(12/20/2009) With Ringo being laid up with his injury and old guy Sky keeping him company, Nova and Zelia have been our two dogs out in the fields this season. Most of the time we enjoy informal mornings out in search of hares and the dogs are turned loose to hunt and find game on their own. Their actual skills to hunt and find game are developed in their youth by "free coursing" (not held on lead, then released) and it is very enlightening to watch the various methods they develop and employ in finding game. A person learns just how much sense of smell is used by sighthounds, along with their keen hearing and eyesight. By allowing pups to hunt on their own all of these senses are developed and heightened to their full potential.
Once the tailgate drops, the "warm up" exercises go into full swing. This usually involves a lot of joyous, unbridled enthusiam for chasing each other. Playtime is the ultimate precursor to finding the object of their dreams!
After their period of goofing off and having fun, usually while we humans are getting ourselves geared up to begin the hiking for the morning, we set out in quest of our quarry. In the southwestern area of the United States and in our region, this is the Black-tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus Californicus).
After about an hour of hiking we jump our first hare. Or, should I say I jump our first hare and the dogs are both light years to the east of me! None the less, they quickly spot the rapidly fleeting hare (Black-tails reach speeds up to 40 - 45 mph), having been alarmed by my hollering, "RABBIT, RABBIT!!!". In the photos below, Nova demonstrates the fully extended phase of the double suspension gallop and the completely contracted phase. This particular style of gallop, used by many of the fleet footed mammals, is so named due to these two phases of the animal being completely airborne during one complete stride sequence. Not all mammal species are capable of the double suspension gallop.
As luck (or the lack of) would have it, the hare and both dogs quickly disappear from my line of vision over a rise. They are gone for a good spell of time, finally returning as distant specs in my binoculars, from the north. Well winded and very happy hounds finally arrive for some water and a quick inspection. After watering and looking them over, we are all ready to strike out again in search of another hare to chase.
After another hour and a half of hiking and searching we cross over into another section of land and whammo! The dogs are off like a shot on another hare. This time they break the hare about twenty yards in front of them and the chase is on! Nova has the best line on the hare and is also closest to my camera...
The early part of the course is what I was able to capture on camera. After that, I had to give up on photos and bring my binoculars up to keep the course in sight. It ended up being a long one! The first two photos of the course sequence show Nova getting on track first and in the third photo, Zelia pulling in on the right of Nova, having been able to cut across the arch Nova and the hare are running. In this photo, the hare has made a super move at the edge of some cover and gained a substantial lead on the two hounds.
They gradually begin to reel in the hare and by the last photo, you can see the hare beginning to make what was a 90 degree turn straight away from the camera. Notice his right hind leg kicking out as he is turning! After this, I had to resort to my binoculars to keep the course in site.
This course ran another minute past the last photo and mostly straight away from me. The hounds drew up within a couple feet of the hare several times, but never put an honest turn on him. This was one tough hombre of a foe and he'll live to produce the next generation of super desert hares! Meanwhile, the hounds returned very sound, but pretty long in the tongue and happily so. Zelia still has her wild eyes and Nova is licking his chops for more action. Next weekend our beloved friends, next weekend...
All photos by Karon Lonero, shot with a Nikon D-200 with a 55/200mm lens, courtesy of Warren and Vicky Cook, (Cook Phodography). Thank you Warren and Vicky for making these photos a possibility. And, for making the Sky x Boushra litter happen!
Happy hunting with happy hounds, everyone!