Meridian Star

Outdoors

June 13, 2014

A beagle that can ‘make a rabbit’

MERIDIAN — Hunters who hunt with dogs will, over the span of a lifetime, readily recall and quickly praise one particular dog who excelled over all the others and usually earned undying affection. This is true with retrievers, bird dogs and in the case here, the hounds. Hounds often perform in packs, and so there can be on-the-spot performance comparisons. Beagles are the most widely used hounds in the South, and perhaps in most of the country except for lion dogs in the West.

    Endless evaluation of beagle performance occurs with every hunt and beaglers hunt almost daily throughout rabbit season, especially on lands not shared with deer hunters during coinciding deer and rabbit seasons.

    Opie is a beagle owned by Johnny Mars. The beagle has reached that pinnacle spot of all beagles in Mars' kennels. Opie is ten and a half years old and showing no signs of slowing despite surviving at least two serious snake bites, both times involving dangerous swelling. One bite by a rattlesnake left an indention in the side of Opie's head due to loss of flesh.

    Fred Gray hunts with Mars and is quick to praise Opie. “One day in a low rabbit population year we were hunting east of Scooba and trails soon played out all morning long. Opie was still hunting and struck a track late in the morning. We figured it would be just one more dead end. But Opie jumped that rabbit and the woods exploded!” The dog's ability to find and jump rabbits where there seemed to be none has led Gray and others to say of him, “Opie will make you a rabbit!” We featured Gray in this column several years ago when both he and his dog named Buck were inducted into Hounds and Hunting magazine's Hall of Fame.

    Mars bought a young Opie from a Mr. Black from McCool, Mississippi. Opie showed shyness by cowering when approached and Mars said to himself, “I'll never be able to catch this dog (to load him or in the woods.)” But surprisingly Opie was easy to catch and load. In fact he would soon jump into Mars' truck. After a few days getting used to his new home, Mars took Opie on a hunt and began an association with the best jump dog he ever had.

    The eleven and a half inch beagle “will bark two or three times and then he will jump the rabbit.” said Mars. He has a chop mouth typical of many beagles.

    Fred Gray is so enamored with the dog that he has called him “little dynamite,” and other complimentary names. He said if you think no rabbits are there, call in Opie and he will find one. He began to reward Opie with ALPO dog food after his fine hunts. Gray would promise the dog ALPO in advance sometimes. Recently he figured he owed Opie for a lot of those promises. So he bought the dog a whole case of ALPO.

    On Opie's most recent hunt, he seemed as spry and hard hunting as ever. At the rate this fine dog is going, Gray may have to replenish the ALPO supply.

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