I have had many fun conversations with Dean Dickison over the past few years. Dean has allowed me to share his story and many of his experiences for this article. I consider it a privilege!
Dean had very little history with hunting until he was nearly 40. He hunted birds a bit as a kid with his uncle, but began seriously fishing as a teenager, and fishing was his passion! When his son was old enough to take his hunterís safety course, he talked Dean into taking him deer hunting. They hunted a little, with poor luck, on public land in California. About this time, Dean (an arborist by trade) was working for a man with a farm in his area, and fell in love with his dog. When he asked him what kind of dog it was he was told it was a Rat Terrier. It turned out the man had gotten his dog from Deckerís Rat Terriers. Dean went right out and bought one for himself and named her Amazing Grace. At the time, Dean had no thoughts of hunting with her, or breeding dogs at all, he just loved this type of dog and wanted one. Before too long, he had a couple more, and began to deer hunt with them. He got Skeeter Valentine from Rosalie Rinear of Fire Mountain, and began to hunt deer with him. He was an amazing deer dog! Before he was a year old, Dean and his party had taken 3 bucks over him, and friends from other parties had asked his assistance in finding 2 wounded bucks.
About the time Skeeter was well trained for deer, Dean was invited to go hog hunting with some friends that had dogs. He went along and was instantly hooked! He began hunting hogs all the time, and worked to train his Deckers as strike dogs. Dean doesnít start his pups on other game. He waits until they are around 8 months old, then takes them along on hunts with the older dogs, but he keeps them leashed. If the bigger dogs bay up a large hog, he will not turn the pup loose. He waits until they find a smaller 70 to 80 lb hog, then turns the pup loose, so it can get the experience on a young hog that doesnít have large tusks.
Deanís basic hunting method is to turn a Catahoula loose as
a tracking dog, and run 1 or 2 Deckers at the same time. The Deckerís job
is to wind the hogs. More often than not, Dean says the Terriers will get
to the hog first, and start to bay. He says the advantage of having smaller
dogs as strike dogs is the pigs have a tendency to bay up faster and not
run as far. He says the Deckers are less intimidating to the hog. Dean
has snuck in on large hogs many times while his Terriers are baying, and
the hogs never even know what hit them. They are mesmerized by the constant
barking of the small dogs. The Deckers are quick, and usually wonít try
to catch the hog until the larger dogs get there. Once the big dogs show
up, many of the Deckers will grab a piece of whatever they can and help!
Dean told the story of hunting with Fire Mountain Susie and Fire Mountain
Sissy, two dogs he had in the 1990s. They were baying a large hog in thick
brush and one of his larger dogs showed up. The hog got nervous and took
off. Dean said when it came out of the brush, it was running full speed
with Susie and Sissy attached to it, one hanging off its ear and the other
holding onto the back end! Dean told another story about Susie. A large
hog had one of the big dogs down, and was working it over. Susie jumped
right on its back and started biting its ear, distracting it so the big
dog could get away.
Dean got several dogs over the years from Fire Mountain Kennels,
and he also worked with Jim Johnson of Sycamore Flats. He has had many
great dogs over the years like Amazing Marvin, Fire Mountain Susie and
Fire Mountain Sissy. When I asked him which male was his foundation dog
that produced the most consistent outstanding hunt, he said Skeeter Valentine.
Skeeter was a deer dog because Dean never trained him for hogs, but he
was outstanding. I asked him which dog was his all time favorite dog to
hunt with he said, hands down, Amazing Little. Amazing Little was
an outstanding hog dog, but what made him so incredible was, he only had
3 legs! He lost one of his back legs in a non hunting accident. Deanís
Vet tried for a long time to save the leg, but eventually had to remove
it. Dean said it took Little about a month to find his balance, but once
he did, he never missed a beat! Dean entered into a California hog hunting
competition with Little and won. He says Little actually won the competition
because he was the first dog on the hog. Little was almost always the first
dog to strike a hog. The next year, his son entered and won with Little
as well with one hog sporting a phenomenal set of 4 and ½ inch tusks!
Dean recalled the day Little died. He was hunting with some
younger guys in an area they had hunted a lot, not far from Deanís home.
Little was 9 years old, and Dean estimates Little was in on taking around
500 hogs in his life. They hadnít been hunting more than 5 minutes when
the dogs struck a hog and got it bayed up. He says when they bay a really
large aggressive hog, the dogs make a different sound, more of a frantic
sound. Dean knew when he heard the sound of the dogs, they were in trouble.
He told the younger guys, ďThis is a bad hog, itís going to kill our dogs.Ē
He told them to run as fast as they could and not to wait for him. They
got there and killed the hog, but, sadly, Little had been mortally wounded.
Dean said Little had hunted that area a lot, and he felt there was no place
more fitting to lay him to rest. Dean has lost a few dogs over the
years to hogs. It is a part of hog hunting that no one enjoys. He made
a statement that really struck me. Dean said, ďIf you could really talk
to a hunting dog, and ask them how they felt about something, and you asked
them if they would rather sit around the house and live to be 15, or, they
could go hunting, but they may only live a few years, those hunting dogs
would all rather die doing what they love than live and never get to hunt.Ē
Dean, Little, and some of Deanís Wifeís family from England
I wish to send a special thanks to Dean Dickison for allowing me to share this story.
By Ellis Decker