Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Maybe the Best Course I Ever Never Saw!

Dutch couldn't make it out with us yesterday, but that was OK.  Our guys have been running well lately, and with a fair amount of success.  It was time to see if they could duplicate that success without the help from Dutch's dogs.. particularly Angie and Phyllis.  It was time to do a Pack Hunt "pre test" on Sandia and Ashley.

So Mrs. Shotonsite and I rounded up the two, and threw in Willow for the exercise, and headed out to a field we've left alone for several weeks in the hopes it would produce some jackrabbits.

As is our usual habit when not meeting Dutch, we were running quite late; by a few hours.  It was almost Noon.  Fortunately, there was a decent breeze from the North, so it was not as warm- at least initially- as it was forecast to be.  

We headed south, following a draw that's been known to hide rabbits in the past, but not this time.  We had Sandia and Ashley offlead, free coursing.  Sandia is very, very good at finding the hares.  But they were running around like maniacs, which isn't their normal style.  You'd have thought they hadn't been in the field in weeks, when it was only two days.  

Somewhere around 3/4 mile, we began to lose our breeze, and it started to get warm.  I decided if one of them was on a slip, the other would slow down and stay close.  I grabbed Ashley, got her slipped up, and as soon as we started walking again, wouldn't you know it, Sandia jumped a jack!

Away they went,  heading south. The rabbit got on the road with Sandia within inches of it, and Ashley catching up quickly.  Willow was bringing up the rear and getting good exercise!  Soon, Sandia wrenched the rabbit to the left, over a berm, and down from the high ground we were standing on.

In a field known for giving hunters unobstructed views of entire courses, no matter how long they run, we were standing in absolutely the worst place we could be.  Once they dropped out of sight , we didn't see them again.  We walked toward the edge, looking out on the flat, but they weren't there.  We couldn't see them anywhere.

About the time we were approaching the edge, Willow came back.  I don't think she ran very far, and being a black dog with a fairly heavy coat, I didn't mind.  She seemed fine, and we continued to look for the other two dogs.  I was blowing the Fox 40 continuously.  This was very unlike them, especially Sandia, who hustles back very quickly at the end of each course.  We even looked behind us in case they returned via the great circle route.  Not there.

Finally, I spotted two specs approaching from the south.  They had run a very, very great distance.  When they had been out of sight for such a long time, I shut off my stopwatch.  It registered 2:51.  I'm thinking now I may have been premature.  They probably ran close to 3:30, and maybe even more.  When they finally got back to us they were really beat.  Both were in a froth, and more exhausted than I've seen them this season, and they are in very good shape, sometimes running as many as 5 hares in a day.

Then I took a good look at Sandia..

,,,and his beard showed me everything I needed to know.  Blood.  They'd run that sucker down.  Ashley had blood on her, too.  It looks like they tried to carry it back, but it was too far, and they were too bushed.  

We decided they were done for this day, and headed back to the van, our little experiment successfully completed

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