Tim’s Hound Blog
An effort at sharing random news, thoughts, and hunting stories from Tim and the Woodpont Beagles.......
More Books You Should Read (12-26-10)
The late Robert Wehle was the breeder of the famous Elhew Pointers for over 60 years. (Elhew is Wehle spelled backwards). He had extensive property (1500 acres) and a kennel in Henderson, New York for the summertime, and then moved his entire operation to his huge plantation at Midway, Alabama for the colder months. In the 1990s, his breeding program produced a dog named ‘Snakefoot’ that Wehle considered the pinnacle of his success as a dog breeder. Elhew Snakefoot won much acclaim at national field trials and as a producer of high class Pointers.
Wehle wrote a book, “Snakefoot: The Making of a Champion” outlining his breeding program. I think it’s one of the finest books on dog breeding that you could ever hope to find. Here are some excerpts:
"I have always used the best males very early, to test breed them, to see what they will produce, and to decide if I want to go on with them.....As the gene pool becomes more refined, the chance of younger males breeding true to type continues to improve. Another reason for breeding the young dogs is that if the program is succeeding and the dogs are getting better, then the younger males and females should be better breeding animals than the older ones. I breed females that I particularly like on their first heat period and get very good results."
"...if breeders will stay within a family regardless of how large or small the kennel is, there will always be some nice dogs. One of the problems I've had in outcrossing was to find individuals from a clean gene pool which simply does not exist -- at least that I know of."
"In every mating the tendency towards mediocrity is forever present. In spite of how strong the gene pool is, if breeding is done promiscuously without selection, all breeds would eventually revert to their common ancestry. This is why selection is so essential. A pure inbred family can resist this influence much better than heterogeneously bred dogs."
I hope you will go out and find this book for your collection.
Today, December 26th, is Boxing Day in England. It's a day that EVERYONE goes hunting. Happy Boxing Day!
Woodpont Birdsong May 11, 1995 to December 17, 2010 (12-22-10)
The grand old lady is gone. She leaves us with 21 hounds in the kennel who have her in their pedigrees. Nineteen of them trace back through her 1998 son, Woodpont Bruiser, who is now with Chad McDannell in Pennsylvania. We have 5 hounds directly sired by Bruiser who are currently in the running pack. Bruiser has Birdsong’s beautiful chop voice, and was tremendous at finding game, although it may occasionally have been a mink and not a rabbit he was after. He seems to have passed on to many of his offspring the extra ability to produce game, although only a few have been as good in that respect as he was.
Bruiser was also a very close line running hound, like his dam, and his offspring (and hers) have shown a tendency to be that way. We appreciate hounds that can drive hard and still be close on the line so they don’t miss the turns.
Chad/Carmen McDannell Photo: Woodpont Bruiser
December’s weather has been very poor for pack hunting. I did get in one nice day of bare ground running in between snow storms, and rabbits were everywhere. We currently have 5 inches of snow on the ground in Southern Ohio, with more predicted for Christmas Day. All I want for Christmas....is a thaw! MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL OF YOU!!
Books You Should Read (11-25-10)
"Gone Away" was published in 1949. The author was Mason Hougland, who was a famous pack and field trial foxhound man from the Kentucky and Tennessee area. He was the grandfather of Mason Lampton, who is currently owns and hunts the famous and fabulous Midland Foxhounds of Columbus, Georgia.
There is no book any more entertaining than this one for people who enjoy hunting with a pack of hounds. Here's what Hougland says about hounds who are not biddable: "What you must have is one that hunts where and when you want him to hunt. These Balboa kind of hounds, that headed West to try to discover the Pacific Ocean, are doubtless good hunters, but unless you have a helicopter are perfectly useless. I have known men to take a number of these explorers out, cast them, and never see them again that day. Afterwards, some foxhunter over in Sumner County or somewhere would write a letter and describe the wonderful run that took place. This sort of thing is really a rather common occurrence for men who keep field trial bred hounds. Somehow there has grown up a tradition that the hound that heads North until he either finds a fox or drowns crossing the Ohio River is an ideal hunter. He may be, but most of us prefer one that will answer a horn and report in now and then. No one wants to fatten hogs for strangers to eat."
And this about how a pack should run: "When a pack of hounds is running a fox, it should run bunched, like running horses turning into the stretch, rather than in a column like cows in a lane. At a loss, it should open like a fan, so that the line may be more quickly picked up. This way of running is aptly called 'carrying a good head,' and the phrase describes it. When you see a pack run in this fashion, you may know that it is balanced as to speed and ability."
Regarding what beaglers call a "jump dog", Hougland says this: "So a hound that can find foxes, - a good 'strike dog,' - is a valuable asset to the Pack. But if, after finding, he doddles about and dwells on the line without getting forward, he should find a new home. That kind do you as much harm as good. A 'strike dog' that can find the fox and hustle him out is what you want. Your pack should be liberally filled with these, and not dependent upon one or two hounds to do the work.....Obviously the ideal pack would be composed of hounds that were good at finding as well as running a fox". We rabbit hunters know this is much easier said than done!
On voice, Hougland wrote: "The ideal hound voice is one so distinctive in tone that you never mistake it, and one with such volume that it can be heard for great distances, and the real foxhunter stays with hounds by constantly listening to 'the music'. As the mountain boy who shot the tired fiddler at the dance up near Altamount said to the judge, 'Thar hain't nothin' to this dancin' business when the music stops.'"
Hope you can find this book....it's a dandy! Happy Thanksgiving Weekend (get those hounds in the field!).
We took a trip this past weekend to eastern Pennsylvania to visit the McApple Beagles of Chad and Carmen McDannell. The purpose of the visit was to pick up McApple Bear, who now is the newest member of the Woodpont pack. Bear was whelped January 8, 2009, from a cross Chad made between Woodpont Bruiser and McApple Screamin Daisy. Daisy is a littermate to our Birthday and Birdbaby (Chaplain x Birdseye).
Photo: McApple Bear
Bear makes the fifth hound in our current pack who is sired by Bruiser, joining Charmer, Madcap, Smoker, and Brawler. Another would have been Breezy, but she died at age 4 a year ago. Counting Breezy, that would be 6 different Bruiser hounds from 6 different litters! That probably says something for the producing power of Woodpont Bruiser.
We are excited to add Bear to the mix. It will be interesting to watch him develop in the field and see if he is worthy of being added to the breeding program. Chad tells me he has a huge short bawl voice and good search. We’ll soon see what Bear thinks about running in a large pack.
Autumn Hunting (10/16/10)
Our hunting has continued as usual throughout the end of summer and into the fall. Rabbits are plentiful at this time of year, but the running seems to fluctuate from good to poor more often than in springtime. Most of our hunts see several chases, but only an occasional run that could be considered a really good one. I want to tell you about a couple of our best chases over the last couple of months.
On Sept 26th, I was out alone with 17 of the Woodpont Beagles about 3 miles from the kennels. It was early morning, and I was walking the pack down a gravel road. Now my hounds are usually full of energy when first turned out from the truck, and often the first chases can be erratic compared to runs that come later in the morning. Good driving hounds often “toe the edge” of being too wild in their field work until that edge has been worn down a bit. My best chases often come after the first hour or so have passed, but this particular morning was an exception to that.
Madcap started a rabbit in some tall weeds next to the road. The pack piled onto her and away they went. I climbed a tall hillside next to where she started the rabbit, and from this vantage point I could see almost the entire run as it developed. It is rare for me to have a chase and be able to see much at this time of year because of the heavy vegetation cover prior to the coming of frost.
The hounds were running in a briar filled bowl of land just below the hillside I was on. Surrounding this bowl on the opposite side were 15 year old pine trees. I could see deer exiting the bowl into the pines. The rabbit would circle around the bowl, from briar patch to patch, and occasionally would make a pass well into the pines and back. I thought he might cross the road, but he never did. I spotted the rabbit several times over the 35 minutes of the chase. Each time, the pack was right on his tail. Different hounds were getting the short checks, and leading the way. I remember Tackler in particular getting a check and leading across the field before the main group could catch him. Eventually they wore down the rabbit and caught it. Not bad for a first run of the morning!
On the sunny morning of October 10th, we had 16 hounds out on a public hunting area about 10 miles from the kennels. Lisa was with me as the official “hunt photographer” on this day. The early runs were nothing special, but several rabbits gave us short bursts. I suspect some were young rabbits, based on the relatively small circles they made. After a break in the action, I moved the hounds on. The area we were hunting was along a gravel road with a small weedy field next to it and a low swampy area below the field with a stream at the bottom. On the other side of the road was a steep wooded (typical oak-hickory) hillside.
I worked the pack through the weed field along the edge of the swamp for probably 15 minutes, getting myself covered in Beggar’s Lice and other sticky things, until finally Brawler rolled a rabbit out ahead of me and the chase was on. The rabbit went up the weed field almost to the road and then back deep into the swampy area almost to the stream. Eventually he came back into the weed field and went a long distance parallel to the road. We were watching for the rabbit to cross but just at that time a truck came down the road and threw up a great dust cloud. (It’s been REALLY dry here).
The hounds came running hard up to the road and checked. Since we had not seen the rabbit cross, I tried to encourage them to try back into the field, but they kept coming back to the road. Baby, Mascot, and others kept working the road. Finally Brawler opened in the woods and uphill they went. They ran back parallel to the road but way up on the wooded hillside above us. Eventually Lisa and I saw him cross the road going back into the field. He was a large healthy-looking rabbit.
Photo: Coming down off the hillside.
The run continued in this way, back and forth hillside to field to swamp and back again, for 45 minutes until he finally came out of the swamp, crossed the field and road, and went uphill to a huge rock with a crack in it halfway up. Hounds were clawing at the rock when I found them. I was satisfied that a very game rabbit had escaped to run again. We had seen him several times as he was crossing the road. I can only imagine what a run he’ll give us next spring when his “blood is up”, assuming he survives the winter!
Photo: Lisa's photo of the rabbit on his last crossing going up to the rock.
Hounds out on 10-10-10 were: Manager, Brawler, Smoker, Tackler, Tapster, Buzzard, Proctor, Cheerful, Covergirl, Tally, Madcap, Mascot, Birdbaby, Birthday, Chicory, and Cherokee.
I hope all of you are having good hunting wherever you may be.
Crown City (9/4/10)
Above is a photo taken at 6:45 am at the 11,000 acre Crown City Wildlife Area in southern Gallia County, Ohio, on Wednesday, September 1st. My 17 hounds were running somewhere down in the fog at the time of the photo. The truck was parked near the large clump of trees in the center of the photo. Several years ago I started a tradition of visiting this Wildlife Area around the first of September each year.
We are permitted to run hounds on public land in Ohio from September 1 to May 1. Rabbits are generally plentiful at Crown City in early September, but they don't always want to run. Every rabbit started on this visit went almost immediately to a hole. Some didn't even make a half circle. I lost exact count of how many, but I think probably 8 rabbits were run to ground. The terrain is very open, so my guess is the coyotes are pressuring the rabbits enough that they learn to hole quickly. Perhaps the hot, dry weather has something to do with it as well. Hounds had no trouble with scenting, despite no rain over the last half of August. In addition to the rabbits, the hounds flushed a covey of quail with at least a dozen birds.
Dog Days of Summer (7/28/10)
Despite the heat and a plague of baby rabbits, we have had good hunting throughout July. We were honored to have visitors nearly every weekend and most took time on those early mornings to see the hounds work. Until September, we are limited to running hounds on private land in Ohio, so some of my favorite hunting grounds have been closed. I found a spot this year about 3 miles from the farm with a good supply of rabbits and we used it 3 or 4 different times to show visitors what the Woodponts are all about. I get a tremendous boost to my ego when these hounds back me up on all the bragging I do on here about them!
July is also the month when we celebrate our freedom with the parades and fireworks around July 4th. More and more, our freedom to hunt and keep hounds is under attack by various activist groups who would take it away. Several people we met this summer were young folks just getting a start in beagling, and I can’t help but wonder what the future holds for them. It does not look promising, I am afraid.
Our Ohio Governor Ted Strickland surprised everyone on June 30th by making a secret compromise deal with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the largest, most powerful anti-hunting group in America. Instead of allowing the HSUS to place an initiative on the ballot this fall, Strickland cut a deal promising to crack down on puppy mills and keepers of exotic animals. So far, the puppy mill law affects only breeders of more than 9 litters in a year. Sportsmen fear this is just the beginning, and by giving in to HSUS an inch will make them want a mile. Strickland now has to go, in my opinion!
Purebred dog breeders are under attack all across the country. We are portrayed as the bad guys and lawmakers and the public get a distorted view based on what they hear from HSUS and PETA, and others. These groups have an ultimate goal of a petless, meatless society, where all hunting and gun ownership will be banned. These organizations lobby state, local and federal governments for more and more restrictive legislation. They try to shame people into adopting from a shelter instead of buying a purebred, and claim purebreds are unhealthy, inbred, etc. They make claims that breeders of purebreds are only contributing to the shelter over-population problem.
In England, we may be able to see a glimpse of our future if these people are successful. Most hunting with hounds is banned in England, Scotland and Wales. People there can take out packs of hounds, but cannot hunt hare or foxes. Instead, they must send out runners to lay a scent drag for the hounds to follow.
In Ireland, regular hunting still goes on, but the fight is really heating up. The Irish “Green Party” is using tactics much like the HSUS in America. They recently succeeded in banning the last Irish pack of staghounds. The future probably is bleak in Ireland for hunting with hounds.
If you have read this far, you must be interested in helping to keep the “antis” at bay. Every hound person should be a member of two organizations who are fighting hard for our rights: The National Rifle Association and The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance. If you are not a member of these two organizations, you may someday wish you had been before it was too late. Another great organization is the Masters of Foxhounds Association of America. They produce a great hunting magazine called “Covertside” for anyone who is a member. Please consider joining one or all of these organizations.
If you live in Ohio, please help us find a governor like Sonny Perdue, from Georgia, who likes to quail hunt, and recently did not miss a bird over 2 days of hunting with his .410 shotgun. Now that’s a governor!
Summertime Update (6/28/10)
Hound running through the month of May was about as good as it gets. I gave the hounds an "A" grade for their pack performance nearly every time out in May. The 90 degree heat and humidity has slowed us down lately. This morning was wet and cooler after some significant rain overnight and the hounds ran well. On one big looping run in a pine plantation, the hounds pushed out a large bobcat. He crossed a blacktop road not 20 feet from me and we both got a long look at each other. I was particularly amazed at the size of his forelegs and feet. When the pack came around, Baby, Madcap, and Tackler wanted to switch onto the bobcat, but I managed to keep them all on the rabbit. I could envision a bad ending when the 15 hounds met up with a cat twice their size.
Hounds out this morning were: Manager, Brawler, Smoker, Tackler, Proctor, Tapster, Buzzard, Baby, Gleeful, Madcap, Cheerful, Charmer, Gloria, Covergirl, and Chicory.
We are enjoying listening to the quail calling all over the farm. One evening while cleaning kennels, I noticed none were calling, so I gave a whistle of my own and immediately got an answer from a quarter mile away across the fields to the north. A couple of days ago I saw this year's first brood of chicks with their mother. They stayed in the high grass, so I couldn't count how many.
I have noticed a decline in the number of Meadowlarks and Red-Winged Blackbirds this year. Both are grassland species said to be in decline in Ohio. Perhaps the habitat here is not as suitable for them as it was a few years ago. On the other hand, I've never seen so many Mockingbirds and Catbirds as this year.
We are loaded with rabbits, though. I saw a weasel chasing a young rabbit this spring....not something you see every day. The little rabbit was really booking it when he came by me!
Here's a photo of a screech owl that I took in the kennel woods one rainy evening this spring. You can see the rain drops on his head. These little guys nest in our kennel woods every spring.
Head for the Woods (5/23/10)
I have two main strategies for avoiding ticks in the spring and summer. First, I get out early before it gets warm, and second, I head for the woods if the fields are dry. Most of the ticks we find in this area are in open fields, so I always find fewer ticks on the hounds (and me) after running them in wooded areas.
Sunday morning I was out at 6:15 am with a 15 hound pack. After some nonsense at the beginning from their exuberance at being out again, we really got down to business. I was working the hounds through an area of 15 foot Scotch pines when the whole pack started to speak in a thicket between the pines. I saw a rabbit take off and put the pack on. They ran a big loop back into the pines as I followed along on a gravel road that ran parallel to them.
After the first loop, they swung around toward me and passed close alongside the road, but I did not see the rabbit. The hounds were well-packed and driving hard with lots of noise. If one hound missed a turn, another grabbed it and kept the pack rolling. They went away from me, then a long way downhill in a dip where it was harder to hear them, then came back my way again. I saw the rabbit come out into the road and run quite a ways down and then cross to the other side. Hounds came out running hard and I saw Mascot with her superior nose start them down the road. I went down with them and Brawler was the first to nail the line where the rabbit turned off. The hounds swung up the hill, overran slightly, but old Gloria set them straight and on uphill they went. I followed along in the road again, but this time I was looking uphill into hardwoods instead of downhill into pines. Suddenly a sleek doe in her red summer coat burst across the road in front of me and ran into the pines. I waited to see what the pack would do. Young Tally came across after the deer, pulling a couple of others. I waited until the main pack went on by going uphill, then reminded her of what a mistake it is to run a deer in front of a man with a Tri-Tronics transmitter. I yelled at her at the same time, so she would know exactly why and who made her neck burn for a second. She came back to the road looking a little whipped just in time to see the rabbit come streaking across right under her nose. She and a couple of others had a good lead on the main pack by the time they got to the road.
We eventually lost that rabbit after 40 minutes. It ran into an area of blackberry thickets with some small rabbits and hounds got off on them, letting the older rabbit escape. We had one check of 30 seconds and a couple others of 10 seconds or so for that entire run. It was Manager who solved the 30 second check. He’s hard to shake.
Photo: Coming up an ATV track hot on the line. Madcap, Mascot and Chicory leading. Hounds a little strung out because of the steepness of the trail.
For the morning, hounds were out four and a half hours and ran almost non-stop the whole time. Most of the morning was spent running in deep hardwoods in a little valley filled with old and new beaver ponds. Rabbits would run to the tops of the hills, then come down and go around the ponds. I mostly followed using ATV trails and could hear the hounds splashing across the beaver dams and ponds below me. Several times I was able to intercept the rabbit and pack as they came by. The last rabbit ran 35 minutes before going underground on a hillside. Madcap and Cheerful came to the horn with dirt all over them. We filled that remote little valley with hound music all morning. Gotta love that springtime running!
Photo: Old beaver pond in the little valley.
Hounds out were: Manager, Brawler, Tackler, Proctor, Smoker, Tapster, Buzzard, Mascot, Charmer, Madcap, Cheerful, Covergirl, Chicory, Gloria, and Tally.
Happy Birthday Birdie!! (5/11/10)
Woodpont Birdsong turned 15 years old today (May 11th). Despite health problems in recent years, she keeps plugging along. Currently she is kenneled with her great-great granddaughter, Woodpont Tarbaby, who came to us this spring from Tracy and Jackie Crewse. Birdie is doing a nice job babysitting, despite being often annoyed with the youngster's playfulness. I saw them sleeping earlier today, with Birdie using Tarbaby as a pillow.
Birdie is the sixth generation of my female line, and represents a significant branch of today's family. Two of her granddaughters have had litters here this spring, so her line will continue on. Birdie's sire was FC. Northway Ninja and her dam was Woodpont Beauty. Beauty was a high-energy, exciting hound with a screaming voice. She, through her sire Indian Hills Rowdy, put a fire in my hounds that is still there today. I bred Beauty to Ninja while Bruce New had him down in South Central Kentucky. I can remember Ninja being so much bigger than Beauty that she could nearly walk under him. We had no success trying to breed them in a backyard kennel, so we put them in the dogbox together where Beauty evidently felt more comfortable, because the act was done. From a litter of 3 puppies, I kept Birdsong as my pick. There was a pretty good male in the litter, Woodpont Blazer, but his conformation and stamina was poor and he would not take long hard running, so I eventually let him go. Birdsong had fairly good conformation and never had much of a problem with hard running.
Photo: Birdsong in March 2002 with her litter of 2 female puppies sired by FC. Blue Banks Pleaser.
From Ninja, Birdie got her steady running style and big chop voice. Countless times I would hear her open up and call the pack to her after a long check, when most of the younger hounds had given up. As a young hound, I entered her in a couple of SPO AKC licensed field trials. She got an NBQ when she was about a year old, and a half-sister kennelmate, Woodpont Blessing, got 3rd in the same class. I remember another trial when she didn't place although she saved a run in first series. The hounds had been running in some woods but had checked. I was standing next to the judges as they waited, when we heard Birdsong open up atop the hill next to us. I knew her voice, but the judges of course did not, so she never got credit. She was just coming into her prime when I left field trialing for good in 1999.
Birdie was bred three times. For her first litter in 1998, she was bred to New City Brass Chip. Brass was owned by John New and was sired by the famous FC. New City Cruiser. Brass had the show blood and high class conformation that I was looking for, and when I watched him run I was impressed with his searching ability. He would literally disappear under every brush pile we came to. From the Brass litter, I got the great Woodpont Bruiser, who is throughout my pedigrees today.
Photo: Bruiser in cover working hard as always. He was tremendous at finding rabbits.
I didn't keep anything from her second litter (sired by FC. Blue Banks Pleaser). I sold a nice female from that litter to a friend thinking I would get a puppy back someday, but never did. That female has been my friend's best gunning hound for years. I learned a big lesson there to always pick first as the breeder of the litter before you let anything go. I should have known better then, but I'm glad a friend has enjoyed her.
Birdie's last litter was by Lewis Long's Cannon's Joker. I had seen where Joker had won a big trial in Kentucky and went to see him. From this litter, I got Woodpont Birdseye and a male, Otter Ridge Cannon's Joker. I currently have 2 very nice females in the pack from Birdseye (Birthday and Birdbaby), and each of them have new litters this spring. From a cross to Otter Ridge Cannon's Joker last year, I have Woodpont Buzzard (see Blog of 5-6-10).
As an older hound, from about age 5 to 10, Birdsong was tremendous. She was never flashy like her dam, but very steady and terrific at finding the hard checks. I probably would have labeled her my best hound for several years until age started to catch up to her. She ran with the pack until she was 12, but hearing loss finally made me retire her. She got to the point where she couldn't hear the other hounds if they were very far away and would instead be off running by herself.
A couple of years ago she had a prolapsed uterus and had to be spayed, but came through that with no problems. This past winter she was in a kennel fight with the other females and got herself mangled pretty badly. One of her hind legs was nearly ripped through. We brought her in the house for a few weeks and she slept in a crate in a back room. With some home-spun doctoring, she healed nicely to the point where she wanted to go outside and would go off and start herself a rabbit. I moved her back to the kennel in a run by herself until this spring when little Tarbaby came and needed a nanny. Her leg has healed completely and she is doing well for an old lady. I wonder how many more birthdays she might have.
Young Hounds (5/6/10)
I handle young hounds differently from most beaglers. Mine are started with the pack, and spend all their lives running that way. It tends to make them start later and develop slower, but I believe my old hounds are as good as anyone’s. By training this way, we get less individualism and more “pack think”, which keeps them together better when running. This way, we have 16 hounds running a single rabbit instead of groups scattered all over the hillside running different rabbits. If they split, I always know they will soon be back together.
Part of the reason for training this way is time. If we tried to train individuals with lots of solo work, running them with “puppy trainers”, etc, a lot of older hounds would be sitting in kennels. And since we don’t field trial, there is no point in trying to develop individual traits. It’s the pack work I am after, not hounds trying to beat each other. This goes against traditional thought about how a beagle should be trained, but it works for me.
A classy youngster named Woodpont Buzzard is running with the pack this spring. He’s still a little overwhelmed at 9 months, but will eventually figure things out, as many generations of his ancestors have before him. I have often told people that it’s not how you run them, but how often you run them that really makes the greatest difference in young hounds.
Photo: Woodpont Buzzard
A Good Start to May (5-1-10)
The Woodpont Beagles had a great morning of hunting on Saturday, May 1st. Despite threatening weather, we managed 4 hours of almost non-stop running. Rain came later in the day and continued until Monday morning. We received 4.75 inches of rain before it ended. That’s a major rainfall for us, but still significantly less than states south of us received.
Saturday morning I was standing on a hilltop listening to the hounds running below me on a steep wooded, briary hillside. On top where I was standing was an open (sparse) grassy field that had been reclaimed from mining years ago. Across the field was another wooded hollow, and this field wrapped around to the other side of this hollow.
Hounds were running well and filling the woods with their music. I saw a rabbit come out into the field and head across. A slight dip prevented me from seeing where it had gone after it reached the middle of the field. The 15 hounds poured out into the field running hard and continued out to where I had lost sight of the rabbit. There they checked and began casting themselves to try to find the line. I let them try until it looked hopeless, then began working them in circles as the textbooks instruct, trying to cover any possible way the rabbit might have gone and half expecting it to jump up from a squat at any time. There were a lot of bare spots in the field, as well as little clumps of grass and weeds. But we never did find that rabbit or its line. It must have used “particle redistribution” in a “Beam me up, Scotty” way to escape! Sometimes we know that happens....
I took the hounds back to the cover along the edge of the steep hillside where Cheerful promptly jumped another rabbit. It made a long loop down the hill and came back up and went out into the field in the same area as the first rabbit. This time I watched to see it go all the way across and into the cover in the hollow. Hounds came on shortly and this time drove right across into the hollow. They made a loop in the hollow and came back toward the field pushing out 2 rabbits ahead of them. One skirted the edge and went back into the hollow, while the other came all the way across. Hounds split, with Tally and Gloria staying on the line back into the hollow and the rest of the pack coming across. When the main pack got close to where I was standing, they checked and then harked back to Gloria and Tally.
They ran that rabbit in a big loop in the hollow. Looking all the way across, I could see deer popping out into the field on the other side, but the hounds stayed with the rabbit which exited the head of the hollow, then ran a dirt truck track a long way across the field, and went back down into the woods on the hillside about 75 yards from where I was standing. Hounds drove all the way across and into the woods with no problem. I was wishing for my camera, but had left it home because rain was expected that morning. Running like this continued all morning, mostly in the woods. It’s very satisfying to see your hounds pack well together, ignore all off-game, and be able to sustain long runs that produce the desired results.
Hounds out on May 1st were: Manager, Tackler, Brawler, Proctor, Tapster, Smoker, Buzzard, Cheerful, Charmer, Covergirl, Gloria, Chicory, Tally, Mascot, and Madcap.
Thomas Jefferson’s Rules (as they apply to beagle breeding) (4-13-10)
April 13 is Thomas Jefferson’s birthday. I thought we could celebrate with some of his ideas on hound breeding. OK, so I added a little….
Jefferson: Never put off ‘til tomorrow what you can do today.
If you have a great hound, or at least one who is great in your eyes, breed it! Life is short, for man or beast, and it may be later than you think. So if that hound is all you could ever hope for, why wait until it becomes a champion, or until next year, etc? Many great hounds are never bred for those reasons and bloodlines lost forever.
Jefferson: Never trouble another for what you can do for yourself.
Many people spend their lives buying and selling hounds when they could have bred their own had they taken the time and made the effort. If you start with hounds that suit you and breed into more of the same, your puppies stand a good chance of being better for you than what you could buy elsewhere.
Jefferson: Never spend money before you have it.
Few make money in the beagling game. Treat it as a sport and not a business.
Jefferson: Never buy anything you do not want because it is cheap.
People generally do not sell their best hounds. Beware of bargains.
Jefferson: Take care of your change; dollars will take care of themselves.
Take care of your hounds. Feed the best food you can afford, keep them properly housed in comfortable quarters, and keep them free of parasites and disease. They will reward you with devotion and effort in the field. Man’s best friend (and woman’s).
Jefferson: Pride costs us more than hunger, thirst, and cold.
Kennel blindness can creep up on you. Don’t let your pride keep you from using the efforts of other breeders to improve your own stock.
Jefferson: We never repent for having eaten too little.
Beware of keeping too many hounds. You’ll have better hounds if you have 6 who hunt often than 12 who hunt occasionally. And your feed bill will be less!
Jefferson: Nothing is troublesome that one does of his own volition.
We are lucky to be able to make choices. That’s what makes America great. We can hope big government does not take that away from us!
Jefferson: How much pain has cost us the evils which have never happened.
Fear of the unknown haunts breeders. Study your hounds in the field and study their families and pedigrees. If the hound is from a litter where all made good ones, it’s likely to be a better hound for breeding than an outstanding hound from a litter of culls. Don’t be afraid to experiment if the odds are good. Outcross when you must, inbreed or linebreed when you can. If a cross is a failure, back up and go another route. Eventually you’ll meet with success.
Jefferson: Take things always by their smooth handle.
Take advantage of proven hounds or crosses when you can. Same for proven breeders. There is no sense in re-inventing the wheel if it is already out there for you. Perhaps you can add a finishing touch to make the wheel a little improved.
Jefferson: Think as you please, and so let others, and you will have no disputes.
Never criticize or condemn another hunter, trapper, fisherman, etc, as long as they are following the law and being a sportsman. The animal rights folks are out to put a stop to us. We must stand together because divided we will certainly fall.
Jefferson: When annoyed count to 10 before you speak. If very annoyed, count to 100.
Enough of this…..let’s go hunting!
Hound Names (4-11-10)
You may have noticed the Woodpont Beagles use “hound” names instead of people names. Instead of “Bob” or “Sally”, you will see our hounds are “Tackler” or “Cheerful”. There are reasons for this.
First, it sounds better to us, especially when calling them in the field. We try to use words with more than one syllable, which gives a more musical tone when called.
Second, it serves as a reminder that dogs are NOT people. (And we call them hounds, not dogs). There is a big movement these days by the animal rights people to give animals and pets the same rights as people. Dogs are our property, to be owned, unlike people. It’s important that we understand that distinct difference.
When we name puppies to be kept here for the pack, we use a name starting with the first letter of one of the parents. So, Woodpont Brandywine’s daughter was Belvoir, who produced Baffle, who produced Bangle, who produced Beauty, and so on. This helps us to immediately remember their parents and pedigree, which means a lot when you have a sizeable number of hounds.
About 10 years ago, I started using the first two letters of one of the parents, which makes it even easier to remember their pedigrees, as well as what female line they come from, etc. So today we have Chicory, who came from Charmer, who came from Chimer, who was sired by Ch. Shaw’s Spirit of the Chase.
Photo: Woodpont Chaplain - from the “Ch” line.
I think it’s important to avoid names that sound similar to names you already have in the kennel. A few years ago, I had Birdsong and her daughter Birdseye in the pack at the same time. There were times when I was calling one of them and would look down to see the other standing in front of me wagging her tail as if to say “Can’t you see me boss? I’m right here!”. Birdsong will be 15 next month, so is retired from hunting, and her daughter Birdseye has died, so one of our puppies this year, a Birdseye granddaughter, will be named Birdwing, as we continue that line.
Some names fit males better than females, and vice versa. Males are generally named after things, such as Manager, Proctor, Joker, Buzzard, etc. Females are often named for adjectives, like Cheerful, Glossy, Gleeful.
Some hounds live up to their names, so be careful! I am constantly reminding Brawler not to fight when the food is being served. And some might say Cheerful should have been named Hateful instead. Each has its own personality and often the name fits!
If you decide to adopt this method for naming your own hounds, you can find lists of hound names in some of the older books on foxhunting and beagling in England. One of the books by Daphne Moore contains a list of hound names which has been especially helpful to me. Or you can do as I usually do and just pull out Webster’s Dictionary. Be creative.
Spring at Last....Those Noisy Little Birds!! (3-21-10)
Spring can be a noisy time of year. While sitting on the front porch last evening trying to relax after a busy day, I took note of all the different bird sounds....sounds we did not hear just a couple of weeks ago. Many are not the birds we fed all winter, but more recent arrivals, such as Bluebirds, Red-winged Blackbirds and Robins. The Woodcock have been doing their spring breeding flights above the farm since late February.
One of the most famous and most popular foxhunters in the history of American foxhunting was Sam Wooldridge of Versailles, Kentucky. In addition to owning many famous field trial foxhounds, Wooldridge was responsible for starting "The Chase" magazine about 1920. He was editor of the magazine until his death following an auto accident in December 1945. I once read that Wooldridge complained about this time of year by saying something like "The weather is warming, the running is picking up, everything is going well and then along come those noisy little birds!".
St. Patrick's Day was this week. That was Tom Dornin's favorite holiday. His kennels were Little Ireland Beagles and Tom himself was of Irish ancestry. In his house, I remember seeing coffee table books on Ireland. His letters were always in green ink. His hounds had Irish names, such as Connemara, Derry, and Tim Patrick.
My first Little Ireland bred hound was sired by Little Ireland's Bimbo and out of a female by Gay Baker. Three years later I bought Woodpont Brandywine from Tom, and she was the foundation for the hounds we have today. Brandy was 9/16 show bred and made a terrific running hound. I'll never forget my friend Robert Gregg and I drove all night from my apartment in Cincinnati to Scottsville, Virginia, to get Brandy and her sister when they were 9 weeks old. We ran into a late winter snowstorm in the West Virginia mountains that was so bad all of the big trucks had pulled off the road leaving it open to my little Datsun pickup. (This was in the days before the Interstate when we crossed the mountains on twisting 2-lane roads). I paid $200 for Brandy, which was a big price for a beagle puppy in 1982. But she had 5 generations of a good Little Ireland female line behind her and I could not have found a better foundation on which to build the Woodpont Beagles. She is a dozen generations back of the hounds I am hunting today.
Tom Dornin has to be regarded as one of the top breeders of hunting beagles of all time. He really had only about 15 years of active breeding, and got to only about 6 generations of his line, but he created history. Starting with brace trial bred females back in the 1960s when it was still possible to find a few brace hounds suitable for hunting, Tom crossed them onto show bred hounds to create his own stamp of beagle. And then he advertised heavily, and wrote books, magazine articles, and corresponded with people all over the country in an effort to bring back the beagle as something useful to a gun hunter. Many of the Little Ireland hounds were popular with the early gundog field trialers, nearly all of whom were hunters first and trialers second.
Photo: Tom Dornin. Photo taken on one of our many visits to his home.
I always felt that Tom started breeding beagles too late in life. It almost seemed like his life ran out before he really had time to accomplish his goals for his kennel. His emphysema was very bad and made it impossible for him to do any field work during his last few years with beagles. We can only imagine what another 20 years would have done for Little Ireland.
Hunting has been good lately. Rabbits generally easy to find. For example, I was working the pack up a ditchline in the middle of an open field the other day when Charmer started speaking under a patch of thick blackberry briars. The ditch had scattered patches of briars, but also a lot of open areas, so I skirted through the patches over to the opposite side of the ditch and climbed a small bank where I could look down on the hounds. The pack of 16 came out of Charmer's patch running hard in single file because of the heavy briars. Brawler was leading. He turned left immediately after coming into the open and the whole pack followed him about 20 yards and back into another patch of briars. Three rabbits exploded out of the briars when the hounds went in. The hounds came out on the line of one of the rabbits but went only about 50 yards to a big pile of rocks. While the hounds were marking the hole, I spotted a rabbit sneaking back up the opposite side of the ditchline, so I put the hounds on the line. They ran that rabbit a quarter of a mile around a wooded hillside and then down into a big swamp where he started circling. Evidently he was just "visiting" his friends over at the ditchline, but decided to go on home when the hounds got after him! We get a lot of that sort of thing in spring. It's Mother Nature's way of dispersing the genes.
Shoulders - The Most Important Part? (3-6-10)
What do you think is the most important part of a hound's physical makeup? Some would argue legs, others say feet, and others length of back or spring of ribs. I tend to agree with Otho Paget that shoulders are the most important part of a running hound. While waiting in an auto service center yesterday morning (I have a recalled Toyota!), I was re-reading the book "Beagles and Beagling" by Paget, published in 1923. Paget was the very famous master of the Thorpe Satchville Beagles in England, and was responsible for many of the great beagles who were brought from England to America early in the last century. All of our hounds today go back to the English hounds Paget helped to send to American beaglers, usually owners of large formal packs.
Here's what Paget had to say about shoulders: "The hound to breed from is one that has the nose to pick out the coldest scent and the drive to carry it on; the pace and stamina for the longest day; a constitution capable of withstanding wet and cold; and lastly, legs, feet, and shoulders should be able to stand the strain of a fast run on hard ground.
Shoulders, backs, loins, and second thighs are all important points in the conformation of a hound, but of these I consider shoulders should always rank first.....It is my impression that you cannot be certain about them (shoulders) until you see a hound going at full pace, and I prefer to see them over ridge-furrow or rough ground.....Make it a rule to have good shoulders , and never to breed from a hound that moves stiffly in that respect."
If a hound moves well when viewed from the side, with reach and drive, you can be sure the shoulders have proper layback and angle. Shoulders support the majority of a hound's weight when it is running, so it is essential that they are good. Poor shoulders will often give choppy movement, such as that seen in today's show fox terriers. As opposed to choppy, bouncing movement, what we should strive to get are hounds that move fluidly with little up and down motion and a ground-covering reach of the front legs.
Photo: Tally, Charmer, Birdbaby and Tackler lead the way!
The best moving hound I have bred is Woodpont Chimer, who glides along so easily. She was sired by Ch. Shaw's Spirit of the Chase, who did a lot to improve movement in the AKC show beagles, and became the top producer of show champions in the last 20 years. Many of his offspring had a fair amount of hunting desire, probably coming from the good Echo Run bloodlines of his dam.
The snow is gone! I was out yesterday with 17 hounds, but running was spotty. The weather was bright and sunny, with a breeze blowing, so conditions were poor. Hounds had trouble when they ran onto hillsides with dry leaves, but could run well in the grassy lower areas. Above is a photo of the pack showing young Tally and old Charmer leading the way. Tally and Charmer are both about 12 inches tall and are the smallest hounds in the pack.
Snow....Enough already!! (2-19-10)
Hunting here has been severely hampered by the horrible weather of this winter. Today’s sunshine offers hope there may be an end in sight. Snow certainly makes life difficult for wildlife, especially prey species. Being a brown cottontail rabbit in a white world is dangerous, especially when nearly everything out there wants to make a meal of that rabbit! But enough rabbits will survive this and do their thing to increase numbers again in spring.
Photo: Our fields - 8 inch snowfall Feb. 2010
More than anything, I am concerned about the wild Bobwhite quail population here locally. The quail are barely hanging on in this area anyway, and the prolonged snow cover this winter will surely knock down the population. Quail are ground feeders, primarily, and snow keeps them from feeding so starvation becomes a threat. In a weakened state, they are less able to avoid predators, such as mink on the ground and the Cooper’s Hawk from above.
Our cool wet weather last summer caused many nesting failures for the quail. A bad winter now threatens to finish off the population. We have a covey near the house who come to the birdseed I spread on the ground each day. They come up and peck around like little chickens, then head back down to the relative safety of the thick cover near the pond. I always try to count how many females, since there are always more males than females in my observations.
Photo: 3 Quail, 3 Doves, 1 fat Fox Squirrel on Valentine's Day 2010
In early winter, we were seeing a dozen or so birds in the group, but lately only about half that number, with very few females. It will be interesting to see how many are calling in May/June. I hope enough make it to bring the population back again.
The snow is melting. I hope to have more hunting with the pack soon.
Madcap's Rabbit (1-23-10)
Woodpont Hounds had several nice runs on January 23, 2010. One chase in particular stood out. The rabbit was started by Brawler, who found it under a small pile of brush near the edge of a field where pine trees had been cut last summer. I was working the hounds down a small hollow where a tiny stream had cut a deep ditch through the woods. I had crossed the ditch into the woods, and the hounds were working around me on each side of the stream. Brawler stuck his head into the brush pile and the rabbit shot out behind me. I heard Cheerful scream when she saw the rabbit shoot out and I turned just in time to see it streaking away up the wooded hollow with all 16 hounds on its tail.
Hounds ran way upstream to the top of the hollow where the wooded hills are very steep, and then started swinging around to my left toward a ridgeline that ran parallel to the stream. I heard Tapster giving tongue off by himself, but a slight touch of the button made his neck tingle enough that he quickly went back to running with the others. In this big country, with so many hounds out and so much of that tempting deer smell everywhere, I don’t take any chances with young hounds who haven’t figured everything out yet.
The ridgeline where they were running drops down steadily to a point where the hollow intersects with a larger valley. At the point of intersection, someone had built a deer hunting cabin, and there was an ATV trail going to the cabin and then on up the valley. Hounds were running hard down toward the trail, so I moved along it watching for the rabbit. As they grew closer, I saw the rabbit come down past the cabin and continue downstream into the big valley.
Madcap somehow was well ahead of the others when they approached the cabin. She was pounding along, giving her tremendous big chop voice at every breath. “Come on boys, I’ve got it” was what she was saying as she went by me. I yelled to the others to get their heads up and harked them on to Madcap, who was heading down valley by now and out of my sight through the trees. The other hounds listened for a second and then charged off to join her.
Photo: Madcap driving on
As the hounds got back together, a short check occurred, but it wasn’t long before Brawler and Charmer started up again, coming back up the valley toward me, but on the opposite side. Suddenly, the pack turned left-handed away from me and went up a steep hillside through the woods and all the way to the top of the hill and OVER the top! I listened from the ATV trail as the hounds went out of hearing over the top. Now, imagine being out alone in a remote country with 16 of your hounds and hearing them all go out of hearing. It can make you a little uneasy...
After a couple of minutes, I started across the valley and up the steep hillside to see where they had gone. As I huffed and puffed up the hill, I faintly could hear them running in some pines I could see at the top of the hill. I mostly was hearing my heart pounding in my ears, but the hounds were coming back toward me, and eventually they broke over the hilltop out of the pines and back into the hardwoods. I watched them come down the hillside just across a little ravine from me. I must have passed the rabbit going down as I was going up.
As the black and tan wave swung down into the valley, I was looking hard for Gloria, just to be 100 percent sure they were on rabbit and had not switched to fox or something else, since rabbits don’t normally take the hounds out of hearing range. I spotted the 10 year old little lady near the rear of the pack and giving tongue with the others, so I was certain of what they were running. I scrambled down to the valley, hit the ATV trail, and followed them as they ROARED along. Hound music filled the valley, bouncing off the hills and trees, as the pack drove in a bunch to where the cabin was located. Here they abruptly turned left back up the smaller hollow and on up past where the rabbit had been jumped.
A check occurred midway up the hollow, but soon I heard Smoke open up as if he had seen the rabbit. I scrambled up onto the low ridge above the cabin where I could watch the hollow and eventually saw Mr. Rabbit sneaking along toward me through the briars and trees. The hounds were a little scattered, but as they came closer, they started to bunch up and drive again.
The music stopped when they reached the cabin. I made my way down the little ridge to the cabin where I found hounds digging under one corner of the foundation. That is where we left a nice rabbit who certainly knew a large territory and showed us most of it that day. The run lasted about 40 minutes altogether. Madcap was slow to leave the hole, but eventually she came on. We had several other good runs after that, including one of over an hour.
Photo: Madcap digging at hole under cabin foundation.
Hounds out were: Manager, Brawler, Smoke, Tackler, Proctor, Tapster, Clever, Birthday, Charmer, Madcap, Cheerful, Gloria, Mascot, Covergirl, Tardy, Tally
New Year’s Eve Hunt on the Farm (12-31-09)
The Woodpont pack had a nice 45 minute run to end the 2009 year. Hounds were out that afternoon on the back of our farm and I was hunting them alone. After 2 or 3 shorter chases, which probably just served to settle the hounds, I was working them along the stream where large mutilflora rose bushes grow under tall walnut trees.
Suddenly, several of the hounds began to speak under the roses, then the whole pack exploded with cry and up the steep hillside away from the stream they went. The music was tremendous as they climbed the hillside, bearing to my left, crossed a small field and went into a brushy patch of woods near the top of the hill.
In the woods, they checked for a few minutes. Finally, Manager let out his lion’s roar at the top of the hill and they were going again. Leaving the woods, they rolled out into an area of yearling saplings and sumac. From my spot on the path down near the stream, I could see the pack come driving down through the thin, waist high cover. As they neared the trees lining the bottom of the hillside just above the stream bottom, I moved along the path to watch for the rabbit. I was just in time to see him cross the path and stream and head toward the hillside on my side of the stream.
I moved into position to get a close look at the pack as they came down to where the rabbit had crossed the path. Young Tally was leading, but Birthday was at her side and took over when Tally made a bobble at the path. The next obstacle was the stream itself, but Mascot put them across with her big chop mouth. Up the hillside they went, bearing to my left, and into a deep wooded hollow where they checked briefly.
Brawler soon found where the rabbit had left the hollow and went across another steep hillside with a thin covering of young saplings. The pack was paralleling the stream as they drove on into mature woods, and then swung left-handed into the valley and again crossed the stream. By now they were a couple hundred yards upstream from me and really going. The hound music filled the hollow and my ears as well.
After crossing the stream, hounds went uphill through some brushy woods and then checked near the top of the hill. After several minutes of searching, Manager again let out his roar and the symphony was restarted. I had climbed the hill toward them during the check, so I moved into position as they started coming toward me down a wooded draw. I saw the rabbit shoot by headed back down toward the stream. Birthday and her sister Baby were leading by a length as they passed me, with all hounds screaming.
Hounds hit the bottom along the stream in full cry and they angled back up the hillside into the brushy woods were the rabbit had gone when first jumped. By now, we had been 45 minutes on this rabbit and the evening was coming on quickly. I still had kennels to clean and hounds to feed, so when they checked I blew the horn to call them in and started loading them into the hound trailer. Charmer saw what I was doing and disappeared back up to the check area, so I had to come back later for her and brought her home in my arms on the 4 wheeler. It was a fairly typical run for these hounds, especially when the rabbit is willing to run a bit, and a great ending to 2009.
The pack on 12-31-09 was: Manager, Brawler, Smoke, Tackler, Proctor, Tapster, Birthday, Charmer, Chicory, Baby, Cheerful, Gloria, Tardy, Tally, Covergirl, Mascot and Tasty.
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