John's Journal...


Choosing Good Rabbit Dogs

Editor’s Note: Rabbit hunting comes in several variations, but all of them are fun. Here's how to score, using the various tried-and-true methods.

Most rabbit hunting purists are staunch beagle-hound men and not without justification. The beagle is the world-renowned rabbit dog. I know that bassets and daschunds are also Click to enlargeknown to be good rabbit chasers, but most hunters don't take these two breeds seriously. As for me, any dog that will stay on a rabbit's track, not run other critters, and bring a rabbit full circle is a good rabbit dog. However, there are three schools of thought on what makes a good pack of beagle hounds.

"I like to have one good jump dog and three to four pack dogs," George Armstrong explains. "I like to hunt one rabbit at a time, and I enjoy hearing the dogs run the track. I believe that having more than one race at a time going on detracts from the hunt and messes up the dogs' ability to stay on one track. I won't keep a dog in my pack that will run deer or other game. I'm not quite as staunch a rabbit hunter as Armstrong," Eddie Childers observes. "Although I don't like for my hounds to run other game, as long as they don't stay Click to enlargeaway for long and don't take the whole pack with them, I can live with the problem. I have some good dogs that run rabbits most of the time. Others of the beagles will run their own rabbits, while some of the dogs are pack dogs. Occasionally, when they make a mistake and run other game, I correct them. But I don't think that an occasional mistake warrants my eliminating them from the pack. I am not a hound purist. If the dogs want to pack, then that's all right with me. If two or three of them decide to run their own rabbits, that's OK, too. I Click to enlargejust love my dogs and love to hunt rabbits with them."

Mel Stewart is a field-trialing/gun dog specialist who wants every dog in his pack to be able to run its own rabbit. "As a matter of fact, each time a pup becomes the leader of the pack and starts jumping its own rabbit, I remove the puppy leader from that pack and put it with a pack of leader dogs," Stuart comments. "If the last few pups in the original pack fail to become leaders, then I get rid of them. I want every one of my beagles to be jump dogs. I want my dogs to locate all of the rabbits they can find in an area and not to rely on each other. My leader dogs will pack as long as there is only one rabbit to run. But if they crossClick to enlarge another rabbit's trail, I want at least one dog in the pack to take the initiative to find the second rabbit on its own. I don't permit my pack to run other game. I believe the tendency to do this can be bred into a pack or out of a pack. And the key word here is 'tendency.' I try to breed only dogs that have demonstrated the tendency not to run anything but rabbits. Now this is not to say that in the early stages of their training, young dogs won't run other game. But, usually less correction is needed than if they have a bloodline that has the tendency to run trash. I want each beagle in my pack to be straight and independent. I like to hunt all leader dogs when I'm trying to find rabbits." Although I have hunted with packs of beagles from all three categories of dogs, I must admit that I prefer the excitement of having several races going at once, not having to chase dogs that take off after other game and seeing several rabbits hop out of the same briar patch at once.


Check back each day this week for more.

Day 1: Learning Where to Find Rabbits
Day 2: Choosing Good Rabbit Dogs
Day 3: Deciding On a Rabbit Gun
Day 4: Selecting Clothes for Rabbit Hunting
Day 5: Cooking Rabbits



Entry 340, Day 2