It's cutting them loose and having the pack run the rabbit until it gives up and goes in a hole or gets caught. And although the dogs usually don't catch it, they run like they want to. Just me and my pack of hounds, in any condition, on any day, in the roughest places I can find . . .

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Longest Walk

The judge yells, handle your dogs. The cast is over. You catch your dog and start back to the truck. You know the score is close. Your stomach is knotted. Your head aches. All the fun of the cast is gone. Pressure is thicker than the thickest fog. 

You are trying to go over the scoring one more time. You can't remember how many checks the yellow collar dog had after the last race. The handlers are making small talk, but you can't concentrate. All that work, training for months, and dreaming, and hoping comes down to the next few minutes. You just want to get this over with. Your heart is pounding like a big bass drum.

Questions pound your brain. Did I get that last check? How much were they scoring that pink collar? I know my dog sounded good, but was it enough? What dog was that with the chop mouth that I heard so much at the end? I know my dog was leading, but did yellow collar catch me? 

It's the longest walk.

Picture by Jeff Allen at 2015 World Hunt

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A Lotta Action

Running Grounds at the World Hunt
The best part of going to the World Hunt is visiting with friends and fellow beaglers. It's 3 or 4 days of nonstop dog talk so for a beagle addict like me it is perfect. When a conversation starts, you never know where it will go, but below is one I had with a guy, and long time beagler, Bob Lahti.

Beagler:  The next round will be tough.
Me:  Really?
Beagler: Yep, got two *** ***** (kennel name) dogs in it.
Me: Well, it will be ugly
Beagler: What?
Me: They will be rough and they might be hard to beat, but it will be ugly for sure if there are two *** ***** dogs in it.
Beagler:  They aren't that rough.
Me:  Well, there's always a first time.
Me:  What do you think Bob?
Bob Lahti:  Be a lotta action.

If you have never met Bob Lahti, he is a gentleman and an all around good guy. He also knows rabbit dogs and always runs some good hounds. He taught me something at the World. From now on when I see a rough, blow up the race, I have to have the front, skirting, cheating dog, I'll know what to say: He's got a lotta action. And if it's one of mine, I'll have the perfect description of his running style.   :)

Picture by Jeff Allen at 2015 World Hunt

Thursday, April 16, 2015

I Lost When I Should

I think I got off one exit too soon!
I always try to be a good sport but sometimes it is extremely difficult. I hate to lose. I am not 100% sure it is a good thing, but practice has made losing a little easier. The ARHA Little Pack World Hunt challenges everyone's sportsmanship. When you spend months focusing on the one goal of winning the World, losing is heartbreaking.

This year at the World Hunt, I lost when I should have. And that's a good thing. In all the casts that I lost, my dogs got beat. No crying. No complaining. I had good judges that knew hounds and judged the dogs fair. Looking back at each time I lost, whether it was in the first round or last, the dogs got beat, period.

The judging this year was the best I have seen in 20 years of attending the World Hunt. The judges gave everything they had to stay with the hounds. In some casts they were put in incredibly difficult spots, but they made the best of it, and still managed to get the right dog back. In every cast, the judges were judging the hounds. I didn't see one incident of favoritism, or buddy judging.

Anyone who has ever attended a field trial knows how hard it is to lose. It makes it a little easier though, when you know your dog had a fair shot and just got beat. Great job to all the guys that stepped up, took a score card, and judged.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Dennis gets Third at ARHA World Hunt

The Old Man and Logan Elm Dennis
One thing that always makes it fun to go to a field trial is when your dog runs like you know he should. At the 2015 ARHA Little Pack World Hunt, Dennis made it a blast for me. At only two years old, I knew he was too young to be competitive on such a large stage (around 700 beagles), but they way he had been running I decided to give him a shot. By the time it was over, I was glad I did.

He ran the first time in the third round on Thursday, the first day. When I cut him loose he acted like he had spent a couple of days in the trailer. He stood around, ate some grass, peed on 5 or 6 bushes and really just got me aggravated. Finally he got bored and decided to go hunt. His cast had one hard chase in particular that lasted about 20 minutes and I heard him in there a lot. By the end of the cast, he was moving on to the next round. He didn't run great, but sounded good for his age and experience.

Dennis didn't run again until Saturday morning. He sat around in the trailer while they ran the first rounds of the Champion and Grand Champions on Friday. When we cast the hounds on Saturday, he acted ready to go and was gone as soon as I cut him loose. It took this cast about 10 minutes to get a rabbit. He opened first and I thought he might have a jump but only was scored a strike. They dogs ran hard for about 40 minutes. When the chase ended he was in second place, 15 points behind the leader. 

The dogs had one more chase and with about five minutes left had a long check. One dog was hacking around trying to backtrack. Twice I saw Dennis start towards her. He kept trying to work the other way down this gravel road. Finally, as all the other dogs got clear down the hill on the backline, he worked far enough down the road to get the check. This was the best minute of the hunt for him and he ran well for the rest of the cast, which had no more checks. This check gave him the cast win.

Sunday morning, Dennis started out in the semi-finals. This was a cast of great dogs, great handlers and true sportsman. I got really good judges, Matt Glomski and Jeremy Rice. Dennis ran like he was at home in this cast. I was pleased that he controlled the track, getting a lot of short checks and keeping the race going. This was the best pack of dogs I saw at the World Hunt this year.

After winning this cast, Dennis went straight to the finals to compete against two other dogs for the title of World Champion. Chris Holstein was handling an eight year old female and Frank Fulks had his five year old female. This proved to be the undoing for Dennis. Unfortunately, his age and lack of experience caught up with him. Within minutes I could tell he was shot. He just lacked the intensity needed to compete. Physically he was still strong but he just didn't have the maturity to hang in there. Congrats are due to Coalfield Kennels on their win. Their dog earned it.

Looking back at the ARHA World Hunt, I am pleased with Dennis. He did better than I could have ever hoped. Very few two year old dogs manage to accomplish what he did. He will get a few days off and then we can just go run for fun. No more field trials for us for a while.

Picture by Jeff Allen at 2015 World Hunt

Monday, April 13, 2015

The 2015 World Hunt

Larry Harrison and the Old Man
Two World Hunt Old Timers for Sure!
There is no beagle event like the ARHA Little Pack World Hunt. With over 700 rabbit hounds and beaglers from all over the United States it is truly amazing. Even after attending for 20 years in a row, this is still the highlight of my year. Nothing can beat the friendship, competition, sportsmanship, and fun at the World Hunt.

In a lot of ways the World is like a big family reunion. Beaglers from all over have the chance to visit with friends from near and far. I really enjoyed seeing so many people, catching up, and sharing a few laughs. Occasionally some bad news is shared and I always go home thinking of the struggles facing friends, and hoping for the best.

Meeting people is a big part of the World Hunt. So many people have connected on the phone or computer and this is a chance to put a face to the name. When strangers draw out together on a cast, one of the first question people ask is, where are you from? Then it's, what line of dogs do you run? Within minutes friendships are made that will be renewed each year.

I handled or spectated in 14 casts over four days. In cast after cast, judges gave their all to be sure the right dogs moved on in the hunt. For anyone that hasn't seen the reclaimed strip mine ground where they hold the World Hunt, it's hard to imagine any better spot for cottontail rabbits anywhere.  It's great for rabbits and dogs, but the Scericia Lespedeza, briars, swampy cane patches, and grounds that seem to go forever make it hard on judges.

I ran in and watched a lot of casts that ran 50+ minutes out of the hour. The rabbit population was amazing and the majority of casts had plenty of running to sort the dogs. I did run in one cast where there were too many rabbits. We caught the dogs eight times on splits. The judges deserve credit though. They did everything in their power to make it fair for everyone.

The picture below is really what the World Hunt is all about--people just hanging out having fun, supporting each other when someone runs a dog, and lending an ear with the disappointment of a loss. I had a blast at the 2015 World Hunt. Thanks so much to all the people that shared their friendship. I will see you next year.

Jeff Kerns, Chase Derrick, Scott Derrick,
Scotty Derrick and Josh Elkers at the World

Pictures by Jeff Allen at 2015 World Hunt

Bailey Wins Hound of the Year Runoff

Logan Elm Bailey won the ARHA 2014 Open Class Hound of the Year Runoff. The top 10 dogs in each class go to Lynville, Indiana the day before the ARHA World Hunt. Judges for this hunt are selected by the Watchdog Committee and then drawn into casts. The top 10 Hounds are rolled into two packs of 5 and then the winners run in a final cast to determine the HOY Runoff winner. Congratulations to  my brother Gregg for his success with Bailey.

Friday, April 10, 2015

At the World

Have you noticed that there have been no new posts lately? I am at the ARHA World Hunt. There is a lot to post once I get home.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Sled Dogs, Beagles, and the World Hunt

The ARHA Little Pack World Hunt is next week and once again the anticipation is building. As I read the post below about the Iditarod, I couldn't help but notice the similarities to training beagles. A lot of dogs have the breeding and ability to win, but only one will. It seems like so often, the trainer is what makes the difference.

And, a week from now, a lot of beaglers that tried so hard to win it all will have to live with their loss. They will have to wait for another year until they get another chance.

He can see the village of Koyuk on the hill in front of him. Has been able to see it since he left Shaktoolik; a mirage that never seems to get closer. Once he arrives, he's only one more run to White Mountain and an eight-hour break that fixes everything. Then it's Nome and the finish line. He's that close.
But when he turns around, he can see another dog team. It's hard to tell how close, there's nothing but miles of sea ice, no landmarks to compare, and the air waves rising off the ice are like staring down an Arizona highway. For the first couple hours, he hoped it was his imagination, or a snow machine; but now it's clear. It's a dog team. Dallas Seavey, dressed in jet black befitting a movie villain, is gaining.
There's a lot going through Aaron's mind right now. It would be an emotional run anyway, getting passed from behind is one of the most demoralizing things that can happen to a team. When you add in the fatigue, hunger and the cold, emotions become much stronger.
At it's core, the Iditarod is not a dog race. It's a human race. There are a lot of excellent dog teams, many could win, and every year, it becomes more clear that it's the musher who makes the difference. So what does that mean if you're the one who loses? Only one team can win. The other 20 (those that are actually trying to win) all have to lose. They have to live with that for another year.

You can read the entire article HERE.

Image from Seavey's IdidaRide Sled Dog Tours

Friday, April 3, 2015

When It's Just Right

The spot of green is Cole's collar
just before he busted out with the rabbit.
That's why we do this. Because when it's just right, it can't get any better. Your heart pounds like it is going to jump out of your chest. The sound from the pack just gets into your soul. The feeling is just not something you can explain to someone that hasn't done it. When it's just right, it's just so amazing.

You might go a few races without this feeling. You might go a few trips without this feeling. When you get it though, it makes you forget all the bad. It makes you smile in a way that goes all the way to your soul. It's why we all run dogs.

Guys will give a lot of reasons why they run dogs. Let's see:

1.  I like my dogs.
2.  I like being outside in the woods.
3.  I love watching pups progress.
4.  I have a great time with my friends.
5.  I want to compete.
6.  I like the way a chase sounds.
7.  I enjoy training dogs.
8.  My dogs are my hunting partners.
9.  It gets me out of the house.
10. It's my connection to nature.

All of these are true. 

BUT, the real reason is because when it's just right, it is the most righteous thing in our lives. When young Upincomer looks like Mr. Imtherenow; when the pack is running as one; when the checks are short; when the drives are long; when all the dogs look like they belong; when the pack sounds so great it just makes you feel good, that's when we know we could never give up running dogs. When it's just right it's everything and that's why we run dogs.

I ran Dennis, Chip, DK, Silly, Cole, and Jimmy.  Conditions were good and the young dogs ran like I knew they could. It was 53° with a little rain. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

My Dogs are Like Teenage Boys

Did you ever spend any time around a 16 year old boy? You know how his brain is a little twisted and he just doesn't quite have the ability to reason? How he stays awake when he should sleep, like Sunday night before school on Monday? How he sleeps when he should be awake, like sitting in American History? How once he gets a girl friend, the house could be on fire and he wouldn't have sense enough to leave unless she told him to. Well that's kind of how my dogs are right now.

I have these young males that are all around two years old. They have unbelievable energy. They can run 400 yards down a road and back and not even be out of breath. When they should slow down, like on a tough track, sometimes they just bust out like a maniac and then look around wondering what went wrong. Other times, when they just need to get gone and go hunt, they kind of look at me, standing around like they aren't sure what to do. 

When scent is high and running is easy, they all seem like naturals. When a rabbit pulls a trick and they have to use their brain, they fumble around like I need to haul them in a short bus just to take them to the field. When it's easy they look like the best dogs I have ever owned. When it's tough, I look around just to make sure no one is watching.

Some of the time they can work together and I think this might be the best pack I have ever owned. Other times though, they act like no one informed them that they are a pack. They are the best young jump dogs I have ever seen. But they get a lot of practice because they can blow up races like fireworks on the fourth of July.

What's a guy to do though? I can't make them older. Experience only comes from running. They have to grow up at their own pace. In the mean time, I guess I will just try to be patient. I know a great future is ahead. I just wish a couple of them would get a degree in Rabbit Hound.

Tonight I ran Dennis, Cole, and Silly. It was 57° and sunny.

A Few Thoughts From Branko's Beagles

Frieda Krpan, "You never make a breeding decision based on paper alone. It's a tool but it's not your main reason. . . . They gotta have hunt, they gotta have desire, they gotta have intelligence. . . . We are very tough on the standards on our dogs.

Branko Krpan, "We never bred for trials of any kind. We breed for hunters. . . . My philosophy on training pups is we run them in the pack because they are pack dogs. . . . Puppies must show me they are worth spending time on. . . .  If you have a good dog, it doesn't matter what you do with him, you can't ruin him.

You can listen to the entire interview here.

Thanks to Benson Kennels for a great interview!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Lost Rabbit

A Great Hocking County Clearcut
That Stretches Out Forever
The dogs were coming around the hill. I was standing in a great spot where three logging roads came together. The dogs were between the top two. They were getting closer and closer. I knew the rabbit had to be busting out any second. I stood perfectly still, waiting and waiting.

The dogs were at 50 yards, then 40, then 30. All four dogs were pounding. Where was the rabbit? Twenty yards, then fifteen, then ten, and they stopped. I still hadn't seen a rabbit. The dogs broke down. They looked up the hill and down. They looked ahead and then worked the line backwards.

There wasn't a single bark. I watched and waited. The dogs spread out, searching hard. They worked out farther and then came back to the checkpoint. I walked along the road looking into the briers. No hole that I could see. Anyway, they were working way too hard for the rabbit to have holed.

On the last chase, soon after it ended, Dennis and Chip walked out to the road so I knew it holed. On the chase after this, all four dogs came out soon after they quit barking, again showing the chase ended in a hole. 

This was a lost rabbit. No excuses and I really couldn't make sense of it. Why after 15 minutes of a good chase did it end like that? How could they have just blown up the chase? They couldn't even find enough of a track for one bark. Three hours later I am still wondering, what happened to that rabbit?