Working Dachshunds

FULL CRY – There are many ways to lose a hunting dog with getting hit by a car probably one of the commonest. For only the second time in over 30 years of hunting with Dachshunds I lost a Dachshund to the road. Whoever flattened him didn’t honk, didn’t stop and I only found him after I put the hawk and other dogs away and drove around the area. It was dusk and rather dicey to grab his broken body off the road without being a casualty myself. But I couldn’t leave him there. He was hit so hard his collar was torn off. I went back the next day and found it. It was flattened too and the buckle was gone. I tied it to my steering wheel as a tribute to the dog. And of course I shed lots of tears. I had raised this pup from two weeks old and he was special. His parents were my two best hunting Dachshunds. His brothers and sisters are in falconry homes and doing well. I had high hopes of making a very useful rabbit dog out of this pup.  I can’t even repeat the breeding because I lost his mother to toxic shock this past summer. Sometimes the red gods of the hunt take their toll.

Another hunting Dachshund was lost in Southern Texas. The falconer had a few years of good use out of a miniature longhair of hunting breeding. She was super at finding jackrabbits in heavy sage and she could make cottontails leave any kind of cover. Unfortunately, one creature which inhabits that area is a wild pig known as a peccary. This Dachshund decided to give chase to a javelina (peccary) after it had charged her in the sage. The pig ran to its pals and they had their way with the little dog. When the owner found her body, there wasn’t much left; also a tough way to lose a dog.

On with the brighter side. I have a nice litter of pups, four in all, two males, two females, all of whom are going to falconry homes. One goes to Tennessee, one to Colorado and two to Montana. Three of the four falconers already have Dachshunds and have used them for years under their birds. The pups are a nice even litter, good temperaments and of course they get really excited when I put a dead rabbit in with them. They drag it around and growl over it. Their new owners will just have to keep exposing them to game to finish their training. Getting a pup in the spring is a good idea. The pup has all summer to grow up and learn about rabbits. The hawk has time to get used to the new dog. By next fall, the team can just go hawking.

With the loss of my young male dog, a good friend who is a falconer gave me the sister to the dog I lost. I had been hunting this female as my friend had moved and didn’t have time to hawk this winter. He had let me use the dog this season in order to get her started on rabbits rather than letting her sit out the winter in a kennel. She is small, leggy and has turned out to be a valuable member of my hawking team. She hunts at a run, nose to the ground and when she finds a rabbit she can stay with it through thick brush. She has learned to go to ground after rabbits. She is very narrow and can worm her way through any tight spot. I really appreciate having this young female and will continue to work her the remainder of this season. It’s heartwarming to have friends who’ll share their dogs.

I’ve had a chance to see some interesting connections between my hawk and one of my dogs. The hawk seems always to shadow this Dachshund when we’re hunting. If she moves ahead in the trees, or moves somewhere else, almost invariably that dog, a small red male, will be under her. He is very good at finding rabbits and I think the bird has figured this out. She watches all the dogs from her perch in the trees but if I can’t see the red dog, I just go to the area under the bird and he’ll be there somewhere.

He opens on a hot track so I often hear him before I see him. He’s one of those reliable hunters you can put down in a rabbit spot and just stand still and wait. Sooner or later he’ll find a rabbit. It might take five minutes, it might take fifteen, but eventually he’ll open and the chase will start. The hawk has apparently learned that this dog will produce game and she stays near him when we’re hawking. Kind of interesting to watch the connection between the two. If the hawk sees a rabbit, she’ll fly after it. If the little red dog sees her, he’s right with her and he picks up the track. They tag team a rabbit pretty well. Also interesting is the fact that the young male I lost is also a red dog, but the hawk didn’t shadow him. She knows it’s the adult male who is the one to watch, even though the two dogs are the same color. Years ago I had a black and tan female who was the best at finding rabbits.

The hawk I was flying then, a male Harris, would immediately take to the air if this female spoke. He knew she’d have a rabbit up and moving even if he couldn’t see it. They were also quite the team. I’m a spectator and get to the see the partnership work out. The other dogs help but the red dog and the hawk are the main stars.

A falconer friend out in California has found a good spot for jackrabbits. She flies a female Harris Hawk over her Dachshunds.  The jacks harbor in very tight cover near some old buildings.  The Dachshunds have discovered where the jacks are hiding and they search the cover till they find and rout a jack. The bird, who is usually perched on top one of the buildings, then puts in her bid for the jack. If she connects it’s a real wrestling match because the jack is bigger than the hawk and gives her a real thrashing. The bird has to hold on tight till the falconer can get there to hold the jack.

Another falconer who flies a small native falcon called a kestrel has found some sport with her bird and dog in a greenhouse.  Apparently English Sparrows have invaded the greenhouse, disturbing the new plants, bathing in the dirt around the plants, and defecating on everything. The falconer enters the greenhouse with her falcon on her fist and her Dachshund beside her.  She closes the greenhouse door and lets the dog work under the benches and tables. The sparrows see the kestrel right away and will actually hide under cover to avoid the falcon. The Dachshund’s job is to flush the birds, which he loves to do, then the kestrel tries to catch the sparrows, who immediately fly back under the tables. It becomes quite the fast and furious hunt. The kestrel usually catches a few sparrows and once in awhile the Dachshund gets one too. The nursery owner is very happy with this type of ‘natural’ control.

Hawking season is coming to an end and by the time this column appears in Full Cry I hope to be getting into groundhogs on farms. I can always use the meat for the dogs. I’ve met a trapper who has given me a couple of beaver carcasses for the dogs, for which I’m grateful.