Guest blogger: Buck Wiseman on rapport between huntsman and hounds


Clear Creek Beagles huntsman and joint-Master Buck Wiseman. Photo by Brian Blostica.

Recently, while writing a short description of foot packs at the Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky, I made the mistake of wandering off task and shedding some thoughts about pack cohesion and pack response, both to a huntsman and to one another.  Mrs. Houndblogger picked up the line and reminded me that I had told her, well over a year ago, that I’d write something on the subject.  She’s now run me to ground, I suppose.

What follows may be a lot of nonsense, and, for the most part, it certainly isn’t science, but having hunted packs of hounds, foxhounds, beagles and bassets, mostly beagles, with a couple of short reprieves, since the mid-1960s, I do have views, and, right or wrong, I’ve never been overly restrained in expressing them, so here goes.

Rapport, hound sense, the “golden thread” is no one thing.  It is a complicated amalgam of hound breeding, hound management, practice and, I believe, a certain genetic component on the human side as well.  Of the terms, I prefer “rapport” which is defined as “relationship, especially one of mutual trust or emotional affinity”, which is about as close as one can come to my view of this subject, especially as to mutuality, and it is particularly appropriate that it derives from Old French “raporter” meaning “to bring back.”

"Biscuits, lots of biscuits!" one early mentor advised Buck when he formed his first pack. Houndblogger photo.

We have all seen huntsmen for whom hounds just “do.”  They seem to have the touch, the right body language, to hit the right note of voice or just have a feel for hounds and seem to have always had it.  They can hunt a large pack of hounds without resort to a whipper-in, walk out the entire kennel likewise and pick up the horn with a strange pack almost without missing a beat. In many cases, I believe that they may not know exactly how they do what they do, may be puzzled that others cannot duplicate their results and may take years to really analyze what it is that they do. At this point, we’ll put that subject largely aside because the purpose here is to look at intentional and conscious acts with the goal of approaching, if not equaling, the results that those huntsmen achieve.

The right personality in the pack helps.  A good huntsman can get response from a gaggle of thick-headed independent types, but we all know that some hounds are more responsive to a huntsman and to one another than others.  I believe that the two are clearly linked.  As an example, if hounds need to be moved from one spot to another across a field or within sight or sound of the huntsman, the entire pack need not see or hear the huntsman.  If the pack is responsive both to the huntsman and to one another, it’s only necessary to catch the attention of the hounds nearest you as you call and point to where you want them, the other hounds will respond to the first who have responded to you and stream over.

Buck and the beagles at Shaker Village in March. Houndblogger photo.

I often walk out hounds by myself. Puppies need to learn to walk with the pack, but you can’t discipline them until they understand what it is that they are to do and to not do.  When I got my first pack of beagles, many of the hounds came from the Nantucket Treweryn Beagles of Bun and Becky Sharp.  Becky knew that I would be largely handling my new little pack alone and gave me one of the best tips of all time: “Biscuits, lots of biscuits.”

I make a concentrated effort to address each young hound, every hound for that matter, frequently by name and to toss a biscuit to catch.  Each must not only learn his name, but also learn that response to your voice and to your hand brings good things. Only when a hound has learned those things should you touch them with the whip and chastise them.  Each has to understand that the discipline is the result of ignoring someone who otherwise dispenses blessings.  It’s also at this point that the pack sense is important.  If, say, two couple of puppies start up the road bank on their own little mission, if you can, with an encouraging voice, swing one couple to you, with the right sort, the other will turn right with them. Have the biscuits ready when they reach you.

Lilla Mason (and the biscuit bag) with some of the Iroquois hounds. Houndblogger photo.

If you have the luxury of assistance in walking out and of whippers-in in number when you hunt, teach yourself not to rely on them.  A whipper-in should be viewed by a huntsman as the last, not the first or even the intermediate resort.  If hounds are always or even frequently put to you by your whippers-in, then, in some measure, their return to you is a response to the threat of the whipper-in, not to their rapport with you.  It is better to have the sometimes slightly slower response deriving from rapport with the huntsman than the faster coerced response.  In fact, when walking out with whippers-in, discourage them from being more than a reminder of the possibility of reproach unless that whipper-in is pretty well endowed with hound sense or knows the hounds very well.  Whippers-in tend to want to be helpful and, if overly so, are not helpful at all.  This is especially true if you have puppies out.  Develop rapport and trust it.  Whippers-in should do likewise.

When hunting, I do not want my whippers-in even near me.  Ideally, they should be eyes and ears, your distant early warning and spotting system.  The title “whipper-in” should relate to their function only in difficult circumstances.  The goal is that rapport will fill the gap.

Studies in animal behavior and language have shown that certain types of sounds have similar effects across a wide range of mammals.  Without going into a great deal of detail, suffice it to say that higher-toned, excitable sounds encourage, soft tones soothe, growls caution or chastise.  It works for hounds and humans.  Your voice must change constantly to match your message.  Cheer them on, cheer them in, growl and crisply bark warnings.  Again eye contact and body language is also critical. Many times, when getting the attention of a particular hound to return into the pack while walking out, I will not only call the hound’s name, but once he looks at me, point directly and growl “Yes, you” or “You know your name.”  Recent scientific work has, in fact, shown that the dog is one of the few non-primate species which will follow the point of a human hand. They do.  If you can get eye-to-eye contact, you’ve got him, at least as long as you are the dominant personality in the pack, not the hound.  If you are not, go for a softer sort.

Modulate your voice at all times in tune with the circumstances.  When walking out, a conversational voice is probably just right. Talk to your hounds.  If you are drawing cover, suit your voice to the way the hounds are drawing.  If they are quite close, not much above conversation is necessary.  If hounds are drawing widely, as mine typically do, the volume must increase.  The goal is that all of your hounds can always hear you when drawing because you must be at the center of that process, if you are going to direct it.

Huntsman Lilla Mason with the Iroquois hounds on summer walk.

When calling hounds in from a distance, don’t yell for them.  Instead, go for a deep in the chest, rolling tone of encouragement.  They will respond.  It’s not unlike the signaling howl of a coyote or hounds singing in kennel.  Hounds being put on to a line, once they have reached the huntsman, should be put on quietly with low encouraging sounds and with the arm, hand and body motion directing them in the direction that they should go.  Rapport is bi-directional. Watch every hound for the body language and focus that tells you when they are “with” you.

Also watch hounds for the signals, sometimes very subtle signals, that hounds can give you–and trust them if they do.  Hounds may appear to be simply drifting from a check.  The temptation is to pull them back, but if watched closely, slight body signals may indicate that, while they are not speaking or even visibly feathering, they are focused on some slight scent, perhaps even air scent on a bad scenting day, to which they are drawn and which may result in a recovery. Even if those hounds fall in with the movement of the pack and return, if the line is not recovered, go back to where they went, if it is the only message that the hounds have sent you, and a more diligent cast in that direction may work.  It has before.

In the houndbloggers' experience, some hounds are beyond controlling, even if you have a rapport with them! Houndblogger photo.

Try never to give a command which you do not believe will be obeyed.  Your voice will convey your hesitancy.  When calling hounds, say out of covert, you must believe that they are coming to you even though you may curse their dawdling under your breath.  If hounds start to break as we are walking back to the trailer, if you can rate them just as they start when you see the first change of focus from you to the trailer, they’ll stop.  If you can’t because you were distracted and didn’t catch the first hints, let them go and make a mental note that next week they’ll come in packed up behind you until they get that foolishness out of their minds.  If they go away on deer and do not stop at the first rate, turn your attention at once to how you and the whippers-in are going to get to their heads.  Roaring at them futilely merely teaches them that your voice is “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

With that thought, I’m going to leave rapport because, in a real sense, I already have and drifted, like hounds losing the check, on to the role of dominance in working with hounds which is a subject better left to another day.

Many thanks to Buck for contributing this great piece! If you’d like to read more from Buck, please click here to read his earlier piece on hunting over game-rich restored native grasslands.

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Guest blogger Buck Wiseman: On Foot at Shaker Village

Photo by the Houndbloggers.

Regular readers of the hound blog will recognize Buck Wiseman as the joint-Master and huntsman of the Clear Creek Beagles (from which, incidentally, the Beagle House Hounds Mr. Box and Eider hail). He’s also a hunting historian and a thoughtful writer on a variety of hunting topics. Every year, the Clear Creek Beagles and several other footpacks convene at Shaker Village in Mercer County, Kentucky, for a long weekend of sport chasing cottontails. The houndbloggers have followed the beagles and bassets at this fine venue annually; to see video from previous years, click here and here and here.

We’ve followed the Clear Creek pack several times this season and have compiled a video (below) of some of their best moments from the hunts at Shaker Village in February and March. Meets in both months were hampered by conditions that should have been fatal to good sport: in February, the wind howled through the tall native grasses with gusts so strong that I found it very difficult to hold the camera steady, and in March we had a blistering heat wave that took the temperatures up into the mid-80s. And yet, on both occasions, the Clear Creek pack found scent and ran rabbits, and not just in short, lucky bursts, but for stretches that we found truly surprising, given the conditions. 

Without further ado, we give the floor to Buck:

The Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill has been the venue for  beagle and basset packs for almost 30 years since the Rocky Fork Beagles of Columbus and the Fincastle Beagles and Rollington Foot Beagles of Louisville fixed on it as a 3,000-acre location for a weekend joint meet.  It had the soul-soothing grace of the Shaker architecture together with rolling open fields divided by the dry stone walls which grace the Bluegrass.  It had comfortable rooms in the village and good food in the inn at the Trustee’s House.  It lacked only one thing: rabbits. [Note to our Trans-Atlantic friends: these are not your rabbits, but American cottontails: solitary, territorial, ground dwelling and non-burrowing].

The Shakertown property was then heavily grazed by cattle and quite clean. Despite the extent of acreage, finding game was very difficult. However, the few rabbits around were very hard- and wide-running and gave tremendous hunts. For many years, although packs hunted the property, most of the hunting had to take place off the property at venues as far away from Shakertown as Woodford and even Clark Counties.

Buck Wiseman and the Clear Creek pack in some of Shaker Village's tall grass. Photo by Brian Blostica.

Over time, however, some of the rougher areas were allowed to become brushy, and rabbits moved in. The sport improved. The hunting weekend evolved over time with the number of packs rising and falling depending mostly on the energy level of the Clear Creek Beagles, the amalgamation of the Fincastle and the Rollington Foot, to deal with the organization of the weekend.  Over time, the Rocky Fork disbanded, and the Farmington Beagles and the Sandanona Harehounds  became consistent participants.

The gift to Shakertown of what is known as the Chinn-Poe Wildlife Area began a major change. The Area was planted in native grasses, and the hard-running rabbits of Mercer County were suddenly present in greater numbers.

Photo by Brian Blostica.

What then followed was a decision by Shakertown to phase out cattle and to manage the property for wildlife and bird watching.  Over a few years, the native grass areas expended to almost 1,000 acres while the rabbits ran as well as ever. In fact, the new problem of hunting a large pack, in the range of eight to 12 couples, was to keep hounds on the hunted rabbit or to hunting only one at a time as, in the native grasses, a switch is not always easily determinable, although a consistent pattern over an extended time is a pretty good indication that hounds haven’t switched. It’s the reverse which may not be true; an inconsistent pattern may simply mean a change in tactics under pressure.

Photo by Brian Blostica.

The most apparent answer to keeping hounds from splitting under these conditions would be a slow and close hunting pack, and that is, in fact, a factor, but it seems to me that another trait is more essential. That is the element of pack sense, or, as it’s been termed, cohesion. A pack, whether close or wide hunting, with a distinct tendency to independence among its members, will split and break up where game is plentiful.  A pack which is pack-oriented and harks, almost without question, to the first hounds to speak or to the larger group, will hold together or quickly re-converge where the more independent hounds will not. Biddability is also a factor as the pack which harks in to a huntsman’s cheers toward hounds opening will also more quickly converge and drive on, but that’s icing on the cake, and probably a trait closely linked to pack sense generally.  The real hope, and beauty when it happens, is to see hounds far out, beyond the reach or control of staff, who hunt on as a pack, spreading into their checks, picking them, harking in to the hounds who first open, and driving on. In fact, as I, with increasing age, am with hounds at fewer checks each year, it’s not only beautiful, it’s necessary.

Anything but a blank day …

The Clear Creek Beagles, photographed by Jean MacLean.

WE ran across an interesting note from the past in a Horse and Hound magazine, detailing one of the Ampleforth Beagles’ more interesting–and unsettling–finds back in 2001. The pack hunts in Yorkshire. Said Horse and Hound:

“Ampleforth College students were returning to the meet after following the beagles when they discovered what appeared to be an unexploded shell. Police called in the Army bomb disposal unit to detonate the shell, thought to be a World War II relic.”

It’s not something American packs have to deal with very often!

The Ampleforth Beagles were a college pack at Ampleforth College  from 1915 to 1994. They’ve since been taken over by an alumni group but still attract students as followers and as staff, including one who is named, endearingly, a Captain of Beagling. Happily, the pack is still featured under “Activities” on the Ampleforth College website, which notes that “through the Beagles, the boys and girls of the College have the chance to enjoy close and friendly links with local people across the Moors, links often shown in the farmhouse teas provided after hunting. The Beagles also give boys and girls some experience of animal welfare through visits to the kennels and some local students help at hound shows during the Summer months.”

Puppy show next week!

Which makes a nice segue back to the Bluegrass, whereIroquois members, their guests, and the Iroquois Hounds are busy preparing for their first-ever puppy show, to be held May 14 in front of the Grimes Mill. The show starts at 4 p.m. and will feature children’s activities and chances for kids and adults to meet the puppies, retired hounds, and the Iroquois hounds that are being prepared for the prestigious Virginia Hound Show at the end of the month. Also on offer: Pimm’s! Watch this space for more information in the coming days.

Bedtime Stories: On Beagling

An occasional series in which we wish our readers a happy good night, courtesy of hunting literature. Sweet dreams!

THE BEAGLE HOUSE hounds , if they asked us to read them bedtime stories, no doubt would have us reach for this slim but charming volume that we got at the recent Virginia Hound Show. It is called Harehunters All but apparently went previously, that is before  1951, by the more intriguing name Jellylegs All. If any of you has ever been beagling, you will understand why.

Harehunters All contains brief histories of many of Britain’s beagle packs, written by people closely associated with them. In the entry for the Caldbeck Fell Beagles, established in 1928, Master of Fox Hounds C. N. de Courcy Parry writes thusly (and please excuse the reference to “any stupid greyhound”; we know several greyhounds, like them very much, and have never met a stupid one ourselves!):

“Now, I am a foxhunter with all the ‘hooroosh,’ the bad manners, ill temper, and lack of consideration so often, and truly, attributed to foxhunters. But when I want relaxation and genuine hunting I turn to my beagles and cordially  agree with the old song that states ‘There’s no sport to compare with the hunting of the hare.’ Many people in these latter days seem to want to look down upon beagling as a shoddy imitation of foxhunting and in many establishments there has crept in the desire and the attempt to hunt hares as though they were foxes; huntsmen delight in saying that their hares ‘ran like a fox.’ Let me assure you that no two animals run more differently and is every hare did run like a fox then there would be no hares left, for hounds would catch the lot of them.

“The joy in beagling and in seeing hounds hunt a hare is most essentially not in the racing of one down, for any stupid greyhound can do this. The fascination is in watching hounds unravel the various intricacies which the hare has left for them, without the assistance of a huntsman and two hard-running whippers-in.”

From the wonderfully named Mr. Butcher’s Beagles, C. Leslie Butcher, MFH, chimes in:

“In those days we always met at eleven o’clock, twice a week. With little or no motor transport, we walked our hounds on–often eight or nine miles–leaving kennels at nine in the morning, hunting all day till dark: after a good tea at the private house where we had met, or at the local inn, again walked or trotted hounds home, generally arriving between seven and eight o’clock. That was what we called hunting!”

England’s Britannia Beagles, who are celebrating their centennial this year, are attached to the Royal Naval College. The pack has an esteemed history, but, as Harehounds All notes, “the beginnings of this pack were very humble.” Founded by Lieutenant Guy Mainwaring and named for the ship on which he served at the time, H.M.S. Britannia, the beagle pack at first included his own terrier, “as is testified by a stone, now passed by cadets daily as they proceed from the College to the river for sailing or engineering instructions at Sandquay, erected in the early 1880s to  ‘Jim–First of the Pack.’

“… Though the Commander of the College almost invariably undertook the mastership, it seems that one of them must have decided that though hunting hounds was required of him, running after them certainly was not. For, as long as anyone can remember, though cadets, including the whips who are selected from them, follow hounds on foot, the master invariably has been mounted. Contrary to the belief that sailors are notoriously poor performers on horseback, this fashion does not seem to have caused them any worry. Farmers today still talk, for example, of Commander Philip Neville, master in 1928, who was never troubled by wire because he could always find a way by a gate–but never stopped to open it. It must be admitted that the pack had occasionally had a master who would, on approaching a bank, direct cadets in a quarterdeck voice to fan out on the far side of it to catch his horse in case he parted company. …

“Incidentally, it was during the 1914-18 war that one farmer, having heard beagles were to be put down, arrived at the kennels with a cart and pig netting and offered to take hounds home and look after them for the duration. …

“Before the last war, the problem of getting both cadets and hounds to outlying meets was met in typical naval fashion. Hounds were embarked on a 42-foot cutter, and cadets in the steam launch which took it in tow. The party could then proceed up the River Dart to disembark on either bank to commence hunting. The ‘Beagle Barge,’ as this venerable cutter has been known since it was a tender to the ‘Britannia’ in the last century was used once or twice last season.”

We note with some disappointment, however, that not all hunting authors look so fondly on beagling! One of the houndbloggers’ favorite sporting writers, Frederick Watson, often used his pen for cruel–but evenhanded–satire on nearly every branch of hunting and hounds! He had this to say about beagling, harriers, and harehunting:

“The harrier chases a hare in small circles so that members can pull one rein and still maintain the usual grip on the saddle. When the hare crosses the same field for the seventh time, how the farmer cheers and waves his hat. The beagle is smaller and therefore eats less. It is followed quite a long way off by persons of maturity acting under medical advice.”

Ouch!

To see some beagling (and bassets, too) from this blog, check out videos herehere and here.

The Sunday Sampler

Harry and Toby (Mr. Box) at play, as captured by our neighbor Dave and his new camera.

WONDERFUL news at Beagle House: our next-door neighbor Dave, he who doles out dog biscuits by the fence that runs between our houses, has taken up photography! We’re very pleased with this development (no pun intended), because it means he practices on the house hounds, and we get some good pictures of them as a result. The one above is one of our  favorites, and here are two others we love:

Harry explains his Complex and Mostly Secret Plan for World Domination.

"I got it, I got it!" Bingo and one of his best friends, Mr. Tennis Ball.

Speaking of the House Hounds, if you enjoyed their singing act last week you might also get a kick out of this short video about Bingo, the bassist in the trio.

I probably should update that score, because he did actually catch one about a year ago, but, thank heavens, it’s a rare feat.

This week we’ll be on summer hound walk with the pack–including Driver and members of the BA litter for the first time this year–but today we’re enjoying an afternoon at home, sorting through some of the hound news and pieces of interest that have come to our attention lately.

We read it in the Times

If you’ve got a beagle, basset, dachshund, petit basset griffon vendeen, or sighthound who has never gotten a taste of the chase,  The New York Times reports on a few places you can take your hound to let him get in touch with his wilder side without, it seems, actually catching anything.  An American Kennel Club Fun Field Trial in Carlisle, Pa., pairs couch-potato scent hounds with field trial prizewinners who show them how real hound work is done. According to the Times story, “No rabbits are killed, and the only gun is a starting pistol, fired into the air to measure a dog’s ‘gun shyness.’ In fact, the dogs never catch rabbits–and normally don’t even see them–but are judged on their ability to follow the scent as long and directly as possible.” To see how the reporter’s basset, a pampered hound with what the reporter calls “wakeolepsy,” fares in this return to his genes, see the story. And don’t forget to watch the very good video that accompanies it.

If you’d like to see some hunting bassets and beagles, we’ve got some beautiful runs on video. For beagles and bassets, you might like this. For beagles, here’s another.

We read it in Baily’s

If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading Baily’s yet, you should introduce yourself to this hunting bible immediately! Baily’s has a website now, and it’s well worth joining up to read its articles and to see the routinely fabulous photographs.

Baily's Hunting Directories

But you’ll get even more fun out of reading entries in the old directories, which I am starting to collect. Here are a few wonders from the 1914-1915 edition.

In February:

“A fox chased by the East Essex Hounds plunged into the sea, and was swimming out with the tide when four members of Hunt rowed out after him and rescued him.”

“An extraordinary accident befell Sir Edward Hutton whilst returning to Chertsey from a meet. As he was riding along a road his horse shied, throwing rider into a ditch. The animal also fell with his body across the ditch. Fortunately, the narrowness of the ditch prevented Sir Edward encountering full weight of horse. He was pinioned by one arm and leg, but with his free hand stroked the horse and kept it quiet until a man in charge of a motor delivery van came to his aid and released him.”

In March:

“Twenty English foxhounds being exported got loose and took possession of deck of Dover steamer sailing to France. The crew took to rigging until one brave soul lassoed the hound kicking up the chief row and placed him in truck again. The other hounds then followed him quite meekly.”

From the Department of We Want Details: “Young Lord Chesham, following worthily in his late father’s footsteps, is making himself very popular in ‘Pytchley country.'”

“Miss Isa E. Adams, Boston Spa, reports death of her otterhound, Old Carmelite, at age of 13 1/2 years. As a puppy he belonged to late King Edward, and later became property of Wharfedale Otterhounds, in which pack he remained till he was 9 1/2 years old. He was a winner on the show bench.”

“That there is good money in hounds was proved at Rugby, when Mr. Fullerton’s Avon Vale collection came under the hammer. All told, he received 3,726 guineas for them, the actual working pack of 24 couples going for 2,654 guineas.”

"Did you mention biscuits? I'd love one!" Iroquois hound Sassoon knows what's in the pockets of Lilla's kennel coat.

And the other side of that coin: “At Fitzwilliam Puppy Show Mr. George Fitzwilliam said hounds had cost him 80,000 pounds out of his own pocket since his father’s death, and owing to taxation, etc., increasing, he felt it necessary that he should be joined in the Mastership by Mr. Norman Loder.”

Loder, incidentally, was a close friend of hunting man and famed poet Siegfried Sassoon (for whom both my horse Sassoon and the Iroquois’s lovable woolly hound Sassoon are named) when Loder was Master of the Atherston. Hunting with Loder is a significant part of Sassoon’s splendid and funny classic Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man.

And here’s a note that should bring a smile to the faces of the members of Pennsylvania’s Cheshire Hunt. Under June, this entry: “Such is fame. A new pack of hounds has been established at Unionville, Chester County, Pennsylvania, and it will be called ‘The Cheshires’–shades of the Grosvenors, the Egertons, and the Wilbrahams!”

That’s all for now. Homework assignment: read your Baily’s, pat your dogs and horses, and we’ll see you on summer hound walk this week!


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!

Puppy Report (and many nature points) from the Clear Creek Beagles

The Clear Creek Beagles at their kennel near Louisville, Kentucky, this summer

The Clear Creek Beagles, being a foot pack rather than a mounted hunt, have a real advantage over their horsey brethren at this time of year. They can go still hunt on days when riders can’t due to poor footing conditions. It’s much safer crossing slippery, thawing mud on top of frozen ground on foot than on horseback, and it’s also much easier on the farm land. I can’t think of too many farmers who would be happy to see a field full of riders gouging deep divots into their land under such conditions–hoof-scarred ground makes for awfully rough terrain when you’re trying to drive your tractor or a farm vehicle over it.

The beagles leave hardly a mark as they go, which is why even in really challenging conditions when you would never send horses out,  you often can still have a good day out with hounds chasing bunnies instead of coyotes.

On Jan. 17, the Clear Creek Beagles had what sounded like a terrific day despite treacherous footing, and we thought we’d share their hunt report (including pictures) with you. The day had everything: excellent runs by sporting rabbits, a pair of puppies making their debut on the hunt field (very successfully, it appears!), changeable scenting conditions, and all the natural beauty and intrigue that a day out in the countryside can provide. So, without further ado, we give you the beagling report, from Clear Creek Beagles whipper-in (and photographer) Jean MacLean:

Nine and a half couple of hounds, a handful of people and two puppies met in the rain yesterday in the Camp’s Bunny Patch. The ground was still quite frozen with an inch or so of mud and water on top – quite slippery!!  The scenting conditions were so-so.

The field was introduced to (puppies) King Eider and his sister Enid at the trailer.  They were SO excited to be out on their first adventure.  They politely greeted all, leaving many muddy paw prints on everyone.
Eider
The pack quickly hit their first rabbit entering the briars.  The next hour or so was spent trying to sort out the many bunnies zipping around in the bunny patch.  They did an excellent job working the wet rabbit around the briars for the first fifteen minutes or so until three others were viewed out and away.  Hounds found it difficult to smell right on the ground (frozen & muddy) but were running the scent a few inches up in the air!!  Very cool to watch them adapt from noses down to noses half up!!  Eider and Enid quickly caught on to the fact that they needed to keep up with the grown ups!!
Enid (behind) sticking with old man Mason (foreground)!

Hounds ran a rabbit from the bunny patch down through the cedars by the lake and along the dam.  I spent a lot of time watching for beavers, but could not see any of them.
While we were out, the air and air pressure seemed to change a couple of times, making the scenting both easier and more difficult.  Hounds got up a very sporting running rabbit about 4:15 who kept the pack flying around for almost half an hour.  Eider and Enid were both seen with their noses down and looking like big dogs!  (Huntsman and joint-Master of Beagles) WPW used his face to clear some briars from a fence to help the hounds keep moving!  500 or so Canada geese flew overhead to enhance the hound sound!  The sun came out as it was setting and made the woods and fields glow.  It was a beautiful afternoon.
Clear Creak Beagles huntsman and joint-Master WPW, better known as Buck Wiseman with proof he met some briars
Nature points – 500 geese, many hawks, many rabbits viewed, many chewed down trees

Thanks for sharing the highlights of the day, Jean and Buck!

We were especially interested to read about the two puppies, littermates Eider and Enid, who seemed to make an unusually good start to their hunting careers. I also was curious to know why Eider is nicknamed “King Eider,” and asked Buck about that.

Buck’s response: “His name is Eider, but he’s a big kid, so we go with the big species of eider when we are kidding with him.” An eider is a kind of goose (think eiderdown). Jean added that this particular young Eider “has become the king because he is teacher’s pet and big and goofy! I have spoiled him rotten.”

Eider sounds like he he has a good and curious nose; on Tuesday morning, he reportedly was sniffing a fox line! I guess he was as pleased with his first day out as the Clear Creek hunt staff was.