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Dave Fisher - The Rabbit Guy

by Vickie Lamb

"I’d Rather be Rabbit Hunting" is the name of one of Dave Fisher's books, and it aptly describes the man, known by many as The Rabbit Guy from Pennsylvania. Dave operates LinDavid Productions with his wife, Linda, and has also written "Beagles vs. Cottontails." Also available are an interesting collection of hunting videos.

What makes The Rabbit Guy tick? What drives him to follow his Beagles in pursuit of rabbits? Dave says that he started with his beloved breed because he simply loved to hunt rabbits. He has been hunting them for 35 years, 25 of those years seriously, and thrills to the sound of the chase. He realized very early in his rabbit hunting career that in order to be successful he was going to need dogs — good ones- — hence, Beagles.

We talked about rabbit hunting and Beagles collectively. What does it take to make a good Beagle? Dave thought momentarily, then said, "Well, we’re starting out with a tough question, but I have to say desire. I have some dogs that are not that great, and do not really have the tools they need to make great rabbit hounds, but they have desire, they bite at the wire and cry when you approach the pens, and they want to hunt more than eat. They give you 100% plus in the field. How can you ask for anything else?" He paused. "Besides desire, a mild-mannered personality, some brains to know what’s happening in life, and just a general attitude to want to "please their master" ... these qualities make a good hound."

Dave then stated that he does not have a set method for starting young dogs, as each one is an individual. He continued, "Some start very easy and some don’t. I have about an acre fenced in and I place wild rabbits and tame ones in there. This is plenty of space for a little Beagle pup. As I mentioned, some start really easy and these I work with out in the fields. Also, I run pups behind an older experienced dog, or sometimes even a pup that is further along than the one just starting. A lot of this has to do with the personality of the young pup."

What age are we talking about with these youngsters? I wanted to know.

Immediately, Dave responded. "Beagles are usually ready for some early training at four or five months. Leash breaking and things like that can come earlier ... but it’s always a good idea to give a pup time to have a ‘childhood’. They need to play, drag things around and get some of the puppy out of them before they are thrown into training."

At this point I interrupted and asked whether Dave thought that the human/canine bond and subsequent binding process was important, and he answered, "This also gives the pup time to bind with its master and trainer. And, individual pups start sooner or later than their litter mates. Another thing. The more attention you give to a dog, the better he is. I try to limit my training to four or five, then narrow this down as the cream comes to the top. As time goes by I want to devote more attention to one or two pups."

Dave, when do you bring the Remote Trainer into the picture and how does it fit into your training program?

Thoughtfully, Dave went on. "I use the collars. You must break the puppy in gently with the collars, see how he's going to react. I use them to instill discipline, and of course for keeping them off trash. This must be a broken record, but every dog is different. Some take to the training collars very easily and well ... others don’t. If I have one that will not accept the collar, I resort to milder, traditional methods or I get rid of the dog.

"The age that I first introduce the electric collar varies. As early as it (pup) will tolerate this very new stimulation. During the first year the new recruit will almost always have a training collar on while afield. The training collars have generally changed my entire way of hunting. Now, when I go afield, two or three of my dogs will be wearing collars. I may switch them around as we hunt, but it is very comforting to know you have ‘total control’ of the pack should something go awry ... such as a crazy rabbit goes streaking for a busy highway a half mile away! It’s nice to have that control at your fingertips."

Knowing that trash breaking was usually necessary with coon hounds, I was curious as to whether Dave incorporated this procedure into his training method.

"Vickie, in my whole life I’ve only owned one dog that I considered ‘Trash Proof’ — and that was a dog that is still with me — Little Ralphie. He absolutely never looked at anything other than a rabbit track. I feel that any dog will run off game when the situation presents itself, especially when they are young. And I don’t believe the ads I see — ‘Trash Proof’ — there is no such thing. Again it depends on the dog, but yes, you must watch and work with them closely. The first season is critical. When I’m training a new pup, it’s probably going to be wearing a Remote Trainer 90% of the time, until I think I can trust it, and it’s been exposed to a lot of rabbit tracks."

When does a Beagle come into his/her prime? Dave feels that the absolute peak for a Beagle is about three years of age. "What I mean is, it will rarely ever get any better than it is at this point," he clarified. "It may improve slightly, with experience and a lot of hunts under its collar, but at three it will probably be all that it can be. Years three to five are the best hunting years for most hounds. At about six or seven you will see the Beagle slowing down, and it can no longer keep up with younger members of the pack. At ten they are usually finished, and I almost never get any more years out of them than ten."

Dave went on to say that he felt that good food and exercise were important in maintaining the working Beagle, just as those things are important for a person. He does most of his own veterinary care, after a lifetime of experience. Nothing, to him, spoils a good Beagle like inactivity.

"When do you make a determination that a dog is a good one?"

Dave gave a low laugh, and remarked, "This question is like asking: What is the meaning of life? Every dog is different. I know I’ve said that before. Some are slow starters while others come along quickly. Some of my best dogs ever were very slow starters, so you have to give them a chance. However, at some point in time you have to make a decision — do I want to keep working with this dog, or go on to another? Somewhere at about a year and a half this will no doubt come up, with some, a lot sooner. Some dogs will have to be destroyed ... and you can’t wait forever."

Knowing that Dave had hunted in many states over the years, and had spent a good bit of time in Michigan on Beaver Island and Drummond Island, I asked him what hunting in so many places has meant to him, over the years, and at this point in his life. In a very retrospective tone, he continued, "It (hunting) has been so intertwined in my life, I cannot separate it from day to day life. And I can’t ever imagine not doing it, but my body is not what it used to be. The only regret I have about hunting is how much time it has taken away from my devotion to the Lord, and other things. There is no doubt that it has been an obsession with me at different times in my life. I have also been very successful while hunting, and I know the Lord has smiled on me more than once. I also feel that with civilization — building, road construction, and just general anti-hunting mood increasing — I have seen the best years hunting has to offer. I see the changes every year. Thankfully, I was around through the ’70's, ’80's, and early ’90’s, for it was a great time to be hunting.

"You know, Vickie, I have always been just a rabbit hunter. And I feel that there are a lot of us out there that have a few good dogs and keep the sport alive. You hear about the guy who paid thousands of dollars for a Champion; well, for every one of those, there are thousands of ‘just rabbit hunters,’ breeding Beagles in the back yard that can run down a rabbit! That you never hear about. These guys have a lot to do with keeping the sport alive, buying Remote Trainers, licenses, dog food, and ... remember them." His voice trailed off.

"I have had very little trialing experience," he resumed, "mostly because I never owned the type of dogs needed to win. It’s a different type of game. I have some excellent rabbit hounds, but they won’t win a point at a trial. You wonder? I am, however, searching and breeding for the trial type scenario and want to get involved in this somewhat. And, the main trial season used to be from late summer to early November, but there are so many now that trials are literally held year-round somewhere."

We began talking about dogs, dogs, dogs in general, sharing stories about Beagles, coonhounds, and retrievers. Dave talked about the thrill he felt when he witnessed and heard the chorus of a pack of Beagles working as one to get the job done. And Dave said, "It is hard to express how much love and enjoyment these dogs have given me. When my dog Lightning was lost in Michigan for nine days, I hardly slept or ate, and I drove over 1,800 miles to recover her. Some people could care less about their dogs; they are simply tools to kill things. But, most folks aren’t like that. Mine (dogs) are a lot more. Well, you know, Vickie, what I mean. Only another dog lover can really know what the dogs mean to me." And we shared a moment of heartfelt silence.

Dave’s books, Beagles vs. Cottontails, and I'd Rather be Rabbit Hunting, can be ordered through LinDavid Productions, 86 Church Street Extension, Smithfield, PA 15478. Also available are the following outdoor videos: Cottontails and Hares, Mostly Squirrels, Cottontails Again!, and Cottontail Rabbit Hunting. Phone is (724) 569-2376.

The editor of the BEAGLES UNLIMITED Magazine would like to take this opportunity to thank Dave for his many articles that have published in this magazine. Dave has been a Field Writer for BU since January 1999. Please take a few minutes and check out Dave Fisher's Advertising Sponsor page LinDavid Productions to see all of the books and videos that Dave has for sale.

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).