by Chuck Goodall
It was cold and gray the kind of day normal people stay home and tend the fire, just a perfect day to go hunting, I thought. My friend, Terry Copen, had a 6-month-old pup named Ruff that needed to get some fur in his mouth. Of course we took it as our solemn duty to help him achieve his goal. Up till this time Ruff had chased a few rabbits but never actually had one shot in front of him.
“I know just the place,” I told Terry. So we loaded the truck and picked up Mark Fitzwater, another dyed in the wool Beagler.
We arrived at our hot spot around noon and we hadn’t got 100 yards from the truck before Ruff started tonguing on a hot trail! It was both an exciting and anxious moment for we had no idea what, if anything, the young fellow was running. Keep in mind this was his first formal hunt and he had never been officially broken from deer, fox and other unwanted game. As it turned out, Ruff was way ahead of us. He ran that rabbit for about fifteen minutes before Terry’s double barrel barked and Ruff had his first bunny in the bag.
We were still admiring him and praising the pup when Mark yelled, “There he goes” as the second cottontail tore out of the thick brush, barely affording us a glimpse. However, once again Ruff was up to the task, lining out the trail in record time. After about twenty minutes and two or three wide circles, Marks load of high brass 6’s ended the chase.
Three of the next four bunnies came out from under a pile of trees and logs that had been bulldozed. Nothing short of a stick of dynamite or a very determined beagle could have shook them from their safe haven. One big fuzzy-tailed rascal with nerves of steel held up for about 15 minutes of Ruff barking and carrying on under there with him. He finally came unglued and blasted out of there catching Mark and myself totally off guard. Nevertheless, Terry was alert and ready, rolling him headlong in a big cloud of dust and fur.
Terry had faith that his little rabbit hound was not only barking at a rabbit but was going to ferret him out of his barricade. At times we could barely hear Ruff back in under the logs. Then he’d circle around to the other side and go in as deep as he could, barking the whole time as though he could see the rabbit, when most likely he only had a snoot full of hot bunny scent.
Now houndsmen, that was the only rabbit that didn’t get to make a complete circle. However, Ruff chased him around inside that logjam for a quarter of an hour, so I gave him credit for the run.
What a great day afield; six cottontails in the bag in three hours and we had only covered one fourth of the farm. With two rabbits apiece we decided to head back to the truck but young Ruff had other ideas. Before we knew it he was hot on the trail again, driving his quarry through a huge multi-floral thicket a couple hundred yards long and fifty or so yards wide.
I was positioned on one side; Mark and Terry the other. I saw a flash of gray and swiftly raised my 12-gauge automatic, firing twice as rapidly as I could. A few seconds later a shot rang out from the other side of the thicket and Terry yelled, “I GOT HIM!”------ I said, “WHAT DID YOU SHOOT?” He said, “THE RABBIT, WHAT DID YOU SHOOT?” “You’ll never guess,” I said ---- “A GRAY FOX.” I guess Old Bre Fox was after some “Hasenpfeffer” also. More important, Ruff was chasing Bre Rabbit, and as far as we know, never paid any attention to the fox.
(L to R) Terry Copen, the author Chuck Goodall & Mark Fitzwater --Dec. 1988 Chuck shot the fox the same time Terry shot the rabbit Ruff was running.
(L to R) Author's son, Jeremy, Ruff and Terry Copen on another great hunt with Ole' Ruff.
When the dust settled the score ended up Hunters – 7/Rabbits – 0, the best hunter being the dog. We had managed to accidentally bump out two of the cottontails ourselves; the other five were jumped by the six-month-old pup and he trailed all seven to the gun! We didn’t know it at the time, but the performance Ruff turned in that day proved to be his standard. He may not be “THE PERFECT HOUND”, but he’s the best this “Old Huntin’Fool” has had the pleasure to hunt with. With over 40 years of bustin’ brush, I’ve hunted with quite a few good dogs, and a couple of great, dogs! I’ve never known Ruff to run trash of any kind, or bark on a cold trail. When that lad barks brother you better get ready, 'cause there’s a rabbit up or about to be up and running somewhere.'
Thirteen years later these words still ring true. Ruff is still the best jump dog we’ve ever had! The old warrior may not be as fast and agile as he once was, but he still gets the job done in classic style.
Gentlemen, may ye all be so fortunate as to have at least one dog such as the likes of “Ole Ruff” in your lifetime! Amen.