I told a friend that told his father I was going to write an article on running rabbits with beagles and the fathers' response was, "I guess they will let anybody write for them." I am not an expert on the sport, not even a seasoned veteran. Like many of you I am just a 7a-3p 5 days a week guy trying to save a tradition one weekend at a time.
We are a dying breed in society with the rise in fuel, vaccines, and dog food making it harder every year for the average Joe to maintain a pack of beagles or even a single beagle. My goal is to provide a perspective to folks in the sport that either don't understand all of the field trial and derby trial jargon, or like me are never going to compete in a competition. We just want a dog or pack of dogs we can take out and pursue our weekend warrior passion "Rabbit Hunting."
My father did not share my addiction of running dogs it was my great grandpa who loved the song of a pack of dogs hot on a trail. I would like to say at a young age I had my first beagle but from the stories I have been told the dog had me. Jed was a beagle; he could track rabbits and kept track of me which unfortunately for him I believe took up a lot of his spare time.
Jed had no papers to tell his pedigree but he was an excellent all around dog. I myself can't afford a great bred dog at this point in my life, what I can afford is a grade dog that can run and hunt with the high dollar dogs for a quarter of the price just like Jed. I run trials every weekend with some of the harshest and rudest judges in the country; my friends and family. You guys know what I'm talking about. Whose dog is in front, whose dog got it up, and your dog is back tracking. We hunt for that reason, when you have a great dog and work hard to get it there the jabs are easier to give and a lot less of them to take.
I know how I like to hunt and encourage you to first find your own style of hunt, second find a dog that fits it. You can't expect a dog to please you during the hunt if you don't even know how you like to hunt yet. To me speed in a dog should be controlled by the pace of the hunt. I want a dog that can adapt to the many variables unique to each hunt. I have been hunting with a lot of different guys and as they differ man to man, so do they dog to dog, and hunting style to hunting style. The only constant in the three is a need to hear the beautiful music of a big bawl mouth, or chop mouth running the hair off a rabbit.
Hunting spots are becoming harder and harder to find for many of us due to the development going on in counties all across the country. But if you look hard you can still find those honey holes we so greatly desire. One tactic I have used to try and find more rabbit ground is simple. While on my way to work I just keep my eyes peeled, and if possible I will take a different route a couple days a week just to try and spot that magic thicket I have been missing.
If you find a spot find out who owns it and give them a call or just drop by and ask for permission.
Just recently I discovered a hot spot that was right under my nose, it was literally right across the road from my house. I had hunted everything over there except this pond dam. Here in our county like many others farmers can receive assistance building ponds on their properties as long as they are built to a list of specifications. Lucky for me and hopefully many of you is that one of these specifications is that the pond be fenced off from livestock. If you haven't smelled what I'm stepping in yet let me break it down for you. These pond dams are generally very low on the list of "To do's" for a farmer.
So without grazing these areas become rabbit hotbeds. We have two of these pond dams on our property and I wish I had paid attention a long time ago. The pond dams are excellent for guys like me who have limited time to hunt. They are also perfect places to introduce new comers and our youth to the sport. The dam provides a vantage point so they can actually watch the race happen and not listen blindly to the songs. We all know how long kid's attention spans are these days with all of the instant gratification of computers and i-everythings. Watching the dogs keeps their attention on the task at hand, and I can't lie I also love watching the race from the dam. They don't take up as much time as those 10 acre thickets and woodlots we like to run. For the kids keep the hunts short and exciting if possible and these pond dams provide an excellent place to do that.
I take my four year old son Gunner to the pond dams and short hunts as much as I can. Just last weekend my hunting partner Robbie and I decided to hit the big pond dam. He only had two or three hours to hunt so we didn't want to tackle a mile long wet weather ditch. Let me mention that the two dogs we took that day we had only owned 12 days at this point so this was our maiden hunt. Within 20 minutes we had our first race, this rabbit utilized the whole dam before succumbing to the lead of a 20 gauge.
This race confirmed that the $200.00 we had spent on the pair was well worth it, they are a mother daughter pair of grade dogs that can flat run a rabbit. The investment was reinforced a short time later with a second race that was just as good as the first with the same result. With the second rabbit in the vest we were satisfied. In two hours we had two dead rabbits and an excellent morning. Robbie works a lot on the weekends and these short hunts are a must for us. Just don't get it in your head that every time you rabbit hunt you need to spend all day. While that is fun; many of us do not have that luxury.
So in parting I encourage you to take a different way home, look for that pond dam or briar patch. Take that guy who has never been or that kid who has been bugging you and get them out there! Without them the future of the sport looks bleak.
Ya'll keep em' straight out there.