RUNNING WITH RABBITS

CHASING BUNNIES WITH BEAGLES IS A THRILL FOR HUNTERS OF ALL AGES

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Hunting hares and rabbits with hounds dates back to the first century A.D., when fashionable Greeks headed to the field accompanied by their “coursing dogs.” Today, the most common breed of dog used to pursue rabbits is the beagle, which was bred in England to have the scenting abilities of larger hounds with a small stature that allows them to weave through heavy cover where rabbits are commonly found.

One of the most successful beagle breeders in this country is Jason Olinger of Ohio. Jason and his wife Jenny hunt rabbits often during the fall season, and during the rest of the year they periodically take their beagles out to run rabbits so that the dogs stay in shape. Unlike sight hounds, beagles pursue rabbits by following their scent trails. These chases can last for hours, usually until the rabbit heads into a hole or the dogs lose the trail. During hunting season, when the dogs jump a rabbit, hunters stand near the jump point and wait for the rabbit to return. Dogs don’t actually “circle” a rabbit—instead, rabbits typically make a wide arc and return to the jump point as the dogs pursue them. This means the hunter has to be in location for the shot, and they must be ready. As the howls and barks of the approaching beagle pack rise in volume (a sure sign the rabbit is on its way), the rabbit usually bounds past the hunter and offers only a quick shot. As with any other hunting pursuit, though, safety must be the first priority, and that means identifying your target clearly and taking a safe shot—even if that means taking no shot at all.

Rabbit hunting is great fun for hunters of all ages and skill levels, and rabbits make excellent table fare. For more info visit the American Rabbit Hound Association at www.arha.com

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