Hunting with dogs is ‘a way of life’

Published 12:53 pm Thursday, February 18, 2016

My name is Preston Sutton. I’m a 15-year-old tenth grader at Cumberland County High School, and I’m writing to represent the young houndsmen of Virginia. In addition to being a hardworking student, I’m also a proud owner of 12 walker hounds.

I’d like to take this time to explain what deer hounds mean to me and why I feel that hunting with dogs needs to be preserved for future generations.

My dogs have probably taught me just as much as I have taught them. Through caring for and tending to my dogs’ needs, I have learned responsibility, as well as what it takes to maintain these dogs’ health. Caring for 12 hounds certainly comes with responsibility. That’s why I feed and give water to my hounds every single day. I observe their weight, attitudes and strength each and every day to ensure their best health.

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After a long day of hunting with my dogs, I don’t rest until every one of them is well-fed and watered. There have been situations in which one or more of my dogs has swam across a river and does not want to swim back. Sometimes, they lay down miles away from any road. I don’t care how long or what it takes to get to my hounds, I will get to them.

I’ve had to wade through frozen creeks, swim through rivers and walk miles to retrieve my hounds. I was given my first pack of deer dogs when I was 10 years old. Today, I still care for that same pack of hounds. To be 15, caring about dogs this much, I think one could see how much they truly mean to me.

I killed my first white-tailed deer in front of one of my dogs. Honestly, it seems as if the dogs understand why they run deer. I think my hounds realize that I feed them and care for them, so in return, they provide the deer. However, to me, it isn’t entirely about killing deer. To me, the sound of my hounds barking while on a track is music to my ears. To know that I personally trained these dogs makes me extremely proud.

When making deer drives, seeing my hounds’ noses rummaging through the leaves and dirt on the ground gives me great pleasure, and when they catch the scent of a deer, their barks and howls echo through the woods, giving pleasure to any who appreciates them.

Members in my hunting club often speak of their experiences with my dogs. They compliment my dogs, speaking of their duration on a track as well as their overall quality in hunting. By running my hounds of my hunting club, as well as with other hunting clubs, I have established many friendships with people (old and young) I hadn’t previously known.

My hounds have also helped my relationships with my brother, my dad and my granddad, who’s a retired game warden. Having these hounds helped bring my dad and I closer than we already were. Running dogs gives my brother and me something to bond over. Before my brother had the chance to experience what dog-running was truly like, he had little interest in it. However, once he began to hunt with my dad and me, he began to love it almost as much as I do.

I want my children to be able to experience the fun and responsibility provided by these hounds. To me, dog running is not just a hobby — it’s a way of life.

Preston Sutton is a 10th grader at Cumberland High School who enjoys hunting. His email address is