs who don't know the meaning of "give up." For more information on hunting with squirrel dogs, contact any of the following: Tim Cosby, 334-562-3124; Alabama Squirrel Dog Association, 256-245-6175; American Treeing Feists Association, 770-386-3353; Original Mountain Cur Breeders Association, 931-823-4288.
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