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How It All Got Started

by Mark Neal


          The following is a true account of how I got interested and started in rabbit hunting as a boy. I hope it will bring back memories of the first time you witnessed a good rabbit dog in action…

          I was 15 years old the first time I ever hunted rabbits with a dog. I had been jump shooting rabbits in the cold winter Ohio weather since the age of 10 and looked forward each year to hunting with my father and his brothers. My great uncle Bug Smith invited me after church one Sunday to come hunting with him the following Monday. He explained that his dogs needed the work and that he did not have the stamina to hunt all day because of his age. I asked him about a hundred questions about hunting over hounds and he calmly told me that he would show me how it worked on Monday.

          Back then…In the early 80's, it was illegal to start hunting until 9:00 a.m. I showed up at his house at about 7:30 and enjoyed a big breakfast with he and my aunt. After breakfast we went out and he showed me his two hounds…Jack and Jill. They were two tri-colors that I later found out were littermates from his unregistered bloodline. He informed me that he had owned Beagles since he was a young boy in Kentucky.

          I was a little bit surprised when he asked me to put my shotgun back in the barn as it would not be needed. He then informed me that a 12 gauge pump took all the sport out of rabbit hunting and that we would be using his old single shot Model 37 .410. After a reminder from him about not shooting his hounds, he turned them loose in a fence row behind his farm.

          It was not long until I heard the female baying like she had seen a ghost. Uncle Bug told me to walk to the spot where the hounds had struck the scent and stand quietly. As the dogs traveled away from me, Uncle Bug took out a plug of tobacco and calmly put in a chew. He offered me a pull but I politely declined knowing that my mother would have had a heart attack.

          Uncle Bug instructed me to stand quietly as we heard the dogs turn toward us both of them barking like they had treed something. He told me in a whisper that the rabbit would usually be about 50 to 100 feet in front of the dogs. Sure enough, a few minutes later I saw the cottontail cautiously moving down the fencerow. I had expected the rabbit to be on a full run based on the sound of the hounds.

          I immediately understood why the 12 gauge would not be necessary. Bug handed me a shell from the pocket of his bib overalls and I quickly made the kill. He praised the dogs heartily and I was hooked. We killed three more rabbits before noon that day and I have not jump shot a rabbit since.

          Uncle Bug gave me a pup later that year that I named Babe. Babe was the first dog I ever started and I have started about thirty more since then. Bug is still alive but no longer able to hunt. I still stop by every hunting season and take a few bunnies off of his property. He likes to sit on the back porch in his rocking chair and listen to my hounds while he enjoys a chew of tobacco.

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).