by Dalton Rivers
Here in middle Georgia, we have foxes, bobcats, house cats, coyotes, and deer everywhere. It seems that about everywhere in the US, the number one “trash” problem is deer. I frequently hear and read comments by Beaglers that there is no such thing as a “deer-proof” Beagle.
I’m here to tell you that there is. You can own and hunt with deer-proof Beagles if you just put a little effort into it. I have eighteen Beagles in my kennel that have been gun hunted at least one season and not a one of them will run a deer or go with any other dog that is running one. I do have six young dogs that have been started since January 2000, and I would not bet on all of them not getting excited if they see a deer, or if they were put with a deer-runner; they would probably take up the habit.
Our deer problem is so bad here in Georgia that about every time we go rabbit hunting, we see and jump deer while the Beagles are hunting and running rabbits. Some of my older Beagles that I have used to train pups will act embarrassed about running into a deer and will look immediately as if to tell anyone that might be interested that its only “trash.” Most of the pack will simply ignore the deer and go on about the business of being a rabbit dog.
This past January, I had another Beagler telling me about a great place to rabbit hunt except there were so many deer he was afraid to hunt it with his pack. So, we immediately lined up to hunt this area with my Beagles. On a Thursday morning, five of us turned loose nine Beagles (my slow pack) at 8:00 AM. We had jumped nine rabbits and accounted for all of them by 11:45 AM. We loaded these up, had about a thirty-minute lunch break, and then turned loose eight fresh Beagles (my fast pack). At about 4:00 PM my buddy Larry Robinette, shot our last rabbit after a forty-minute chase.
We had run rabbits almost continuously, killed ten more, and accounted for all but one that was lost in a swamp. Deer signs were everywhere and every once in a while a hunter would yell, “there goes a deer.” One time a hunter was watching a logging trail right by a big swamp. The dogs were coming toward the trail, and when they were about forty yards from him he yelled “there goes two deer, they are running deer.” About that time the rabbit went across where the deer had gone; he was so busy yelling about the deer he didn’t even get a shot off at the rabbit, which was only about twenty yards from him.
Anyway, they circled the rabbit and one of the hunters got him coming back across the same trail. After we had loaded up the last of the pack, this gentleman was saying he had only had six Beagles and four of them would run deer about every time he went out. He said he was going to get rid of these four and wanted to know when I would have some pups he could buy. I also found out he doesn’t get his Beagles out until gun season starts and can’t understand why they are not well trained. Needless to say, he doesn’t need more pups. All this is to point out, you must take the time to train your Beagles rather than just turn them loose and expect them to be “deer-proof.” Neither can you avoid hunting where deer are and have “deer-proof” Beagles. I like to expose my young dogs to deer as soon as they are running good with my older dogs.
This article is intended to talk about trash breaking Beagles so I’ll tell you how I do it. It may not work for you, but maybe you might get a few new ideas.
One thing that is very important about training Beagles to do what you want is to have them people oriented from an early age. You can’t leave them in the kennel with very little human contact until it’s time to carry them into the field (say seven or eight months of age) and expect them to do what you want. If so, they are going to run wild after everything they smell and completely ignore you. If you are lucky, you might catch them after they get run down late that day, or maybe a few days later.
I have my Beagles to the point where they will respond to their name and come when called. I reinforce this when introducing them to rabbits in my 12-acre starting pen. If they are not chasing a rabbit, I expect them to come when called as I walk around them in the starting pen. If they get a little hard headed about this then I will use an electronic training collar to enforce my training commands.
I left out something I learned from an article about seven years ago. When they are eight or nine weeks old, I hang a couple of deer glands (those that come from the inside of the knees on the hind legs) about eight inches above the ground on an electrically charged wire. I usually get one of my deer hunting buddies to collect these for me and I keep them in the freezer in a plastic bag. I lay them out for a couple of hours to thaw out before using them. I use rubber gloves when handling them to keep human scent off the glands.
I do this in my work pen in front of the kennels as I have been using this to exercise them. I want it to be in a place they are not already nervous about. Most of them will immediately go up to inspect the glands by sticking their nose to it. They will get shocked and yell as they head for the back of the pen. I usually leave them there for about three hours. By that time, they are walking a wide path around the glands. I usually do this a second time in about a week and then they will head for the back of the pen as soon as they smell the glands. I don’t think this by itself will completely deer-break them, but it should help to imprint on their young minds that this is a bad scent. This along with breeding is probably why three-fourths of my dogs never show any interest in deer.
I start them in my starting pen. As soon as they begin running their own rabbit tracks, I then start carrying them out into the wild with an older dog. I never carry pups out without training collars. For example, I had five pups this past spring and three of them were ready for the outside after about six times in the starting pen.
I started taking them with electronic training collars and Mandy and Katie (who are older, slow dogs) out about three or four times a week. As the other two pups progressed, I added them in. Sometimes I would carry all seven, yet other times I would carry one older dog and on to three pups. If they opened up on a line that the older dogs were not interested in, I would apply a correction with the training collar.
The first time I saw a deer come out from where they were running; one of the pups came out on the line. I got down hard on her with the collar and to my knowledge; she has not opened on another deer. After I think they are pretty well deer-broke, I like to test them by walking them over a fresh deer line. Going into the place where I do most of my running there is a large area of older open pines. Many mornings as I go into this area I spot deer crossing the old logging road I’m on. Twice in the last month, I have stopped about thirty yards before I get to that spot, turn loose all seven Beagles including the pups with training collars, and then I walk across the line as though I am rabbit hunting. Mandy always gets nervous when she smells the deer and comes to me immediately. The pups did not try to run the deer either time, and the last time followed Mandy’s lead. I consider these deer-broke now, but will be very careful for the first year so that I don’t put them with any dogs that might run a deer.
That is why I do not usually carry a pup to a field trial until he is one and a half to two years old, and has always passed up deer. The number of Beaglers that bring dogs to field trials that aren’t deer-broke always surprises me. For about the last eight years our club has held the Georgia State Little Pack Hunt. Every year we have Beaglers from other states come to it. I don’t know if its that they don’t have deer on their running grounds or our deer just smell better, but every year we seem to lose some out of state dogs on deer chases. We have always found the dogs, but most Beaglers have had to stay over an extra day and that is aggravating.
In summary, if you begin training your Beagles on rabbits first then begin hunting in deer country, you can deer-break them. You must have control of them either with electronic training collars or be very fast on your feet. Even if you are young and fast, if you don’t use a training collar, you can very easily lose Beagles if they get on a deer and it goes straight away from you.
Deer breaking is always easier and more successful if you catch and correct your Beagles the first time or two they want to chase a deer. If they ever enjoy a long deer chase, they will be very hard to break. If you have the time, energy, and patience, Beagles can be deer-broken; but it won’t be easy.
I do believe that certain Beagle bloodlines are harder to deer-break. I did not think this until about nine years ago. I acquired four young Beagles from another strain out of North Carolina. Every one of these were much harder to deer-break than the ones I had and they were the exact same age as my older Beagle bloodline.
I realize everyone will not agree with me on everything I said, and that’s okay with me. I am just telling you what works for me. If you want good Beagles, then get them in the field. Nothing makes rabbit dogs like hours and hours and hours of rabbit tracking and rabbit hunting.