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A Dog in the Hunt

By Nathan Coker
In Bayou Outdoors
Jan 26th, 2014

BayouOutdoors Jan14

A Dog in the Hunt
Jackie Howard Has a Love for the Chase
article by Dan Chason

Jackie Howard is a mountain of a man.  He is one of a very few men that I can say are truly my friend.  That friendship has lasted many years, and I cherish the memories I have shared with him.  Back in the day, as they say, Jackie was a formidable baseball player and could hurl a fastball like a rocket.  But bad knees and a shoulder injury turned this world class athlete in another direction.  Our directions were much the same as we both went from a love of athletics to the field of fishing.

I made a promise to Jackie many years ago.  I won’t tell your road stories, if you won’t tell mine.  You see, Jackie and I became not only good friends, we shared a love for competitive fishing and burnt up the roads between here and East Texas to learn the business.  Some of the stories I will relate will give you an idea of what true friendship is and how sometimes you need humor in your trips to cut down on the stress.

The first trip Jackie and I decided to take was when Lake Fork, located in Emery, Texas first came into the national spotlight.  Jackie and I loaded up and headed east on I-20.  About an hour the other side of Shreveport, we started looking for a sign saying “Lake Fork”…turn here.  When we got to the corporate city limits of Dallas…You see, Lake Fork sits north of I-20 (about 2 hours Northeast from Dallas) and there were NO signs telling two grown men (who could have invested in a map) where to turn.  Such began just another adventure with Jackie.  Then there was the trip to Sam Rayburn for a tournament.  The lake was high, and we knew it.  We bought a map this time and made our “room” reservations.  When we got there our “rooms” were literally out in the lake with a row of pallets lined up to get to them.  With the high water, no one bothered to tell us the surprises that awaited us that evening.  I opened the door to the portable building/room and was met  by not only every rat that called the area home, but fire ants, roaches, a snake and every other creature looking for high ground.  Jackie and I slept in the truck.

Then our next tournament was on Possum Kingdom Lake in East Texas.  Not to be a repeat offender, I called and got directions to the lake.  I laid them carefully on the dash of the truck, as Jackie drove west bound from North Louisiana.  Again, about an hour from Shreveport, Jackie rolled down his driver’s window for some reason and SWOOSH….there went the directions.  The funny part is when he pulled over immediately, 18 wheelers nearly blowing our doors off, only to look at me and say in his pure southern drawl, “You gonna go get them directions, Dan?”  Picture this small piece of paper blowing down the Interstate with me trying to catch them.  Another Jackie adventure or should I say, another misadventure, with the dynamic duo.

The thing we learned in East Texas was how to lose graciously.  At least we did for the first couple of years.  Fishing there and fishing here in channel holes or around cypress trees is two completely different animals.  I remember my first ride up Toledo Bend in a 4 foot swell.  It looked like an ocean.  Or the first bass boat I saw turn upside down in the marina at Sam Rayburn.  It was an eye opening experience.  But time changes everything, and we went our separate ways, as Jackie had a business to run and so did I.  Jackie took that passion that comes from fishing and turned it into a new one.

Jackie has always had a pack of beagles for as long as I have known him.   He comes from a long lineage of dog men who love to hear the sound of a pack of hounds after their prey.  I am cut from the same cloth, as I dearly love to hear a pack of rabbit beagles tearing up a briar patch and have to say that it is an adrenalin moment when you are in a deer stand and hear the dogs coming.  Now there are some who don’t agree and to them I say “to each his own.”  There is just something about the relationship with a hunter and his dogs that is indescribable.

In the early ’90s a group of deer hunters headed by Gary Rambin, took their love of dogs to another level.  They started the National Fox Beagle Association as a way of putting their bloodlines against the best in the country.  What was born was a group that expanded from our area all way into the East Coast, across the Mason/Dixon well into Oklahoma.  Jackie Howard became a part of the Central Fox Beagle Association as a way to share his love of dogs in a competitive arena.  The hunt takes place in the Fall and Spring, where 60 to 70 grown dogs (older than 13 months) are scored on their ability to take on a track, stay on the track and the speed at which they track.  This ability is nurtured with the puppy division with dogs under 13 months showing their skills in the Spring and Summer hunts against like aged animals.  This is Jackie’s favorite division as he gets to see if that pretty beagle pup has what it takes to become a hunting animal.  These hunting animals aren’t cheap, and regardless of bloodline, if they don’t hunt, they don’t find a home in his kennel.  It is much the same with various breeds of hunting dogs, and beagles are no different as bloodline doesn’t always mean the dog will do what he is bred to do.

To see Jackie’s face when he talks about the “races” is like watching a kid at Christmas.  To think that he has taken two adult dogs, watched new puppies come into the world all clumsy and awkward only to see that same animal take off on a hunt with nothing but his instincts to drive him, is the ultimate award for the effort.  Even with the numerous accolades and trophies, the true driving force is the love of the chase, the love of the beagles and a man who loves the camaraderie of fellow hunters and dog men.  I just hope the dogs have a better sense of direction than their master and I have exhibited in the past.

    *If you are interested in participating or joining in on one of these hunts, contact Jackie Howard at 318-366-3903 or email him at jackiehoward892@aol.com.