The Great Outdoors: Hunting with a Dog Makes All the Difference

November is a month that hunters love.

White-tail bucks are rutting, all the popular fall seasons are underway or will be soon, and the weather is still generally comfortable.

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Hunting with dogs, is also one of those things that makes November a fun month.

My first experience hunting with a dog was with our family pet, Ginger. She was a mix between a beagle and a dachshund.

While she may not have been a classic purebred, the mix of those two hounds made for a dog with great desire for the outdoors and for getting after the critters in it.  She didn’t chase rabbits or point ruffed grouse and ring-necked pheasants, but she was a great flusher; so, when we hunted together, I had to be ready for the flush whether it was fowl or furred.

When deer season rolled around, it was not the greatest time for Ginger because she depended more on Mom for her outside time, and while walks in the park or on the walkway were still pretty good, nothing compared to the fields and forests of our region.

Ginger looked like a sweetheart, which she was, but she was also a tough customer, having endured being hit by a car when she was just four.  She broke her pelvis, but once she healed, her desire was as strong as ever.

Ginger lived to be nearly 16, and she never lost the desire to be outdoors.  She’s been gone for 20 years, and we were without a dog for about six years before Brandi came along.

At the time, Bob Bish asked me if I had ever hunted with dogs. Bob’s son Dave played basketball at DuBois Area High School and read my columns and noticed I never talked about the subject.  He ended up inviting me to hunt with him and his prized beagle Leshy. Talk about a hound with desire!

That dog was all about chasing bunnies. I don’t doubt she went to sleep and dreamed about chasing before waking up and waiting to get after it.  Leshy didn’t care if it was getting dark or already dark; if she was on the trail of a rabbit, good luck getting her off of it.

Leshy only had one liter of pups – but what a trio they were!  Lilly lived to be 12, Daisy was 13, and Brandi is still with us at 14.

Because of the way our work schedules were, Bob and I hunted together often, which meant Brandi and Daisy were good buddies.

Their drive was very high, similar to their mother’s, but they were better-mannered dogs. Most of that can be attributed to the fact that Brandi was a house dog, and Daisy spent a lot of time inside with the family when they were home.

We discovered the more the dogs were around us, the better they listened, and everyone got along.  When Daisy and Brandi hunted together, there was a natural competition between them to see which one flushed more rabbits and which led the chase.  Typically, they shared being the top dog.

After Daisy had pups and other friends joined the hunt, there were times when both dogs simultaneously would sniff out of rabbit and the chase was on.  Other times, their competition was seeing which dog started a rabbit first and enjoying the glory of having all the other beagles join in.

As they grew older and wiser, we watched some remarkable behavior between the two.

On more than a few occasions, Brandi “let” Daisy go into the thick brush to flush the rabbit while she tried to anticipate where the rabbit would pop out.  When luck was on her side, Brandi caught a few, full-grown rabbits.

We knew dogs were all descended from wolves, but watching such behavior among beagles was really incredible.

Brandi still likes getting out these days, but her desire to hound bunnies isn’t what it used to be. When we aren’t with other beagles, she’s content to sniff and poke around the edges of the thick cover. In the spring and summer when rabbits are having their many litters, she’s still keen on finding a young one.  But when she gets around her nieces, that competitive spirit kicks back in, if only for a few minutes, and she runs like a hound still in her prime.

Having well-trained hunting dogs does require time and effort, but in the end, it’s well worth it for the experiences and memories as they become part of the family.

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“The Great Outdoors,” sponsored by the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors, is a weekly blog by exploreClarion.com’s Scott Shindledecker. Plan your next outdoor adventure at VisitPAGO.com or call (814) 849-5197 for more information.


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