Everything was gray.

The woods were drab, leafless and gray. The bare tree trunks and limbs were gray. The dead leaves underfoot were gray. And the sky was heavily overcast with uniformly gray clouds.

Even the squirrels were gray. 

So conditions were perfect for a day of squirrel hunting with dogs, a sociable sport.

For most of the season, squirrel hunters are the most-reclusive of all outdoorsmen. They try to make themselves utterly invisible and silent in the woods. Crossing paths with another hunter ruins their morning.

But something magical happens in January, when all the leaves are off the trees — especially after deer season closes. The sounds of laughter, joking, dogs barking and shotguns banging ring through the woods as the time comes for squirrel hunting with dogs. 

This was what Cameron Harris, 34, a lanky, square-jawed 6-foot-5 giant from Ferriday, called, “a big annual family hunt.” Harris’ father, Weldon, 64, and brother ,Taylor, 31, both cotton farmers from Kosciusko, Miss., were there. 

The team’s dean was retired county agent Don Schmidt, 68, from Carthage, Miss. Family friend Shannon McMullin, 34, an oil-rig tool pusher, supplied the kids necessary for a fun hunt:  Hunter, 14, Lilly, 10, and Parker, 8.

Most important to the success of the hunt were the two dog men: Joe Shumaker, 57, and Terry Fletcher, 60. Each brought two mountain cur squirrel dogs. Neither carried a gun.

“It’s not about the shooting for us,” Shumaker said. “We will carry a gun early in the season or when it’s just the two of us. We like to let the others shoot late