The sound of baying beagles on the trail of a snowshoe hare is special to those who enjoy hitting the woods in the dead of winter with a shotgun in hand. Clad in warm clothing and snowshoes strapped to his feet, the hunter waits for the beagle to hopefully circle the hare into shooting range.
If that occurs and the shooter's aim is true, the main ingredient of a rabbit stew is in the bag and the excited beagle gets a pat on the head and maybe a treat.
This scenario has been played out across much of North America - for both hares and cottontail rabbits - since guns were invented.
Ishpeming resident Dominic Tassone’s beagle FC Dom’s Dougie, shown above in the 1970s, was recently named to the Beagling Hall of Fame. (Dominic Tassone photo)
The plaque Tassone received. (Dominic Tassone photo)
There's another form of beagle handling that is practiced just as widely or even more so, and the beagles - as well as the handlers - are much more serious about their sport.
This involves field trials for beagles in which the dogs compete against each other under the watchful eye of their owners and trainers.
As with many of the traditional outdoor sports, beagle field trials are not as common in this region as they used to be, but back 40 or 50 years ago they were all the rage.
There were dozens of beagle clubs scattered across the Upper Peninsula, northern Wisconsin and the northern Lower Peninsula that drew competitors from the region.
Dominic Tassone of Ishpeming was one of those serious beaglers, and he came across quite a dog. Its name was FC Dom's Dougie, and it earned the privilege of having the initials FC in front of its name.
The initials stand for field champion, and he reached that status several times over.
"His first beagle trial ... he won first place, and I was hooked from then on," Tassone said.
That was in the early 1970s and before his 2 1/2 year career was wrapped up, he had won several field trials and was known as one of the top competitors in the region.
Tassone said his career was shorter than most beagles have, but Dom's Dougie had another job to do. He went on to sire 10 field champions, as well as a host of other beagles that were sold to beagle enthusiasts near and far.
"I shipped one to Japan that he sired and was paid $3,000 for it," Tassone said, still finding it hard to believe a person paid him that much money decades ago. "I paid $15 for him and made thousands on stud fees."
The Japanese resident who bought one of Dougie's offspring sent Tassone a photo of the dog with rabbits it had run to him in a snow-covered mountainous region of Japan.
And although Dom's Dougie passed on to that big rabbit swamp in the sky many years ago, he recently reached an even higher status - being elected into the Beagling Hall of Fame.
"I got called about the hall of fame the day I was going in for open heart surgery," Tassone said earlier this week when he was in Marquette for a cardiac rehab appointment.
Fellow beagler Steve Aman of Iron Mountain nominated Dom's Dougie for inclusion in the hall.
His nomination read in part: "Dougie was a well-built red and white 15-inch male who finished and was also the northern Michigan outstanding 15-inch male in 1973. Dougie had a great nose and he was bred because people saw him at trials drive hare down sand roads when no other dog could even smell it."
Aman went on to write that Dougie sired 47 placing dogs that combined took 49 first places. He was also the NMHA's top site for six consecutive years from 1976 through 1981.
One of Dougie's pups, FC Birch Lake Texas T, was also a top trials beagle. Texas T even topped Dougie as a sire, with 65 pups amassing 71 firsts in competition. He was also nominated for the Beagling Hall of fame, but lost out to his sire when Dougie was named to the hall.
Tassone sure ended up with a good return on that $15 he invested in FC Dom's Dougie back in 1971.
Editor's note: City Editor Dave Schneider can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 270.