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Baby beagles to begin training for their bout against bunnies

August 12, 2005|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

GREENCASTLE, PA.

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

School begins in a few weeks for Cowboy and Buckskin.

The 8-week-old beagle pups are almost ready to begin the training that will lead them to careers as rabbit hunters.

Their owner, Jeremy Anderson, 28, of 13013 Grant Shook Road, himself a rabbit hunter since he was a child, owns, breeds and trains hunting beagles.

Hannah, his 11/2-year-old female dog, had eight pups in June. Anderson is keeping two light-brown males, Cowboy and Buckskin, to add to his pack of six hunting beagles.

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The others will be sold to people who hunt rabbits.

"They know I have good field dogs," Anderson said.

At the moment, the pups are cuddly and playful, jumping at everything that moves and at each other in the big fenced-in kennel they share with their mother, Anderson's other adult beagles and Hali, his friendly Rottweiler and Hannah's bosom buddy.

Anderson said he abhors shock collars, remote-control devices placed around dogs' necks that trainers use to administer shocks to make them obey commands.

"They use them to call their dogs back," Anderson said. "I use time and patience."

He said he won't try to call his dogs in when they're in hot pursuit of a rabbit. He can tell when they're on the trail of a deer or fox by the sound of their yelps.

"I can always call them back when they're on a deer or fox," Anderson said. "A dog you can't control in the field is no use to you."

Anderson starts his training with a starter pistol to get the pups used to the sound of a gunshot.

He uses a special breed of half-wild rabbit that he lets loose in the kennel. The pups chase it around and learn the smell. Later, Anderson turns the rabbit loose in a nearby high-grass field and lets the pups find it by scent, he said.

It can take up to a year to turn a puppy into a well-trained rabbit-hunting dog, Anderson said.

Rabbits are creatures of habit, and that often leads them to the stew pot.

"Nine out of 10 times, a rabbit will end up at the place where he starts from," Anderson said.

The dogs jump the rabbit from a brush pile and the chase begins.

The hunter waits near the spot where the chase began and listens for the baying sounds of the dogs. The rabbit usually is loping along ahead of the pack, Anderson said.

"The dogs will run him as long as he doesn't hole up," he said. "The thrill for me is not pulling the trigger, but hearing my dogs."

Anderson also likes to eat rabbit, fried or baked, he said. He particularly enjoys partially frying the meat, then simmering it all day in a slow-cooker in gravy with a little seasoned salt and pepper.

The love of rabbit hunting has been passed down through the generations in Anderson's family.

"It's always been handed down," he said. "I guess someday I'll pass it down to these two," he said of his children, Destiny, 10, and Jeremy Jr., 7.

These days, especially because of some physical disabilities, Anderson leaves his 20-gauge shotgun home and grabs his video camera when he takes his dogs hunting.

He hopes to make a marketable video on rabbit hunting with beagles.

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