Barking Up Bushytails

In the fraternity of treeing-dog enthusiasts, Jim Rhea of Wynne, Arkansas, is legendary. He raises and trains some of the world's finest pedigree squirrel dogs. Dogs from his Limbgripper line, including Limbgripper Ranger pictured here, have won every major award in the sport, including dozens of state, regional, U.S. and world championships.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Rhea's love is raising squirrel dogs, but his passion is teaching children to hunt. When he took four youngsters (Matt Sutton, Jared Sutton, Zach Sutton and Shaun Kizer) to hunt with Ranger in east Arkansas, we were there to photograph some of the fun. The morning started with a review of hunting safety fundamentals. "Safety first," Jim says. "Watch your gun barrels. Keep your safety on until you see the squirrel..."Outdoor Life Online Editor
Zach and Ranger, just introduced, size each other up as the hunt begins.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Two minutes after Jim commands him to "Hunt," Ranger, a world-champion treeing cur, barks treed. When the boys find him, he's staring into a treetop where his keen sense of smell has detected a squirrel.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Jim and Zach hunker down and try to find the squirrel in the maze of branches overhead.Outdoor Life Online Editor
When Jim shakes a vine on the tree, this bushytail comes out barking. Violently shaking his tail, he shows he's definitely not happy with the dogs and kids who have invaded his woods.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Before anyone gets a shot, the gray squirrel decides to hightail it out of there in a move called "timbering." He jumps from one tree to the next, and three of the boys take a shot at him.Outdoor Life Online Editor
No one knows for sure who hit the squirrel, but one shot finds its mark, and Ranger makes the retrieve. The keen-eyed canine seems to think Matt was the marksman this time.Outdoor Life Online Editor
After each squirrel is killed, Ranger races ahead to find another. And each time the boys find him, he's facing the same direction - up.Outdoor Life Online Editor
"Looks like he'd get a crick in his neck," Shaun says.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Treeing curs like Ranger are just one of several registered breeds that make excellent squirrel dogs. The treeing feist, shown here, is one of the smallest breeds, typically weighing around 20 pounds. It's often confused with the rat terrier, but the ears of feists break over rather than sticking straight up. As this photo shows, when these dogs tree game, they mean business.Outdoor Life Online Editor
The uniquely colored leopard cur also makes a great squirrel dog, but that's not it's only calling. This breed can be trained for a variety of purposes, including wild hog hunting, cat hunting and working with livestock.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Once known as the Ledbetter cur, the mountain cur originated in the hills of Tennessee. Normally silent on track, this breed barks only when a squirrel is treed. This dog from Jim Rhea's kennel is Limbgripper Jack, a mountain cur that won several Grand National field trial championships.Outdoor Life Online Editor
As the morning hunt nears an end, Jim watches as the young hunters search for another squirrel Ranger had treed. "Watching these guys have fun makes me happy," he says. "There's nothing I like more than instilling a love for hunting in youngsters like this." He turns then and heads for the oak where Ranger is looking skyward. "OK, boys, get ready," he shouts. "I'm gonna shake this vine, and we'll see what jumps out. Remember, safety first. Watch your gun barrels. Keep your safety on until you see the squirrel..."Outdoor Life Online Editor
When the last squirrel tumbles from a treetop, everyone stops for a group photo. It's obvious from the looks on their faces, they all have enjoyed a fun, memorable outing, including Ranger, who has awarded at least one squirrel to each young hunter. Hunting with Jim Rhea and his extraordinary dogs is a step beyond the ordinary. It's unforgettable. These four boys will vouch for that.Outdoor Life Online Editor

Four youngsters learn the joys of squirrel hunting.