July Sneak Peek
An Interview with Dean Biscamp
By John Gibble
One of the things I enjoy about the AKC SPO National Championship trial is getting to meet some of the legends in beagling and perhaps to learn something from them. I have known Dean Biscamp from near Beaumont, Texas for a number of years. I remember reading many of his articles in past magazines, so when I finally got to meet him several years ago I was ready to listen. This year Dean said, “You’ve been writing about rabbits and habitat and such, maybe you might want to hear about how we do things in Texas.” What follows is a summary of our two hour conversation.
Dean has two running pens or enclosures. One is 15 acres the other is 30 acres. He got my attention right off when he said he trapped 700 rabbits out of his pens last year; a normal year is 300 to 500 rabbits that he takes out of his pens and sells to other folks with running pens. Again, he took 700 rabbits OUT of his 45 acres, and still has plenty to run and trap out again this year. Most of us would love to have just 60 rabbits in a 45 acre pen, while Dean is taking out ten times that many. (Note: selling and buying wild rabbits is NOT illegal in Texas, but it is illegal in many states).
I’m sure part of Dean’s success is based on geography. Dean is located about 15 miles west of the Sabine River and Louisiana, so he’s in that humid, hot, Gulf Coast climate. He says his soils are very fertile and will grow just about anything (he mentioned he has some orange trees and that they grow wonderful watermelons). It’s likely that rabbits breed throughout the year instead of the few months of breeding we have up north. Dean has brushy cover in his pens that he tries to keep down with a chainsaw. Much of the vegetation consists of invasive, exotic species.
In terms of mechanics, the two pens are constructed from 18 gauge, vinyl coated wire. The fence is four feet high with a 12-inch apron turned in. The fence is hung from steel T-posts; Dean noted that cats easily climb the wooden posts. At the top of the fence, he installed two strands of electric wire, 2-inches out and 5-inches out. The electric wire is powered by solar chargers. Dean noted that the 5-inch electric wire kept out coyotes and foxes, but smaller predators like cats and opossums could slip under the hot wire, so he installed the second wire. He built these pens about 10 years ago. There is room enough on the inside and outside of the pens to mow (about six feet) and he sprays herbicide around the base of the fence about six times per year.
Dean has installed a number of feeding stations. He calculates he has just about one feeder per acre. He uses a commercial bin type rabbit feeder made of galvanized metal, a five-pounder. He screws the feeder to a stake and pounds the stake into the ground until he can cover the feeder and the stake with half of a plastic barrel cut lengthwise. The ends of the barrels are knocked out. He feeds 18% protein rabbit pellets made for show rabbits. Dean also feeds shell corn scattered on the ground. When he is ready to trap rabbits out of his pen, he’ll set the traps over the top of the shelled corn and collect 50 to 100 rabbits in a night depending on how many traps he has out. He puts four pound salt blocks, either pure salt or mineral blocks in the feeders under the barrels. Dean said he didn’t know if the rabbits used the salt or not, but he read somewhere that salt was good for rabbits. Dean also provides water for his rabbits. He didn’t think the cottontail rabbits in his pens used the water, but he was confident the swamp rabbits benefited from it.
With regard to plantings for rabbits, Dean is impressed with Bermuda grass. He says the rabbits will eat it down to the roots. His biggest problem with Bermuda grass is that the rabbits eat it all up before it gets established. He also plants strips of oats and winter wheat and notes that when rabbit populations are high, these don’t get much chance to grow, either. Dean has planted red and white clover but says the rabbits don’t seem to like it. He’s thrown in a number of supplemental feeds. He said the rabbits enjoy sweet potatoes, turnips, even corn stalks. He can throw in cucumbers or oranges from his garden and they eat those, but they won’t touch an orange or cucumber he buys at the store, because of the pesticides and wax they put on them, he thinks.
To view the remainder of this article, please check out page 38 of our July issue.