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Cashing The Check

by Robert L. Mason

In the vernacular of houndsmen and hunters, there are a number of quaint expressions to convey the efforts of Beagles to recover the line after a momentary interruption of the chase. Whether we refer to it as searching the line, working a bother, or finding a lose, we're essentially talking about the same thing.

In my book, The Ultimate Beagle: The Natural-Born Rabbit Dog, I lauded some of the true superhounds I've known for their mastery at cashing the check. I've seen a number of fine hounds down through the years, but none was better at solving briarpatch mysteries than the great Brownie and my own Empress Red. Haints, in the truest sense of the term, they were unrelenting in pursuit, and a rabbit just couldn't fool them.

Many a time, I've heard my dear friend, Eld. Willie Jones recount the events of his first campaign with Brownie. It was during the hunting season and the sub-13-inch Brownie found herself locked in a duel with a leggy 15-incher, known as "Bad Sam."

Nor was Bad Sam merely a moniker, for "Sam." according to Preacher Jones, "was bad." Swift of foot and with a nose to back it up, Sam had apparently gunned down some highly regarded hounds over the years. Yet running in his prime, his trailing speed harked back to that of the legendary hounds of old.

But, in Brownie, Bad Sam was facing the legend, herself--a natural-born, rabbit-shagging machine, whose excellence bracketed every phrase of hunting-hound performance. And Brownie was poised, not only to claim the bragging rights of that day, but to usher in the era of her absolute dominion.

Shortly, after the hunting party took to the field, Brownie struck along the edge of a small thicket. The rabbit flashed right past Bad Sam, enabling him to steal the lead. In full cry, the two hounds were off with Bad Sam running far out front. Anxiously, the hunters waited, nervously fingering their safeties as they strained their ears to understand the story of a chase that twisted, turned and ran, at times, almost beyond the point of hearing. Suddenly, the music died, but just about the time the hunters had convinced themselves that the rabbit had taken a hole, the chase started up again. But this time it was the throaty shrieks of Brownie that came slicing across the weed field, and it was Brownie, running alone, who brought the rabbit to the gun.

Throughout the remainder of the day, it was Brownie starting most of the game, with Brownie and Bad Sam frequently alternating in their work at the head of the drive. However, on virtually every check, it was Brownie who solved the mystery and brought the rabbit home.

For the hunter, the check represents one of the most critical moments of the chase. At that juncture, the quarry, fully realizing that it is in grave danger, is making every effort to elude pursuit.

Hounds vary widely in their attempts to work a check. Some hounds, for reasons known only to themselves, seem unable to resist some biological urge to return for long intervals to the last point of contact, for long, frantic snorts at an evaporating scent. Other Beagles will work backwards along the line--double checking their work. A few, chronic backtrailers, will even open up and run the trail in the opposite direction, while some will race wildly in every conceivable direction--searching hit-or-miss for the line.

The great hounds are more methodical, yet they never forsake the resource of superior intelligence in their attempts to reestablish the line. For just as great hounds often run with their heads held high, taking scent directly from the air, the searching hound will often analyze the wind to determine if the quarry escaped in that direction. Some Beagles search in an ever-widening spiral, anchored to the last-scent point of the line, while others roughly "cross" the area, connecting the points of the compass.

Of course, every check in every chase poses different problems for pursuing hounds, and often enough a Beagle must rely on every resource of instinct, experience and hunting desire, to prevent the chase from coming to an abortive end.

The search method I prefer is the one that most effectively and expeditiously relocates the scent and reignites the drive. The great hounds have a knack for cashing the check, and what a joy it is to hunt over hounds of that caliber!

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).