Written by Ted Butler
It was a few months ago and I got to thinking back about my roots. Not my genetic roots, but rather my roots to the outdoors. Sure, I know that as a boy my father, uncles, cousins and all our friends enjoyed the outdoors. Various stages would take up parts of the year. There was spring trout, summer blues and striped bass but then, as the leaves turned, it was fall. I truly loved fall the best, it was the smell, the sounds and a deep attachment to all the different types of hunting. Looking back, we certainly had a swell ole time! Being raised in southeastern Massachusetts isn't considered the deep outdoors, it's far from Montana's Big Sky, but as a young boy it certainly had a lot to offer. There was the partridge, the pheasants, the ducks and geese. As time worked its way into December of course there was some deer hunting. As for dogs, I grew up in a family that always had a lab. I can't say there was a time in my youth, without a black lab or two. I could bore you with the names of some of the better ones but I won't do that. My dad and uncles prided themselves with their dogs and some of their feats. My father was a patient man that worked his dogs with kindness and praise. Payback was their willing ways! I guess all of us would enjoy better canine if we practiced more of such a simple theory.
It was somewhere along this point in my thought process that I remembered Brownie. How could I forget for one minute, Brownie? After all, when I really thought about it, it was with him, that 13" beagle, that my hunting truly started. For all these years I've remained loyal and caught up with this lab thing. Don't get me wrong I've got a couple of great labs and we spend every possible minute chasing our feathered desires together. But it was Brownie, that brass little beagle, that really started it all. As a very young boy I would follow him around the back lot, intrigued as he sniffed out the local rabbit population. He was a great little hunter. He'd amuse himself with at least one rabbit chase or, hopefully, two per day, that's if he wasn't kenneled. Being that mischievous age of five usually I made sure he'd get out. Somewhere around this time, during the mid to late fifties, my age being 5-7, I started my hunting. My dad would take me to the "big woods" to hare hunt with Brownie. Well! To me, at the time, it certainly seemed like big woods. Hare hunting was the best game in town, sign me up, I couldn't wait for Saturdays. I got to spend the day with dad, and a list of his friends that were true characters, their hounds tagging behind. Looking back I learned volumes from them. They are a story unto themselves, which I'll leave for another time! Wait! I can't forget Brownie or the hare. They were huge parts of this whole equation. The hare were energized bunnies, no short runs or holing up for them, a hunt would start and virtually last for hours. Brownie, however, was always the shinning star Boy, could he hunt! That is where it all started. Dad would carry a single shot .410 and somewhere well into the hunt he'd stand behind me while loading it up and give me my final instructions. He was a fine teacher and being the sponge that I was, usually we'd succeed and the hare was in trouble.
Having said all this, here I am, forty-five years later, planning a hunt back in time. I've been fortunate enough to hunt pretty much everywhere and whatever I've wanted, but for some reason I'd never planned a hare hunt. I wanted to hear the dogs, to experience again the chase from start to finish. I'm sure some part of me wanted to be around those ole' friends, both men and hound. That couldn't be as they're all long gone, but damn it, not in thought. I contacted Dale & Edie Dunlap, they own and guide out of Breezy Acres Camps in Solon, Maine. They're both registered Maine guides who run these great camps catering to every outdoor need. I've deer hunted out of their camps before and can honestly say they're probably the nicest people you could ever meet. They're both fine hunters in their own right and Edie is more woods wise than most men I know, but don't let that fool you, she cooks a mean pie and isn't afraid to share it. I knew they didn't run snowshoe hare, but I wasn't surprised when they offered to line me up with Art Corson of Radar Ridge Guide Service and Kennels. They gave Art the highest regards and suggested we stay at their camps, while Art supplied the hunting. I say we, as my wife was on the mend from knee surgery and would accompany me on this mini safari. I'd also take Sage and Drake, my faithful black mutts. They love to go anywhere we go, especially in the truck, for that matter so do I. Well! At least they could hang out and be with mother as she read. Not being able to hunt I knew would confuse them, but that's a small price in an otherwise perfect life. My wife would never hunt but she can be a great companion. After all, someone needs to
hear about the hunt at day's end and help pull my boots off.
As planned I met up with Art early on a Friday morning. Art proved to be a real pleasure. He hangs his hat in Bingham, Me. on Radar Ridge just 10 miles north of Solon. Radar Ridge, as I learned, is a radar site completed by the government but never operated. It was deemed obsolete before startup by our current more efficient satellites. Somehow I wasn't surprised by such a wasteful story. Art runs his guide service from this area and has literally thousands of acres of public land to hunt on. Out of Bingham we took many twists and turns and eventually arrived in snowshoe hare land. Art was great to listen to, just a down to earth guy that loves working, training and living a hound and fishing guide's life. I could see from the start that I was now part of a great team. Our brace today consisted of four females out of a kennel of seventeen. Art informed me about different dogs at various stages of training and about his rotations. He mentioned his thoughts about securing some harriers, imported, with longer legs that would hunt with a different style and better capability in deeper snow. I could see his dogs were retrofitted with telemetry command collars that kept Art in constant contact in this vast wilderness. It was evident I didn't know squat about true Millennium 2004 hare hunting, but that was fine, Art did! We were hunting mid March and the conditions were cool 30's, a slight dusting of new snow over a foot or two of packed base. This would be fine, Art's canine core had good scent conditions and wouldn't be floundering around belly deep in powder. Art informed me that deep powder is about the only element that would have cancelled our hunt. Snowing conditions would have forced us to use snowmobiles and sleds aided by snowshoes, the thought of all that seemed tiring but still had
a certain caveman appeal.
After parking and unloading Art's truck we headed up the trail. I was carrying a Remington 870, .28 gauge that I've used for
woodcock and quail for 30 years, it's a great, little gun that's stood the test of time. We like each other, and more times than not seem to point in the same direction. That .410 I mentioned as a boy somehow fell out of family ownership many years ago. If I still owned it, there would be no doubt; it would have made this same truck ride. The .28 worked out perfect; the thick cover we hunted offered shots fewer than 30 yards so well placed 6's were fine. We hadn't gone twenty steps into the cover and all hell broke loose. The hounds were in instant chorus. I figured for sure this Art guy probably planted these hare. As we walked further it was evident they couldn't be planted, there were tracks virtually everywhere. Art looked at me and said, "You better get ready." Get ready, hell! When I hunted with Dad and the ole' boys you didn't dare load your gun, never mind shoot, Until that hare made several passes, usually at least an hour or two into the hunt. Well! Art was the Master Maine guide, he even had the patch to prove it, and so I loaded up and took that first hare. This is how it started, finished and all the time in the middle. How else can I say it? It was non-stop action, with those little beagles tearing up the countryside with a song that made you smile. You could tell by the crescendos their degree of scent or when they'd make a bump and get a glimpse of their prey. At one point with four dogs we had three different hunts going. I was standing on an old trail and watched those three different hares cross at different spots just outside of range. Art was just standing behind me with an obvious pride and this huge grin to match. When I listened hard, I even heard Brownie! Yes, one of those dogs had the same deep, choppy bark, as commanding as possible. The hunting gods were standing over me that day. All those little details as a young boy hunting came back to me. I remembered my dad standing me behind a tree to break my outline, instead of standing in front. He'd only put one shell in the gun, for discipline. I guess with time it worked as I learned to make that one shot count. His pal, Buck, a great man, would say, "Theodore, keep your feet still." Buck was as good a friend as my dad had. My memories of him are priceless. He was a big man that had trouble getting around later in life, but he loved to go hunting. His heart was just as large. He'd find the first stump as we entered the woods, sit down, and he'd say, "Swing by and pick me up on the way out." Sometimes it would be hours later. He carried a heavy double 12 that I only remember him loading and firing once, and then he missed. Even back then as a young boy I knew, he wanted Theodore to shoot.
Right about now, as I've got hundreds of flashbacks racing through my head, Art announces he's going out to the truck to prepare my hot lunch and brew the coffee. I'm thinking, what lunch? What coffee? I'm here to hunt. Anyway, he did it. He cooked 1/2 pound cheeseburgers, grilled onions, we had gourmet bread, assorted chips, dessert and he set this whole thing up for me, roadside. The only thing missing was the lit candle and tablecloth. I guess by now you've got the message. This hare hunt couldn't get any better. The afternoon went the same, as did Saturday, only the menu was changed. The dogs both days were outstanding. We hunted a couple of different areas with equal, non-stop action. I'm not one that counts success by shooting a limit, but trust me, be ready. I shot a few and I missed a few. Looking back another hunter or two would give better coverage to an area. Some of our hare ran around us in circles just a tad away. Art wasn't shooting, which was his choice, not mine. Several shooters, set up in a safe manner, would be perfect. This hunt would be an outstanding way to introduce a youngster or new hunter.
When departing I talked to Art about hunting next year. He suggested trying the early fall. I couldn't imagine how it could be better. Wait! Yes I could. I could hare hunt early morning through lunch, then sit a treestand, bow in hand for a Maine monster buck 'til dark. Bow bucks are another favorite of mine. It's rated right up there with the lab thing. But that's another story for another time! When Art dropped me off we had a beer together and agreed both days couldn't have been better. Drake stole a hare off the trucks tailgate and pranced around Breezy Acres like he was part of the hunt. Art was saying his goodbye as my wife helped yank off my boots. Check it all out, I'll guarantee you can't go wrong. Maine's Hare Season runs Oct 1st-March 31st. With a limit of 4 per day, imagine, that's six months of available season. I purchased a non-resident 3 day small game license that was $35.00 with the agent fee added in.
-Real Hunters Journal - August 2004
By Edwin and Diane Richey, Route 1, Box 506 Bethlehem, NH 03574
I’ve known Art Corson for about 15 years but have never been to his place in Maine to hunt. Well, on March 2 of this year that changed,
Bob Placey, Don Clough and his son Michael joined me and we headed for Maine. It’s about a three and a half hour drive from my home in Northern New Hampshire.
We met Art at his work place and made a plan to meet after lunch. While we checked in at Sunrise Ridge Sporting Camp, Art went home and grabbed some hounds. He owns and operates Radar Ridge Guiding and Kennel. At this time he is feeding 18 hounds. He has Beagles, Harriers and one Swiss Hound.Does this work
The spot we hit Thursday afternoon was a couple miles in on a woods road, very remote, no traffic and nice hare cover. I’d brought my three year old Harrier, Callie, and Art had one your Harrier, Anna, one Swiss Hound and two seasoned Beagles.
It just was a matter of minutes before the hounds opened up. The temperature was in the low 20’s with a breeze. Later in the afternoon the temperature dropped and the hounds turned up the heat. The longer they ran the better they got. We all saw hares but either we weren’t quick enough to get a shot or they crossed the road out of range. About 4:30 PM I took a stand and the hounds turned my way. The hare came straight at me. I fired once and he kept coming. As I shot two more time, I caught a glimpse of a second hare coming. A double! I pulled on hare #2 but couldn’t shoot because the hounds were right behind him. He turned to the right and I couldn’t get a shot. Boy, it doesn’t get any better than that. Two hares and five screaming hounds coming straight at you. It all happened in less then 30 seconds.
We picked the hounds up and called it a day. Back at the truck we swapped stories and made a plan for Friday morning.
Friday morning rolled around and the weather had taken a turn for the worse. Temperature was 10 degrees above and very windy. At 8 AM Art met us at camp and we were headed back to Radar Ridge. We hunted a different spot but were in more great hare cover. On this hunt we would be running two Beagles and three Harriers. Again, Art’s dogs started in a matter of minutes. Art gave us a quick description of the cover and we hit the woods. Within ten minutes Bob fired twice but the hounds kept going. We found out later two hares came by and he missed. On the next circle two shots rang out from Don and Michael’s direction. Michael, who had just turned 12 years old, had just shot his first hare.
We met up back at the truck at about 10 AM where Art had hot drinks and snacks waiting for us. We all congratulated Michael on his first hare and questioned Bob on how he could have a shot twice at two hares and missed.
Art called in the hounds and we moved up the road a few hundred yards. He turned the dogs loose in a new cover and they started again within minutes. We all spread out and took a stand. In Just a few minutes, Don and Michael cut loose on the hare only to see him disappear out of sight.
As the wind howled I took cover in a thicket. The hounds pushed the hare across the trail at least twice and nobody shot. After a while I snuck out to the trail to see what was going on. Nobody was there. I made my way back to the truck only to find the guys eating lunch. The claimed they yelled to me that lunch was ready, but I think they just wanted to get a head start on the chopped salt pork and onions and those great red hot dogs. There was plenty of hot chow and drinks for all.
The temperature at noon was 13 degrees above and the wind was relentless. The wind chill had to be 20 below zero at times.
Callie split form the pack and put a hare by me. I got this hare and then the pack pushed two hares by Don and Michael. After several shots the pack kept on running. It turned out that these two hares were strays. Before the afternoon was over there were a couple more shots fired but no more hares where taken. As brutally cold as it was and the wind blowing so hard at times you couldn’t hear the hounds, we had a great time. I was amazed at how good these hounds ran in such terrible conditions.
Saturday morning we were joined by Bob’s son, Scott, and his friend Scott. We went back to the same place we had hunted on Thursday afternoon, I thought this was great. We figured us old guys would have an advantage over the two Scotts. Boy, were we wrong. Art brought three Beagles, one Swiss Hound, and a Harrier, Anna, along with my Harrier, Callie.
Again Art’s dogs had a hare up and running in a matter of minutes. The weather was a little bit better. About 15 degrees above zero and the wind had let up a little bit as well. It still wasn’t very nice but it was better then the day before.
The dogs ran pretty steadily all morning. We all spread out and took stands. Several Shots were fired. The hot gun this morning was Bob’s son, Scott.
I spent some time back at the truck visiting with Art and listening to the hounds. I’ve been running hares for 45 years and I’ve never seen a pack of hounds as good as Art’s. They not only hunt great but they handle great.
Around noon everyone came back to the truck. Art called in the hounds and we all took a break. Art cooked up some burghers while the rest of us swapped lies about the morning hunt. The two Scotts were in the hares most of the morning. Scott Placey had two hares. No one else had connected.
After lunch Art cast the hounds back in the same cover and the action started up again.
Don and Michael went down the camp road while the Scotts stayed on the Maine road. It didn’t take king before the shooting started. The pack had split and the Scotts and the Cloughs were really throwing some lead. After a while things calmed down a little bit and we all met up on the camp road. Scott Placey had another hare while the Cloughs had only gotten a hair. While we stood around talking, the hounds split with one hare coming towards the road. Scott had a clear shot and took his forth hare of the day. We all know how this happens sometimes; one guy has his limit and nobody else has connected yet.
The temperature only warmed up to about 20 degrees above and the wind kept blowing. We also had some snow squalls throughout the afternoon. The dogs kept the hares moving and nobody got any.
About 4 PM we headed back to the trucks with the hounds. On the way out they jumped another hare. We stood around the trucks and listened and watched the pack work. The hare crossed the road out of range with the pack close behind. They checked a few minutes later; so Art called the pack in and we called it a day.
Although the weather was not the best, we all agreed this was the best hunting we’d had in years.
Michael shot his first hare a couple of days after his 12th birthday and Scott Placey shot his limit the day before his 36th birthday. It doesn’t get any better then that.
We’re all planning another birthday hunt the first weekend in March 2007.
We would like to thank Art for a great hunt.
-The Rabbit Hunter – June 2006