Beagle owners who hunt rabbits don’t need a dozen or two dogs to have a large-enough pack of hounds to chase bunnies.
"A good pack can have as few as five beagles, but I think eight dogs makes a good pack," said Chris Kidd of Burlington. "That’s a good-size pack, but some people run more."
The key factor is having dogs that will chase a rabbit at a uniform speed.
"You don’t want one or two dogs way out in front of the main pack," Kidd said. "As long as they run the same speed, you’ll be alright."
That means having dogs that are of the 13-inch variety or 15-inch beagles.
"Ten or 12 dogs really make it easy because they make a lot more noise," he said, "and that keeps the rabbit at a uniform distance in front of them."
That’s important because hunters try to intercept and look for rabbits ahead of a beagle pack.
Hunting rabbits with beagles is different from hunting deer with dogs because, even though deer-dog hunters try to get in front of deer, their quarry may be as far as a half-mile in front of the hounds. But for rabbits, especially cottontails, they’ll usually run from 50 to100 yards in front of the beagles, depending upon the terrain. Thicker terrain, such as a regenerating cutover that’s prime rabbit-hunting territory, will make rabbits often keep only 50 yards or less ahead of the dogs.
"You can’t be looking up when you hunt rabbits with dogs," Kidd said. "You won’t see white tails bouncing like with deer. You have to look on the ground where the rabbits are, and you need sharp eyes. Rabbits aren’t easy to see, and they like to run in thick stuff."
Many beagle owners don’t take guns with them but simply want to listen to determine how effectively their beagles are hunting.
"If you grew up hunting and around dogs, it’s the situation of hearing them running and hearing the dogs work that’s important," Langdon said. "We know the voice of each dog, so when you have your own dog running or your dog gets a check, you feel like you’ve accomplished something."
"Killing rabbits is the extra part," he said. "But if we’re hunting private land, we always offer the landowner some of the rabbits. That’s makes for return invites to come back."