Tuesday, February 26, 2008

My good friend Ronald Phillips calls a few weeks ago wanting to go rabbit huting in Mississippi. He knows my wife is nine months pregnant and there is no chance I can be gone for three days hunting. That doesn't stop him form asking to borrow a few dogs. :) Seriously, Ronald has some really nice young Star dogs and I ask him to write me a story. It sounds great. I can't wait to go next year:

Hunting Trip in Mississippi
By: Ronald Phillips

I got invited on a rabbit hunting trip to Mississippi to provide the beagles. We hunted two miles northeast of Brooksville, Mississippi. We arrived on Thursday afternoon in a rain storm with lightning. After the storm passed, we turned out some beagles for an hour to have some fun. We harvested three rabbits in that short period, but the dogs had a little trouble in the water. Water does not run off on the flat ground of Mississippi like other places. Also, I learned that running rabbits on alkaline Okolona silty clay soil might be a little different. We were hunting a little different terrain from hunting in Georgia. A man could hunt 6 beagles for a week and never get them scratched up. They don’t have the briars that grow in Georgia. Only the thickest briars in Georgia will have a rabbit. The dogs could not account for a couple of rabbits which was not acceptable to me. You have to account for your rabbits in Georgia because you might walk a few hours to find another one. Thankfully, they were more abundant on this day.

On Friday, we had five rabbits at lunch with four hunters. We consumed the normal pork and beans and changed out the dogs (not needed due to lack of briars). At the end of the day, we had accounted for 14 rabbits. I thought that we had an excellent day. The country store was the gathering place for locals and hunters in the morning. I learned from an older gentleman ( in his early 60’s) whom was a beagler that morning: running rabbits had been very difficult for the past few weeks, his male won a trial and then the next time he got a third because field trials are all political, and you need to get rid of all your young dogs because they can’t run a rabbit.

On Saturday morning, the same crowd plus some new beaglers and fox (coyote) hunters were gathering up for the daily events. I learned from the beaglers that the average was 12 rabbits harvested a day. I was a little ashamed of our 14 at this point. We only had three hunters for the day, so we were going to have to do a little better than we did on Friday. We hunted for four and half hours and had 13 rabbits harvested. We decided at this point to clean rabbits and head back to Georgia. We had 30 rabbits in the cooler and that would be enough for fried rabbit.

Would like to say, “Thank you” to Andy Brady for the fine rabbit hunts that he provided us this year. He can find the good places from Georgia to Mississippi. Take your truck because his likes to break down in Birmingham, Alabama and makes for a late night and long wrecker ride.

rabbits don’t run as small a circle in the more open cover
rabbits don’t stay in the weeds and fields, they immediately head for cedar trees and big woods up and down drainage ditches
rabbits don’t slow down to slip and slide, they just try to put a large distance between themselves and dogs, they will double occasionally
harvesting 12 rabbits in Mississippi is easier than harvesting 4 in Georgia
Okolona silty clay loam soil makes you taller as you cross the field and don’t wash off your truck
as many dead coyotes on side of road as deer and rabbits in Georgia
the alkaline soil must produce as many rabbits as volunteer cedar trees
you can show your dogs in a show immediately following the rabbit hunt because they want have the cuts from briars
don’t need a “jump dog” or as hard a hunting beagle
go to Mississippi to get a cooler full of rabbits to fry
Cottontails are everywhere
No blue tails
where are the big swamp rabbits????? They got the water for them

This was my first experience trailing rabbits in Mississippi, but I will return again if God willing. I had hunting experiences in Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, and Maryland; but this one will be remembered. Take a hunting trip to Mississippi and enjoy the golf course type hunting for a few days.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Well, My wife Amy is still tuffing it out. Our son Mason is due to be born any day but.....I hope he gets here soon. I can't get very far away from the house until she's delivered and all is well. I'd love to get one more day of huning in. In the mean time here is a picture sent from my friend Tony Martin of one of his Star pups over a pile of Swamp rabbits they harvested. Don't they look huge...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A note to judges:
This is not the place or time to try and make you read the rule book. You've read it. You know what it says (although a refresher may help many of us.) I just wanted to talk to you about how to place weight on a hound actions. Good or bad. It's vitally important for you to determine what effect the hounds actions are having on the race.
It would indeed be short sighted to quickly pick up a top performing hound with things that don't detriment your race. Like wise you should never credit a hound with score accomplished with some type of gambling type action. Running hit and miss or bounding off at the checks should never be tolerated. Dogs with these faults should be eliminated as soon as you determine the action is indeed a habit or method the hound uses. A single time of being out of place is not a habit! The other thing I see is the advancement of dogs who do not have quality performances. Simply not being faulty, and picking a check or two should not guarantee advancement into second series. Judges, you should insure every dog you bring back to second series can indeed run a rabbit. Even if that means running the pack down to one dog and watching him run for a few minutes. Most competitors will understand this and look forward to their hound getting a chance to display his qualities. If the dogs is unable to run satisfactorily by himself he should not be advanced. The handler will understand if he is a hounds man.

Here are some example I have seen or heard of dogs being eliminated for that don't seem to hurt the race: In these example Dog B will get picked up.When a dog A strikes the track of jumps the rabbit, dog B tongues with excitement as he harks to dogs A's location. Dog B gets picked up four being mouthy.
At a check in and around a small briar thicket and all the dogs are searching. Dog A picks up the check and drives into the briar thicket, Dog B is already forward and off to the side of the thicket searching and meets dog A as he emerges out the other side of the thicket. Dog B is eliminated for skirting.
The pack is driving and a dog back in the pack pops out off the track. He stays out for a couple seconds and them pops back in the pack in roughly the same relative position. The dog get's eliminated for "getting out."
The dogs are running good with dogs A and B both doing the majority of the scoring. A long check arises and after 2 minutes dog B opens exactly at the point of loss as he hunts back across the check area. Dog B gets picked up for being mouthy.
Now these are things I pulled off the top of my head but I want to point out these things probably were not hindering the race.

Here a some reasons that should get a dog eliminated: In these example dog B will get picked up and assuming first series in a reasonably large trial.The pack is driving hard. Dogs A and B are in the front racing. All of a sudden dogs start pulling up as dog B continues tonguing another 50 feet. The dogs work back where dog A finds the loss and the pack is off. Dog B races to the front in an attempt to run the lead. Again, dogs start pulling up and we find Dog A and dog B 50 feet past where the rabbit turned. Dog B should be eliminated for racing and over running.
The pack is running smoothly with little down time. Naturally there are checks but most are solved in 5 - 10 seconds. A hard check arises and 20 seconds later we here dog B 100 feet out with a rabbit track. The dogs hark to him and the race is on. More good running with several different dogs running the front and solving checks. Another long check and in less than a minute we again here dog B over the hill with a rabbit. Dog B should be eliminated for lack of patience and bounding off.
The pack is running and come to a check. Dog B indicates he solved the check by tonguing and pulling all the dogs to him. After they get to him he stops barking and continues hunting. The check is finally solved and the dogs are off again. Dog B repeats the same process of tonguing where no rabbit can be found. Dog B should be eliminated.
You've been struggling with this pack and have picked up several faulty dogs. You are down to three dogs and are not running very well. Dog C starts giving extra mouth and you pick him up. Now you are down to dogs A and B. Dog A is getting most of the work and dog B is really nor scoring. Dog B should be eliminated.

There are so many variable it is nearly impossible to simply put every scenario on paper. You really need to follow a lot of dogs. Develop an eye for what hurts a race and what has little effect. Let the little thing decide between successful performers. You shouldn't start a race looking for reason to "pick up" dogs. Look for good things the dogs do to contribute to the race. You will have plenty of time to eliminate dogs as your scoring goes along.
I wonder why so many people have a hard time understanding our sport? They really do. Even folks who have been at it for a long time really don't always get it. They like to spout the reason their dogs don’t do well is because "all the clubs" in that area are too conservative, or any number of excuses. I guess it helps them feel better about what they are doing. The fact is they shouldn't need to justify their dogs or breeding program to anyone but their self. They should enjoy them. They got into beagles to have fun. Wonder why they spend all their time complaining? Still others have their dogs and are completely kennel blind to everything else. They have their dogs and they run just fine for them. That's great and is as it should be. They loose all credibility when they start downplaying others dogs or the dogs that do well in field trials. The fact is this type person is simply kennel blind. They will never move forward with bettering the breed until they pull off their blinders. Of course bettering the breed is not why they stay involved in the sport. They have a few dog they love a lot (and that's great) and they insist they must be field champions. No matter the dogs don't fit the judging standard.
The judging standard is another topic. The reason the founders of this sport way back in the 1890 created a standard was to give breeders and exhibitors something to shoot for. These standards are not mandatory for the hound to suffice rabbit hunting, although a rabbit hunter will definitely appreciate the hound that gets close to this standard. In fact, the closer to the standard the hound, the more enjoyable he will be to hunt with. The truth is, the perfect hound has not been found yet. One that has every aspect. Hunt's hard and finds every rabbit, pours his tongue rapidly with the loudest of sweet notes, keeps the rabbit tracks between his legs at all times, and overtakes the rabbit in short order as his strength and endurance is much greater than the rabbits. Of course these are just four traits I mention and a hound is made up of many more variable than these.
The Bass Masters tournament is in our town this week. I understand they are fishing for over half a million dollars. Have you ever seen this fishing tournament deal? The fishermen all spend the day fishing and see who gets the most fish by total weight. They have to use imitation lures and try to catch the bass.
They all know they could do better with other means of catching fish. Live bait, explosives????? The thing is, they have rules and have to fish using those rules. Just like we compete in a field trial under rules. The hound that leaves the point of loose with out first searching close in hopes of finding the track quicker is simply not following the rules. Just like the fisherman who does not follow the rules, this hound should not be allowed to win (assuming there are other successful performers.) Maybe you can think of some other examples that would apply.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Left to right. Queen of Five Forks, Bell Star of Five Forks, Five Forks Lady Byrd, FC Tate's Yogi. Four outstanding Star pups.

I had a chance to visit my friend Mike Newman of Lincolnton, Georgia today. It was hot but we had a good time. Mike has some really nice Star dogs and knows a little something about rabbit hunting. This was also the first time I got to take FC Tate's Yogi rabbit hunting. Ken has taken him a time or two here close and shot a few each time but this was his first time in a giant pine thicket of pure briars. Needless to say, he is all that I thought he was. You just can't beat superior genetics.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Field trials Defined

Have you been thinking of taking your beagle to a field trial? You've seen all these ads for trials but are not sure which ones are for you? What do all the different formats mean. I thought I'd make a quick run through of the types of trials that could be available for you to enter. There's a good article on attending your first field trial that you probably need to read before getting ready to go. I'm going to try and do my best to explain the different trials.
Some things are command to all formats and other things are different. Let me first mention some things that are common to all the formats discussed here. Beagles are divided up into four classes. 13" and 15" dogs and 13" and 15" bitches. Each class is assigned two judges. Game for all beagle field trials is rabbit or hare. Game is never released in front of the hounds and is found in it's natural habitat or semi natural habitat of beagles clubs where the ground is "farmed" or specially cared for to enhance the game population. The AKC publishes a booklet detailing all the rules and regulations. I would advise reading through this book as a top priority if you are interested in competing in a field trial
Brace Trials (traditional)
The first types of field trials held in the U.S. were run in the brace format. You may see these simply called brace trials or referred to as traditional brace trials. At a brace trials entry's are split into braces or pairs for head to head competition. The two judges follow each brace and agree on how to score each hound. After all braces are ran, the judges determine which dogs had the highest performance and call those dogs back for a second series. The second series is divided up into braces again. The judges run these dogs in a modified tournament type format until they derive at a winner.
Large pack on Hare
Another type of field trial is called Large pack or Large pack on hare. Almost all of these trials are held in the northern most part of the country. The game is nearly always the Snow Shoe hare. In this format the entire class of hounds is released and ran for several hours. The judges do their best to view the hound work and score dogs according to their ability and contributions to the chase. I have no personal experience with this type of trial so I can offer very little input.
Small Pack
The Small pack format was authored by John Landrum of Skull fork fame and adopted by the AKC in 1957. In this format hounds are divided up into packs of 4 to 7 dogs and judged. After all the pack are evaluated, the judges bring back the ones they scored the highest to compete in a second series. Additional series' are held until the judges have reduced the number of hound to 5 - 7. This final group is called the winners pack. Judges choose the top dog from the winners pack to be the field trial winner. This small pack format was a better test for a hunting dog as most rabbit hunters hunted their dogs in small packs. These small packs naturally trailed a rabbit faster than just two dogs and put more pressure on the hounds. Faults that are not evident in the brace format are more easily seen in this format.
Small Pack Option
In the 70's beaglers and rabbit hunters began a movement to find a method to compete and evaluate their hunting dogs. After several years of working on this it was finally decided to use the same rules as Small Pack (listed above) but with a few exceptions. Hounds would be cast to search for game and would be tested for gun shyness. Today most field trailers' who also rabbit hunt compete in this format. You will hear this format referred to as SPO.
Gun Dog Brace
In the 90's their was a strong up rush of gundog folks wanting to run in the brace format. These trials late became known as Gun dog brace. They run under the same rules as Brace (listed above) but hounds are cast to search for game and tested for gun shyness.
More History
Originally, beagle owners competed with the same hounds they rabbit hunted with. As time progress more and more importance was placed on trailing accuracy until nearly all ability to circle the rabbit for a gun shot was lost. Small Pack trials normally run the same type of hounds as traditional brace trials. The inability to account for game disenfranchised most rabbit hunters and led to a steady decrease in field trial entries. The decline in entries worsened up until the time SPO trials gained popularity.

Scott Wilson

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Rabbit hunt on Feb 2nd. It was a hot day but we had a good time.