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?