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The Beagle Boogie

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Published on: Dec. 2, 2004

Last revision: Nov. 17, 2010

field where I know there are rabbits. The older dogs don't take long to scent a rabbit and start baying. It takes months for the younger dogs to learn what the baying and running is all about and to join the older dogs.

If the evening is cool and the ground is moist, the older dogs do a fine job chasing rabbits with the younger dogs following along. On hot and dry summer evenings, trailing rabbits is almost impossible. That's when I train the dogs to search for my scent. This is important because during the hunting season, rabbits often hide underground in holes or find other ways to elude dogs. When this happens, I want the dogs to return to me rather than wander around searching for another rabbit.

I learned the value of training the beagles to find me after we nearly lost the Wilson Twins, a brother-sister combination. My kids could never tell these two dogs apart, so we gave them the same name: Wilson. We had finished a rabbit hunt on the Lamine River Conservation Area in Cooper County. It was snowing, cold and getting dark as we returned to the truck. That's when we noticed the Wilson Twins were missing.

My sons volunteered to wait in the truck while I backtracked through the snow to find the dogs. I vetoed that suggestion, arguing that three extra sets of eyes were needed because the dogs were not baying. After walking in the dark for more than an hour, we finally found the two dogs.

Our long walks in the hot, dry, summer evenings helped teach the dogs to find me, rather than make me look for them.

This training sure helped the time I took all six beagles and a basset hound to southeast Missouri to hunt swamp rabbits at the Donaldson Point Conservation Area in New Madrid County. The first swamp rabbit we flushed took off running, with the dogs baying behind. A few minutes later, I couldn't even hear the dogs. The rabbit got away. If the dogs, including the Wilson Twins, had not come back on their own, I would have never found them.

Those swamp rabbits presented quite a challenge to the beagles.

On another trip the following year, the weather was much warmer and the ditches and streams weren't frozen. The swamp rabbits eluded the dogs by swimming across ditches. The

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