Many of you out there have probably hunted rabbits using the walk and jump method. It is similar to hunting upland game birds without a spaniel, pointer, setter, or retriever. If you are lucky enough to walk in the correct spots where rabbits are sitting in forms (nests), get them to jump and run, and then fire a well aimed shot before your game is out of sight, then you stand a good chance of getting your daily bag limit. This method requires a lot of hard, leg work and good luck on your part. Also, often you will never get a second shot at the rabbit before it is out of sight or out of range once jumped.
Now imagine going to your same favorite hunting spots with a few good gundog beagles. You simply walk the open areas or dirt pathways and let your hounds do all of the work. Good gundog beagles work independently when searching for rabbits and they search all of the likely hiding spots. Beagles will go into the heaviest brush, briars, and thickets to find and jump rabbits. Once a beagle jumps a rabbit it will let the other beagles and you know it found a scent trail by tonguing (a type of barking). The other beagles in your pack will immediately honor that beagle's find by running to its aid. Then you will have your entire pack harking away in hot pursuit as they follow the scent trail laid down by the rabbit.
This is the time for you, and any hunting companions you may have brought along, to spread out in search of a clearing or high ground to use as an observation point. Once you are situated in such a spot, stand quiet and motionless as you start visually searching for the rabbit. Rabbits run in circles once jumped and pursued. Cottontails, such as the desert cottontail will make a circle that is probably the size of an acre or less. Hares which consist of snowshoe hares, black-tailed jackrabbits, and white-tailed jackrabbits tend to run in much larger circles that may cover a mile or more. The beagles are tracking a scent trail; therefore, you need to be looking for the rabbit in all of the clearings that are ahead of the beagle. Do not look at your tonguing beagle for the rabbit since he is tonguing where the rabbit was and not where the rabbit is now.
The hunters must keep track of where the hounds are by listening to their tonguing and watching for their wagging, white-tipped tails. Also, keep track of the locations of your hunting buddies so that when you see the rabbit, you can safely make a clean shot that will not strike one of your hunting companions or the hounds.
If you shoot at the rabbit and miss your target, stay in place and the dogs will circle the rabbit back to your location again. As long as the rabbit does not go down a hole, the beagles will keep circling it around and around until you kill the rabbit or the rabbit dies from exhaustion. If you are hunting hares rather than rabbits, you do not have to worry about them going down holes, because hares will not go down holes or hide in brush piles. Hares survive by outrunning their pursuers and not by holing up.
Beagles can be hunted as individual dogs or in packs numbering up to as many as 70 hounds. One hunter can easily handle 1-5 dogs, but the more dogs used, the more hunters you should have for handling purposes. Also, the more dogs used, the greater your chances of your larger pack splitting up into many smaller packs, and running numerous rabbits at the same time. Now this can really be a lot of fun!
Beagles have the best noses for scenting of any breed of dog in the world. They can track a rabbit scent trail that is several hours old. Beagles can hunt in all types of terrain and vegetation including hills, mountains, prairies, deserts, forests, and swamps. They can track rabbits over snow, ice, and water or down a hot, dry, dusty road.
The rabbits and hares that beagles track are great game animals. They are a good size small game animal with a lot of edible meat, and are really tasty when prepared correctly. Rabbits generally get up to about 3-4 pounds in weight, while hares can get as heavy as 6-10 pounds or more. Rabbits and hares can be prepared and cooked in numerous ways and many folks like the taste of rabbit as much or more than chicken.
Beagles are by far the best in my book; but then again they are definitely my only breed of choice.