The Chagrin Valley Beagles love being invited to Peninsula because the region is fairly overrun with cottontail rabbits, and today proved no exception. We opened the gates that lead to a riparian area, but drew blank in the first covert. However, sterns were feathering and recent tracks in the snow made me suspect it was only a matter of time before the beagles found a line. Sure enough, a little bit further down through the field and into the second covert, Smolder began speaking and I viewed a rabbit making a mad dash towards the orchard. With the field close behind, I alerted them to the view while we waited for the beagles to follow the line. More voices were chiming in, and then, Bam! A second rabbit followed the exact path of the first one who crossed out of the covert. Whipper-in J. Dickson reported that the first rabbit ran all the way to the edge of the forest and squatted down in hiding. The beagles were still deep in the briars, trying to methodically sort out that line and were moving so very slowly in their work... was it the dynamics of the pack members I had chosen today? Was it the bright sun evaporating the scent? The rabbits had both run into the wind… Was the wind pushing the scent back to where we started? About a million of these questions were going through my mind when I heard the cry “tally ho!” from both the north and the east simultaneously… Two more views!!! It seems that this second covert we were in was something like a Grand Central Station for cottontails. Over the course of the day, I believe we had eight views, and there were probably at least six different rabbits hopping about. With such abundance of quarry and limited visibility in the depths of the briar patch, I simply let the beagles follow their own line versus trying to lift them to the views. I can’t even confidently say exactly which rabbits we were running, but since we were all of us, both hound and human, having a marvelous time, we simply let it be. Our day ended in the third covert close to the orchard. Again, rabbits were viewed spilling out of this area, but we never had a fast paced run. It seems that the scent was recirculating under the protected areas of wilted scrub, and then dematerializing in the open areas where the sun was shining brilliantly on the snow. I reckon this was the reason for the beagles slow and careful efforts as they inched forward on confirmed lines. The slow work, however was a merciful break for us clumsy bipedal types who struggle to exhaustion when called to sprint through a heavy, crusted coating of snow after the fleet footed beagles. Lots of thrills and absolutely no spills…? We’ll take that any day! Afterwards, our host L. DeYoung had a glorious spread inside the barn waiting for us... Soup, sandwiches, egg cups, cookies, cakes and more. We had a hard time tearing ourselves away from the table, but the beagles needed to go home to eat, too. So, off we went… But the Chagrin Valley Beagles are already dreaming of the next time we get to return to the merry fields of Peninsula!
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