MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

January 4, 2013

COLUMN: Beagles in the field will boost rabbit haul

By John Kilgore
Phoenix Outdoors Columnist

BOYNTON — If you’re itching to get out of the house, rabbit season is in full swing. It’s a great way to introduce a newcomer or youngster to the outdoors and  helps any hunter hone his or her stalking and shooting skills.

If you have a pack of beagles to take along, it sure makes the hunt easier. A friend of mine who lives near Warner told me about how fun it is watching and listening to the dogs work. He said he had just let his beagle pups out on a morning run and “had a good time just listening to them push a couple of rabbits through the briars and weeds.

“If you’re lucky, you don’t have to train the beagles, it’s usually a gimme.  They’re either gonna run and hunt or they’re not  and genetics play a major role. Training is usually for running, not hunting, Beagles are hard-headed and tend to have a mind of their own,” he told me.

Trainer Charles Terry said  in a recent article that beagles were born to run, but training helps them reach their full potential. Trainers, he said, “must give the dog plenty of opportunity to hone its skill through experience. Just as humans, beagles get better (up to their inherited potential) at what they with practice. The trainer’s job is to provide plenty of opportunity and control the environment as to minimize the potential for the hound to develop bad habits or faults.”

How that opportunity should be provided is the debatable part. He gives his thoughts and insights as to just that. However, he does not intend to say his is the only way it can be done. Go to www.beaglesunlimited.com/training/advice-training-hunting-beagles and learn some of  Mr. Terry’s suggestions.

If you’re like me and don’t own a hunting dog, you can still be successful — just grab your .22, shotgun or bow and put your still-hunting skills to work.

Cottontail rabbits and the habitat they live in are plentiful in eastern Oklahoma. Dense sapling thickets and brush piles, green briers, honeysuckle, and unkempt fence rows are all ideal sanctuaries. If it looks like it could hold a rabbit, it probably just needs a little persuasion or push to get it to come out. Cottontails blend in very well with dead, dry winter cover so a keen eye for detail, again, is a must.

Cottontail and swamp rabbit hunting season statewide extends through March 15, as does jackrabbit season but west of Interstate 35.

The most successful rabbit hunter is one who has patience, taking only a step or two every minute or so. If you get the opportunity, it’s a great time to be outdoors and introduce someone to the sport of rabbit hunting.

John Kilgore’s outdoor column runs Fridays in the Phoenix. You may contact him with news or other information at (918) 348-9431 or at jkilgoreoutdoors@ yahoo.com.