Three of the Driver-Sage puppies earlier this month. Photo by Dave Traxler.
IT’S been a while since the houndbloggers have checked in on the various puppies we know, so we thought we’d catch you up on how they’re doing: they’re doing great! With puppies, of course, the news is less important than what they look like, right? So we’ll cut to the chase, because we know what everyone really wants is the cute factor. And there is plenty of that to go around these days.
The newest Iroquois puppies are the SA litter born in August to young Driver–once a pupposauraus himself and now a pack member–and the great hunting lady Sage. Last time you saw them, they were mere beans compared to what they are now. Here they are then:
Some of the SA puppies back in August. Gene Baker photo.
Now they’re just full of beans, as you can see:
A pair of the SA puppies at play on September 15. Dave Traxler photo.
The six SA puppies are doing well, kennel manager Michael Edwards tells us, and we’re still impressed by all the color they have on them.
Hello, baby! Dave Traxler photo.
For more on foxhound puppies, we turn to one of the houndbloggers’ favorite authors, D. W. E. Brock, and his book, The A B C of Fox-Hunting, although we disagree with his assertion that foxhound puppies, when newborn “are ugly, blind little things, with huge heads and wise, wrinkled faces.”
Easy there, Brock! He continues in a kinder vein. “But, after that, they become vastly more interesting little fellows,” he writes. “They grow quickly, but their heads always seem about two sizes too big for their bodies, and, unlike most other puppies, they seldom lose their solemn looks. …
“A foxhound puppy is one of the most amusing and lovable companions it is possible to imagine, and the games which a couple will play together are almost human in their ingenuity. But at the same time it is one of the most mischievous and destructive companions, and unless you, your family and your servants, both indoor and out, are genuinely fond of animals, and are long-suffering, you should not walk a puppy.”
Ah, yes. The houndbloggers and their house hounds nod knowingly at that advice, remembering the arrival of some of the HA puppies earlier this year. Harry, in particular, found the episode Rather Trying, he recalls (see lower left of photo):
"They're still here," Harry said 24 hours later.
The houndbloggers (who have no servants, indoors or outdoors) well remember their first day with us (of a very brief stay). I had had to attend a horse sale, and so Mr. Houndblogger bravely agreed to stay home and babysit the three HA puppies we’d taken in. I’ll never forget the scene when I returned: Mr. Houndblogger was slumped wearily in a chair in the kitchen, where he’d barricaded himself and the HA puppies to prevent further damage to the furniture and carpets. He was wearing wellies, a concession to the inevitable when you have a marauding trio of unhousetrained puppies on the loose. He was stippled from knees to collar with muddy pawprints, and one sweater cuff was slightly unraveled. It had been, I gathered, a Long Day.
The puppies, of course, bounded over to me merrily, eager for more games.
So what of the HA puppies today, nearing their first birthday? Take a look at them now.
Three of the HAs at the kennel on September 15. Dave Traxler photo.
They’ve started their walks out with huntsman Lilla Mason, and, my, how they’ve grown!
Hanbury (left) and Hardboot on a Sept. 10 walk. Dave Traxler photo.
Whyte-Melville might have been looking at them when he wrote
On the straightest of legs and the roundest of feet,
With ribs like a frigate his timbers to meet,
With a fashion and fling and a form so complete,
that to see him dance over the flags is a treat.”
We haven’t yet seen these young hounds over the flags, but, more importantly, they float over the grass, Lilla reports.
Hawksbridge--light on his feet, like all the HAs! Photo by Dave Traxler.
Hamlet and Cice Bowers in July. Dave Traxler photo.
Halo and Leslie Penn on a Sept. 10 walk. Dave Traxler photo.
As grown-up as they look, though, the HAs are still puppies at heart!
Havoc (left) and Hardboot with a prize earlier this month. Dave Traxler photo.
Harboot on a roll. Dave Traxler photo.
A few days ago, re-reading Beckford’s Thoughts on Hunting, we came across a curious footnote.
“I have seen fox-hounds that were bred out of a Newfoundland bitch and a fox-hound dog,” Beckford wrote. “They are monstrously ugly, are said to give their tongues sparingly, and to tire soon. The experiment has not succeeded: the cross most likely to be of service to a fox-hound is the beagle. I am well convinced that a handsome, bony, tender-nosed, stout beagle would, occasionally, be no improper cross for a high-bred pack of fox-hounds.”
Hmmm! No, no, we wouldn’t suggest it seriously, but, for the purposes of the blog at any rate the houndbloggers are very well disposed to include some beagles. And, as it happens, the beagles have been having their own puppies lately. The Clear Creek Beagles, with whom we hunt as often as we can on foot, have some puppies that whipper-in Jean MacLean was kind enough to photograph:
A bouquet of threeagles, as photographed by CCB whipper-in Jean MacLean.
And two moregles, also photographed by Jean MacLean.
There are some older puppies, too, who show a French influence in their names. the C litter features Chauffeur:
Chauffeur. Photo by Jean MacLean.
… and our favorite names, Chien (dog) and Chaton (kitten)!
The aptly named Chien. Jean MacLean photo.
The Clear Creek Beagles started their informal hunt season this morning, and the Iroquois foxhounds will take to the hunt field in early October. And before long the puppies from both packs will be doing this …
The Clear Creek pack in action. Jean MacLean photo.
… and this …
The Iroquois hounds move off from the Foxtrot meet. Dave Traxler photo.
As always, the houndbloggers will do their best to keep up with the hounds and provide reports on their progress!
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.
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.
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.
Clear Creek Beagles Eider says a fond farewell to his best friend, Jean MacLean.
TONIGHT the houndbloggers are welcoming the newest resident of Beagle House, Clear Creek Beagles Eider. We think he’s probably some sort of cousin to Mr. Box, and in any case we know that both descend from the CCB’s great Major. Eider, now about two-and-a-half years old, started his hunting career last year with the Clear Creek beagle pack. We ran into him again this year at the end of November, when we went out beagling with Clear Creek Master of Beagles Buck Wiseman and whipper-in Jean MacLean. There, I’m afraid, Eider did not acquit himself very well. There were deer involved. And a lot of not leaving off their trail. And quite a bit of not coming when called. And called. And called.
Eider and Clear Creek Beagles Master and huntsman Buck Wiseman say au revoir.
And so it was, with great regret, that Buck determined that Eider–although he was a great character in the kennel and Jean’s favorite hound (she had raised and loved him from a pup)–needed a new home. Enter the houndbloggers.
Eider arrived this afternoon, on the very same day, it happened, that we also brought home our most ridiculous purchase to date: an early-1920s Victor Victrola wind-up phonograph. Yes, it was a folly, but who, I ask you, can really resist the delight of winding up a record player and then, as a reward, hearing it scratch out the tuneful strains of “With You” by Waring’s Pennsylvanians or the stirring fox trot “That Night in Araby” by Edwin J. McEnelly’s Orchestra?
Eider's eyes lit up when he heard the victrola!
(In case you’re wondering, we bought ours from Brian Gorrell at the Athens School antique show. He very kindly and enthusiastically explained all the technical stuff to us, about loud needles and soft needles, how to change them, and other interesting and useful things.)
Eider settles in for a good chew in his new home.
So far, Eider is settling in quickly and comfortably. Harry is disappointed that Eider, like the hound puppies who visited, is not a minion (“I am sure I ordered minions,” says Harry). But otherwise things are fine. Eider likes Nylabones, biscuits, the dog beds by the fireplace, and, oops, my woolly clogs (or, okay, how about these paddock boots?), and my home office (an Emporium of Potential Toys!). He is not yet sure about leashes or walks in the ‘burbs, but he’s happy to be with the rest of the Beagle House pack. It will take him a little time to get used to the new routine now that he’s retired from hunting in the Clear Creek pack, but, if Mr. Box is any indication, it won’t take very long.
Mr Box turned up lame the day before the Belmont, but he still likes Ice Box's chances
MR. BOX’S careful training plan for the Belmont Stakes was going right on schedule: vigorous playtimes punctuated by regular biscuit breaks, a custom-designed regimen of mid-afternoon snoozes, relaxing strolls with the brothers, and barroooo-ing at the postman. But all of that came to a halt Friday morning, when Mr. Box, having gone downstairs for that all-important first meal of the day, declined to come back up the stairs again to his bed, even when offered payment in a fat biscuit to do so. That’s not like our Mr. Box! So we packed him off to Dr. Snyder, whose genius and kindness are evident here (he’s the one NOT sitting in the tub):
The wonderful Dr. Snyder, veterinarian to the Beagle House hounds and to the Iroquois Hunt hounds, and a longtime friend of the Hound Welfare Fund.
The verdict: a muscle strain in Mr. Box’s back. O, cruel fate! To strike on Belmont Eve! Mr. Box has taken this injury in stride, but shorter, slower strides than usual.
Mr. Box has limited himself to desk work today but plans to watch his namesake run this afternoon.
What does our Mr. Box think of his namesake’s chances?
“I like him,” the little white beagle opined. “You gotta love a horse with that name. But I worry about whether there’s enough speed on the front end to give him an honest pace to run at. On the other hand, you know, he checked three times during the Derby, had the agility to get out of that trouble, and still had enough gas left to make that signature long run in the homestretch. So we know he’s got some fancy footwork available to him, he’s no ordinary plodder, from where I stand. Can he change his tactics to sit closer to a slower pace up front and then roll home like a freight train? I hope so, but I’d like to see a rabbit in front of him somewhere. Oh, rabbits! Speaking of rabbits …”
Wow–Mr. Box sure has been studying his Daily Racing Form during his recovery! What does he think of Ice Box’s ability, pedigree-wise, to get the Belmont’s 1 1/2-mile distance?
Stamina to spare: Clear Creek Beagles Icebox '04, now known as Tobermory Icebox of Beagle House.
“Shoot, he’s bred to go long!” exclaimed Mr. Box. “Are you kidding me? He’s got stamina, all right.”
Our Mr. Box knows a thing or two about stamina, so we have no doubt he could get the Belmont distance. He’s already done more than that (but not in a little over two minutes; it took him more like two weeks). Here’s the story.
Mr. Box’s Epic Journey
It was a dark and snowy night … that’s how the tale begins.
About two days after Christmas in 2004, the Clear Creek Beagles hunted farmland on Harrods Creek near Goshen, Ky. When the hunt was over and huntsman Buck Wiseman put the hounds in their trailer, Mr. Box was not among them. Buck stayed at the meet and blew and blew his horn, but Mr. Box, then known as Icebox ’04, still did not come in. Icebox was in his first season with the pack that winter, and he already had proven to be a very marginal sort of hunting beagle, even though he was by the Clear Creek pack’s legendary Moby. Icebox, it seemed, preferred going off on his own and never really got the whole gist of hunting. But this was the first time he hadn’t come in at all. Finally, Buck had to return to the kennel with the rest of the hounds. He came back to the meet by himself as night was falling and blew his horn for a long time again. Still no sign of Mr. Box.
“Then a terrific snowstorm came in that night,” Buck said. “Seven or eight inches of snow. It was very, very cold–it was below freezing for days.”
The next day, while Buck was “off being a lawyer,” as Clear Creek whipper-in Jean MacLean puts it, he deputized Jean, who was recovering from surgery but was the only other person who knew Icebox personally, to go back on the hunt for Mr. Box on the farm where the hunt had been.
“It was very cold,” recalled Jean. “I remember a farm guy had seen him, and so I went out and traveled around out there. But I never saw him.”
“I checked back for him a few more times, but there was no sign of him,” Buck continued. “The farm crew didn’t see him. No one had seen him. And then about two weeks later, I drove into the kennel, and he was sitting on the front step.
“It’s probably a good four or five miles from where he got left back to the kennel. It’s not a huge trek back, but he had to cross Harrods Creek, which is a pretty good-sized creek. Maybe he crossed the bridge, I don’t know.”
The Clear Creek Beagles pack earlier this year. Mr. Box, now retired from hunting and wandering, lives happily at Beagle House, where he enjoys his fenced yard, his companions Harry and Bingo, and sleeping next to the fire in winter.
Even stranger, Icebox looked just fine.
“The peculiar thing about hounds when they get left out is they usually look just great when they come home,” Buck said. “I don’t know what they eat or where they hang out, but they look fine when they come home. I’ve had them picked up six weeks later, and they’ve looked fine.”
Mr. Box moved in with us four months later. He never was much of a rabbit-hunting hound, but he’s an ace at hunting biscuits.
“I like biscuits,” Mr. Box concurs.
And if Ice Box has any of our Mr. Box’s stamina, he’ll have no trouble handling the Belmont distance. Here’s hoping that he, like Mr. Box, comes home safely, too! Happy Belmont Day, everyone!
Next time: More from the recent Virginia Hound Show trip!
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!
Clear Creek Beagles huntsman and joint-Master of Beagles Buck Wiseman with the hounds
IT WAS a sight for sore eyes and a song for sore ears (to make up a new metaphor). We’ve spent so much of this winter indoors due to the unusually bad weather, only getting out occasionally with the foxhounds. So when the end of February rolled around with the annual beagling weekend on the calendar, the houndbloggers hared over to Mercer County to watch beagles and bassets at work.
The Farmington Beagles usually attend this weekend-long festival of rabbit-chasing, but they didn’t cross the mountains this year. That left the hosting Clear Creek Beagles and the visiting Sandanona Harehounds from upstate New York, who cleared out of the Empire State just before another blizzard dumped a foot of snow along the east coast. The Sandanona Harehounds actually refers to two working packs that Betsy Park hunts, one a beagle pack and the other a basset pack.
You might not be familiar with working basset packs. Like beagles, they hunt cottontail and/or hare, and the field members follow on foot. But they’re longer and lower hounds, of course, and their voices differ, too: they have deeper, booming cry, which you will hear on the video below and can compare to the beagles’ cry in their video below. They are hugely, longly, floppy-earedly entertaining–and they are fine hunters, too.
The area where we met is winding down its cattle operation and has spent much of the last year restoring natural grasses. And what a difference that has made to the cottontail population! We hunt this vast acreage at least once a year, and in recent years the number of good runs had dwindled–except, notably, in the initial natural grass patch that started the reseeding project, where we always seemed guaranteed to meet up with a sporting rabbit. Last year’s lush summer probably also didn’t hurt our chances at finding more rabbits this season, but I think I’m a big, big fan of natural grasses as a positive reinforcement for game.
In one field alone, which we refer to here as The Bunny Patch, the houndbloggers saw 10 rabbits on Saturday afternoon with the bassets; other members of the field saw considerably more than that throughout the day.
Two of the Sandanona bassets with huntsman and Master Betsy Park at The Bunny Patch
One of the Sandanona bassets harks to the horn
If you’re expecting the really low-slung bassets of the Hush Puppies and Westminster type, the Sandanona bassets and other hunting bassets will probably surprise you. These guys are leggier, and their speed and agility surprise people hunting behind them for the first time. They excel at being cute, as all bassets do, and in their extraordinary deep and melodious cry–which we heard to great effect as the pack raced along in full cry around a pond, where their voices echoed off the ridge and water as if it were coming to you from centuries ago.
The multitude of rabbits provided a real challenge to the huntsmen this weekend. As Betsy Park put it, “There are too many rabbits. It encourages independence, which is not good.” And, in fact, there were so many rabbits whizzing around The Bunny Patch that on several occasions hounds could hunt by sight rather than scent, and from time to time the temptation would prove too much when random bunnies, simply getting out of the way of the pack as it hunted one rabbit’s line, crossed paths close by.
Both the beagles and the bassets had a phenomenal weekend with these game little rabbits, who kept them running all day. We expect both packs had a lot to talk about over their biscuits as they made their way back to Louisville (beagles) and New York (bassets).
Nate Lord, the best man to follow when out with foot packs. It's him you'll hear on the basset video, asking the field to keep out of hounds' way.
Without further ado, we’ll cut to the chase. Bassets are up first from Saturday’s hunting, and beagles are up second from their Sunday morning meet. The basset video has two tally-hos of rabbits at The Bunny Patch, and both videos show the respective packs in full cry. In the beagle video, you might recognize a couple of names from previous posts we’ve had. Eider, the first-season puppy, makes an appearance early in the video, and Sancerre (she who can catch biscuits while swimming) also gets called down for, not surprisingly, being a little wayward for a split second!
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!
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.
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.
Substituting for an injured huntsman means taking over a pack that has been trained by (and that has bonded with) someone else, and it takes more than just knowing how to blow the horn.
WHEN Iroquois huntsman Lilla Mason broke her ankle out hunting in November, she was lucky in one respect: she had an experienced huntsman to whom she could pass the horn. And that person, Iroquois joint-Master Jerry Miller, was someone who works with the hounds daily alongside her.
“Unfortunately, I got hurt right after the opening day of the hunt season,” Lilla said. “I’ve spent months since the last hunt season–from April to October–training the hounds and getting the pack exactly where I want them: responsive, together, controlled by voice. I’ve done that in the training style that Jerry has devised over the years, which is a kind, humane, quiet style. The reason it’s such a relief to have Jerry hunting the hounds for me now is that I know heknows he is a substitute. He hunts the hounds in that quiet way, but he’s also going to be very careful not to take the hounds over as his own, because I’ll be back.
“The worst thing would be if someone were to come in and hunt them in a different way from the way I do and try to take the pack over. That would usurp all the work we’ve done, and when I came back, it would be much more difficult for me to finish the season in the manner which it began.”
His years as Iroquois huntsman and his role as architect of the pack's training program has stood Jerry in good stead during the times he has subbed for Lilla out hunting and on hound walk. (Photo kindly given by Peggy Maness)
For Jerry, the prospect of taking over the Iroquois pack was more complicated than just accepting the horn and blowing it. A pack of hounds doesn’t automatically respect a horn; they respect the person who has worked to forge a bond with them through training. In order to maintain the continuity of what is effectively Lilla’s team, Jerry is careful to leave as little of his own imprint on them as he can.
“As much as I like them and would like to have these hounds be mine, that’s like taking somebody’s racecar and driving it as a substitute in the next three or four races,” Jerry explained. “The first thing you need to do is not to wreck it. That’s the worst thing you could do. You don’t want to tear the transmission up and don’t tear the motor up, either. Just take it around carefully, because you’re not really the driver of that car. You’ll take it out because people want to come out and see the race, but the idea is to race it fairly and competitively, but don’t do any damage to it.
“The thing about a pack of hounds, and the reason you like your huntsman and Masters to have longevity, is because you breed the hounds not only for your country, but also for the way the huntsman hunts hounds,” he continued. “You can read about this in all the literature, but you can ruin a pack of hounds in a week or two weeks. If someone else other than Lilla came in and tried to impose their own personality on those hounds through the way they discipline them or reinforce them, and especially if they try to push them around or bully them, these hounds react to that. Some hounds won’t come back because they’ve gotten upset, and they’ll just be unruly. And the longer they stay away, the more they learn bad habits.”
Having temporarily turned her horn over to her back-up huntsman, jt-MFH Jerry Miller, regular Iroquois huntsman Lilla Mason wore a regular member's black coat when she returned to the hunt field for the first time since her injury.
This hunt season, we’ve seen two strong examples of how important a hound considers the bond with its huntsman to be. When Strawberry first arrived this fall from England, her confusion at finding a completely new huntsman was clear. Since her birth, Strawberry had only ever known one huntsman–the Cottesmore’s Neil Coleman–and she was perplexed to find herself without her usual leader when she debuted under Lilla in November. Her first response was to head straight back to the hound trailer.
Similarly, when Jerry hunted the hounds for the first time after Lilla’s injury, he had to endure the pack’s initial skepticism about him, even though he knew them from training.
When he first blew the horn, the pack remained at the trailer, waiting for Lilla. Sure, that guy who walked with them in the summer had the horn now, but he wasn’t their huntsman. Their huntsman was Lilla. And they would just wait for her to show up, thanks. It took Jerry some minutes to get the pack away from the trailer.
Hunting history is riddled with similar accounts of hounds who, once “joined up” with their regular huntsman, will only have eyes for him (or her). Consider the case of whipper-in Jean MacLean in her first attempt to walk out the Clear Creek Beagles when huntsman Buck Wiseman was out of town:
When Buck was away and needed her to walk the hounds out, she discovered that the young hounds she’d helped raise from puppyhood merrily packed up with her when she opened the kennel gate for morning exercise. But the older hounds that had been there before she arrived were so skeptical that they would sit just outside the kennel and refuse to come along with her. They were, she realized, waiting for Buck. To them, she wasn’t the real deal, and no amount of biscuit-tossing could convince them to follow her.
Once the hounds finally moved off, Jerry still had his work cut out for him. One crucial element he had in his favor is his knowledge of the individual hounds and the philosophy under which they are trained.
Jerry Miller's role as back-up huntsman, he said, is to maintain the pack's steadiness and "not to do any damage" until Lilla can return
“A hound doesn’t just react to a couple of toots on a horn,” he said. “You have to know every individual hound. If you were going to play the piano and I took every third key away, that’s going to make it harder for you to play. You have to know which hound is acting up, which hound you have to pick up, which one you have to set down.”
Hunting hounds without imposing his own hunting style on them has required restraint from Jerry.
“He’s hunted them slowly and very deliberately, waited for any hounds that are missing so that the pack doesn’t get too spread out,” said Lilla, who has been following the hunt in a car regularly while she’s recovering. “It might be more fun for riders if he went out and hunted them the way he would if he were always the huntsman, but he’s doing it this way so that the hounds will be better off when I come back.
“This helps me. If he had done things differently, it would have completely confused the hounds, because they’d have gotten used to a totally different style than mine, and I’d have to start over with them,” she added. “The ultimate honor you can do another human being is to do something for them that you know is not going to make you look your best. He knew he wasn’t going to look like a hotshot huntsman. He did it for the hound program.”
Part of "Lilla's team," as portrayed by Peggy Maness
Mind you, it’s taken some restraint from Lilla, too. While Jerry is hunting the hounds, she minimizes her contact with the hounds and rarely even speaks, in case the familiar sound of their regular huntsman’s voice distracts them.
“The worst thing I could do while he’s hunting is come out and be too loud, because pretty soon they’re going to get around me and stop doing what he’s asking them to do,” she explained. “They have to be obedient to the person who has the horn.”
“She has the golden thread with her hounds,” Jerry acknowledges. “They know her personality, they know what she’s doing and when she’s upset. You can see it in them. When Lilla gets upset with a few of them, the others react to it, too. They just tighten up together and go on. But if someone new comes in and gets uptight with them, those hounds will just disappear. They’ll decide they want to stay away from that person.
“And if a new person comes in and tries to be their best friend and keep them right next to his horse, that can be just as bad, because instead of working, the hounds will just trot along next to his horse like they were on a trail ride. So there’s a fine line between discipline and reinforcement. I try to put them in, let them work the covert, then be on the other end to pick them up and go on to the next covert, without imposing on them.
“I have to maintain things. I have to make sure that everyone responds and that I don’t get three or four hounds that decide they’ll refuse to listen and go hunting on their own, that decide since Lilla’s not out they don’t have to listen to anybody.”
It’s a slower style of hunting, but it preserves the pack and their training in the near term while Lilla recovers.
For a glimpse of Lilla’s relationship with the hounds, see how they gaze at her in this video taken from the huntsman’s point of view on hound walk this summer:
There’s a code of honor among huntsmen that holds the relationship between huntsman and hounds, that golden thread, as sacred. Jerry ‘s restraint in hunting “her” hounds is honoring that tradition, Lilla said. She has reciprocated, too, by wearing a black hunt coat–rather than her red huntsman’s coat–when she returned to the hunt field for an hour (with her leg in a cast!) at her first hunt since the injury.
“What Jerry has done for me is the most honorable thing a retired huntsman can do for one who is active,” Lilla said. “He’s not out there for the sake of his own ego. He’s not trying to look like the best huntsman in the world, and he knows he’s not going to look like the best huntsman in the world doing it this way. But he knows they’re not his hounds now; I trained them. And that’s the way he looks at it: ‘I’m just the substitute.’
“One huntsman would never insert himself or do anything to possibly damage or interfere with another huntsman’s relationship with his own hounds,” she concluded. “Your relationship with your hounds is like a marriage, and you wouldn’t step in between a huntsman and his hounds any more than you would step between husband and wife.”
So how is Lilla’s recovery coming? Very well, she says. She’s started riding again, and she had that happy hour out with hounds just before Christmas.
“Since I got off crutches, it seems like every day there’s been immense improvement,” she said. “I’ve been riding, but I still have this inconvenient boot on my leg. I need to go see a welder and get a big stirrup made. I’m riding in a dressage saddle and in a controlled environment, and, with the weather we’ve had, nobody’s riding outside anyway. So I’m very encouraged.”