If you thought the Queen of England, Prince Charles, and young William share a protective pride of their royal surname, you ought to meet Mike Oszust, a Carrollton, Ohio, keeper of perhaps the most reverent name in beagling.
Here’s a man who has made it his life mission to keep the historic blood line of his hard-hunting beagles as pure as it can possible be and for that matter, to keep the name Yellow Creek pulsing in every one of his past, present, or future rabbit hounds.
For a century now, Yellow Creek has appeared in the pedigree of nearly every top beagle hound ever bred. If that’s not a royal proclamation, what is?
A careful and devoted hound man named L.M. Watson is credited with founding Yellow Creek kennels and with breeding beagles that had all the right stuff. He preached the canine characteristics of courage, truth, and intelligence. He carefully sought out hounds that had the courage to hunt all day, every day, and to be true to the task at hand, that of finding, tracking, and bringing rabbits to their end.
Watson looked for intelligent dogs, beagles that learned from their mistakes, and didn’t make mistakes. Watson valued performance over pedigree and he bred hounds that measured up to his strict standards.
Watson became fascinated with hounds as child and devoted himself to the perfection of hunting beagles from that time on. Watson insisted on breeding the maximum desire to hunt in his hounds. Not just the desire to chase a rabbit but to hunt them tirelessly.
He once said if a hunter has to wade through hip deep briars while his hounds wait for him to jump a rabbit, something is wrong.
Watson also said he could often spot the smartest puppy in a litter by talking to the youngsters and watching their reaction. The smart ones, he claimed, will look at you with curiosity, almost as if it wants to understand.
Fast forward to Alamo Creek Beagle Kennel, where Oszust holds court.
When asked what he considers the most valued trait in his Yellow Creek beagles, Oszust has no hesitation.
“They have hunt, lots of it, bred into them.”
Oszust said that his hounds work hard every minute, working to find a rabbit, then pursuing it. And, he added, they are smart enough to start looking for the next rabbit when one is holed or taken by a hunter.
Oszust has been around beagles all his life. His father raised beagles and hunted them hard, not hounds with a lot of paper behind them but hounds with plenty of rabbit sense.
“Every Saturday after the hunt, Dad used to hang the rabbits from nails on the porch, then invite us boys to join him inside — after we had cleaned the game,” Oszust recalled.
Oszust was just 16 when he decided that Yellow Creek bloodlines would be his choice in beagles and he’s never changed his mind or strayed far off the line. In fact, Oszust has become so well known for his determination to keep his kennel true to the bloodline that he never knows where his next call might come from.
Of course they aren’t calling for him but for an opportunity to inject some Yellow Creek into their own pack of beagles, most often by breeding their top female to Oszust’s proven male.
Watson often declared that the best males are beagles that consistently produce good offspring and those hounds in turn produce more good beagles.
In other words, L.M. Watson, the person most often considered to be the builder of the Yellow Creek line would follow the hounds through several generations before attaching the title of good, better, or the very best to a Yellow Creek beagle.
And now you know what Oszust is hearing and seeing every time he runs his beagles. He hears the same thing Watson heard and sees the same things Watson saw a hundred years ago.
And if they could have met to share those same sounds and sights, they would have become brothers in beagling for sure.
In the 1950s, L.C. Watson dictated a book describing in detail his beagle breeding philosophy and the complete Yellow Creek history. The book is small, its contents large, and in the decades since publication, the remaining few copies have become as coveted by ultra-serious Yellow Creekers as a litter of future champions.
Of course, Oszust, as devoted and as dedicated as any Yellow Creeker could possibly be, has a copy that he guards as fervently as the Queen guards her Crown Jewels.