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Why Do You Start A Beagle Club?

by John Rogers, Jr.

          I don't know the best way to start a Beagle club; but I had the good luck to have a small part in the formation of Tokeena Beagle Club of Westminster, SC. Some of what we did may be of help to some one who has plans for a club. Before you start, be prepared to work. It takes a lot of work to start a Beagle club and a lot of work to operate a club. Most of the work was done with a chain saw, pick and shovel, hammer and paint brush. I did some of the fence building, but I was lucky enough to get the job of doing the paper work.

          I guess the best place to start, would be "Why". There could be several good reasons to have a Beagle club and any reason to have a place to enjoy Beagling would be a good reason . When we started Tokeena I don't think there was a registered dog among us, and field trialing wasn't even considered.  We started as a group of hunters wanting a place to run and train our dogs in the summer months, and evolved into a Gundog Beagle Club.  Since we started Tokeena, the game laws have been changed here in South Carolina to allow for year round running of rabbits.

          We didn't think much about the fact that we were building a club that would be a place to:

  1. get together to run dogs , buy and sell and even trade dogs

  2. get together with friends to fellowship and swap tall tales over some good food

  3. learn more about Beagles and what makes them tick

  4. take a break from the rat race to clear our minds and make the world look a little less terrible

  5. leave for our sons to enjoy the sport we had loved

  6. hold field trials .

          Lee Davis and Bill Watt built a starting pen on some land that Lee owns, and several of us helped, since they allowed us to use the pen when they were not using it. This pen was good for training puppies but we would have to have more room if we were going to run our grown dogs. As we worked on their starting pen we often discussed fencing in some land that we could use for summer running. Johnny Sullivan may have been the one that gave Bill and Lee the idea for a fenced running area. Lee had some more land that was good for running except it was on a busy road. This was the "why" behind Tokeena Beagle Club to have a safe place to run year round without being fined.

          Progress is good, but it sure uses up a lot of good rabbit hunting ground.  People were moving into this area at an alarming rate and it hasn't slowed any. We were doing most of our hunting around Abbeville, SC about sixty or seventy miles away and some of the guys didn't have a good spot to run in the summer. I was luckier than some and had a good place to run. I live on the edge of a huge tract of land and I felt pretty safe running around my home. If you were not far from your house and you got caught you could at least use the,"They got out of the pen and I am trying to catch them excuse." I never had to test that excuse; but if you live in town and load your dogs and haul them out to the country it's impossible to get anyone to believe you are not pursuing game. Pursuing game is the definition of hunting according to one Wildlife Officer that I talked to.

          When you have a need, an idea and a place, the only thing left to do is build it and see if they come. Our need was a place to run from March 2nd until August 31st. Our idea was to fence in some land and get a state permit to run on it. Lee gave us a very reasonable priced lease on his land and an old farm house he has, so we had the place. We put out the word that we were building a fenced running area  and we were starting a club.

          On a Sunday afternoon in July 1989 we held our first meeting under a tree behind Lee's house close to the pen Lee and Bill kept their dogs in. The first thing we did was elect a secretary. The election of secretary went as follows: "We need somebody to write all this down, and I know I can read John's handwriting, so lets make him the secretary. "Bill said as we started. I think everyone said,"Good because I'm not doing it." "John write everything down," Bill said as he handed me a yellow legal pad he had brought with him.

          That's how I was given the office of secretary, my only qualification was, nobody else would do it. As we all know if you have something to do and you don't know how to do it, you learn by trial and error and as you get deeper into it you have to have help. As the club grew and turned into a field trial club I spent a lot of time on the phone, talking to secretaries of other clubs, the AKC, South Carolina Wildlife Department Officers, and all the Beaglers that had time to answer a few questions. I met some of the nicest people during this time and I want to thank them all. I will try to thank some of them more personally in the next part of this article that I plan to write for the May - June issue of the BEAGLES UNLIMITED Magazine.

          Next we elected James Kelly president, then Zack Bryant vice-president, and it was decided that the treasurer position would be combined with the secretary office. Along with the three officers and Bill Watt and Lee Davis were Johnny Sullivan, Mr. Gillian Couch, Zack's friend Bryan ( he wasn't a member very long ), Clyde Horton and Charles Holbrooks. After setting down a few rules we decided to use Tokeena for our name and then we set a date for an August meeting. We were all to bring all the people we could to the August meeting. Not everyone shared our enthusiasm for a club so the reaction we got was not always good. A lot of people I talked to though it was awful that we were running rabbits in a pen. It seemed unnatural to some people, to chase rabbits in a fenced area.

    Some of the reactions that I got when I asked people to join or buy raffle tickets were:

  • "That's a waste of money, it won't last."

  • "Y'all should be ashamed putting them little rabbits in a pen and chasing them with dogs."

  • "You would think grown men could find something better to do."

  • "There are rabbits everywhere, why waste money on a fence?"

  • "My dogs are too good to run in a pen like that, a rabbit wouldn't last a minute in front of them."

  • "If you ain't gonna shoot the rabbits what good is it to have them there?"

  • Just the usual stuff you hear from people making excuses to not do anything.

          When we started we had grade dogs that were judged on their ability to run a rabbit to the gun during hunting season. Running a rabbit to the gun during hunting season can be done by a dog that is not doing it right. A pack can sound good and only have a couple of good dogs and a bunch of follow the leader dogs. When we started looking at how he did it rather than just what he did, the type of dog being bred in this area improved above what we had before and they are continuing to improve. I had owned some registered dogs and I think some of the other guys had owned a registered dog or two, but not at the time we were starting the club. I think Bill Watt bought a registered female about the time we started building the starting pen. I got a puppy from her and a very good grade male, that was pretty good. Bill wasn't impressed with her and sold her and all her puppies. Like most people in this area now Bill owns nothing but registered Beagles from the top bloodlines available.  Breeding, bloodlines, field titles, conformation and running style are things considered now in all breedings.

          Along with Foothills Beagle Club, Tokeena has had a huge impact on the Beagle breed in this area. I don't have any concrete statistics; but I am sure grade dogs out numbered registered dogs in a large part of this corner of South Carolina. Now those numbers seem to be reversed.

          If you field trial come to our AKC Licensed Trial March 9th and 10th, 2001, and see if you agree that we have grown into a very good club. We  have some good knowledgeable Beaglers in our club that are always willing to talk dogs. Beside our club house we now have three well stocked fenced running areas. If you come don't worry about food because our kitchen volunteers are as good as you can find anywhere and their food proves it.

          We are located on Pine Grove Road at Tokeena Crossroads. Tokeena Crossroads is a rural area in Oconee County a few miles southeast of Westminster South Carolina. US Highway 24 goes through Tokeena Crossroads, it can be accessed from I-85, US Hwy. 11 , Anderson SC, or Westminster SC. Which ever direction you come from when you get to the middle of Tokeena, a few hundred yards from Big Al's Barbecue turn onto Pine Grove Road, the club house is on the right a few miles down the road.

Should you have a concern regarding the health of your Beagle(s), you should contact your veterinarian. All information on this site is presented solely for educational and informational purposes and should not, at any time, be considered a substitute for seeking or receiving veterinary care for your Beagle(s).