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Sporting Dogs Part 5: Small Hounds


Beagles are some popular small hounds

Beagles are some popular small hounds

There are hounds-men and then there is everyone else. You are either a hounds-man or you are not. There is no grey area when it comes to hounds. People come to this place differently. Some are born into it, others are introduced into it, regardless of how you get there, once there your life is never the same.

For this discussion we will divide the hounds into two groups. For our discussion there are small hounds and big hounds. Small hounds include beagles and for our discussion in looking at sporting dogs we will include the Mountain Feist and Mountain Cur dogs normally used for hunting squirrels. While these may not be hounds technically, they seem to fit better here than anywhere else in our chronicle.

Beagles come in two sizes, the thirteen inch and the fifteen inch beagle. These are particular to the different hunters and what they want. In the south, beagles are mostly used to chase rabbits. Their high pitched bark is music to many an ear. Beagles typically hunt in packs from two to as many as twenty. Although hunting twenty dogs becomes a bit of a chore when its time to find them all when the hunt is over. Most rabbit hunters will run between three and seven dogs at a time. These are trained differently. Some hounds-men train their dogs to trail silent until they actually jump the rabbit and then start chasing the rabbit and barking every step. All of the dogs in the pack will join in and all will chase the rabbit together.

Other trainers will train their dogs to bark on scent. Alerting the hunter to be ready for when the rabbit jumps off and the chase begins. Both the thirteen and fifteen inch variety will train equally well. It’s really a matter of choice. (I am sure I will receive some comments in the contrary to this) but for most, the differences are minimal. While beagles are scent hounds that can sniff out rabbits, many small hounds-men in the Carolina’s use these hounds for deer dogs. Preferring to use the slower dogs to prevent the deer from running into the next county before hunters are ready. While I personally do not have a lot of experience with dog hunting deer, the use of smaller hounds seemed to make the shooting a bit easier when the deer were not running flat out through the woods.

The Mountain Feist and Mountain Cur were developed to help hunters find and kill squirrels. These small dogs seldom top fifteen pounds and those that do will still outwork man dogs twice their size. The drive of the Feist and Cur to sniff out squirrels is about as much fun as someone can have in the woods today. When the sport of squirrel hunting is on a decline, the fun of hunting them with hounds has resurrected the sport to a new level in many areas.

Recently I was fortunate enough to hunt squirrels with a Feist/Cur mix and this was one of the most exciting squirrel hunts I have ever encountered. “Tater” was as eager to get to the woods as anyone I’ve ever seen, her ability to see, and smell squirrels was fascinating. When she barked treed we knew she had a squirrel. Admittedly, it took us some time to find them in the tall hardwoods, when we did the hunt was over. Besides when a wounded squirrel made the decision to jump for it, Tater was ready, ran it down, caught the squirrel and finished it off for us. Bringing the squirrel to us, she dropped it at our feet and took off looking for another.

Beagles, Mountain Feist and Mountain Cur are among the most popular of the small hounds used in the sporting life. If you choose to use another breed that’s a good choice also. Small hounds are largely scent hounds, preferring to use their nose over their eyes when trailing game. They are great companions, excellent temperament and overall great dogs to own. Beagles do better in group therapy, while the Feist and Cur seem to work better solo. Regardless of what you pursue and what breed you end up with. Hunting with small hounds will bring a joy to the hunt that has been missing for a generation.