As I sit here with our Fall Hunting Guide, I have checked out the areas close to me that seem to have possibilities for my quest.
Rabbits love old abandoned homesteads. And if you find one I’ll bet you’ll get three or four before the day ends. In my quest for rabbits I like to hunt them with dogs, and beagles are my favorites breed for this. While they’re noses are keen and running is in their blood I think what I love most about the beagle is their desire to bark at their quarry. It’s not quite that of a hound dog, but it does have a distinct sound. You know when they’re running a rabbit because as the scent becomes stronger on the trail the pitch rises. I don’t know how they do it, or maybe it’s more the rabbit's desire to get back to where they felt safe last, but it seems they make a big circle and out front is always the bunny.
You need to keep your eyes peeled for them. Usually they try to take the most difficult course making it hard for the dogs to follow. The old “I was born and raised in a briar patch” is really true. How they’re able to make it through all this brush without a scratch is one of the great mysteries of the world. I try to find something I can stand on to get a little height so I can have a better field of view and shot. Once there, stay as still as you can and let the dogs do their job. It won’t be long before old long ears will be coming by, carrying the mail.
Speaking of shots when I was younger I used a .22 rifle exclusively when I hunted without dogs. I’d jump the rabbit and as he headed to the back forty I’d whistle as loud as I could and invariably he would stop, giving me a clean head shot out to about 50 yards. Now with dogs, most if not all of the shots are running and since my eyes are not what they used to be, I rely on my trusty 20 gauge Remington 870 to do the trick. Lead them just a little more to get a head shot so you don’t ruin any of the front legs, if you can. Once you shoot, let the dogs catch up and grab the rabbit. If there are more than two dogs you may want to retrieve him because you may find them having a tug of war and all you may end up with is the cotton tail.
Surveying the maps in my area I know of five or six abandoned homesteads that are ripe for a day in the field. So far, in the last 14 years, I’ve taken 232 rabbits off those six homesteads without denting the population. Rabbit hunting is fun, it’s something you can enjoy by yourself or in a group. It’s a good way to get young people out for an afternoon and introduce them to the sport of hunting.
Rabbit stew ….it’s what for supper!