The sound of hounds…why I’m a rabbit hunter
By Mary Lynn
Rabbit hunting is a long standing tradition that is not appreciated the way it was in years gone by. Big game has become the focus in the hunting world and I can understand the draw; frosty morning white-tail hunts and hearing from an elusive tom on a spring morning are exciting. Big game offers more meat to fill the freezer with and there’s no doubt that hunting retailers and hunting shows focus their marketing here. All of the gear and gadgets are enough to make your head spin, and it’s easy to see that there is more money to be made than with small game hunting. Small game for the most part just requires a trusty shotgun or .22, a good location with the game you’re chasing, and a good partner to hunt with – of the 4 or 2-legged variety.
Our family was raised in hounds. Whether it was my uncle chasing bear or hogs through the national forest with a Plott hound, or my papaw and father out with Ol’ Rock – a beautiful, gritty, black and tan that was a coon’s worst nightmare, or my father and uncle burning up a rabbit race through briars and thickets with a small pack of beagles, hounds have been a big part of the Lynn Family’s lifestyle and relationship with the outdoors for decades.
Beagles are our partners, tools, and frankly sometimes a better friend. Our partnership starts when they are born at our kennel… little beagle nuggets with pink noses and soft puppy squeaks. As they grow we watch them turn from helpless little bundles of wrinkles and fur to steadfast hunting companions. It’s incredible to see their eyes open for the first time, their first bite of dog food, their first experience with the grass after emerging from the wooden run they were born in. We watch as their personalities take shape and blossom. Their colors change and develop. Before we know it, the time comes to select which ones to keep to carry on our carefully selected and developed bloodline and which to sell for someone else to enjoy.
After we pick the pup to keep, an even stronger relationship starts to develop. The roly-poly little thing with teeth like needles now holds a new significance. We play, fuss, and start training. As babies (at least in my kennel) they sleep with me, eat with me, get use to car rides, and even get to go with the “big dogs” on training outings to experience nature. I get so close to that pup with all the laughter and hands on time that they feel like a part of our family.
Soon their body and their little minds mature… and now the fun part begins! Anywhere from 4-8 months, depending on the maturity of the dog, is when we start our rabbit training. When the youngin’ finally reaches Light Em Up Kennels Bunny Bustin’ University, all their experiences will be in the wild. They are already accustomed to us and the dogs they run with, so their first experiences are just accompanying us on our running days in the wild. Since I take them out as little babies, most of them time they have already seen the butterflies and beetles and all the creepy crawlies… so their mind is on what the other dogs are doing and what their nose is smelling. It is such a joy to watch their whole little body start to tremble and shake. Their tail shows so much excitement as they catch that first scent of an Eastern cottontail. Their little mind is thinking “this is that little wascally wabbit the elder dogs always talk about in the kennel!”. Nothing is as exciting as the first little squeaks and squawks as they find their “voice”. Suddenly their innate desire to follow that scent trail starts to flourishes, and for Light Em Up Kennels, there is no shortcut to natural ability in a rabbit beagle, just proper breeding and selection.
After a year or two they join in on the SOUND OF HOUNDS!
Lets talk about that….
Yes, that white-tail buck slipping out in front of you can give you the shakes, and that mountain-side gobble can send you into a Turkey Tremble, but the sound of the hounds… the melodious chorus ringing through the trees and thickets from your partner that you’ve watched grow is such an incredible feeling. More skill is needed then you think, as that rabbit has a bag of tricks in his pocket for hound and hunter.
As a hunter you need a keen eye and a good pair of boots. Your partner is putting their voice, heart and soul into pursuing the cotton ball as he ducks, dodges, back tracks and sometimes just disappears!
I think that’s how all magicians end up with a rabbit in their hat. That rabbit was being chased by a pack of beagles and decided to teleport to that stove pipe hat for safety. Sometimes when the race disappears it feels like that anyways. Just poof! TA DAAAA.. rabbit gone and just a confused hunter and hound left wondering what happened.
Rabbit hunting is a family and friends type of pursuit. Walking behind the dogs sets the stage for fellowship and great conversations. You can rib each other for being too slow on the draw or puff your chest out a little when you roll a rabbit in a dead run.
It is also something that can be enjoyed solo. Just you and your hound in the tranquility of nature. You can really see the appreciation in your 4-legged partner when their efforts are rewarded with ringing of your shotgun. You can even see a smile on your dog’s face when he rejoins you to make sure you didn’t miss.
These experiences can develop a passion…. inside of you and your hunting partner. Whether you hunt with a solo hound or a pack of 15 dogs – the feeling is the same.
All of this is to say: try rabbit hunting! Experience the tradition in action and realize that pursuing cottontails can be just as intense and rewarding as bigger game.
Listen to the stories from the old timers as you walk, listen to the stories being song from the pack as they give their heart to you and the pursuit.
Everything I’ve talked about here is why I continue to hit the rabbit woods. It’s the culmination of my dogs, the intellectual challenge of determining a rabbit’s next move, the sense of excitement that goes with the chase, and relationships made along the way. Its….. tradition… long lived – tried and true… try your hand at it today!
Mary Lynn: 865.0456.6304