The sport of Beagling originates with a well-bred and trained pack of beagle hounds. They are managed and lead by a dedicated Hunt Staff rewarded only by titles corresponding to Master of Beagles, Huntsman, and Whipper-In for their 365 day contribution to the sport. Equally important is a supportive membership who follows the hounds regularly during the hunting season and contributes to their care. Supporting members include a chairman, tea chairman, corresponding secretaries, and a recording secretary—much decorum amongst such spontaneous company here in central Virginia.
By chance I was introduced to this sport in 2011 and as a landscape photographer I revel in the outstanding vistas, gracious company, crisp air, and lively chases—all kept on foot. Images in Western Albemarle County never fail to deliver a diverse opus to my lens.
This particular pack was established in 1985 and devotees delight in animated hunts from early October through April. Each week, amongst splendid company, calls of the hounds and horn provide boundless, pleasurable exercise.
On scheduled Sunday afternoons, a diverse field gathers round for friendly banter, as the hounds wail from their buggy anticipating the run ahead. These furry faces make for endless photo ops as joyful children and shutter happy adults stroke and photograph the easy-going heads. When the buggy doors open the pack emerges to stretch, gather, and may even visit a bystander. Following a brief welcome from the Master, the pursuit is on.
Over hill, dale, creek and meadow, hunting requires sturdy footwear, a robust constitution, and a wee knowledge of protocol. The rest is forgiven if a line is crossed—yet only once. A few members follow by car, where terrain permits. This is an all-encompassing sport!
Many a fine conversation is had in passing; all the while one keeps an ear to the echoes of the pack. This day will be memorable as all in attendance are invited to join in a festive tea following the meet. As the sun sets, glasses clink, flavorful food is consumed, personality’s blossom, new friends are made, and frequently animated discussions of the day’s event prevail.
Members are encouraged to invite friends to hunt and become supporting members, if the sport seems to be a fit for that person.
Most individuals enjoy the fall days for chasing, although generally this is the poorest hunting of the season. Rabbits are more difficult to find, scent is weaker, the runs shorter with more checks, and are often with outright loss of a rabbit. Mid-winter toward early spring is when folks get cold, wet, fight wind and lower temperatures, yet the scent improves and pursuits tend to have long, exciting runs.
As spring approaches, rabbits are beginning to think about mating and the males (bucks) travel farther from home seeking company. When hunts jump up a buck, he will frequently head for home on a beeline—and at great speed—providing spectacular excitement and views in open country.
During March, the annual National Beagle Club Field Trials at Aldie, Virginia host packs coming from all over the East coast. Packs are judged over a four-day period while hound-talk, eating, sipping, and a generally good time is had by all. Masters and Huntsmen also watch other hounds work, trade hounds, and concentrate on their breeding programs for the following year.
Not all hounds make the grade in the pack and since beagles are such friendly dogs many are given to families for pets as house or yard dogs. As hounds age there is almost always a waiting list to give them a warm home for life.
If any reader is fretful about animal welfare, you are preaching to the choir where beagling is concerned. Claiming a rabbit’s life is not the object of the sport. Blood is shed only when a rabbit runs into a hound by accident. Personally, I rejoice when witnessing a rabbit fly, with lightning speed over its well know turf, escaping into a thicket or going to ground. What remains is my individual challenge to actually capture an image of any leaping cottontail, as rabbits are illusive indeed.
Copyright © 2014 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved