Scott Mytyk photo. A good beagle or two will help put more rabbits in the game bag.
This is the second in a series about hunting dogs.
One dog is bawling, another is squalling and a third is emitting some sort of sound that brings to mind a major beating in progress.
None of these beagles are in pain, they’re just doing what they’re bred for – chasing rabbits.
Like other hounds, beagles make what some people call noise when on a track. But to beaglers, it’s a wonderful symphony. A beagler can tell each of his dogs by voice.
Rabbit hunting has given way to big game hunting in recent years, but it’s still a great way to introduce youngsters to hunting.
Bunnies can be hunted like big game with spotting and stalking, but a houndman will tell you that the only way to put rabbits in the pot is with a pack of hounds.
Once you make the leap into beagling, it’s time to get the dog or dogs chasing rabbits.
Some owners will send puppies to a starting pen, an enclosure ranging from one acre to 10 or 20 acres stocked with rabbits. The pup is exposed to rabbits and given the opportunity to smell and chase them.
Others say time in the woods is the best way.
Either way, there’s not much training when it comes to hunting. As long as a dog is exposed to rabbits there won’t be any trouble getting it to start.
The best way is to get a rabbit (San Juans have a smell close to wild cottontails) and let pup play with it. Eventually, one of the animals will get kicked or nipped and the chase will be on.
Once pup is sight chasing, it’s time to move on to scent trailing. Let the rabbit run around the yard for a while and then bring pup out. He’ll sniff around and eventually find the trail and follow it.
When he’s proficient at this, it’s time for the woods. As long as there’s a good rabbit population, there won’t be any problems. Some puppies will open on the first track they come across, others might take a few tracks before they open.
Some inexperienced dogs will follow deer tracks. This is when an electronic collar comes in handy. An e-collar is a more humane method of breaking a dog from running off game than the old-school methods.
With plenty of time in the woods, pup will put plenty of rabbits in front of the gun. It’s up to you to put them in the pot.