Rose’s last hunt

YOU’VE probably been around us long enough to know that the Houndbloggers are partial to old hounds (even when they are as bad as our Harry) and hounds that won’t give up (even when, as in the case of our Eider–late of the Clear Creek Beagles–their desire to hunt anything and everything, all night if necessary, results in their being expelled from a respectable pack with a disgraceful report card). We can’t help ourselves: we love them.

We also have a real soft spot for The River Bottom, a quietly wonderful blog about life in the country with beagles. The posts over there are a highlight for me, and when a new one goes up, I stop whatever I’m doing and pay attention, right then, in order to savor whatever news there is from River Bottom country in Litchfield, Minnesota. They came up with a beautiful one today that spoke to us, partly because it was about an old beagle who is a tried-and-true hare-tracker. Didn’t hurt that it reminded us a little of Mr. Box who, in his youth, failed to return from a hunt with the sun going down and the snow blowing in (to read about his great adventure, click this link and scroll down the page to “Mr. Box’s Epic Journey”).

Here is how The River Bottom began this afternoon:

I’m listening but I can’t hear anything. The spruce trees are all covered in snow, big snowflakes are drifting down. It’s getting dark, And cold. I don’t think Rose is coming back.

Pete is down on the south road waiting and listening. We covered all the roads looking for tracks, two or three times. No dogs crossed the road.

I’ve been in and out of this trail it seems like ten times. Under that dang jack pine that hangs over the trail. Its branches slide up over the windshield. I swear it’s going to pull off my wiper blades next time through.

The woods are deep to the west, she could have gone a few miles that way. Even if she is right here and something happened, I could never find her in this stuff. Me and Pete have walked all over this spot looking for her.

When I was loading dogs this morning Rose was there waiting. I was going to put her in the house. She would have cried all day. She’s about 14 now. I loaded her in the dog box too.

I guess I would rather see her disappear into the spruce trees running a hare in the snow than live a long and unhappy old age.

This spot is loaded with hare. Thick heavy spruce trees, aspen and brush when they go out the west side with thick alder and willow swamps. The dogs ran steady all day long.

Rose hasn’t hunted much the last couple years, she mostly just follows me around. I didn’t think she needed a tracking collar.

She started a hare on her own. Her voice is just as loud and pretty as ever. I heard her a couple times after that. With all these dogs running it was tough to pick her out.

When we started catching them up we hadn’t heard or seen Rose for a couple hours. Now we are trying to guess what happened to her.

Read on, please do, at The River Bottom. It’s fine writing telling a good story. With pictures that will make you smile. Enjoy.

The Last of the Beagles and Bassets (with videos!)

The Sandanona Harehounds took to the hunt field in the late afternoon. Photo by Dave Traxler.

HUNT season is nearing its conclusion, so we take leave of the Clear Creek Beagles and Sandanona Harehounds with our final videos and pictures from last weekend’s “festival of rabbit-chasing” here in central Kentucky. For part one of this little annual series, including video from the Clear Creek Beagles on their Friday afternoon hunt, click here. Heck, while you’re at it, you might be interested to see last year’s videos and posts from the beagling and basseting weekend, too.

Today’s videos of the beagles and bassets include the packs in full cry and a view of a rabbit. First up, the Clear Creek Beagles:

And now the Sandanona Harehounds:

And, for more viewing pleasure, here’s a Smilebox with some photos of the weekend’s hunting.

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On Saturday, sadly, we once again missed the Farmington Beagles, which means that we owe Sherry Buttrick and Forbes Reback another apology as well as a promise to catch them next season. We made it to the meet in time to see the Clear Creek Beagles head off at noon, then went out again with the Sandanona basset pack at 3 p.m. Both packs provided great sport. The bassets hunted quite a bit in thick, tall grass known as Little Texas, where they contended with passels of rabbits that made for a very challenging day for huntsman Betsy Park.

One of the Sandanona bassets. Photo by Dave Traxler.

The Clear Creek Beagles, on the other hand, hunted out in the open quite a bit and benefitted from less-rabbity country as the sporting cottontails generously ran one at a time, allowing for some nice runs–several pieces of which we caught on the HD camera. There are a few things to note in the CCB video. First, we’ve included a four-minute section, entirely unedited, that illustrates just how much these hounds, like the foxhounds, rely on scent–and when scenting is difficult or downright uncooperative, it can scuttle a run, to the rabbit’s advantage. That clip of the video also features a stylish “Tally-ho!” from Mr. Houndblogger as the rabbit shot past our feet on her way to the safety of relatively scent-repellent ground.

When we take first-timers out beagling, they’re often struck by how much advantage the quarry actually has, running as he or she does over home territory and often with the scenting to the game’s, rather than the hounds’ benefit. That four-minute video clip shows the real challenge of scent-hunting, as well as the beauty of diligent hound work.

One couple–and a lurking half!–of Clear Creek Beagles. Photo by Dave Traxler.

A second thing to note: CCB Mister. This tough little badger-pie hound and his packmate, Minder, kept “appearing in dispatches,” so to speak. Every time we were out with the Clear Creek Beagles, we repeatedly heard huntsman Buck Wiseman say, “Hark to Mister!” or “Hark to Minder!” as one of these hounds often picked up the line first and led the pack on. We have a nice little clip or two of Mister in action on this video. He’s easy to pick out due to his notably muted coloring.

The houndbloggers asked Buck to tell us a little about Mister and Minder, and this is what he said:

“Mister is the oldest working hound in the pack at 7.  He is by Mason ’00, who is still with us, but in retirement.  Mason with his littermates, Moonshine and Magic, were mainstays for years.  They were a litter by Draper ’90 out of Macon ’97.  Draper was an outstanding hunting hound.  Oddly, Macon was not, although I always liked her, and that litter of three were all tops. Mister is out of Mango ’97, who was Champion Bitch at Mid-America as well as being a very good hunting hound. All of them except Draper trace back to Woodfield Major ’94 to some degree or other.  Draper was almost entirely my old Rollington Foot bloodlines.
“Mister has always been a hound with a very good nose, but who will also drive along at the front.  He is a bit stocky in build to appeal to most judges, but he is a very balanced strong hound. Mister is also the sire of Scholar and Swagger, the two puppies who also were in the pack over the weekend.  Scholar was seen to pick a check across a roadway on Saturday.  It was his third time out.
“Minder is an ’07 entry by Scabbard ’05 out of Magic ’00, litter sister to Mason, Mister’s sire. Scabbard was by Moonshine.  Yes, I know, the breeding is too close.  The truth is, it was an accident in the kennel, but from it I have gotten Minder, his sister Mayhap, whose name you may also have heard over the weekend.  Their sister Matchbox is with my niece, Randall, in Virginia and also hunts very well.  Minder just really started coming into his own as a signicant force at checks and in searching at the end of last season.  He has continued to improve by giant steps this season.  Minder is, in addition, a very nice-looking balanced hound.”
One other thing to note about the beagles’ video is the red and white female you’ll occasionally see. Does she look familiar? Regular readers of the hound blog might recognize some similarities to a certain orange and white beagle the houndbloggers recently acquired from the CCB pack. In fact, she’s one of Eider’s sisters, although I can never remember which one: she’s either Eager or Enid! If Jean MacLean is out there reading, perhaps she will offer a positive identification for us.

The Clear Creek pack with huntsman and joint-Master of Beagles Buck Wiseman. Photo by Dave Traxler.

In our next post, we’ll return to the hunt field with the Iroquois foxhounds, whose huntsman Lilla Mason has chosen a young Hound of the Day, as well as an update on Driver.

Houndamonium!

The joy of biscuits! The Clear Creek Beagles at the meet on Feb. 25. Photo by Dave Traxler.

THE Houndbloggers spent the weekend on foot following beagles and bassets at the annual footpack weekend here in central Kentucky. The weekend gathering usually brings together three packs: the Clear Creek Beagles from Kentucky, Farmington Beagles from Virginia, and Sandanona Harehounds, a basset and beagle pack from New York.

I’m afraid we missed the Farmington’s hunt on both Saturday and Sunday, but we were able follow the Clear Creek Beagles both days and went out with the Sandanona basset pack on Saturday afternoon. The weather was mostly overcast and there often was a stiff breeze, but the bunnies were abundant and sporting, resulting in some very fine hunting and melodious hound song, as you can see (and hear) in the video from the Clear Creek pack’s Friday hunt, below.

On Saturday, we followed huntsman Buck Wiseman and the Clear Creek Beagles again for the midday hunt and then went out with the Sandanona Harehounds, the basset pack, hunted by Betsy Park. We’ll post some video from Saturday later in the week. As last year, the basset pack hunted in the famed Bunny Patch, also known as Little Texas, which, again as last year, was stuffed to the seams with running bunnies. Such an abundance (or abunnydance, har har) of game isn’t necessarily the blessing you might think,and the bassets were challenged to stay together on a single line at a time when there were so many tiny, long-eared missiles shooting this way and that and crossing paths.

Clear Creek huntsman Buck Wiseman and the pack on Friday. Photo by Dave Traxler.

The weather didn’t always cooperate, either, as the area got inches of rain and hound were buffeted by occasional gusty winds. But the hound work and the cry were tremendous–we only hope that you can hear it over the wind in our upcoming video from Saturday, when the basset pack chased a rabbit down at the bottom of Little Texas and ran in full cry along a creek–the perfect scenario for booming, haunting cry that echoed around the hills as we stood listening.

Huntsman Betsy Park brought the Sandanona Bassets from New York for the weekend. Photo by Dave Traxler.

Friend of the hounds and intrepid photographer Dave Traxler accompanied us on his first outing with the foot packs, and he got some great photos, including this one of Clear Creek’s beagle Sancerre in full flight. Remember Sancerre? If not, you might recognize her in this post from the summer of 2009; in the second video, she’s the beagle who likes to catch biscuits while swimming!

Sancerre makes a giant leap--this time on dry land. Photo by Dave Traxler.

Central Kentucky has had two to five inches of rain since Thursday, so there was plenty of slippery mud around. Predictably, one of the houndbloggers found some:

Never trust a creek bank after it rains! Hey, at least it wasn't the hound truck this time. Photo by Jean MacLean.

The thorny brush caused a few nicks and scrapes on the hounds, but there were no injuries, and the hounds ended a weekend of 18 hours total hunting all on, Jean reported this afternoon. And pretty happy they were, too, after such a full weekend of chasing game hither and yon.

The Farmington Beagles take a well-deserved nap after their hunt on Saturday morning. Photo by Dave Traxler.

Next up, we’ll have a Smilebox photo slideshow from the weekend, as well as that Saturday video–including some of the bassets at work. And we’re about ready for a Driver update from Iroquois, aren’t we? Plus: Iroquois huntsman Lilla Mason’s newest Hound of the Day from Sunday, Feb. 27! That’s all coming this week.

Bedtime Stories: John and Dorothy Kirk

An occasional series in which we offer a pleasant “good night” to our readers, courtesy of hunting literature. Sweet dreams!

TONIGHT’S Bedtime Story is an unusual one. Chances are, you haven’t heard of John and Dorothy Kirk. We hadn’t either, until the afternoon we walked into d’Arcy Books in Devizes, England. Slipped between the hardback hunting books, we spotted a sunny yellow spine, about the color of a nice autumn squash. It was only about a quarter of an inch wide and made of heavy construction paper. When I pulled the book out of its slot on the shelf, I found it was a lovely, brief series of reminiscences that evidently meant so much to their authors that they had them privately printed by Hyssett & Son, Limited, of Weston-super-Mare, in 1975.

I gather from the preface that the Kirks are a married couple who grew up walking puppies for Mr. Tiarks’s Foxhounds (Dorothy) and the Holderness (John) but then were away from hunting while serving in the Royal Air Force. In retirement, John took on the role of Acting Master at the Weston and Banwell Harriers, and their shared experience with these hounds prompted them to start writing things down. I’m so glad they did! In the preface, Dorothy Kirk wrote, “The kindly comments of friends have encouraged me to believe that there is tremendous interest but astonishing lack of knowledge displayed about the professional skill and arduous work required to put a Pack of Hounds into the hunting field; all sorts of erroneous beliefs being held even by country folk, for of such stock was the Mother who recently was heard explaining the distant hunting scene to her daughter–‘No, dear, there has not been an accident. I think the funny little man in green blowing a trumpet has lost all his dogs’!!”

As someone who abhors the trend of Random capitalization that You sometimes See these Days (excepting, of course, the Pooh-style usage that can be fun), I nonetheless was really delighted to see that Dorothy Kirk capitalized Pack of Hounds and in doing so put them on a par with Mother!

And now, without further ado, the Kirks:

“Towards the end of November the Meet was at Cullum Green, Kewstoke, and we moved off in the general direction of Ebdon. Most of the Field experienced difficulty in crossing the wide ditches that hereabouts in Spring and Summer are attractively edged with a thick embroidery of purple flowering reeds and willow herb but which are now ‘blind,’ full of stiff stark stems and rotting leaves which effectively obscure the opposite bank.

“We were drawing the hedgerows for Foxes, but numerous hares were getting up in front of the hounds in every field, frustrating every effort of the Whips to keep them under control, and eventually leading us astray on to the land of a farmer who not only had a rooted objection to Hunting but also unfortunately was there in person, ready and willing to give his pent-up feelings full expression.

“Hounds were collected and hacked the long lonely road past Woodspring Priory of faraway History on to the top of Middle Hope ridge, the gorse-covered back of which reaches down to that bleak shore where the mouth of the Severn pours its muddy waters into the Bristol Channel.

“Half a gale was blowing across the Severn, bringing a strong smell of seaweed and the tingling lash of salty spray and rain on our faces. Thank goodness hounds spoke almost at once to a Fox in the gorse. As luck would have it, there were three of them afoot, but one was pushed down on to the lonely fore-shore and the hounds went with him.

“Now those watchers on the cliff who had the courage and stamina to face the elements were rewarded by a quite spectacular piece of hound-hunting. The Pack, full of music and undaunted by the frightful weather, stuck to their line among the seaweed and the rocks, slipping and sliding right to the water’s edge and so, for half a mile through silt and shingle, till their quarry swung up on to Middle Hope once more.

“Here, on the short, springy turf, the scent burning and with a wild crash of tongue, the hounds tore away, leaving a near frantic Field held in check by an iron gate which had been ‘locked’ against summer visitors by a pile of large boulders. Once through this obstacle, a glorious heart-warming mile-long gallop set the blood flowing through our frozen features; then another check whilst a second locked, spiked iron gate was removed from its hinges–then at last up with the hounds again on the very tip of Sand Point where our horses had great difficulty in keeping a foot-hold on the steep, narrow ridge.

“Here, in almost unrestricted possession, rabbits caused an additional hazard. We had not seem so many humble coneys for many a year; their little cotton tails bobbing in the bitter wind as they scurried away and dived into thick cover, distracting the attention of the younger hounds.

“It was all too evident that the hounds had lost this wily old Fox, and no wonder: for the wind was now so strong that it seemed to blow the notes from the huntsman’s horn straight back into his face. There was nothing to do but collect hounds and call it a day.

“As we slowly returned towards our trailers and boxes, taking an occasional warming companionable pull at each other’s pocket flask, we were greeted with fresh proof that the ‘looker on sees more of the game,’ for Mr. Leonard Parsons and Gordon, who had remained on the vantage point of Middle Hope ridge, were happy to inform us that they had watched an unhurried ‘Charley,’ quite satisfied that he had outwitted the hunt, make a leisurely return journey along the sheltered side of the ridge, into the self-same patch of gorse from which we had so rudely chased him an hour or so before.”

Equal time for the quarry

Never let it be said that the houndbloggers don’t give equal time to the hounds’ quarry. We’ve already given a summary of Dr. Stan Gehrt’s outstanding presentation on the urban coyote, and now we turn to the bunny. Our friend the rabbit was last seen in these pages darting in and out of the native grasses, with beagles and bassets in hot pursuit. But what do bunnies do in the off season, when they’re not giving beagles and bassets fiendishly clever puzzles to sort out? You’ll never guess. The answer, from England’s Daily Telegraph, via Denmark: they compete in showjumping (or, as it is properly called, “rabbit hopping”).

Click here to read the Daily Telegraph article.

You must see the video. It shows the winning bunnies’ performance in high jump, long jump, a straight course of jumps, and a traditional showjumping course. No, I’m not kidding.

The one that got away (with video!)

The houndbloggers met up with the Clear Creek Beagles on March 7 for one of the last hunts of the season--but missed the day's best photo opportunity. Photo by Jean MacLean.

THE Clear Creek Beagles had barely gotten their noses into the first covert Sunday when huntsman and Master Buck Wiseman shouted “Tally ho!” And out popped the day’s first rabbit.

It’s rare to start a rabbit that fast, just minutes after leaving the hound trailer, and it was hard to know who was more surprised: the field of beaglers, the rabbit, or the hounds.

I had just pulled my video camera out and was standing with a perfect head-on view of the rabbit as it ran our way, ears flat and with a distinct expression of annoyance. I even had the lens cap off. But, in my surprise at seeing a rabbit so soon and so close, I forgot the crucial next step: Raise Camera To Eye and Press Record Button. Instead, I stood–we all stood–mouth agape and watched the small, furry missile bound at top speed in our direction.

Which is a real shame, because what happened next was one of those amazing things you sometimes see out with hounds.

One of the Sunday bunnies. Photo by Jean MacLean.

It was so early in the proceedings that the beagles hadn’t even had a chance to give the thicket a good sniff before the rabbit popped out, and there were still several hounds away from the main pack, exploring the far end of the covert. As the rabbit was dashing down the grassy headland bordering the covert, one of those beagles–either Soundbox or Honor, it was all such a blur–came around the corner to join up with the pack–and almost collided with the escaping rabbit. The beagle, startled, paused for a second, but the rabbit didn’t. Without missing a step, the rabbit made a great leap right over the beagle’s nose, performed a sharp zig to the right on landing, and shot straight off again as if she had a jet pack. We in the field watched in amazement.

Where's that hound? At day's end, somebeagle was hoping to stay out for the tailgate.

Nabbed! Thanks to huntsman and Master Buck Wiseman and whipper-in Jean MacLean, the last beagle joins the rest of the pack in the hound trailer after a long but rewarding day of rabbit-chasing. The beagles have their own tailgate, in the form of the dog biscuits you see on top of the hound trailer.

So. No pictures or video of that encounter, I am embarrassed to admit. My photojournalism skills still need honing. But I do have some video of the immediate aftermath: it only took seconds for the beagles to realize that the ball of fluff racing away at the speed of light was, in fact, The Rabbit, and the whole pack screamed off after it in full cry.

It was, Buck noted as he ran past us after his hounds, a remarkably fast start to the day. And it was like that from there out, as rabbits bounded here and there, leading beagles and beaglers on big loops around a creek.

Here, at least, is what I did manage to catch of the afternoon’s beagling. The video starts mere seconds after the astonishing rabbit-beagle incident, with the screaming run in hot pursuit of Rabbit One, who appears for a split second as the white dot rounding the edge of the brush pile in the center of the video frame. In case you’re curious, no rabbits–not even the clever Rabbit One–were harmed in the making of this video. But the videographer is still kicking herself over the great shot that got away!

Hooray for twisty, turny rabbits! (now with pictures you can actually see)

AS we settle in for yet more snow (okay, yeah, I concede that you Midatlantic residents got a lot more than we did, so I’ll be quiet, but still. I hate to sound like a whinebag, but it’s really messed up our season) … As I was saying, there’s more “frozen precipitation” forecast, so It doesn’t look great for foxhunting. As we’ve seen in recent posts, it ain’t easy getting a horse across frozen mud.

The Clear Creek Beagles and huntsman Buck Wiseman in the snow

Not so with beagles! The little hounds can go out with their foot followers in much worse weather than we can. It makes sense for foot-following, because rabbits tend to run tighter, twisty-turny lines in a smaller area than coyotes do. They’re slower, too.

As we contemplate the snowy forecast and the possibility of another foxhunting freeze-out, we’ll take some comfort from this report from our friends over at the Clear Creek Beagles. Clear Creek whipper-in Jean MacLean takes it from here:

I DREADED the thought of going beagling yesterday!  I thought it would be horrible because of the snow cover and the cold air temperature. But Buck (huntsman Buck Wiseman) was convinced that it would be a good day, possibly close to his all-time best hunting day of a zillion years ago when he ran a hare for five hours, covering 25 some odd miles, with similar snow, ground and air temps! I was the ultimate skeptic.

Eleven couple of hounds and 4 people met in Shelby County yesterday.  We only stayed out for about an hour and forty five minutes, but hounds ran for almost the entire duration!!  We made a false start down the farm lane to the brushy banks of the creek.  At that point we returned to put a lame Sunlight in the trailer and picked up Nate Lord and Preston Thomas.

We returned to the creek and started working down the near bank.  A tricky rabbit slid out of the covert behind the pack, but I viewed it out.  Hounds were on it.  They all made a few loops around, quickly crossing the very cold creek and seemed to go back to ground in or near the original brush pile.  All humans crossed the creek, without much damage.  The hounds worked up the banks on the other side of the creek and got a new rabbit up.  I had to return to the creek and assist Enid in her crossing.  She thought it was too cold the first time and did not want to do it again.  All hounds worked hard on the snow.  Fortunately for them the ground was soft and muddy underneath.   Those with jet packs had to slow themselves down some to work the lines on the snow.   Socket and Snuffbox were dynamite working out the twisty turny lines of this rabbit, but again it went to ground.  At this point I believe the first rabbit moved and was picked up again.  This time great circles were made back across the creek in a winter wheat field, through a junk pile and then back tiptoeing through the creek.  Hounds worked hard to stay close and ran this rabbit at least twice around his intricate “lose them quick” path!!  The front end of the pack pushed him hard enough that he went to ground – to stay!!

One more rabbit was run around through a field of flattened sorghum, an old barn, down a tight wire fence row and then across a field back to the creek.  At this point it was really cold and time to call it a day.  It did not measure up to the best hunting day ever BUT it was a great day to be out to see all of the hounds working so well and together!!!

Nature points – 3 coyotes seen on the way to the meet, countless Canada geese, a covey of quail, 3 or perhaps 4 rabbits.

THANKS, Jean, for that cheerful report, and I’m only sorry the houndbloggers weren’t there to enjoy it (but that creek did look c-c-c-cold).

Mr. Box, late of the Clear Creek Beagles, on the lookout for rabbits--and, incidentally, breaking the rule about No Standing On The Breakfast Table. It tells you something that we even need this rule, but ... apparently we do.

Here’s hoping your weather, wherever you are, isn’t too terrible!