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Beagles plus young guns equals great fun on rabbit’s trail

My daughters and I had been invited by a good friend to go on a rabbit hunt with him and his daughter. A few adults joined us to help supervise the youngsters while hunting. When I exited the truck and began rustling through my gear to get it together, the girls began chatting excitedly. The men were already discussing how they were going to run the dogs and then it happened.
The tailgate dropped and the dog box was opened. All talking suddenly ceased and a mass of brown and black, with a bit of white thrown in, began oozing out of the box and many sets of little feet hit the ground. Snorts, snuffles and sniffing began earnestly in mere seconds. Not one minute later, the first bay of the morning sounded off. I had barely managed to load the youth scatterguns that my daughters were going to use.

There used to be an old bumper sticker that said, “When the tailgate drops, the talkin’ stops!” I glanced at the pickup trucks parked near mine to see if any of them had that sticker plastered on their bumper. They should have.
I have to say that I was more than impressed. A few minutes later someone spotted the cottontail bounding for cover around some of the abandoned outbuildings we were parked near. The beagles were on the scent and soon crossed paths to where the rabbit had shot out in front of us and around the building.
The pack of enthusiastic beagles was eagerly searching for fresh scent on the frosty ground. They found several rabbits throughout the morning and pushed them around the old cattle lot and through fencerows, across an old bridge at one point even and then across a marshy area and over a small creek.
Many new or inexperienced hunters tend to pay too much attention to the running beagles thinking that the rabbit is only a few feet in front of the charging pack. My host’s advice to watch well ahead of the dogs paid off. The rabbits often were spotted bounding ahead of those inquiring noses belonging to the baying, four legged, tail-wagging machines. Because the rabbit was far enough ahead of the pack it safe for the young ladies trying to do the shooting. The rabbits would bounce out of cover, pause, look around and then take a few more bounds before dashing back into cover. My girls got to see a number of rabbits, but were so surprised they often forgot we were there not only to enjoy the chorus of the beagles hitting the trail but also to try and bag some dinner as well. Their surprised lapsed into intentions to shoot that were mostly too late. The scatterguns were often pointed, sometimes fired but nearly all the rabbits escaped with little more than a bit of motivation to keep moving. No matter that the girls missed shots, the grins on their faces said it all. The dogs were forgiving too. Not one of them howled, grimaced or frowned at us. They just kept diving into briar patches, snorting for scent and wagging their thick tails in anticipation of the next rabbit trail that they would cross.
My youngest daughter is a huge dog lover and also envious of her friend Amber to whom the dogs belong. She already knew each of the dogs’ names and could spot them from afar.
“Here comes Ally! Look, there’s Chubby; and Jack is way over there!” she advised. I love dogs too, but it took me much longer to recognize their bays and barks and personalities as they hunted for Mr. Cottontail.
As the morning hunt came to its midpoint a rabbit darted out, giving my eldest daughter a shot. She fired but missed completely. I think she was a week or so behind the rabbit. I probably would have been too at her age. Despite their innocent looks, the rabbits can change direction and move rapidly from a stop to a blur.
The rabbit moved up and across the fencerow and came into Amber’s sights. Her youth model .410 roared as her father watched. Soon the dogs arrived on the scene to verify that she had indeed taken the rabbit that was amongst the briars. Amber beamed and her father looked on with pride only a father can have when his daughter gets her first rabbit in front of their own dogs. We all cheered for her and congratulated her on her accomplishment. A few pictures were hurriedly snapped while the dogs moved on to chase a new rabbit.
I love to hunt almost all game, but going afield with the kids and watching them get opportunities to enjoy the rabbit dogs while I carried only a camera was a real joy. The chorus of the beagles and their tails flipping back and forth excitedly could only bring a smile to my face. I kept thinking that Webster’s ought to have a picture of a beagle chasing rabbits next to the word “enthusiasm.” A picture could say it all. I found out that beagles + young guns = great fun.
Note: Rabbit season lasts until the end of February. Hunting them is great fun and the table fare provided is tasty. Check out the recipes and ideas given a few weeks ago in my column.
Weekend Basser’s Open Tournaments at Motts Run Reservoir:
Feb. 27 and March 12, 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Entry Fee is $35 per team with $5 going toward the big fish — 70 percent payback with 30 percent going toward the annual Kids Fishing Derby in June. The Kids Derby is a great cause to get kids hooked on fishing. There will be a trophy for firstplace and the big fish.
To fish there must be two people in the boat, a five fish limit, a live well or cooler. Fish must be 10” or larger, artificial bait only and no drugs or alcohol permitted. Anyone can come fish and NOT be in the tournament both days as well. Passes and boat rentals will be available. For more info contact Ray Thomas 898-7542, Dickie Musselman 785-8087, Steve Tinsley 752-5716.

Mark Fike

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