The Starting Pen is Almost Done

I haven’t posted anything in a while.  I have been busy getting ready for Trinity River’s AKC Licensed Field Trial; officiating football; working as a technician in the replay booth and TCU; working a fulltime job; attending Northside Baptist Church and helping with our men’s ministry; assisting my bride with the care and nurturing of our youngest grandson; attending peewee football games to watch my older grandchildren perform and play; running dogs when time permits; and somewhere in the midst of that and the rest of life’s demands, working on this starting pen.

I am close now.  I have the apron fence up on three sides and one of three gates done and I hope to be finished by Sunday November 2nd.  Here are some pictures that show progress over time since my last post.

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Starting Pen Progress Report From Labor Day Weekend 2014

I had to cut down five more trees – one elm and four oaks – that are likely to fall in the next year or two and would likely hit the fence.  With help from David and Alec this weekend I have all the posts set except about 6 t-posts on the north end and all the corners are braced up.  It is finally time to start stretching wire.  I hope to be hanging the apron fence on the slick wire and barbed wire framing by September  21st. 











Starting Pen Progress – July 27th

I had someone bring a bobcat out and clear the fence rows of small trees and brush and then drill 38 three-foot deep, ten inch diameter post holes.  I have the 6″ diameter 8′ treated posts at each hole and have purchased the gates and barbed wire.  I confirmed the order for the net-wire yesterday with Byrne Distribution and the wire should ship out Monday, July 28th.

I intended for this to be a weekend project for me over the Summer, but I am running out of weekends this Summer.  I have someone who will give me a bid to set all posts, stretch the wire and provide T-posts and concrete for the corners, gates and stretch posts.  If his number is affordable I will have this ready a by the first of September.  If everything falls in place maybe mid-August.

Here are some before and after images that show the cleared out fence rows.














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

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



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


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.


Some of the Poison Ivy mingled with the Virginia Creeper


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.


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.


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


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.


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





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.

Tony Zimmerman_Aaron Zimmerman_Paul Belding

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.