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Remember, Dogs do More Than Flush and Retrieve Birds

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April 18, 2011

Remember, Dogs do More Than Flush and Retrieve Birds

By Chad Love

There are tradition-steeped sacred cows so deeply ingrained in the American sporting psyche, that to admit you haven't actually done them is grounds for turning in your red-blooded American male card and setting sail for France. Things like: shooting a deer with a lever-action .30-30. or owning at least one Zebco 33. However, one of these "musts" I've never completed is hunting rabbits behind dogs.

Pointing dogs, retrievers and flushers are what first come to mind when you think gundogs, and as such they - fairly or unfairly - get the vast majority of the sporting dog press (and this blog is as guilty of it as any). But at one time, back in the sepia-tinged days of yore when small-game hunting reigned supreme, there was only one way to hunt rabbits - with beagles. Sadly, this is no longer the case. For better or worse, we are now a deer nation and the idea of driving out to a small, idyllic family-owned farm, loading up a plain ol' walnut-and-steel shotgun and letting a pack of beagles out of the back of the wood-paneled station wagon is as quaint and old-fashioned as the rotary-dial phone, letter-writing or three channels of television.

So when I came across this story about the United Kennel Club Hunting Beagle Nationals  my inherent retriever/pointer/flusher bias made me pass over it without a thought. "Niche" I thought. Then a little voice inside me said "Hey, dumb***, lose your attitude. Maybe the beagle guys think you're the niche."

And it's true. I know that most of us that hunt with dogs these days fall somewhere into that retriever/pointer/flusher nexus, but there are a lot of people who don't. Rabbit hunters, coon hunters, houndsmen, coursers, falconers, working terrier owners, there's an entire "Dog Nation" out there that - for the most part - flies under the sporting radar. And perhaps the blog should be throwing a little attention their way. I'm a retriever and pointer guy, so I'm going to need a little help in getting a real sense of Dog Nation. If you read the blog but you're not a retriever/pointer/flusher guy, what are you? What, how and with what breed or type of dogs do you hunt?

Comments (26)

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from rmb5110 wrote 3 years 2 days ago

I am an avid rabbit hunter and the proud owner of six beagles. You can't beat the thrill of listening to a pack of hounds bringing a hare/cottontail to the gun. Then you have only a split second to take the shot as he runs for his life. In addition, to the UKC hunting championships this past weekend in Ohio. The American Kennel Club also held their hunting championships in Kentucky, where 311 of the finest hounds in the country were present.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from kansasjeff wrote 3 years 2 days ago

" old-fashioned as the rotary-dial phone, letter-writing or three channels of television." Seriously I grew up hunting in the 90's and I remember all of these things (My granddad taught me to hunt with Beagles / Basset Hounds for Rabbits, and Coonhounds for Raccoons) My family was the first in the area with a computer and internet. ( a dial-up 14.4K connnection)but we didn't have cable till 98. or a touch tone phone till 98 when I won one in a raffle. Guess I'm a throwback and I'm only 28.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Henry_Chappell wrote 3 years 2 days ago

Great observation, Chad. I'm a longtime GSP man, but I also hunt squirrels and 'coons with a mountain cur. There's a world of hunting with dogs out there that rarely gets mentioned outside of specialty mags like Full Cry. Hunting with treeing dogs or beagles isn't seen as classy as grouse shooting or quail hunting over pointing dogs, and I suspect there may be less money to be made selling products to coon hunters.

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from jcarlin wrote 3 years 2 days ago

I'd hunted rabbits a handful of times as just a pair of guys kicking bushes. It's a nice walk. I intentionally took in a rescue beagle for the purpose. (Not from the official beagle rescue folks, they apparently have illusions regarding the purpose of a beagle, not to mention the source of one's joy in life. You sign a contract that you will not hunt over dogs obtained through them.) The first time he opened up on a hot track I thought the ecollar had shorted out on him. Soon those pained sounding yips went to a full bugle as he spotted his quarry. Rabbit hunting suddenly became about watching and listening to your dog work a rabbit, not necessarily so much about hunting rabbits or even just getting out. There is something in the sound of a beagle giving voice that stirs the blood. It is both as simple as that and more complicated than I have the words to express. I still don't get him out enough for either of our tastes, but I think I'll own one or two of those little hounds until the day I die.

On the side of a dedicated blog. Training a beagle? I have a lot to learn and a good hound guy could teach me and my dog a lot. I think hounds are a lot more instinct driven due to the independent nature of thier methods than the bird dogs. Training is still necessary, but it seems to be a lot less intense. For now I'm still trying to learn what he can teach me. What has suprised me more than anything is how often the open woods holds rabbits when I want to hunt and work brushy edge and transition cover. It only takes one walk "back to the car" after an unproductive day when your hound jumps a large cottontail from under a small stump surrounded by relatively bare ground in a large hardwood stand to teach you that you need to be taught.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Thomas.Cochran wrote 3 years 2 days ago

I'm an avid bear hunter from Maine. Ive been bear hunting with hounds since I was five years old. My father and I use Plotts and Walkers for the most part, but we are not shy about adding other hound breeds to the pack.We just like good hounds who can run and tree,regardless of their color. We hunt to have a good time with friends and enjoy the outdoors. I'm also and avid upland hunter and own an English Setter, so I see both sides of the spectrum. Very good blog btw! Great articles.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Coachcl wrote 3 years 1 day ago

I am an avid bird hunter, have been raised that way my whole life. If the dogs aren't around we will shoot rabbits. But I agree with you Chad. There is a whole nation of hunters that use dogs. Maybe it is old fashioned. And I know most hunters today deer hunter. I just have never gotten into it. Doesn't interest me to sit in a deer stand all day. Every deer hunter I have ever taken out bird hunting loves it. Just watching the dogs work is probably 90% of the fun. But it is a commitment to own, care for, train and hunt dogs. Most don't want to put in that kind of work. Deer hunting is easier to get started.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from ILBassin wrote 3 years 1 day ago

beagles are great dogs but there hell to train. Lot of people say you don't train them they train you. i know alot of guys who use beagles for hunting rabbits.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bernie wrote 3 years 1 day ago

I owned three beagles from the mid-'70s to late '80s, shot some snowshoe hares over them, white-tailed jackrabbits and cottontails. But the most fun I had was hunting pheasants over them. One year my father and I shot more than 40 roosters over those beagles. Boogie, the last of them, died at age 13 years 7 months in 1988. They were merry little hounds and I'll always miss them.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from jamesti wrote 3 years 1 day ago

my lab is enough for me to handle. i wouldn't have time for a beagle and my lab only hunts birds.

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from Mike Diehl wrote 3 years 1 day ago

Could really use a beagle here. Cottontails are wiley little critters.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mike Plotner wrote 3 years 1 day ago

what about the houndmen? nothing beats the sound of hounds on tree! sitting there waiting for them to tree talking with your buddies about life and then once the dog trees you shine the coon with your light and shoot em out! no thats fun! yall should try it some time!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mike Plotner wrote 3 years 1 day ago

you cant beat a good walker!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from shane wrote 3 years 1 day ago

"shooting a deer with a lever-action .30-30"

WAY too many haven't done that these days. Too much hypermagnum elevated box beanfield long rangering going on now.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 3 years 1 day ago

Very well-written, Chad. One of the best posts I have ever seen on this forum. Delightful read. Thanks.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from shane wrote 3 years 1 day ago

I second OHH's comment.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from kelmitch wrote 3 years 1 day ago

Ive owned 2 30-30 rifles one Winchester and one Marlin 30as and many Vebco 33.Recently my wife brought home a Dashound who I think should have been a Lab.Right now he is buisy treeing our cat on the couch.Ive been working Magnum my Springer on lining drills and retrieving with all the decoys out 18 at this time 6 GHG and 12 Flambeau.Still have plans for 6 Wood duck decoys.Its still cold enough to put the vest on him to give him more time to get used to it but cant wait for the water temp.to come up.Planing a trip to pick up some pheasant and looking for some ducks.I will keep my bean field rifle at this time over any 30-30 though.

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from kelmitch wrote 3 years 1 day ago

My training collar of many years has finally quit but thanks to a great company standing by their product we have a new one on its way.

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from 007 wrote 3 years 1 day ago

I too am a hound owner and hunter, a little bit of coon but mostly bear with a plott and a redtick. Before our rabbits thinned out I also had a brace of beagles. If you'll look at my profile pics you'll see some friends of mine who have top notch beagles and invite me along after bear season. Anyone who doesn't feel something when they hear a hot rabbit chase or hounds trailing has never truly lived the outdoors.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Brian V wrote 3 years 1 day ago

I started running beagles when I was maybe 10. I got older and now I'm into the coonhounds. I've had a couple walkers, blueticks, a redbone, hunted with a friend who had plotts and now I've got a black & tan. A couple were good several were bad and most of them were ok cooners. I worked for a guy who proffesionally trained bird dogs and had some top of the line dogs but they never really excited me or even really impressed me like a good hound. I guess at 20 I'm "old fashioned" I don't know who could not find the sound of a hound leaning up on the timber and telling the world about it simple bone chilling or amazing or some undescribable word

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Charlie Nichols wrote 3 years 1 day ago

Private, posted property. No Trespassing....gentlemen that is what happened to America and why beagles are now considered niche hunting. As a kid I could go out into the woods after school behind the old beagle and hunt for hours by merely crossing the barbed wired fences while Barney the beagle whoofed behind the cotton-tails. You can't do that anymore. At least here in the east we still have vast acreage of USFS lands that the environmentalist haven't totally taken over so that there are some grouse to hunt...but cotton-tails need overgrown fields and they are posted to keep the antler fiends away. Rotary dial phones and rabbit hunting, history.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from dighunter wrote 3 years 22 hours ago

Finally, a little love for the hounds! I have only hunted beagles for about 5 years now, but I love it. The only hard part is finding time to work them. I am getting my first coon dog pup here soon and am excited, and nervous at the same time.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from MLH wrote 3 years 16 hours ago

And don't discount the search and rescue and police dogs.

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from .300winmag wrote 3 years 15 hours ago

My beagle/Husky mix Prowler is just about as happy to chase rabbits as to tree a coon, and on one occasion, a black bear cub(that was a treat). Only thing he don't do is birds. Even though his lack of focus makes hunting a particular species difficult(blame it on his then 10yr old trainer) Thats where im considering an English Setter/Britt/Lab for grouse and the occasional pheasant.

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from jimmyboywv wrote 3 years 14 hours ago

i once was able to go coon hunting with a pack of blueticks n what an experience.i thought it was incredible the way those dogs would change there bark from trail to tree.if you check out websites such as coondawgs.com check out the galleries look i know labs and pointers have it rough when the waters cold but bayin a mtn loin at the edge of a cliff for nothing but a scratch on the ears and some cheap dog food that whole breed derserves alot more credit then they get imo

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from dmeister wrote 3 years 1 hour ago

I have GSP, but in SW Ohio, I see far more guys running beagles for rabbits than anything else, including labs. Especially on public land. They are there all the time.

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from alabama hog dogs wrote 2 years 52 weeks ago

I have recently started hunting hogs with dogs. My friends and I use Black Mouth Curs, Plott Hounds, Walkers, Black and Tans, and Catahoulas. It is like nothing else. I do enjoy hunting other game; but when you grab a boar by the back legs and flip him over there is not much else to compare it too.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from 2Poppa wrote 2 years 50 weeks ago

I had a stepdad that decided to take me rabbit huntin' back in 1962. He took his 4-legged companion, Ringo, along for the ride. I didn't know what I was in for until he told Ringo to, "get 'em up!"

Ringo was hot on a trail, soon after the door of the truck was opened. I was still lookin' for my gloves when my stepdad disappeared into the brush nearly a city block away.

I gave up the search for my gloves, as I hustled off into the cold morning air.I caught up with him as fast as I could, when he told me to stay behind him. I could hear Ringo "talkin'" to us as he seemed to be runnin' in a wide circle.

I saw him runnin' across a field when his howlin' stopped. I looked up at my stepdad to try and tell what he was thinkin' when all of a sudden, he quickly looked to his right and lowered the boom on a runnin' rabbit. As soon as I heard the shotgun go off, he swung the double-barrel to his left, and shot a second rabbit tryin' to escape.

I tried to fathom the scenario in my young mind and concluded that he was almost as good as Davy Crockett, 'cept different. Mr. Crockett didn't have a dog like Ringo.

Ringo, the beagle, was a family favorite, and was right up there with Rin Tin Tin. I'll never forget the day my stepdad called for Ringo, and he never responded. He walked out to the mail box and found Ringo laying along side the road.

I heard my mom tell someone on the phone later that night," I've never saw him cry before, until now."

RIP Ringo!

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from rmb5110 wrote 3 years 2 days ago

I am an avid rabbit hunter and the proud owner of six beagles. You can't beat the thrill of listening to a pack of hounds bringing a hare/cottontail to the gun. Then you have only a split second to take the shot as he runs for his life. In addition, to the UKC hunting championships this past weekend in Ohio. The American Kennel Club also held their hunting championships in Kentucky, where 311 of the finest hounds in the country were present.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from kansasjeff wrote 3 years 2 days ago

" old-fashioned as the rotary-dial phone, letter-writing or three channels of television." Seriously I grew up hunting in the 90's and I remember all of these things (My granddad taught me to hunt with Beagles / Basset Hounds for Rabbits, and Coonhounds for Raccoons) My family was the first in the area with a computer and internet. ( a dial-up 14.4K connnection)but we didn't have cable till 98. or a touch tone phone till 98 when I won one in a raffle. Guess I'm a throwback and I'm only 28.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Thomas.Cochran wrote 3 years 2 days ago

I'm an avid bear hunter from Maine. Ive been bear hunting with hounds since I was five years old. My father and I use Plotts and Walkers for the most part, but we are not shy about adding other hound breeds to the pack.We just like good hounds who can run and tree,regardless of their color. We hunt to have a good time with friends and enjoy the outdoors. I'm also and avid upland hunter and own an English Setter, so I see both sides of the spectrum. Very good blog btw! Great articles.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bernie wrote 3 years 1 day ago

I owned three beagles from the mid-'70s to late '80s, shot some snowshoe hares over them, white-tailed jackrabbits and cottontails. But the most fun I had was hunting pheasants over them. One year my father and I shot more than 40 roosters over those beagles. Boogie, the last of them, died at age 13 years 7 months in 1988. They were merry little hounds and I'll always miss them.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from jcarlin wrote 3 years 2 days ago

I'd hunted rabbits a handful of times as just a pair of guys kicking bushes. It's a nice walk. I intentionally took in a rescue beagle for the purpose. (Not from the official beagle rescue folks, they apparently have illusions regarding the purpose of a beagle, not to mention the source of one's joy in life. You sign a contract that you will not hunt over dogs obtained through them.) The first time he opened up on a hot track I thought the ecollar had shorted out on him. Soon those pained sounding yips went to a full bugle as he spotted his quarry. Rabbit hunting suddenly became about watching and listening to your dog work a rabbit, not necessarily so much about hunting rabbits or even just getting out. There is something in the sound of a beagle giving voice that stirs the blood. It is both as simple as that and more complicated than I have the words to express. I still don't get him out enough for either of our tastes, but I think I'll own one or two of those little hounds until the day I die.

On the side of a dedicated blog. Training a beagle? I have a lot to learn and a good hound guy could teach me and my dog a lot. I think hounds are a lot more instinct driven due to the independent nature of thier methods than the bird dogs. Training is still necessary, but it seems to be a lot less intense. For now I'm still trying to learn what he can teach me. What has suprised me more than anything is how often the open woods holds rabbits when I want to hunt and work brushy edge and transition cover. It only takes one walk "back to the car" after an unproductive day when your hound jumps a large cottontail from under a small stump surrounded by relatively bare ground in a large hardwood stand to teach you that you need to be taught.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mike Diehl wrote 3 years 1 day ago

Could really use a beagle here. Cottontails are wiley little critters.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mike Plotner wrote 3 years 1 day ago

what about the houndmen? nothing beats the sound of hounds on tree! sitting there waiting for them to tree talking with your buddies about life and then once the dog trees you shine the coon with your light and shoot em out! no thats fun! yall should try it some time!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mike Plotner wrote 3 years 1 day ago

you cant beat a good walker!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 3 years 1 day ago

Very well-written, Chad. One of the best posts I have ever seen on this forum. Delightful read. Thanks.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Brian V wrote 3 years 1 day ago

I started running beagles when I was maybe 10. I got older and now I'm into the coonhounds. I've had a couple walkers, blueticks, a redbone, hunted with a friend who had plotts and now I've got a black & tan. A couple were good several were bad and most of them were ok cooners. I worked for a guy who proffesionally trained bird dogs and had some top of the line dogs but they never really excited me or even really impressed me like a good hound. I guess at 20 I'm "old fashioned" I don't know who could not find the sound of a hound leaning up on the timber and telling the world about it simple bone chilling or amazing or some undescribable word

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Charlie Nichols wrote 3 years 1 day ago

Private, posted property. No Trespassing....gentlemen that is what happened to America and why beagles are now considered niche hunting. As a kid I could go out into the woods after school behind the old beagle and hunt for hours by merely crossing the barbed wired fences while Barney the beagle whoofed behind the cotton-tails. You can't do that anymore. At least here in the east we still have vast acreage of USFS lands that the environmentalist haven't totally taken over so that there are some grouse to hunt...but cotton-tails need overgrown fields and they are posted to keep the antler fiends away. Rotary dial phones and rabbit hunting, history.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from dighunter wrote 3 years 22 hours ago

Finally, a little love for the hounds! I have only hunted beagles for about 5 years now, but I love it. The only hard part is finding time to work them. I am getting my first coon dog pup here soon and am excited, and nervous at the same time.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jimmyboywv wrote 3 years 14 hours ago

i once was able to go coon hunting with a pack of blueticks n what an experience.i thought it was incredible the way those dogs would change there bark from trail to tree.if you check out websites such as coondawgs.com check out the galleries look i know labs and pointers have it rough when the waters cold but bayin a mtn loin at the edge of a cliff for nothing but a scratch on the ears and some cheap dog food that whole breed derserves alot more credit then they get imo

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from alabama hog dogs wrote 2 years 52 weeks ago

I have recently started hunting hogs with dogs. My friends and I use Black Mouth Curs, Plott Hounds, Walkers, Black and Tans, and Catahoulas. It is like nothing else. I do enjoy hunting other game; but when you grab a boar by the back legs and flip him over there is not much else to compare it too.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Henry_Chappell wrote 3 years 2 days ago

Great observation, Chad. I'm a longtime GSP man, but I also hunt squirrels and 'coons with a mountain cur. There's a world of hunting with dogs out there that rarely gets mentioned outside of specialty mags like Full Cry. Hunting with treeing dogs or beagles isn't seen as classy as grouse shooting or quail hunting over pointing dogs, and I suspect there may be less money to be made selling products to coon hunters.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Coachcl wrote 3 years 1 day ago

I am an avid bird hunter, have been raised that way my whole life. If the dogs aren't around we will shoot rabbits. But I agree with you Chad. There is a whole nation of hunters that use dogs. Maybe it is old fashioned. And I know most hunters today deer hunter. I just have never gotten into it. Doesn't interest me to sit in a deer stand all day. Every deer hunter I have ever taken out bird hunting loves it. Just watching the dogs work is probably 90% of the fun. But it is a commitment to own, care for, train and hunt dogs. Most don't want to put in that kind of work. Deer hunting is easier to get started.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from ILBassin wrote 3 years 1 day ago

beagles are great dogs but there hell to train. Lot of people say you don't train them they train you. i know alot of guys who use beagles for hunting rabbits.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jamesti wrote 3 years 1 day ago

my lab is enough for me to handle. i wouldn't have time for a beagle and my lab only hunts birds.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from shane wrote 3 years 1 day ago

"shooting a deer with a lever-action .30-30"

WAY too many haven't done that these days. Too much hypermagnum elevated box beanfield long rangering going on now.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from shane wrote 3 years 1 day ago

I second OHH's comment.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from kelmitch wrote 3 years 1 day ago

Ive owned 2 30-30 rifles one Winchester and one Marlin 30as and many Vebco 33.Recently my wife brought home a Dashound who I think should have been a Lab.Right now he is buisy treeing our cat on the couch.Ive been working Magnum my Springer on lining drills and retrieving with all the decoys out 18 at this time 6 GHG and 12 Flambeau.Still have plans for 6 Wood duck decoys.Its still cold enough to put the vest on him to give him more time to get used to it but cant wait for the water temp.to come up.Planing a trip to pick up some pheasant and looking for some ducks.I will keep my bean field rifle at this time over any 30-30 though.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from kelmitch wrote 3 years 1 day ago

My training collar of many years has finally quit but thanks to a great company standing by their product we have a new one on its way.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 007 wrote 3 years 1 day ago

I too am a hound owner and hunter, a little bit of coon but mostly bear with a plott and a redtick. Before our rabbits thinned out I also had a brace of beagles. If you'll look at my profile pics you'll see some friends of mine who have top notch beagles and invite me along after bear season. Anyone who doesn't feel something when they hear a hot rabbit chase or hounds trailing has never truly lived the outdoors.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from MLH wrote 3 years 16 hours ago

And don't discount the search and rescue and police dogs.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from .300winmag wrote 3 years 15 hours ago

My beagle/Husky mix Prowler is just about as happy to chase rabbits as to tree a coon, and on one occasion, a black bear cub(that was a treat). Only thing he don't do is birds. Even though his lack of focus makes hunting a particular species difficult(blame it on his then 10yr old trainer) Thats where im considering an English Setter/Britt/Lab for grouse and the occasional pheasant.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from dmeister wrote 3 years 1 hour ago

I have GSP, but in SW Ohio, I see far more guys running beagles for rabbits than anything else, including labs. Especially on public land. They are there all the time.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 2Poppa wrote 2 years 50 weeks ago

I had a stepdad that decided to take me rabbit huntin' back in 1962. He took his 4-legged companion, Ringo, along for the ride. I didn't know what I was in for until he told Ringo to, "get 'em up!"

Ringo was hot on a trail, soon after the door of the truck was opened. I was still lookin' for my gloves when my stepdad disappeared into the brush nearly a city block away.

I gave up the search for my gloves, as I hustled off into the cold morning air.I caught up with him as fast as I could, when he told me to stay behind him. I could hear Ringo "talkin'" to us as he seemed to be runnin' in a wide circle.

I saw him runnin' across a field when his howlin' stopped. I looked up at my stepdad to try and tell what he was thinkin' when all of a sudden, he quickly looked to his right and lowered the boom on a runnin' rabbit. As soon as I heard the shotgun go off, he swung the double-barrel to his left, and shot a second rabbit tryin' to escape.

I tried to fathom the scenario in my young mind and concluded that he was almost as good as Davy Crockett, 'cept different. Mr. Crockett didn't have a dog like Ringo.

Ringo, the beagle, was a family favorite, and was right up there with Rin Tin Tin. I'll never forget the day my stepdad called for Ringo, and he never responded. He walked out to the mail box and found Ringo laying along side the road.

I heard my mom tell someone on the phone later that night," I've never saw him cry before, until now."

RIP Ringo!

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