It’s past mid-winter now. We’re on the downhill stretch to spring. I hope you’re all having a great time rabbit hunting. If you’ve been inside too long hiding from the cold; get out there before it’s over!
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If you were to make a point of talking to one hundred different beagle owners and ask their opinion of field trials, you’ll end up with a hundred different opinions.
Some would have been too many field trials, others only one or two; some may have never been to a single field trial. One thing抯 for sure, they will all tell you all about it.
They never give a second thought to the idea that they are only looking through eyes that are connected to the same mouth doing the explaining. That their limited view is so narrow they couldn’t possibly speak with authority. That doesn’t seem to slow them down.
The most intriguing ideas come from those who haven’t been to more than a few trials, at least not to more than one or two different clubs. They always know all about the judges, the handlers, and the dogs. If you give them a chance they will be happy to explain it. They can always tell you why the folks running the field trial are not doing it right and how if those judges just knew what a rabbit dog was then he would have brought old Boomer and he would be the big star. YADA YADA YADA. Of Course he didn’t bring old Boomer because he already brought him to a field trial four years ago and the judges picked him up.
Beagle people are just like the rest of society and I don’t want to go into a tirade about the several different personality types you’ll find at a field trial. Instead of that, let me give you my opinion of field trials or better yet, how you can formulate your own opinion.
First a single field trial is only one data point. There’s no way you can decide if going to trials is going to be for you based on one trial or even several trials at the same club. You need to get it in your mind that your going to enough field trials to have a proper data set. I recommend you plan to go to ten different trials at a minimum of six different clubs. You’ll find that every club has its own atmosphere and environment to take into account. At one club a guest or “new guy” may get treated like royalty and at another they could be almost ignored.
Try to keep in mind that more often than not the guys running the club will not know you are new unless you tell them. You see, people come from all over to run beagles at field trials and they will probably assume you are a field trailer whom they don’t know. So feel free to let people know you are just learning. You’ll be surprised at how much help you get offered.
The above is also true for how the dogs are evaluated. Very few judges interpret the judging standard in exactly the same way. To add to that, a pack or a brace of hounds will seldom perform exactly the same each time down. The conditions are different, the day is different, even the rabbit is different. This is to say nothing about the quality of the competitions your hound may be down with. Finally there’s a whole plethora of other factors that play into an individual hound’s performance. Factors you will need to learn to sustain any success in the sport. But learn them you will, if you’re willing to seek them with an open mind.
To sum it up, I want to encourage you not to fall victim to the victim mentality that runs rampant around any type of competition. We use to call it the peanut gallery sitting around the club house. Today they do their bidding on the internet chat rooms and other social media. In most cases these chronic complainers don’t really understand the sport any better than you do. Don’t allow their poor attitude to take a great thing away from you.
Enjoy your hounds and be proud to show off your best ones!
When it comes to finding yourself a good beagle or two, you can spend as much time and money on the endeavor as to want. If you are the type who over analyses every new interest (I am so I can relate) and are all over the place trying to get advice from “internet rabbit hunters” you could get more confused the more you “learn.”
Learning about what you like and want in a rabbit hound on line is nearly impossible. Part of the problem is the absolute disconnect between what someone may advise and reality. Many years ago I read an article by an old hounds men explaining how to develop an eye for dogs. His advice was to wear out boots. If you follow many dogs, your boots are going to get worn out. Following hounds will destroy boots like no other sort of activity.
So here is a little trio of one liners I’ve either heard or coined over the years and have combined to claim them as my own.
Wet saddle pads make for good horses.
Bloody tails make for good dogs.
Wore out boots make for good hound’s men.
In my younger years I had to have a pair every year. Now that forty has crept up on me I may get closer to two years out of a pair of boots. If your truly interested in developing ‘the eye” for quality hound work you might as well get yourself ready to cover some ground.
This may be a good spot to point out what some may think is obvious yet others will chase their whole lives. You can speed up this process of learning by listening to the successful hounds men who came before you.
Here’s an example. I’ve seen advice written for new beaglers about trying to put a pack of rabbit hunting beagles together. In some cases it appeared the people doing the teaching must not have worn out many pairs of boots. It was almost like they were regurgitating advice they themselves had gotten just a few years earlier. They used all the key buzz words to describe every good characteristic a top quality rabbit hound can poses; as if this prospective beagle enthusiast can rush right out find him four or five hounds just like he described. Forget the fact four hounds like those described could easily set you back the cost of a used truck.
Packs are packs for a reason. A good pack of rabbit hounds will be made of individual with different strengths and weaknesses. It’s up to you the dog handler to determine which traits will work best with the pack. For instance, if you want to put a little more volume in the pack you can add a hound with a better voice. If you feel like you need a bit more drive you can either ad a more competitive hound or simply as a hound to push an already competitive hound.
If every dog in the pack is super close in a drop (or check, or bother, or whatever you call a temporary loss in the trail) then you may want to insert one that uses a bit more room in the check in order to reduce the time a check lasts. In retrospect, if all your hounds cast out too wide in a drop you may consider replacing a couple of those dogs with ones who will stay a bit closer in the check, thus reducing the length of time in the check.
If you want to have a good pack of beagles on a reasonable budget you must be prepared to mix and match qualities. The perfect dog does not exist and the closer they are to ideal, the further you will have to dig to own that dog.
So I hope you’re able to get some nugget of usefulness out of this article. I certainly don’t want to dissuade you from trying to get top quality beagles. In fact, the more you learn about what it takes to keep a rabbit going in a steady positive manner, the easier it will be for you to improve your hounds. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your pack of rabbit dogs.
Much to the dismay of the miyan prophecy advocates, January 2013 has arrived and the high powered rifles and deer hunters are back in hibernation for the next eight months. Rabbit hunters are now free to fill the air of southern pine plantations with the sound of packs of beagles in full cry after the Icrafty cotton tail.
From this authors point of view it’s actually a little break in the hectic schedule of training and conditioning beagle hounds. You see these shorter days mean less time to be out running dogs. This may sounds bad until you realize I run beagles every day. The earlier darkness means a chance to come inside and rest a bit, maybe write an article just like the one your reading now.
Due to the time of the year many people are excited about the possibility of rabbit hunting with beagles of thier own. I couldn’t count the number of calls or emails I get asking how to “get started“ or what bloodlines are “the best“ or some other type of novice question.
The internet has allowed each of us to take in more information than could have ever been dreamed just a few short years ago. Learning about beagles is no different. People want to get started and they want to get started the right way. The problem is they tend to look for information in all the wrong places.
For example, One new beagler stopped by my house to purchase a beagle. I quickly noticed he had no inkling about what he wanted in a dog. He had bought a few dogs form someone but was copmpletley unsatisfied with those dogs. He was telling me how the guy “ripped him off.“ One thing I had topoint out to him is the guy he had bought those dogs from probably didn’t mean to „ ripp him off.“ The fact is, he probably didn’t know much more than the guy who bought them.
He then ask me a great question,“how does he know the difference“ when he goes to look at dogs? I’ve been pondering that question for some time. I’m not sure I know how to answer the question in a way that a new or prospective beagler could understand.
One thing I do know, thier is way more dishonest buyers of beagles than sellers of beagles. “WHAT, you must be saying.“ You read it right! Buyers have to be honest about what they hope to get out of the dogs they are looking for. Ok, let me try to clarify just a bit, assuming you have found a knowledgabe beagle man that is willing to sell you or help you find the type of beagles you are looking for, you must be absolutley honest about what you want out of the hounds.
If you tell me you are looking for a couple beagles to hunt with you and yoru grandchildren that you can let run loose on your farm; I’m going to steer you in completley different direction than if you ask about a top notch field trial beagle. I can’t for the life of me figure out why people try to withhold this information. The only result can be dissatisfation with the purchase.
OK, my time is up. I’ll plan to pick up where I left off next week. The next few days have me running dogs and rabbit hunting from daylight to dark with several hours of travel time for and aft.
a high quality beagle
I’m afraid we are approaching an end to an era. In fact, I suspect the end has come and went and most of us never even realized it. Sure we had an idea, but we didn’t really lift a finger to stop it, we may have yelled a little at the TV or possibly complained some to our coworkers.
Do you remember when a twelve year old boy could walk out of his house with a pocket full of rim fires or a pump up pellet gun? He could simply walk down the street and make a left into the old field or tract of woods. No one worried, no one called the police. It was just life. What do you think would happen now if that scene played out? My friends, I fear that era is gone forever.
These little rabbit hunting beagles we have give us a taste of that former era. When you go out to run dogs things are much as they were 100 years ago. I’d say exactly the same if you happened to have left your cell phone in the truck, It’s just you, the hounds and nature.
Things are changing fast, faster than many of us care to admit. As our children and grand children grow up to become adults they stand at the transition of this era and the next. One day soon it will be them and their peers who will take up the cause of championing freedom for the generations to come. The freedom to raise beagles, rabbit hunt, and search out happiness with out the hindrances of an over zealous bureaucracy. The freedom to apply the principle of perseverance to our own lives with out the fear of a stronger coming and taking what we have worked and sweated for This applies even if the stronger is the same government who pledged to protect and serve.
If you want to do something to help insure a way of life doesn’t completely disappear forever, take a kid hunting. Bring them to a field trial. Get a couple little beagles for you and the kids to work with. The memories and seed you will fertilize will pay off on so many different levels.
My son Mason with the late Donnie Gambrell
Raising a puppy, feeding him, training him, sharing much of your discretionary time with him, and then finally competing in the field with him is perhaps the most rewarding adventure in the entire hunting dog world. The day you go afield to show others how your dog performs will be exciting and nerve racking at the same time. You will think back to the time that little guy could hardly keep up with you walking on a clear path, much less push through weeds and briars. Now look at him you’ll think, out their doing what he was breed to do, trying his best to perfectly perform the tasks you’ve rehearsed with him so many times at home.
Field trialing with dogs is an amateur sport that happens to have over one hundred year of tradition in our country. Field trials are a place where breeders and enthusiast can come together to see how their breeding and training methods compare to the best a region has to offer.
Sometimes even professional “handlers” get in on the competition. Handlers often keep client dogs at their home and are responsible for the training and conditioning of the dogs. Professional handlers will normally not own any of the dogs they are handling.
Doing so would create a conflict of interest and create a cloud around any accomplishments.
Beagle field trials are held all over the country but particularly on the east coast. The very best dogs tend to congregate around the south but top dogs can be found in the north as well. While beagle clubs have been very slow about promoting their where-a-bouts online, locations for field trials are getting easier for the beginner to find. Spend a few minutes looking and I bet you will find a club in short driving distance to your house. Find out when they have their next field trial and go watch.
Bring your family along. Field trials tend to be well suited to the family joining in, that is assuming your family likes dogs and the out doors. Beagle clubs normally have plenty to eat and are very hospitable, particularly to new folks. So go ahead, find out when the next trial is and go see for your self.
Beagle judges only have the official rule book to look at when determining which action and qualities call for positive score and which require demerit. The degree to that score or demerit is based on the extent to which the actions are committed and the amount they contribute or take away from the race. The rule book serves as a kind of light house, for lack of a better term, to help keep judges focused in the right areas and to ward off any unnecessary attention to things that are of little consequence.
When an outstanding performance is witnessed, the judges can never be sure if the obstacles the hound faced were difficult or easy. He can never know if a different hound would have performed better or worse in the same situation. All a judge can do is to know quality when he sees it and to score accordingly. It’s all but impossible for me to put anything in writing that will teach a man to judge dogs. He can only use his own experience and patience in watching many performances, all the while using the aforementioned rule book as a guide. Only experience will teach a man what impact each action has on the overall performance.
It can be quite an exhaustive task sometimes to decide if you are witnessing great determination or lack of nose, brains or a lucky gamble. Judges are required to bring back their very best performances and match them up in second and any future series’. This insures hounds are eventually places in their correct position relative to the competition. Using this tried and true method judges still will never know what amount or to what degree any hound posses these qualities. Qualities like desire, determination, nose and so on. They can however be assured those qualities were sufficient when needed and displayed when call upon. We can’t do much more to measure these traits than that.
While on the subject of judging field trials I have something further to discuss. I bring this up in hopes you will give it some thought yourself. Beagle clubs rely heavily on entry fees from their field trials. In the end field trials entries will determine which way is best.
I’m referring to the two separate ideals of picking field trial winners. The winners will usually be the same but the method and time needed to get there is different. I can remember when I was much younger judging field trials. It was not uncommon for me and my partner to have half or even more of the first series competitors back in second series. As I matured and got more confident in understanding hound work the size of second series I would want decreased.
Here’s an example first series has 50 hounds. That would be 8 packs in first series. When I was younger I would have worked through at a fairly quick pace and come up with something like 24 hounds for second series. Likewise I would have probably had 12 dogs in third series and then a seven dog winners pack. This method makes for happier dog handlers as they get to feel like they are doing well by making it into second series.
Now days I would be more inclined to spend much more time in first series actually judging the qualities of every dog. Spending what ever time was necessary to do my best to measure each dog against the competition. In this same 50 dog first series I would be much more likely to have 15 or possibly 14 hounds back in second series. Next a 6 or 7 dog winner’s pack would be in order.
What caused this evolution in my personal style? Well, I learned as I gained experience which dogs were having the best performances. I have always made it a habit after every field trial to look back at my notes from the first series performances to see how the top dogs of the end of the day scored in first series. With very few exceptions I noticed the hounds in the winners pack were also the best performers in first series. It became more and more apparent to me judges should spend more time evaluating hounds in first series and then bringing back their best performers. If a second series is made up of half the hounds entered the judges have not taken the time to do the thing they were hired to do, judge. Instead they are putting off the judging until a later series. This may be the safest way to get to the top performers especially if the pair of judges lacks experience.
How often have you seen a first series pack have an average or mediocre run just to have the judges order two hounds up and call for the next pack. Leaving 3, 4 or even 5 hounds down for consideration for their second series? I would assert that if the run is indeed average or mediocre judges should spend the necessary time to determine the true quality of the hounds under judgment. They should do as the rules require in procedure 8: “If there appear to be no worthy hounds in a pack, they shall gradually be eliminated by ordering up the most faulty hounds as such are determined one or two at a time down to the last hound, if necessary, to make sure no worthy hound is overlooked before the entire pack is eliminated.” Simply stated the idea is to choose the best performances for second series. If the performance is not good, a hound should not be rewarded with an appearance in second series. A mediocre performance is simply that, a mediocre performance. If the judges have eliminated all but one hound in a pack and the hound is still unable to put on a quality run then the single hound left must be eliminated as well.
In contrast if a pack has a superior performance, judges should study with a keen eye the qualities of all the hounds in the pack. The fourth of fifth best hound in a pack with a superior performance is a better candidate for second series than the best hound in a pack of poor performers.
Lest you think this is a simple process, keep in mind judges must weigh merit with out knowing the true nature of the obstacles the hound encounter. As mentioned earlier, is it possible you are witnessing great determination even though the performance is less than dazzling? Man, when you look at it all it seems like a terribly difficult task to judge beagles. Very soon I’m going to write an article on why what I just explained about actually judging the dogs may not be in the best interest of the sport of field trialing. Notice I didn’t say in the best interest of the beagle. To wet your tongue a bit consider this: No beagle clubs- no sport. No entries- no beagle clubs. When handlers feel like they are doing well, they tend to show up more. The difference between an average hound being eliminated in first series or second series may be important to the handler. I want to consider this a bit myself. Until next time just remember, “Judges should approach their work with the attitude that the future welfare of the breed is in their hands, and should make their findings and selections on a basis calculated toward keeping the Beagle useful for both field trials and hunting purposes.”
Some one brought a guitar into work a few days ago. Several of the guys were all over it nodding and giving acceptance to the quality of the instrument. A couple even picked at the strings a time or two. I’m not much a music aficionado so I was just observing their behavior. One or two went so far as to discuss some of the ins and outs of guitar playing.
As you may have surmised, I don’t know many songs; particularly if you narrow it down to guitar songs. I did however want measure the merit of this crowd of 40 something year old rock star want to be’s. I simply ask to the guy’s one simple request, “Play Free Falling, the one Tom Petty plays.” It sounds like a guitar song to me. All of a sudden none of them were guitar players. In fact none of them even attempted to play.
What on earth could Scott is trying to say with those first two paragraphs? What does the guitar have to do with beagles and rabbit hunting? Here’s my point:
Lot of dogs appear to be rabbit dogs. They ride in a dog box; they wear a collar with someone’s name on it. Hey they even get in a group and give a rabbit down the road. If you want to find out if they are a rabbit dog, let them run it by their self!
Don’t take this too far out of context. I wouldn’t want to take away the accomplishments of a good pack of beagles for anything in the world. In fact, a good pack is what I’ll recommend to someone getting into rabbit hunting every time.
When it comes to improving the beagle or a strain of beagles, one outstanding hound is more beneficial than any number of average hounds!
Rarely will you find a quality breeder concerning himself with breeding for field trial winners. Instead, what you’ll find is they strive for the development of desirable traits at the expense of the less desirable ones. They already know if they find success in the intensification of these most profitable traits, winning will be inevitable. With faultiness minimized, the most talented prodigy from a given strain will naturally draw attention to the family.
Successful beaglers watch hounds with an eye for qualities that make the chase more successful. If the performance is good, reason dictates high quality characteristics are present. Smart hounds men understand, while faults always exists, they must be weighed against their detriment to or failure to contribute to the race. He will acknowledge that minor faults that do not interfere with the smooth progress of the race are less important that the quality traits that make the run steady.
The trophy chaser is often overcritical of the beagles, the breeders, and the sport in general. They seem to not get very much enjoyment from a hobby that should be all about having fun. They are always on the look out for the next dog, constantly changing blood lines in search of the perfection that will always allude them. Every year changing hounds and methods that scarcely suit him better than the ones he just let go. They get upset with out sport and everything about it. Being sure the game and the odds are stacked against them.
Great hounds men do not develop overnight. The same is true for a great strain of hunting beagles. It is constant and steady growth that will drive hounds men and the strains they develop further up on to solid footing.
If you look back several years in almost any of our modern gundog beagle pedigrees you will find a commonality in ancestors. Very few if any exist with out significant infusions of just a few dogs. This is true for all pedigrees this author has studied and I can tell you this is no small number. If your dogs are not registered or are “grade” dogs do not think your hounds are any different. If they are indeed pure breed beagles they will have come from this same few dogs. So why do we have such variation on modern hounds? To simply give the answer would be to rob you of the very information you seek and the satisfaction that will come from your own discovery. I will add this bit of insight, “Quality is where you find it, but once found, it is up to you whether it remains quality.”