Casting back on a rainy day

Photo by Dave Traxler.

Thank heavens for rain. God knows we need it sometimes, and so do our landowners. But does it have to fall, and fall so heavily, on days when hounds are supposed to meet? At least there is a silver lining: poor weather provides a fine opportunity to think back to sunnier days. The summer hound walk and roading season ended several weeks ago, but we thought we’d cast back a bit and enjoy a last look at some video and photographs we and photographer Dave Traxler collected over the summer.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow

Now, of course, our thoughts have turned back to fall and the new hunt season. Which means the return of the Hound of the Day series, as well as more photos from Dave, and video when the houndbloggers are out with the camera. Stay tuned for all of that when the weather allows us back out again, and, in the meantime, stay warm and dry!

What we’ve been doing this summer

The World is His Oyster

Driver, center, on his first summer hound walk.

MONDAY was the day we’ve all been waiting for. Driver’s first hound walk. He loved it! He dove right into it, and we’re not just speaking figuratively, as you’ll see in the video.

Remember when he was only this big? That was almost a year ago, in July 2009, and we thought he was a pupposaurus then!

As you watch the video of Driver’s big outdoor adventure, keep in mind the fact that Driver had never seen a pond before, and had only seen horses from a distance. Confident? You bet he is! But still very much a puppy. We think Iroquois joint-master Jerry Miller, who walked the hounds that day, said it best: “Paper on steroids.”

Tell us what YOU think!

Summer strolls

The BA puppies are taking their first summer walks with older members of the pack this summer.

AND SO we come back to where we started–on summer hound walk! Driver has yet to make his debut, but the year-old BA puppies are gradually being introduced to the working pack. At this early stage, Iroquois huntsman Lilla Mason is bringing them out in small groups with some of the older hounds, who can lead by example as the youngsters meet up with new sights, smells, and adventures off leash and away from the kennel. Cattle are one of the important new sights and smells combined, and it’s crucial that the puppies get a good introduction to them, because once they join the pack on hunts, the hounds must be able to ignore cattle (and their scent) when tracking coyotes. The quarry often will run through cattle in an attempt to foil the scent, and hounds must maintain professionalism under those circumstances, parsing out the coyote’s scent without disturbing the cattle.

The Iroquois pack’s early summer walks take place in a large cow pasture. That gives the hounds the opportunity to work around cattle every day, to learn that they are simply part of the landscape, and to grow comfortable with them.

In the video, you’ll recognize quite a few of the puppies: Bangle, Banknote, and Bailey feature prominently!

Other goals on hound walk: to teach the puppies to come, even when something interesting has their attention, and to introduce the concept of working as a pack. It’s early days yet, and the walks at the moment are very gentle affairs as the puppies explore the wonders of the cow pasture, particularly the pond, where they take a dip twice in the course of the walk. But everything serves training.

The hounds clearly enjoy wading and chasing the biscuits Lilla tosses for them in the pond.

Stay tuned for more of their adventures, including Driver’s debut on summer walk!

Paper plays–and learns, too (with video!)

Having fun and learning, too

Having fun and learning, too

WE’VE been watching Paper’s progress with interest this summer as he’s matured from lolloping puppy to full-time pack member. His debut on the hunt field is nearing. The morning hound walks are accompanied by hunt staff on horseback rather than on foot now, a big step toward the cubhunting season, which will mark Paper’s formal entry into the hunting pack this fall.

For now, Paper has been performing well in his lessons, learning to stay with the pack, come when he’s called, wait patiently with the huntsman when required to do so–even when the cool pond beckons to him on a humid summer morning! He’s learned three key things: that he is a member of a group, that he also has an individual identity within that group and must respond when addressed, and that the huntsman is the alpha dog of that pack.

Paper stops to smell the flowers

Paper stops to smell the flowers

All are crucial facts that each hound must absorb and fully understand. As paradoxical as it might sound, it’s helpful if hounds have both a pack identity and an individual identity. Because if one hound is about to stray from his work out hunting, by calling down the individual, the huntsman can prevent the pack as a whole from following suit. It would be less effective to warn or rate an entire pack if there’s only one miscreant–far better to stop the troublemaker in his tracks before he has a chance to do wrong. But that’s much harder to do unless each individual hound knows his name and knows that, when he’s called by name, it’s important that he personally respond.

The summer exercises we’ve seen at the pond and the hound truck, in which Lilla and Jerry have required the hounds to wait before dashing in, have reinforced the notion both of pack and individual discipline. For Paper, the lessons seem to be taking very well. The real test, and more lessons, will come when he joins his older colleagues on the hunt field.

But hound walk is also about exercise and the sheer joy of being out, and Paper has enjoyed that aspect, too. Being a puppy, he’s full of beans, and the walks give him some time to play while he learns and gains new experiences. We thought we’d share some of Paper’s less formal side, too.