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.
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.
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!