Hunting hares with beagles becoming a lost art
“Tally Ho” is more than just a cry of a participant at a hunt to encourage the hounds when the quarry is sighted, as it explains in the dictionary. It is also the name of a new book by John Jarzynski of Lawtons, with a sub-heading of “Confessions of an Old Beagler.”
Jarzynski, a retired English Teacher from Gowanda Central School, grew up hunting with beagles in Western New York. He fell in love not only with the dogs, but also with an outdoor pastime of chasing snowshoe hares and cottontail rabbits. Along the way, he has had many stories to tell.
“I wrote the book because I was worried that, like a lot of old stories (and we all have them), I was going to lose them,” said Jarzynski. “Some had been published in magazines but those were eventually discarded so it was important for my boys to have these memories. I am flattered that others seem to enjoy the stories that I have put into the book.”
Everyone has heard of “Deer Camp.” Many of us grew up experiencing the camaraderie of chasing whitetail deer and opening of the regular season. However, Jarzynski takes us into a different world of “Rabbit Camp,” an experience where the participants are every bit as passionate about their outdoor adventures and the stories every bit as entertaining. And much of this all starts with the dogs.
“I also wanted to let others know about beagling,” says Jarzynski. “It began in the late 19th century and continues today.” Jarzynski enjoys writing about his passion and he has written for Hounds and Hunting, as well as American Beagler magazines. His book “Tally Ho” can be found on Amazon.
Jarzynski’s hare hunting takes him to northern New York into the Adirondack Region and one favorite spot is the Tug Hill Plateau. He spends most of January and February chasing cottontail rabbits around Western New Yok. His boys enjoy it, too.
Jarzynski’s book brought back memories to me of taking a road trip to the Tug Hill Plateau area when we were 20-something. Good friend Dennis Morris of Youngstown extended an invite after several Niagara County hunts chasing cottontails with 2 beagles. It was a pleasure to hear the baying of the beagles chase their quarry until they circled back around and gave us an opportunity to shoot. The Adirondack hunt chasing snowshoe hares was an entirely different experience.
When hunting seasons end, Jarzynski and his merry band of fellow beaglers turn to field trials to continue with the camaraderie and, of course, share their hunting stories. As vice president of the Northeast Beagle Gundog Federation, Jarzynski helps to oversee a group of 40 or more beagle clubs from Pennsylvania to Maine.
“We have three active clubs here in Western NY. Java Village Beagle Club near Warsaw, Pioneer Beagle Club in Leroy, and my own club Enchanted Mountain Beagle Club in Olean. We have our Enchanted Mountain field trial the first weekend in May. A complete schedule can be found at NEBGF.com. We even have our federation championship at Presque Isle Beagle Club just across the border in Pennsylvania June 4-6, 2021.”
Jarzynski has turned to social media to promote his sport. He is an administrator of a Facebook group called Beaglers.
“Like a lot of clubs and organizations, it is difficult to find young people to get involved,” says Jarzynski. “The NEBGF sponsors the Eastern Junior Beaglers, a group that gets young people involved in the sport. Close to 100 kids are currently involved right now but we always need new blood.” The youth program can be found here.
If you would like to compete in one of the field trials, your dogs must be AKC registered.
“We need to promote our sport, or it will die,” says Jarzynski. “I’m sure that there are some old timers that want to keep it a secret. I would say that it might be wise for people to watch a field trial first before they enter their favorite couch-sitting beagle. The public is more than welcome to attend.”
“I was lucky enough to have a family that gave me the opportunity to raise beagles and hunt,” reflects Jarzynski. “But how would I have gotten involved otherwise? We need to help offer young people opportunities to be around beagles and watch them do what they were bred to do.”
When we were growing up, small game was the focus. It was a gateway to hunting because we could not hunt big game at an early age. We need more experienced hunters to serve as mentors and engage the next generation of sportsmen for all levels of hunting to help ensure a brighter future, but especially with small game like hares and cottontails. Thanks for sharing your experiences Jarzy!