Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Lane Batot on Trailhounds

Part 1, Trailhound tales

In relating some of my experiences with my canine family members, I will start with my two trailhounds, as mention of them has been made on comments in past discussionsons this blog. I prefer the term "trailhounds" to "coonhounds", which is how most people identify these scent hounds, if they can identify them at all! It apalls me no end when people refer to a Black-And-Tan as a "Doberman cross", a Walker as looking like a big Beagle, a Redbone as a Visla(and I have suprisingly heard that a lot! How in the world does someone who doesn't know what a Redbone is, know what the heck a Visla is?), and merely shrug in ignorance when confronted with a Bluetick. This incredibly urban-spawned ignorance, of some of the most incredibly functional hound breeds ever developed(and developed right here in the U. S. of A.!), is something I try to rectify every chance I get!

And although "Coonhound" is the official name of the six breeds in this category(Black-And-Tan, Redbone, English, Walker, Bluetick, and Plott), it is something of a misnomer, as these hounds have been used for all types of game throughout their development, and still are! "Trailhound" is an old pioneer term indicating a scent hound that trails game, and is a broader, more appropriate name for these breeds, I think. Deer, bear, boar, fox, coyote, wolf, 'possum, cougar, bobcat, and feral housecats, as well as raccoons, are all North American game successfully pursued by these hounds. Although the majority of these scent hound breeds are today mostly used to hunt raccoon exclusively, their ancestors in pioneer days were expected to fulfill a variety of uses.

This is often forgotten by modern-day hunters, especially competition hunters, who train their hounds to trail and tree raccoons only(or else!). They would consider a hound that runs anything else as "running trash". Ditto if they are exclusively bear hunters, cat hunters, etc. Growing up in a culture where this view regarding hunting dogs has reached virtual religious adherence, it is considered blasphemous by houndsmen when they discover that not only do I know my hounds to "run trash", I encourage it! I had toyed with the idea for many years--to acquire a trailhound or two of my own, and allow them to trail and tree or run anything they wanted(outside of domestic stock, that is!), because I was curious as to how the old-time pioneers utilized their hounds this way, as I had read in various accounts. Apparently they could tell just what critter their hounds were trailing by the variances of their baying, and allow them to continue or call them off using a hunting horn.

I planned to get such a hunting horn and learn how to use it. Which I did. I thought that going out with trailhounds that would track and run just about anything would be a unique(for nowadays) and interesting way to learn about a variety of wildlife. It has been. Yup, my hounds are "trash" hounds to the core, and I'm proud of it! If I ever had to rely on them for survival, as the old pioneers did, I'd much prefer to have hounds trained my way than the reigning U. S. Champion Nite Hunt coon dog! Raccoon can get real old real fast if that's all that's on the menu! Though I was raised in country where both coonhounds and foxhounds were common, and despite my admiration for these dogs, and my continual acquisition of many other types of canines over the years, it was a long time before I finally got a hound of my own, and when it did come about, it was by pure, unsolicited happenstance.......to be continued.........


Anonymous said...

Hi Steve

"my hounds are "trash" hounds to the core, and I'm proud of it! If I ever had to rely on them for survival, as the old pioneers did, I'd much prefer to have hounds trained my way than the reigning U. S. Champion Nite Hunt coon dog!"

I do so agree!. Especially for those of us who have to rely on ONE DOG for all our "Shooting Support" - Utility, flexibility, and companionship are, for me, the greatest assets.

Field Trial animals are great to watch, have receievd hours of specialist, patient training , but give me a "wily,biddable,generalist" every time in the field- a compulsive bag filler please .

This is not to say that a FT dog may not be a good one too, but I just don't have the time , energy, or focus to spend on the specialist training, and to what PRACTICAL additionality? .

My current lab hunts keenly within range, marks, and retrieves from land & water , or will stay happily at a peg during drives. She is a TOTAL JOY to work with. She is full trained to working test standard, but would fail on "fizzines" in a Field Trial , but I love her dearly for all that !

Everyone to their own - but it's great that some of us manage to live in times where we can choose what it is to just "BE!".


Teddy said...

Great to know others use their scent hounds for a variety of game. The dachshunds I use take to the hedgerows and woods eagerly and I never know what game they will find. They hunt for the joy of finding game, like the mini-predators they are. A friend and I used to joke that the reason dachshunds are called 'versatile' hunters is because they are ready to chase any game and can be stubborn about being broke off unwanted quarry such as deer. They'll tree game, they'll run game and they'll find it in dens. Guess they too are 'trashy' but what sport we have in the meantime. These hounds do earn AKC Field Champion titles on rabbits and Working Certificates from the American Working Terrier Association for underground work, but for me they are just good game producing little hounds. I sometimes back them up with a 20 guage shotgun, a .22 rifle or a lurcher but they don't care, they just want to get into game. Thanks, Lane, for giving the hounds credit for what they do for hunters.

Anonymous said...

Yes, JohnyUK, nothing wrong with Field Trial dogs, or people who prefer to specialize on one type of game or another, but then they have to go and decide what eveyone else does is "trash"! And such people really can get irate about it! That attitude is damaging(in my view) because it makes the unninitiated or the "follow-the-herd" types think they MUST follow this narrow protocol, and often limits their and their dogs' enjoyment afield. Good to hear there are others that "think outside the kennel"! And Teddy Moritz! I have followed your adventures for years in "Full Cry", so I feel I almost know you and your dogs and hawk! Lots more to come on my trailhounds--I'm going to try and get an entry in every week or so, then move on to some of my other canine types(unless people get sick of me by then!)