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coyotehunter

Thank God For Beagles

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Saturday was a lovely spring day seeing as it was January 12th. Despite the lack of snow, a group of intrepid rabbit hunters decided to go out for bunnies. We had a not so secret weapon - Benny the wonder beagle!

The wet conditions gave the cottontails a plethora of wet spots to break up the scent trail but that didn't stop Benny. The dense thorn thickets and brown surroundings made spotting the little buggers very difficult and quite painful ( I am still picking thorns out of my aging carcass). We should have got more but considering the conditions I was please with the three we did get.

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As you can see Benny is serious about rabbits.....he won't leave them alone even for a photo opportunity.

For a young beagle he is pretty good on rabbits and pheasants and will only get better as time passes.

We wouldn't have any if it hadn't been for the dog and it is just plain fun to watch him snuffling around and yodeling on the track. Hopefully we get some tracking snow for this weekend so we can see the fresh sign, put him on rabbits faster and see them better against the white background.

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I spent some of my youth with beagles. My oldest brother had them. We hunted cottontail, hare and fox with them as well as campaigned them in trials. You brought back some good memories. Thanks.

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Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behaviour Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet. By John Bradshaw

THE relationship between people and dogs is unique. Among domesticated animals, only dogs are capable of performing such a wide variety of roles for humans: herding sheep, sniffing out drugs or explosives and being our beloved companions. It is hard to be precise about when the friendship began, but a reasonable guess is that it has been going strong for more than 20,000 years. In the Chauvet cave in the Ardèche region of France, which contains the earliest known cave paintings, there is a 50-metre trail of footprints made by a boy of about ten alongside those of a large canid that appears to be part-wolf, part-dog. The footprints, which have been dated by soot deposited from the torch the child was carrying, are estimated to be about 26,000 years old.

The first proto-dogs probably remained fairly isolated from each other for several thousand years. As they became progressively more domesticated they moved with people on large-scale migrations, mixing their genes with other similarly domesticated creatures and becoming increasingly dog-like (and less wolf-like) in the process. For John Bradshaw, a biologist who founded the anthrozoology department at the University of Bristol, having some idea about how dogs got to be dogs is the first stage towards gaining a better understanding of what dogs and people mean to each other. Part of his agenda is to explode the many myths about the closeness of dogs to wolves and the mistakes that this has led to, especially in the training of dogs over the past century or so.

One idea has governed dog training for far too long, Mr Bradshaw says. Wolf packs are supposedly despotic hierarchies dominated by alpha wolves. Dogs are believed to behave in the same way in their dealings with humans. Thus training a dog effectively becomes a contest for dominance in which there can be only one winner. To achieve this the trainer must use a variety of punishment techniques to gain the dog's submission to his mastery. Just letting a dog pass through a door before you or stand on the stairs above you is to risk encouraging it to believe that it is getting the upper hand over you and the rest of the household. Mr Bradshaw argues that the theory behind this approach is based on bad and outdated science.

Dogs share 99.6% of the same DNA as wolves. That makes dogs closer to wolves than we are to chimps (with which we have about 96% of our DNA in common), but it does not mean that their brains work like those of wolves. Indeed, the outgoing affability of most dogs towards humans and other dogs is in sharp contrast to the mix of fear and aggression with which wolves react to animals from other packs. “Domestication has been a long and complex process,” Mr Bradshaw writes. “Every dog alive today is a product of this transition. What was once another one of the wild social canids, the grey wolf, has been altered radically, to the point that it has become its own unique animal.” If anything, dogs resemble juvenile rather than fully adult canids, a sort of arrested development which accounts for the way they remain dependent on their human owners throughout their lives.

But what makes the dog-wolf paradigm especially misleading, Mr Bradshaw argues, is that until recently, the studies of wolves were of the wrong wolves in extremely artificial conditions. In the wild, wolf packs tend to be made up of close family members representing up to three generations. The father and mother of the first lot of cubs are the natural leaders of the pack, but the behavioural norm is one of co-operation rather than domination and submission. However, the wolves on which biologists founded their conclusions about dominance hierarchies were animals living in unnaturally constituted groups in captivity. Mr Bradshaw says that feral or “village” dogs, which are much closer to the ancestors of pet dogs than they are to wolves, are highly tolerant of one another and organise themselves entirely differently from either wild or captive wolves.

Dogs are not like nicely brought-up wolves, says the author, nor are they much like people despite their extraordinary ability to enter our lives and our hearts. This is not to deny that some dogs are very clever or that they are capable of feeling emotion deeply. But their intelligence is different from ours. The idea that some dogs can understand as many words as a two-year-old child is simply wrong and an inappropriate way of trying to measure canine intellect. Rather, their emotional range is more limited than ours, partly because, with little sense of time, they are trapped almost entirely in the present. Dogs can experience joy, anxiety and anger. But emotions that demand a capacity for self-reflection, such as guilt or jealousy, are almost certainly beyond them, contrary to the convictions of many dog owners.

Mr Bradshaw believes that it is difficult for people to empathise with the way in which dogs experience and respond to the world through their extraordinary sense of smell: their sensitivity to odours is between 10,000 and 100,000 times greater than ours. A newly painted room might be torture for a dog; on the other hand, their olfactory ability and their trainability allow dogs to perform almost unimaginable feats, such as smelling the early stages of a cancer long before a normal medical diagnosis would detect it.

The latest scientific research can help dogs and their owners have happier, healthier relationships by encouraging people to understand dogs better. But Mr Bradshaw is also fearful. In particular, he deplores the incestuous narrowing of the gene pool that modern pedigree breeders have brought about. Dogs today are rarely bred for their working abilities (herding, hunting, guarding), but for a very particular type of appearance, which inevitably risks the spread of physical and temperamental abnormalities. Instead, he suggests that dogs be bred for the ideal behavioural traits associated with the role they will actually play. He also worries that the increasing urbanisation of society and the pressures on couples to work long hours are putting dogs under huge strain. He estimates that about 20% of Britain's 8m dogs and America's 70m suffer from “separation distress” when their owners leave the house, but argues that sensible training can teach them how to cope.

Edited by blair

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3 bunnys these days is a great hunt , i remember back in the day 3 rabbits was a bad hunt. Congrats and keep em comin.

007

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We had several others running but where we hunted was incredibly thick with visibility sometimes measured in feet. Add the brown rabbits on a brown background it was no wonder we got dirty looks from the dog when he brought it around and nobody shot it. But yeah, it was pretty good .....even Mooseslayer (my brother) shot one.

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3 bunnys these days is a great hunt , i remember back in the day 3 rabbits was a bad hunt. Congrats and keep em comin.

007

I'm guessing those good ol' days predate me and harken back to a time when individual fields were smaller and more hedgerows criss-crossed the land. In the 30 years that I've been shooting bunnies in front of merry little hounds with floppy ears and white tipped tails, connecting on 3 rabbits in a day is just fine.

Generally there's still lots of rabbits (its cyclical of course) inside the available habitat (which there is less of), but its sure easier to connect on rabbits in hedgerows (better shooting sight-lines) than it is in blocks of cover. I can think of hunts last season where the dogs never stopped chasing all day long, yet we came home with only 1 rabbit. Lots running, just couldn't see them to shoot! LOL

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The best I can remember is nine rabbits in one day years ago from a cattail swamp. Couldn't believe that many rabbits coming from a 1 acre spot. Snowed over, you could only get glimpses of the dog and hear the muffled yelps but rabbits would squirt into view all over and then duck back under cover.

The abundance of coyotes and hedgerow cleanup combined with urbanization of the countryside has changed the distribution of rabbits and indeed the way they behave in the Niagara Peninsula. Growing up we were spoiled in Port Robinson where the fields and swamps started out our back door and often several rabbits were in the bag before we gout out of earshot of the house, Many a track was started in our back yard by the beagle. A lot of cover has disappeared - where the swamp was is a row of houses now. The maturation of many bushlots and the disappearance of scrub brush has forced the rabbits to live in close proximity to man - witness the rabbit living under my deck in Fonthill - and yes he lives there because the wife says we can't eat "Hoppy" even though she gobbles down every one I cook as a result of hunting them. In many former hotspots we have noticed an increasing tendency for rabbits to hole up quickly when chased. We have found it beneficial to know where these holes are and station a hunter nearby when a chase starts to "greet" him if he tries to escape that way. I suspect that coyotes have reinforced that normal rabbit tendency as a survival tactic.

We are looking forward to a dusting of snow for Saturday for another try at theses critters. There are still a bunch of them in there and a fresh snow will let see the tracks and help to put the dog on the track sooner. The white background will improve seeability. And there are a few thorns with my name on them....ah well the price of success.

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The abundance of coyotes and hedgerow cleanup combined with urbanization of the countryside has changed the distribution of rabbits and indeed the way they behave in the Niagara Peninsula.

Just this morning as I was driving along Regional Rd. 24 I was lamanting that where only months ago there were a bunch of hedgerows, now there is one big field. All thats left are a few roots to be cleaned up. Can't blame the farmer; its the ecomonics which drive his farming practices.

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We used to go to Niagara on the lake, Lincoln and Vineland mostly, the rabbits used to run out like mice it was crazy. Sometimes we wouldnot even take the dog. I remember a day we went 18 cotton tails 1 jack and 4 pheasants , man do i ever miss those days. I was in my 20s back when father and uncle were still alive.Boy do i miss those days and them aswell. Great memories.

007

Edited by pike007

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I got into rifle hunting for jacks, foxes and coyotes at the end of the heyday for jacks. It was not uncommon for people to get over 10 shots at jackrabbits during the course of the day's hunt and i mean a single person. Just about every field seemed to have at least one jack in the hedgerow or sunning itself on a clod of dirt. Sure got lots of practice at running targets. Used to hit some once ina while too. Only place I see jacks anymore is out Smithville way in the places I hunt.

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Would the beagles go after these guys ? This picture was taken a few days ago near wainfleet by a poster on Facebook . Lots of nice fat juicy turkeys in Niagara !

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Anything is possible - there are beagles that chase deer and one hunter I know usws a beagle for coldtrailing coyotes until it gets hot and then releases the redbone hounds. The one time we were out hunting coyote off Vaughn Road and while gathered by the side of the road we saw something on the other side of the field. Whe we put the binoculars on it we realized it was an emu that had escaped from the place on Hwy. 20. Mooseslayer, Randy Norris and I swung out across the field as I explained to them that we could herd it back towards the group for a closer look. They thought it would run through the brushy hedgerow but I explained that being creatures of the open range they would be freaked out by the brush. Sure enough we were able to kitty corner across the field and keep it pinned up against the hedgerow as we herded it back across the field towards the rest of the group at the road. When we got near, the owner of the beagle got him out of the kennel and showed him the emu. At first he was a little tentative and well you would be too as they stand over 5 foot tall and have some serious claws on their feet. As the beagle approched the emu, the emu started to run across the field and well beagles like to chase things. Didn't have a video camera with us as it was a hoot watching the little yodel hound chasing this huge bird across the field baying his little heart out. After being easily outdistanced by the emu the beagle returned to us and you could almost read the satisfied expression on the face - "I put the run to that big bugger!"

The likelihood as far as turkeys are concerned is that the beagle might chase them and they would simply fly off out of sight. No see, no scent on the ground, no more chase.

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I hunted with beagles when I was younger and they always produced good days in the field. It is good to know that hunting rabbits with beagles still occurs.

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Alittle bit of snow can always make a big difference, you see tracks and can tell you if there around or under a brush pile and also clearer shot.

007

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hey nine how big are the bushes you guys hunting? I find with my dog he does well in smaller bushes like 5-10 acres, once he gets in the bigger bushes with more terrain seems to be loosing them in tall reeds and marsh grass.

007

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Good job ninepointer. We went out Saturday and ran rabbits nonestop. Put only one in the bag tho. Super heavy brush, no visibility.....saw at least three of the buggers but no shots for me. Some of the chases were over an hour long. Beagle did a super job. Three of the bunnies went in holes....breeding population for next time. Tons of coyote tracks...need to get out there with the 6mm. and call.

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