SMOKY MOUNTAIN FEIST
Over 30 years ago we bred Mountain Feist into our bear dogs and got what we refer to as Smoky Mountain Feist. Before I proceed in describing these dogs I want to pay homage to the men who lived on the Tennessee side of the Smoky Mountains that bred out the Mountain Feist and bear dogs theses dogs descend from. If it weren't for their efforts we would not have the caliber of dogs we have today.
ANCESTRY OF THE HOUND SIDE
Doc Walker owned a hunting preserve between Wears Valley and Walland called Hunter's Haven where he bear and hog hunted. He went through a lot of hounds to get longer sticking and harder fighting dogs. His hounds were white with either black or brindle trim and specks. His dogs had a high mortality rate because of their grit.
A bear hunter named Bud Wolfe from Boyds Creek got some pups from Doc that were from a brother/sister cross. He kept a female out of that litter named Betty that he bred to Leonard Parton's stud dog Jug Head. Leonard lived near the Greenbriar section of the national park. He had a reputation of raising, training, and selling some of the finest bear dogs in East Tennessee. Leonard's hounds were of Plott and Red Bone descent - medium build, cat footed, dark colored, fast and aggressive dogs.
Bud Wolfe also, later on, bred Betty to a Cascade Plott. Two gentlemen from Knoxville, Oliver Smith and Gene White, brought the Cascade Plotts into East Tennessee by purchasing two dogs named Timber and Demon from Dee Moss of Washington State. They had a reputation of being some of the best bear dogs on the west coast and were medium size, swift footed and gritty dogs.
There was a rooster fighter named Bob Ogle from John's Branch that had a black and tan colored Feist Hound cross Squirrel Dog named Sally that he kept to keep the varmints ran out of his chickens. His neighbor had a dog named Crip out of the Jug Head and Betty cross. Crip had performed better than his litter mates until he broke a front leg. Sally accidentally got bred to Crip and Rocky Kear, a coon hunter from Cartertown, ended up with these 1/4 feist pups. They started young and were very tree minded.
From this cross Rocky's brother Kenny took a Gyp named Jet and bred her to the Cascade Plott and Betty cross dog Bud Wolfe had kept. Rocky and Kenny kept three female pups out of this litter (Cindy, Brownie, and Scrangy). Cindy was a big game dog, Brownie a number one Coon Dog and Scrangy won the Tennessee State Championship Squirrel Hunt.
ANCESTRY OF THE FEIST SIDE
For most of his life, before his eyesight got bad, Gasdon Dockery from Richardson's Cove raised, trained, and sold more Mountain Feist Squirrel Dogs than anyone around. His neighbor had a small Brindle Cur that came from Cherokee, North Carolina and this dog stayed treed all the time. Gasdon bred his Brindle Feist Gyp to him.
I ended up with two males from that cross, Reagan's Rango and Reagan's Rowdy. I also got another male feist from Gasdon named Nub that was out of my Rango dog. All three were Mountain Feist type squirrel dogs. They were straight legged, hard treeing, gray faced brindle fesits. They hunted close, timbered,retrieved, and had exceptional noses.
THE CROSSING OF BEAR DOGS TO FEISTS
Rocky Kear's Coon dogs Jet and Brownie had proven the advantages of having feist blood in your hound. Kenny Kear bred his Bear dog Cindy to my Nub dog and later on to my Rowdy dog. The ones we kept and trained made exceptional tree dogs and excelled on whatever they were trained on being it squirrel, coon or bear. We were amazed at the amount of game these dogs could tree in a relatively short period of time. The Kear family also experimented crossing to other Feists around our region but the results were not as good as the Gasdon Dockery cross.
THE SEARCH FOR A STUD DOG
I wanted to get some pups out of my coon dog Koko, she was out of the Cindy and Nub cross. I had seen a small Brindle Cur dog named Cane Creek Turn owned by Clay Faluts of North Carolina at the first ever World Squirrel Hunt in Ethal, Miississippi, that's what I wanted to breed to but he died. I started traveling and going to hunts. I talked to Kenneth Beaty of Crossville Tennessee about the Bounce dog that started the Mullins breed and Jerry Arrington from Castalian Springs about J.D. that started the River Run breed. I visited with Don Price of Alabama and Gerald Johnson of Arkansas about their ATFA Squirrel Champs - Black Jack and Spike. I also traveled to Ohio to talk to Bill Coon about his MTFO World Champion. Not taking anything away from them, they were all fine dogs they just didn't suit me.
Bow Thomas of Maryville, Tennessee had a dog named Boomer out of our stock that he mostly hog hunted. I decided to line breed to him. The Kear family also bred a dog named Cricket out of the Rowdy and Cindy cross to him. Both litters yielded great results.
A TRIBUTE TO OTHERS THAT HELPED CONTINUE OUR LINAGE
Danny Owens from Bird's Creek had a gyp named Pearl out of the Koko and Boomer cross. Jack White from Pamplico, South Carolina had a gyp out of the Cricket and Boomer cross. Bruce Gamble of Dothan, Alabama had a bitch named Julie from our stock. All three of these men line bred back to our stud dogs. The litters they raised have added a great deal to our breeding program.
DESCRIPTION AND CHARACTERISTICS OF SMOKY MOUNTAIN FEIST
Smoky MNT. Feist’s are a little larger that most Feists weighing around 30 pounds and standing about 20” tall. They resemble a small hound. Their color is either Brindle with a black saddle back or hi tan, their muzzles usually get grey or frosty when they get older. They have short ears set high on their heads that rise slightly when they are excited. They are muscular, lean, and athletic looking with high hip bones.
From what I have read and been told, they have some of the same characteristics as the old timey Plott Curs had before Hound was put in them in the early 1900’s. When compared to a Hound they are smaller, closer range, hotter nosed, semi-silent with a chop mouth on trail and tree. They run to catch and would rather tree than trail, therefore they usually tree quickly.
Because of the Feist blood in them, the one’s we bear hunt normally prefer a hot track, they can trail fast and usually don’t open until they are close to jumping. They do this in order to not let the bear get a head start, their biggest asset is their speed. Because of their size, build and desire their closing speed is unrivaled in the rugged terrain of East TN. They are extremely aggressive, close fighting agile dogs. If they are not treed or bayed within two hours they are back where you turned them loose. You are normally outside your designated hunting area by then and your kill rate drops dramatically, this also keeps you from going back the next day looking for your dogs.
The one’s we have trained to coon hunt will open enough on track to tell you a story. They will put their noses on the ground , but they won’t straddle a track. They normally run with their heads up winding and drifting. They locate good and lock down. They make good combination dogs on both coon and squirrel. However, because of their short legs they are not down south swamp dogs.
Our squirrel dogs hunt hard and fast. They tend to use their noses more and cover more ground than most Feist because of the hound blood in them. They hunt a pattern and check in good. They will road, walk and some even rig hunt. They can locate squirrels under severe weather conditions if need be. The only time they open on the ground is on a cold squirrel and that is just a few times right before they tree. Because of their range they are well suited for rolling hills and flat land that you find in W.M.A.’s across the south.
This breed or cross of dogs have only been raised by a few families on the TN side of the Smoky MNT.s. Through their insight, these dogs have been bred out to adapt and excel specifically for their area’s current hunting environment. Isn’t it interesting that these dogs have reverted back to a lot of the same traits that the Plott Mountain Curs had that were hunted in the Smokies in the early 1900’s.
It takes most of a lifetime to establish a line of dogs. Very few people can honestly say they have their own line. We feel very fortunate to have one and extra lucky that we hit on the right combination. Hunting is our heritage here in the Smoky Mountains and we are grateful we are still granted that privilege.