The people in the little hamlet of Tangipahoa call George Ricks “The Dog Man.” Everywhere he goes, Claire Bell, his retired-from-hunting treeing walker hound, rides with him.
Powerfully built and high-energy, Ricks speaks with an accent best described as educated, but country. As an analytical chemist and certified industrial hygienist for the Ethyl/Albemarle Corporation, he commuted 160 miles round trip per day for 30 years.
On the side, Ricks still did what he does full time today after retirement: hunt, fish, tan hides, support the National Wild Turkey Federation, manage his wildlife habitat and maintain his extensive rental property holdings.
He refused to leave his home town. Tangipahoa today is a forlorn little place.
“The old people died, the young people left and the town dwindled,” is how Ricks described what happened.
But just outside of town, he lives in a little paradise at the end of a dead-end road near Camp Moore Historical Site.
His 125 acres are heavily forested (“I’m big into habitat,” he explained), and front the white sands and clear waters of the Tangipahoa River.
Ricks’ rambling 3,600-square-foot home is a repository of hunting equipment, and tubs and tubs of tanned hides — mostly raccoons, but also coyotes, red foxes, gray foxes, bobcats and deer.
Behind the house are the kennels that hold his dogs: treeing walkers and one black-and-tan for coon hunting, and treeing walker-mountain cur crosses for squirrel hunting.
Ricks hunts hard, estimating he and his partners kill 400 to 500 squirrels a year — and he hunts coons more often than squirrels.
He still deer hunts, and he chuckled when asked about his passion for turkeys.
“There was a time I lived for hunting turkeys,” Ricks said. “I’d start scouting as soon as deer season closed, and I’d have 25 longbeards located before the season.
“In the ’70s and ’80s, we had plenty of turkeys. They thrived around dairy farms. We’ve lost just about all our dairies. Turkey habitat has suffered from that, poor timber management, development and gravel pits.”
So he doesn’t devote as much time to that passion.
“I’ve backed off,” Ricks said. “I used to hunt 30 (days) out of 30. If I go 10 days now, that’s about it.”
However, he is still president of Tangilena Toms, the local National Wild Turkey Federation chapter.
But raccoons is where it’s at now for Ricks.
“I’ve hunted coons all my life,” he explained. “I was coon dog-less for about 10 years of my life. Now I’ve been back into it for 20 years.
“When I was a kid, we hunted crossbreed dogs or curs. As I got older, I was introduced to registered dogs. With a registered dog, treeing is in them. You don’t have to make them tree.
“I wasted a lot of years trying to make bad dogs tree or not gun shy.”