Snowman's Beagles

To Catch A Rabbit
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What does it take to catch a rabbit? It takes a little more than a piece of     apple and a box trap. In this article lets look at what type of beagle it takes to run a rabbit down and catch it. I’m not referring to young of the year rabbits. You know the baby rabbits the size of your fist. Old cold trailer dogs lock on the scent of these little things and run them around and around in the same 50 yard circle till they catch them. But that’s not the type of dog I’m talking about. Neither is a beagle that bird dogs a rabbit and pounces on it like a cat, as it sets in its squat. You know there is a few beagles with great jump speed that will catch a few rabbits on the jump if given enough open ground to sight chase. Or what about that speed hound that zig-zags the line and some times zigs into a rabbit. Even a poor hound left running alone can learn a bad thing like digging a rabbit on the run? I started pondering this as my hounds Yukon and Lazer came retrieving the third rabbit they have ran down and caught this week. The date is Oct. 18, 2005. The afternoon temperature is in the mid 50’s a typical fall day here in central Michigan. But besides favorable weather what else does it take as far as hound performance  to run a rabbit down and catch it. First it takes a dog with a strong nose. Second it takes a better than average foot speed. “I didn’t say fast I said better than average speed”. Third it takes line control. And Fourth it takes the type of hound that doesn’t switch rabbits. Let me tell you of one such race. This race was ran by my Redman dog in a pine plantation. From the time the rabbit was jumped it sounded like a deer race.

      Redman just bombed the rabbit around full speed and head high six or seven circles. As I stood there standing on the two track road here came the rabbit. It ran just on the other side of a big Christmas tree and stopped. Redman wasn’t three seconds behind this rabbit and as he came to the pine tree a rabbit bolted out from the back side of the big pine and crossed the two track road about 20 yards from me. To my surprise Redman came past the pine tree about two strides and spun around quick heading back behind the tree where he caught the rabbit he was running within 20 feet.

       The rabbit he caught was over heated and cramped up from being run so hard. It was neat being  just yards away watching the hound work that was done. Most dogs would have started running the rabbit that bolted from the pine tree and went across the tow track. But Redman didn’t switch rabbits. He must of known he was close to catching his quarry.

      Redman is not a real fast dog but he has above average speed. I think what really helps him out is the fact that one, he runs smooth no wasted motion. And second is that my hounds have a chop or squall mouth. I feel that a chop mouth dog in my experience runs a little smoother and faster because they don’t throw their heads up to bark. It stays down where the scent is. And third my dogs run spore scent when they have to but run high scent. When all possible. For those who might not know spore scent is scent that is left on the ground by rabbits feet and high scent is the scent that comes from the rabbits body.

      Favorable weather conditions help scenting but the dogs have caught rabbits early fall through winter and some after the spring thaw. I almost think my dogs run better on snow then they do sod. For example last winter my friend and hunting partner Tryce Warner and I went hunting. It was his first time running with a pack of hounds.  He has hunted with one or two dogs at a time but never four or more. Well this day I took four males with us. It had just snowed over night with four to five inches of fresh snow and around 8 degree temperature, it was my kind of day. We opened  the dog box and out bounded Demon, Yukon, Iceman and Redman. It took a little time before we got our first jump but man what a race once we got a rabbit up and running. The dogs just drove the first two rabbits around and Tryce shot both of them. When they jumped the third rabbit instantly it was off like a shot running five big circles with no shot opportunities.  Tryce was to the north end of the pines and the rabbit was headed his way with the dogs so close that he didn’t have a shot for fear shooting the hounds just yards behind this rabbit. All of a sudden the rabbit turned and went across the road through a thicket, up and over a hill on its way to a cattail swamp. Seeing this unfold before my eyes I took off running in the direction of my dogs for their safety. On the way out of the pines I left my gun in the pines to go on private land. Running as fast up the hill as I could I just crested it to see the dogs pick the rabbit off. You should of seen the look on Tryce’s face when I came back and handed him two halves of the rabbit. My dogs couldn’t decide who was going to bring it back to me! Oh did I mention that most of my hounds retrieve rabbits. It seems if you have one or two older dogs doing things the younger dogs just pick up on it.

      Weather has an effect on scenting conditions such as that October morning from the first part of this article when Yukon and Lazer ran down the third rabbit of the week. That morning it dawned very cold and frosty for October. As I walked my hounds through the pines the frost off the grass left ice on top of my boots. Right out of the truck the dogs could really push a rabbit but along about 9:30am when the frost was melting off, the dogs had to work hard to keep the track going. But oh boy when it dried back off could they ever burn a rabbit then. Surprisingly my hounds best catch weather is the fall of the year when it is cold and raining. But my favorite time is when I can run in fresh snow. I’m just a hard core Michigan hunter who enjoys watching and listening to a good race. Weather it’s your hounds or mine. I hope I didn’t offend anyone because of the way our dogs can run down an occasional rabbit. It’s a fact that is what hunting beagles are bread up to do when you put all of the quality pieces of that magic puzzle together- line control, speed, strong nose, desire and brains that just what you get. Keep’em Safe and Keep’em Running.

    

                                   Snowman’s Beagles

                                           Rick Snow