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The Freshman Class

by Robert L. Mason
          Caught up in the thrill of the chase and the thunder of guns, most hunters have woefully little time to work novice hounds during the course of the season.  The occasional short trip or "training" hunt that permits participation of green, unstarted hounds is a rare enough luxury until the guns fall silent at the season's end.
       Yet, however brief or infrequent those trips, the benefits weigh heavily in the favor of young Beagles and the development of the next generation of rabbit hounds.   Sure, young hounds playing around the feet of the hunters are going to turn an occasional rabbit and spoil a few potential kills.  But each trip to the field under real-world hunting conditions offers enormous advantages to young Beagles.
          The clamor of the pack, the thunder of the guns and the excited whoops and yells of the hunters, are vital parts of the general curriculum a young hound must master just to enroll in his freshman year at the Rabbit Shagging University.  Add to these teaching aids the benefit a young hound gains from being able to finish off an occasional kill, and it's easy to see that the gun-hunting season affords the ideal field environment for enhancing a young hound's education.
          Whether a houndsman employs a starter pen or other strategies for providing his young charges with a head-start advantage, it is important that he maximize their exposure to actual hunting conditions.  And at no other time than hunting season does the flora and fauna conspire so completely to create ideal conditions for the scent hunters.
          For obvious reasons, the weeks immediately preceding and following the gun-hunting season afford conditions that most closely parallel those of the hunting season.  For that reason, immediately upon the close of the season, I favor accelerated training for all novice hounds.
          That is not to suggest that regular field trips, taken at other times throughout the year, are not beneficial.  However, the spring green-up, with its attendant profusion of plant and animal scents, creates unique challenges for young Beagles.  Indeed, the spring explosion of rabbit populations and the reduced scent signatures of young rabbits and nesting females make for trailing conditions that even experienced hounds may find daunting.
          There's so much for the little guys to learn, and searching cover, finding game and driving it to the gun are only parts of the educational process.  The novice must learn how to quickly overcome fences and other field obstructions; he must also learn what creatures are to be pursued and which are to be left alone.
          On a recent trip to the field with three of my young pups, a deer jumped up right in front of the pups.  To my relief and delight, the pups took nothing more than a curious sniff at the fleeing deer, and my partner and I quickly called them away.  Despite our failure to jump a single rabbit, I went home overjoyed that my young hounds had learned an important lesson and passed a significant test along the road to their freshman season.

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).