Opening Day 2001 - Pups first taste of hare!
Featured: August, 2002
Finally: Opening day 2001 has arrived in Northern NH! The two littermates that were born on September 21, 2000 were on their first full-fledged hare hunt.
The morning was cool and crisp, with a smell of success in the air. With me this day was my grandfather, Rick Miller -- affectionately known as "Gramp". I would have a total of 8 hunters joining me at camp later in the week, but the first day and a half, it would be just Gramp and me -- just how my hunting career originally began nearly 25 years ago.
The first official start of the year came fairly hard. We had many training runs at this spot over the spring and summer and never had to wait more than 15 minutes for a start. But today, it was roughly 40 minutes after we cast the pups that they hit a track. I was surprised it had taken so long, but had high expectation for this day. The pups started hammering on Mr. Hare. He made one small circle and was about halfway through a second, larger circle before we felt confident enough about his running pattern to move off the logging road and get into position. I chose the spot where they originally started the hare and Gramp chose to move up 150 yards in some scrub spruce-where he could see fairly well. About 30 minutes into the chase there was a short loss about 100 yards directly in front of me. After 20 or 30 seconds Annie, the larger pup, must have nearly stepped on the hare and had a sight chase-coming directly at me! The cover was thick, and with my heart in my throat, I never even got my double-barrel to my shoulder as the hare passed 15 feet off to my left-in overdrive. One circle and fifteen minutes later they pushed him in front of Gramp, which was a grave mistake. Two shots of #6's from his trusty, old 20 ga. pump ended the chase with a proclamation of "I got him." I arrived on the scene with my chest puffed out like my son had just won his first spelling bee; at about the same time the pups came on the dead hare. It was a new experience for them. One I had been waiting many months for; from the time I picked those two as my own at 9 weeks of age. I imagine they thought… "What the heck is this? This smelly thing has never stopped before." Both frenzied pups attempted to devour the hare whole, as I picked it up by the hind legs and dangled it over the young, newly made rabbit dogs. After a brief handshake, and a ton of praise for the 12-1/2 month-old littermates, it was off to find another hare for the two young athletes to run to the gun.
The second hare was much easier to start, and proved to be more of a track-star-running numerous circles that took the pups out of hearing. After an hour and fifteen minutes of pretty steady pressure, the hare made his final mistake-running into a charge of #6's as he crossed the logging road. This time when the pups arrived on the scene they knew what to expect. One of the pups came up to the rabbit and nearly devoured it, but the other sniffed at it a few times to make sure it wasn't able to run anymore, and headed off to find another one that was more capable of running and providing a challenge.
The remainder of the day was action-packed. After lunch we ran a couple of the older dogs, and it seemed like old hat to them. Overall it was a fabulous day. The sun was shining… there were hare to be cleaned… the dogs were tired… and for a change, the world was a peaceful place.
I couldn't help but be proud of those two pups, even though I really had very little to do with their success. Their talent was bred into them. All I did was give them the environment and ample opportunity to excel at what came natural. A Beagle is a unique and fabulous breed of dog. They can be great indoor pets, and can also run a rabbit into a coma. What other dog can do that? It's a great deal for us humans, really. We give them our spare time… and in exchange, they give us their all, and numerous great days in the field.
Some folks live for field trials, and some folks (like me) live for hunting. To each his own, but in my opinion hunting is the beagle breed's "Super Bowl". Field trials are nice in the off-season, but running rabbits or hare to the gun is what beagles are meant to do. I love to eat fried rabbit. Fried ribbons don't taste as good.
Enjoy your hounds, be well, and may God Bless America.