Monday, November 12, 2007

First Fall Wyoming Hunt

Here we are in early November. Weather is getting cooler and some snow is beginning to fall in the High Country of the Rocky Mountains. With daytime temperatures in the 40's and 50's it is time to get the hounds out for some sport. The hares that live on the high prairies have begun to don their winter coats of white to brown and white in anticipation of the first snows. We arrived in the BLM lands early on Saturday after a 4 hour drive through the early morning darkness. This is before the time change and so daylight does not appear until well after 7:00 am. We pulled into our hunt area a little before 9:00 and park the truck. We were waiting for another member of our party to arrive and she was about 15 minutes behind us. As we shut the truck off I see a little Black Footed Ferret being busy exploring some ground squirrel holes for breakfast. He sits up and looks at us in a curious manner. Suddenly he startles and ducks into the hole he had just emerged from. His reason for the sudden departure was a Golden Eagle riding the wind currents off the bluff that lay before us overlooking a basin 5 or 6 miles wide. Our friend arrives and she lets her Wolfhounds and one Scottish Deerhound loose to get some of the traveling bladder issues dealt with. Our Staghounds had already taken care of this problem and so off we go. About 5 minutes into the walk, a good sized Jack Rabbit bolts from the sage right in front of Scorch and the chase is on. Now Scorch has become a bit lazy in the last year and although run daily, is not in the fittest condition she has ever been in. The hare makes a large wide turn of about 1/4 mile and Scorch is a bit off the pace taking a hedging position trying to turn the hare. None of the other hounds have seen this hare, so Scorch is on her own. Well after 2-1/2 or 3 minutes, the hare gives Scorch the slip and she comes back huffing and panting. Another 10 minutes of hiking and observing a herd of antelope off in the distance that had seen us coming since we left the truck, we decide to make a turn as we did not want the hounds to course the herd of the fastest running animals in North America. We turn off to the West and not long after, here goes another hare. This time 7 or 8 hounds site this champion runner. Leaping back and forth over the sage, these hounds with each others help get this hare going the distance. We watch with excitement as the hounds put hard pressure on the quarry and force it to make last second turns. The dust and dirt is flying and they force this jack rabbit into a tight circle to evade the pursuing hounds. Then as suddenly as it began, the hare manages to go to ground. One of those many badger settes that provide shelter for all sorts of high prairie animals, that is unless the badger happens to be home and then he is thankful that the lunch meal was delivered on time. Seems like an opportune time for a water break for the hounds and let them catch their breath.

Off 10 minutes later with everyone, including myself breathing normal again. We are bearing off farther West to avoid yet another herd of antelope. We have probably walked 2 miles by now and no doubt the hounds have both walked and run 5 or 6 miles themselves. On occasion a small cottontail rabbit pops into the lead. They are quite the erratic little creatures and have not got the flat out speed of the hares and so they depend on maneuverability to escape the predators. These runs are quite short but keep the hounds attention and minds focused on the task at hand. Now as we approach the end of this large area of sage at the base of the hills on the opposite site of the basin we are working, another hare bolts it's hiding place and in a fairly typical fashion, runs uphill depending on it's superior power to weight ratio to out accelerate the hounds, which it does handily, not that the hounds are aware of this. Up they go, covering great sections of this uphill chase in huge leaps. Over the top they go and what happens from there is a mystery as we are not able to cover the ground nearly as efficiently to witness the course. Back down they come, one at a time. The hounds are starting to look like I feel as we stare back across the basin nearly 3 miles away from the vehicles. We walk along the edge of the hills and yet another hare streaks for the hills. The Wolfhounds look at this like they are saying "you've got to be kidding" The Staghounds without missing a beat are after this one as well. With the midday temps beginning to climb, I am thinking it is time to leash a few of these athletes up for their own good. I manage to give the hunt horn a recall tune and back they come one at a time. We do a head count to make sure the entire pack is accounted for and start the journey back to the vehicle. It has been a good day in the field. On the way back, a few more hares bolt off in the distance as if they were taunting the hounds to give chase. The Staghounds being coupled up and the Wolfhounds being smart enough to know when enough if enough watch them scamper off in the distance. We spot another ferret going about his afternoon business and off in the distance riding the wind currents of the bluff the Golden Eagle we spotted when we arrived was looking for his meal, perhaps hoping the hounds would bolt one his direction. All the hares are safe, no injuries for any of the hounds and it was an exciting morning of watching some good coursing of hound and hare testing each others mettle.


BorderWars said...

Glad to see you're back to coursing and posting. I've got a little border collie bitch that has caught two hares on my acre yard down in Englewood, I wonder how she'd fare with the pros and if her sub-urban assault techniques that work in the yard would work out on the field.

- Christopher

bdub said...

Hi my name is Brandon. I really enjoy your articles and pictures. Those are amazing dogs. I have been searching the internet looking for information on staghounds and breeders.I was wondering if you could point me in the right direction. My grandfater hunted coyote for years and I was looking to start also. If you could help in any way it would be great. Thanks again and keep it up.

greydogCA said...

Hey Mike,

I run greyhounds in California. I chase rabbits and coyotes. I have ran in the Shirley Basin as well. Nice blog, really enjoyed it.

I have one coldblood, two hotbloods, and three coldblood pups. I can't wait to get back up to Wyoming.

james blake said...

Hi,my dog is somewhat peculiar and regarding chasing the rabbit it all depends on it's mood.Sometimes it chases every other creatures even the squirrels but sometimes it just lays down.
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james blake said...

Usually my dog prefers to hunt near the lakes where there is a scope to catch the hunt.Also the hunting skills of the dog improves and the poor hares have to be sharp enough to escape from them.
james blake
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