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The "Haint"

by Robert  Mason     
        Among the convoluted, colloquial renderings of my rural Kentucky, there are a number of quaint expressions signifying the highest level of excellence in a rabbit Beagle. The term "natural-born rabbit dog," one of the oldest and the subtitle of my book, has long served to extol the hunting and trailing wizardry of the best of the best of the breed.

          "Haint" or hant, a derivative of haunt, is an appellation of more recent vintage. It is also generally descriptive of absolute excellence afield. More particularly, "haint" conjures up all that is mystical and sorceress in those scent-hounds possessing the death-grip of virtually unshakable pursuit.

          I recall the first time that I heard the term applied to my Empress Red, the little 13-inch bitch I was privileged to own for 13 years. She earned that title the first hunt of the first season I campaigned her in my home region of western Kentucky. Still, the first time I called her that was during a memorable hunt with my dear friend, Garrett Humphrey.

          We were working our way to the back of an old farmstead where a weed-choked section of bottomland nestled snugly between a small, nameless creek and a sprawling expanse of woods. Behind us stretched the tracks of L & N Railroad's old "Texas" Division where we had already harvested a couple of rabbits from the overgrowth along the right-of-way and a triangular field, just beyond the tracks.

          Working our way along the remnants of a fencerow that divided two huge cornfields, long since shorn of their crops, we carefully studied the body language of our increasingly animated hounds.

          Pausing along the edge of the shallow creek, we hissed our hounds into the weedy lowland, adjacent to the woods. Not a whisper of breeze was stirring, and the bottom's air had a dankness about it that promised ideal scenting conditions yet prophesized the presence of deer.

          Suddenly, Red struck! Straight ahead and some 20 yards in, she opened and went tearing off, circling towards the right. Almost 20 yards to the left of where the chase began, I could see the weed tops dancing where Garrett's big 15-inch dogs were racing to join my little bitch. But joining her would be no simple proposition, for she was driving just as hard as she could run--and she could run.

          "She's running a deer!" Garrett shouted over his shoulder--a hybrid remark, half question and half declaration. At the time, Garrett had not become thoroughly convinced that The Empress didn't run trash. I didn't bother answering; retreating on the run, I hastened to cover the cornfield to our right.

          Even as I turned to race back towards the old farmstead, I could hear the chase turning that way. Angling across the bottom, to intercept the chase, the other hounds pulled hard to get there and lend their support. Running a deer? She was running a rabbit for its dear life!

          Halting along the northeast edge of the cornfield, breathless from exertion, I riveted my eyes on the tree line, 100 yards away. "Haint!" I said aloud, as Red's knife-edged cries came slicing through the bottom.

          Suddenly, out across the stubbled plane of the cornfield poured the rabbit, its belly brushing the ground with each exaggerated stride. Unable to shake The Red, the rabbit had forsaken the haunted bottom, apparently intent on distancing itself from pursuit and gaining the safety of a hole, along the tracks.

          Standing motionless along the edge of the open field, I watched as the cottontail weaved his way, finally coming within my range. Shouldering my shotgun, I took a healthy lead and pulled the trigger, letting the streaking rabbit run right into the pattern.

          Recharging my magazine and walking over to where the rabbit lay, I observed my Red as she tore across the cornfield, marking the line with the accuracy of a laser. "Haint." I said softly as she ended her pursuit, sniffing and licking the form of the hapless rabbit.

          From the jump to the kill, the chase covered a quarter mile or so, and over the distance, the other hounds had been unable to join and support the chase. There were, of course, many other races during the day, in which the hounds combined effectively in driving their quarry to Garrett's gun or mine. Each hound must be able to jump and trail his own rabbit, and the truly great ones need no help at all.

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).