Starting Pen Construction Will Begin Next Month


I am finally about to begin work on a starting pen.  It will be on the acre adjacent to my home and kennels.  Up to this point in time all I have done is cut down a few dozen trash trees, and a few post oak and blackjack oaks that are diseased or dead.  I have also spread some native grass seed such as blue stem, love grass, side-oats, and some others to try to get some additional cover and forage for rabbits in places where some sun makes it through the oak canopy.

I had a man who manages a high fence ranch South of Weatherford come and give me a price on some tractor work.  He will begin clearing a six-foot wide path along the property line.  After that I will mark where I want the corner posts, stretch posts and gate posts.  Then he will come back and poke holes in the ground.  So once the fence line is cleared, and the post holes are in place my work begins.   I picked up a used electric concrete mixer for $50 to make the mixing a lot easier.  I will probably use pressure treated wood posts unless I can find a good deal on metal corner posts and stretch posts.

The following pictures will document the state of the pen before work started.  It shows the property lines and some of the cover before any work starts.

This is the boundary between the acre that will be the starting pen (right) and my side yard beside the house (left).  You can see the kennel building in the far back

The boundary between the acre that will be the starting pen (right) and my side yard beside the house (left).

This is looking east and away from my house along a common drive for my neighbor, me and a vacant house further back.  The property line is about 4 feet from the gravel drive.EWB_2878_1011

Some thick brushy cover in the back of the image and the start of some of the native grasses I planted in late February/early March

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The property line continuing to follow the contour of the gravel drive.  You can see the painted T-post in the foreground.  There is another one in the distance where the drive turns to the right.  From the second T-post the property line goes straight back to a seasonal creek.  I have a lot of work to do to get decent starting pen cover here.  Right now it is home to some very healthy poison ivy mixed amongst Virginia creeper.

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Some of the Poison Ivy mingled with the Virginia Creeper

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You can’t tell it but this is the edge of the creek which is on the left in this image.  The brush is thick enough in most places that you can’t see the creek.  The tractor man will take care of that in two weeks.

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Looking the opposite way toward my kennel and the upper Northeast corner of the acre that my house sits on.  If you look closely on the upper right of this image you can see part of the roof of the kennel building.  In the upper left of the image you can see part of the roof of my house.

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An image of the creek I mentioned earlier from the same place that I took the previous two images.

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This tree trunk is my nemesis.  When I was clearing out junk trees and oaks that were dead or diseased, I ran into this beast.  It appeared dead but it is very solid and heavy.  It wore my chainsaw out and after I was well past the point of no return I realized it was getting dangerous.  I was working alone with plenty of brush to trip over if I needed to bail out in a hurry.  I used the chainsaw as much as I dared and then starting using a double-bladed axe.  In the end there was a remnant the width of a 2×4 holding the 40 foot tree up.  I rocked it back and forth listening for the inevitable cracking and popping sounds with three escape routes cleared out.  Finally it fell, but it remained propped up by a 4 foot high  2″x4″ piece holding the fallen tree truck up off the stump.  I swung the axe several more times with vigor but instead of falling and rolling off the stump to the ground, it just fell on top of the stomp and refused to budge.  At this point the chain saw blade was dull and wouldn’t cut butter.  The tree seems secure but once I get a new chainsaw blade I will cut this bad boy up.

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A view of the kennels with two unstarted females encouraging me to hurry up and finish the starting pen.

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Kansas – Memories of Great Hunts and Even Greater Friends


By Tommy Sullivan

Tommy Sullivan

Tommy Sullivan

Kansas!  A word that has many meanings for different people.  To the farmer it means rich fertile farm land.  To the upland game bird enthusiast it is a mecca for pheasant and quail hunting.  To men such as Tony Zimmerman, Paul Belding and me, who own, hunt and love beagle gundogs it is the holy grail of rabbit hunting.

I met Tony several years ago and struck up a friendship with him.  After several phone calls and some letter writing and pictures from him I decided that I better get up there and check out these stories of amazing rabbit hunts.  To do this I thought I might need some back-up so I called on my hunting buddy Paul Belding and after about 30 seconds of telling him about all the stories Tony had made me privy to, he said count me in.  Plans were immediately made and preparations began.  For Paul that means grabbing a bag he keeps packed and thrown behind his couch and a quick trip to “Wally-World” for more shells, more on that later.  As for me I had to pull a 12 hour shift at work before we could leave.

As I pulled in to my drive at 11:30 PM Paul stepped from his GMC 4×4 with that possum grin of his and a long arm extended in a friendly hand shake.  I proceeded to load dogs and tried to contain excitement building up in me.  You can always plan on having an adventure when you travel with Paul.  He is one of those individuals who can leave on a trip without a jack or spare and only laugh at himself when the tread on both tires of the dog trailer decided to come off at the same time.   In fact that is what happened on this trip.  After several hours and some anxious moments we were at our destination in Pratt Kansas.  We immediately called Tony to come and meet us.   After introductions were made and breakfast we were finally on our way to the Sand Hills.  Oh yes.  Sand!  I was pretty apprehensive about all that sand.  I didn’t think our dogs would be able to smell a deer much less a rabbit.    Boy I was wrong on both accounts.

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From Left to Right – Tony Zimmerman, Tyler Zimmerman and Paul Belding

We cast the hounds into a plum thicket and had a rabbit going in short order.  Now this is where it gets a little scary.  I looked over at Tony and saw that his eyes were glazed over and his lower lip had started to tremble.  He uttered something about a rabbit’s mother and that we had better get to the top of that sand dune.  Paul came running up to me and asked if “[Tony] had been bitten by a rabbit when we has a baby”?  I replied, “Something sure has a hold of him and we had better think about getting to that sand dune before he does”.  After getting up to the top we could see several hundred yards in all directions and rabbits, wheeh boy, we had rabbits running in several directions.  Paul, being a very avid college football fan immediately proclaimed,  “We were playing in the Rabbit Bowl”.   About that time Tony let out a Comanche war hoop and let us know we had better get to shooting in self-defense if not because of hunger.   About that time I could hear Paul start to rack off several shots.  I thought for a moment I was back in the Army as Paul was really working that ole pump gun.  I yelled out to Paul and said, “I think it is illegal to hunt with an M-60”.  He just grinned.  I thought soon as I get home I need to buy some stock in federal ammunition.

As the day progressed we all calmed down a bit.  We realized what a great place this truly is.  Tony and Priscilla Zimmerman and their children invited us to their home and served us some fine food.  On our first trip we spent two days and killed quite a few rabbits, some pheasants and got our hounds in shape.  So the next time that North wind comes sweeping down from the Rockies across the Kansas plains don’t call Paul or me, we will be playing for Coach Tony in the Rabbit Bowl.

Paul Belding with one of many Kansas cottontails

Paul Belding with one of many Kansas cottontails

I wrote this story shortly after Paul and I returned from our first hunt in Kansas.  It is with a heavy heart that I say both of these men have gone on ahead to look for new hunting territory in Heaven.  These men had a profound effect on everyone that met and hunted with them.   Paul was the best trainer of beagles that I have ever met and kept me entertained with stories from his youth on many long road trips.  Tony trained Labs for many of the top kennels in the country.  Paul and I were always amazed at what he could teach a Lab to do.  I have since made this trip with my good friend Neil (Steerhead) Butler, Ronald (Booty) Green and Ed Belding.

Left to Right:  Ed Belding, Tony Zimmerman, David Gardner and Paul Belding

Left to Right: Ed Belding, Tony Zimmerman, David Gardner and Paul Belding

Kansas Still amazes me with its beautiful farmland and friendly people who still can’t believe we actually come to hunt rabbits.

My First Brag Dog – Jack


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Ed Belding and Paul Belding posing Belding’s Captain Jack Hays at Texoma Beagle Club.

Back around 1990 when me, my father Paul Belding and my brother David Belding were getting back into beagles we had some unrealistic expectations about how difficult it would be to get good rabbit dogs.  We assumed that pretty much any beagle puppy could be trained to run rabbits to the gun. That was our experience many years prior but we were in for a surprise.  We quickly learned that the backyard breeders in the Fort Worth-Dallas area were producing garbage.  And when we met some local field trailers we learned what a walkie-talkie was and how well they could walk a line behind chickens in the breeder’s starting pen.

We tried out a few “blowed up” brace dogs with disappointing results, but if you had patience and a stump to sit on you could eventually shoot a rabbit over them….the rabbits would be moving so slowly that an air rifle would do.

Within a few months we met another local beagler named Ken Roberts who was just getting started in gundog beagles.  He had a brother-in-law near Norman Oklahoma and Ken introduced us to the fine people at Sooner Beagle Club.  Dad and I went to a few UBGF sanctioned trials at Sooner and I bought a young started little female that was Del Ray Stubby breeding that I named Belding’s Little Ann.  Ann was a decent little gyp, and while she was quicker than those “steppy” brace dogs we had, we were still looking for something a little better.

A short time later Al Baker purchased FC B&W’s Wrightline Jesse and FC Jeff’s Little Peewee and brought them out to Oklahoma.   Al also purchased some gyps from Mr. Willis Adams out of Stogner’s Daisy and FC Glynns Gay Demon.  I don’t recall if Al owned Stogner’s Daisy, he may have leased or borrowed her,  but I do know she was bred to FC B&W Wrightline Jesse and they produced a large litter with some males going over 13″.  I had been reading the beagle magazines and was interested in all the bloodlines represented in the pedigree of these pups.

By now we were beginning to form Trinity River Beagle Club down here in Weatherford Texas and at the request of Al Baker one of our members (Randy Gordon) brought the big males out of the Jesse/Daisy cross to Texas to see if any of us were interested.   The males were nine months old and started.  I met Randy and we got these pups on a rabbit.   One of the males jumped out at me and he would eventually be called Jack.  He was careful on the line and close at the check but as I watched him I could see that he really wanted to “go” but he had sense enough at a young age to want the line rather than race his littermate.   I watched him work some checks including a pretty challenging “V pattern” turn where I saw what the rabbit did and saw Jack solve it.  I told Randy I wanted the Jack dog and wanted to talk to my dad to see if he wanted to be a partner on him.  Dad got to see him run a little but he thought that $150 was just way too much for a male….remember those unrealistic expectations?    I persuaded him to go in halves with me ($75 each) but I was going to buy him no matter what.  So we purchased Jack.

I was studying Texas history at the time and my favorite personality from that era happened to be perhaps the greatest Texas Ranger of the pre-civil war era.  So I named this male Belding’s Captain Jack Hays.

As Jack got a little age and experience we were suddenly making the winner’s pack on a regular basis and that completely changed our course in this hobby.  Jack competed successfully in the Lone Star  Association, the UBGF, and the old Confederate Association.  In time Jack got a Licensed win and several AKC licensed places and all-age sanctioned wins and places.  But even better than that we enjoyed countless hours  pleasure packing and gunning over Jack and the other hounds that we bred or purchased after acquiring  Jack.  He also produced some females pups for me that proved to be foundational for the little gyps that I hunted and trialed for several years afterward.

Jack wasn’t perfect, he had his quirks and faults, but as I imply above he represented a huge leap in quality for us and our kennels.  As Jack matured he learned to vary his style and speed depending on conditions from a head-down chop to a head up chop/squall when scent was high and easy.  That allowed Jack to drive with power and speed and make incredible turns with the rabbit when scenting was good but he would buckle down if he needed to.   In fact Jack got his AKC licensed win on a tough day when he stayed at the point of loss and saved the race by grubbing out a tough check.  One of the judges (Jimmy Mouser) told us that Jack won it on that check.  Jack had plenty of score but the top hounds had not separated themselves from each other.  Saving the race while the rest of the winner’s pack had given up on that rabbit put him over the top.

Unfortunately Jack died far too young when Dad , Tommy Sullivan and Tony Zimmerman were rabbit hunting in Kansas and a blizzard blew in sooner than expected.  Several very good hounds were lost because neither Dad and Tommy nor the hounds could hear of find each other in the howling, driving snow-storm.  A week or so later Tony Zimmerman found one of our hounds alive, but he also found Jack dead , frozen to death curled up near an oil rig.  That broke my Dad’s heart and dealt a pretty strong blow to me too.  Jack wasn’t just a good dog he was our first truly good dog in almost 20 years.   More than that he was a friend and our first “brag dog” and the hound that in my opinion cemented us into AKC SPO field trials for many years after Jack’s death.

The Kennels


My kennel

I currently have four concrete kennels and one above ground whelping pen for nursing mothers and their young puppies.  Three of the concrete runs are 4×8 single dog kennels on the left/north side of this kennel building.  The fourth concrete run is 4×14 and can easily hold two beagles.  All dog houses are inside the kennel building and with a small space heater I am able to keep inside temperatures 20 degrees above outside temperatures in the winter.  And with a box fan and the windows I can keep inside temps about 10 to 15 degrees cooler in the summer.

The kennels open up to an approximately 100′ x 30′ exercise pen.  I plan to fence in an additional one acre exercise and starting pen in the wooded area beyond the pictures shown below. The acre has been purchased and I will begin fencing it as time and finances permit.

There is still work to do including a concrete apron to facilitate better cleanup and drainage after spraying out the pens.  I have water to the kennel building and fully functional.  I also have electricity run to the kennel but not connected yet.  I will have an electrician friend finish this out for me before the end of Spring. In the mean time 150′ of extension cord gets the job down.

And as you can see I did not build this kennel with plans to have large numbers of beagles.  I will have at most five adults with a few puppies coming up to see if I am producing better hounds with my breedings.  And just like a sports team has to occasionally replace good older players with better rookies, on occasion I will have a solid rabbit dog available for sale if one of the puppies grows up and proves to better than one of the adults.

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Northside

Inside dog houses designed to allow each to benefit from a small electric space heater in the winter and box fan in the summer.

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Whelping box

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