My friend and colleague Phil sent me this story. Phil is an avid squirrel and rabbit hunter who hunts with beagles and beagle mixes. He's had some really phenomenal hunting dogs, and Prince is right up there with the best of them.

Phil, his wife Lynda, Prince, and the beautiful buck Prince found. A dog's nose is a hunter's best friend!

I have to brag about my soon-to-be-14 year old Beagle, Prince. We bought Prince as an 8 week old puppy in March 2004 at a kennel near Greenville, WV.  The breeder raises hunting Beagles, and he has some dandies.  We got Trapper there, too, exactly 1 year ago this Thanksgiving Day. Prince was a present for my wife Lynda's Dad, Glen, who had always had hunting Beagles and who’d lost his little female Princess to old age that fall.  Prince had the run of  Glen’s farm, and hunted on his own. But Glen found out in May of 2005 that he had terminal cancer; so in June of 2006, Prince came back to Blacksburg to live with two alpha females who pretty well whipped him down.

I began taking him to Arkansas to rabbit hunt in January or February of 2007, and up until last year we went every year, mostly because of a good supply of rabbits at our farm there.  He will bark on rabbit trail but not on squirrels.  He only blood trails deer; he doesn’t "run" them, and he doesn’t bark while trailing an injured deer.  He has found at least 3 deer for me that I knocked down but couldn’t find.

On Thanksgiving Day we were going to eat supper with our neighbor Tom and his wife Bonnie when Tom called about 5:00 pm and said that he had just shot a monster buck near his house but the buck got up and ran when he went to gut him!  He asked if we would bring the dogs to help find the deer as it was getting dark. Lynda and I grabbed flashlights and Trapper, a 15 month old Beagle mix and Dixie, a 6 year old Jack Russell terrier mix, and hoofed it over to their house.  There we saw a pretty good puddle of blood where the buck had laid down after Tom hit it.

The dogs took off in hot pursuit with us following.  There was a pretty good blood trail, and the deer first went west and then looped around and went east and down into a creek bed (good sign).  As we followed and I tried to keep up with the dogs, it became totally dark, so we were not seeing the blood trail very well.  About 15 minutes into the trailing, the dogs came back down to the creek from up on the hill, a bad sign. We picked up the blood trail, and realized that the deer had started up a pretty steep grade instead of going downhill with the creek.  Tom decided to call off the trailing as he was afraid that the dogs would just keep driving the deer and we might lose it in the dark.

At 7:30 next morning, I met Tom at his house, and we rode in his jeep down to the big spot of blood that we had left the night before.  Sure enough the blood trail went very much up the hillside and then along a very thin bench for about 400 yards.  Then the deer went down the hill and crossed the paved road.  On the road we found blood tinged with rumen contents, so we knew that the deer was for sure gut shot and would probably die.  He’d gone down into a ravine and then started following the creek as it crossed under the road from Tom's property onto a neighbor's land.

I called Lynda, and she called the neighbor to make sure it was OK for us to trail a deer on his property.  He okayed the pursuit, so Tom and I followed the trail down the creek.  At times the trail got pretty thin, but we followed it down the creek for almost 1/2 a mile. Then we found a spot where the buck had laid down, and then went up again.  Up a pretty steep hill, and over logs, boulders, etc.  We were not encouraged.  If a deer has gone over a mile and then goes uphill, he usually hasn’t been hit very well, and we were concerned that he would get away from us and die somewhere to become buzzard and coyote meat.

After another 150 yards, we came out into a cleared area that was growing back up, where we followed the blood trail in a very large circle and found one last large spot of blood that looked like where he’d lain down again.  At that point we totally lost the blood trail; sticker bushes and grass is a lot harder to trail on than downed oak leaves.  We made a number of sweeps, and found no more blood.

Tom was getting pretty down, thinking that we wouldn’t find the deer and it would die "in vain."  I called Lynda again.  She and I had decided the night before that Prince, with his slow methodical trailing skills would be the better choice than the terrier and the puppy.  So I hoofed it half a mile back to the road and met Lynda,  with Prince in tow. Prince immediately picked up the blood trail and started trotting down it, where Tom and I had already tromped (not making it any easier for Prince's old nose).  Prince had a 30-second hesitation when he came to the spot where the deer laid down;  then he headed uphill.

When we got to Tom, who was parked on the last spot he and I had found, Prince did a 30 second circle and picked up the trail again.  He went further up the hill, hooked back around, and with Lynda following close behind him, found the deer, dead.  So congratulations to good old Prince, again!

He then wanted to run away from the deer.  That’s because since we got Dixie 5 years ago, Prince has been whipped down by her.  When we go squirrel hunting, even if  Prince trees the squirrel, once it hits the ground, Dixie claims it, and chews him up if he tries to grab it.  When we deer hunt, she jumps on the dead deer and starts ripping the hair off the carcass and tries to chew Prince up if he gets within 30 feet of the deer.  So now he finds whatever it may be, and then hightails it to keep from getting his butt whipped.

We took some pictures and then Lynda walked Prince back to the road while Tom and I gutted and started dragging this 200 pound 9-point buck back to the road.  Half a mile and an hour plus later, we finally got the deer to the jeep and loaded.

He’s basically a "house dog" since moving back with us.  He likes sleeping on HIS couch and in front of the fireplace in the winter. Prince has been a really good dog. Tom’s deer may be his last hurrah as far as major hunting is concerned, but on Thanksgiving Day he was definitely the hero.  I hope that he and I have a few more good hunts together, but he can no longer hear and since he only barks on rabbits, I am afraid to take him to new places for fear he’ll get lost and become a coyote’s meal.

ADDENDUM: Since this essay was posted, Prince has gone where all good dogs go. Ave atque vale!