Outdoors Column: What Watch Dogs?

Most people that live in the country have a dog or two around the place. Most of the time, these are dual purpose dogs. They might serve to work livestock and companion animals for the kids. Others might be hunting dogs and truck decoration. My son, Damon, has two dogs whose functions include being watch dogs and hunting dogs. Like most of us, they do not always live up to their full potential.


Toes is a coyote hound with a somewhat checkered background. As a pup, his foot was injured, thus the name, Toes. This prevented his getting the usually training as a coyote hunter when he was young. As he grew older, his primary function seemed to be to watch the front patio to make sure it did not escape. At times, he would venture into the timber and surrounding pastures to hunt. Damon was not sure what he was hunting, but he seemed to have a good time. There were occasions when other coyote dogs would happen by that Toes would join in the hunt. He did a remarkable job hunting coyotes, mostly on instinct. At times, Damon was afraid Toes was also running deer, but never caught him at it.


The other dog is a terrier named muskrat. She is vicious with varmints and loves to hunt squirrels and rabbits. She and Toes, at times, will head off into the timber together to hunt. A person can hear her high-pitched yapping and Toes’ mournful bay as they are in hot pursuit of something. I, too, have been suspicious they might be chasing deer, but have also never caught them at it.  Sometimes they will swing by our place for a break and a cold drink. Their visits have been known to last a day or two or until Damon gives them a ride home. It is apparently much easier to hunt from his place to ours than it is to hunt all the way back home. While visiting, they make themselves comfortable on the porch and will go chase a squirrel or rabbit out of the garden as payment for our hospitality.


Last weekend, Damon was able to determine for certain whether his dogs were harassing the deer. He has planted a small orchard of Honey Crisp apple trees. This brand of apple tree produces the best apples in the world, in my opinion. It seems the trees must taste just as good as the apples because they have been attacked by rabbits and deer since the day he planted them. Damon has seen the dogs chasing the rabbits away during the day, but was not sure what was happening at night. Friday night, he came home rather late. As he drove down his driveway, the headlights on the truck flashed across his orchard and several deer bounded away. As he got closer, he could see something else still standing there. When he pointed the truck lights at the apple trees, he could tell it was Toes and Muskrat. It looked as though the dogs and the deer were having a party in the orchard. It was then and there, Damon decided his dogs did chase deer. As a matter of fact, the deer might be personal friends of theirs.


They may be good at hunting and protect against prowlers and varmints, but deer are presumed as being not a threat. They do not need to be chased.