The Beagle Boogie
Nearly 14 years ago, I came home from work one day to find my oldest son, who was 10, sitting on the back porch petting a new puppy. We live on 40 acres in rural Moniteau County, and stray dogs often find refuge at our house. I disapproved of this new puppy. We already had a Labrador and a Viszla, which I used for hunting waterfowl, upland birds and rabbits. We didn't need another dog, especially a mixed breed that appeared to have little hunting potential.
I sat down with my son and told him he had two choices. He could take the dog back to where he found it, or he could give it to me and I would... "take care of it." He looked up at me with big brown, defiant eyes and said, "Dad, I think we should wait until Mom gets home to make that decision."
Needless to say, Mom fell in love with the puppy, and we added another dog to the Urich household.
We named the dog Abby. As she grew, I paid her almost no attention. She was some kind of terrier-beagle cross. She had the solid tan color of a terrier, but the body shape of a beagle.
The next winter, Abby tagged along as I hunted rabbits on our place with my Lab. Suddenly, a rabbit launched out in front of me. Abby raced after it, baying loudly. Soon the rabbit came back toward me. I shot it and the Lab retrieved it.
It dawned on me that having more beagles might make rabbit hunting even better. I had three young sons that I planned to introduce to hunting. The thrill of following excited beagles, as well as the strong likelihood of success, would certainly capture their interest.
Two years later we had six beagles. We trained them mostly through trial and error. I discovered that beagles need practice to develop their skills. It takes them about two years to learn how to trail rabbits efficiently. Having older beagles can help you train young ones because young dogs instinctively follow more mature dogs. I prefer having three age groups of beagles: mature, intermediate and trainees.
Training those dogs is both easy and convenient because we live on land that we manage for rabbits. I let the dogs out of the kennel about an hour before sunset, and we head to the nearest