John’s Note: If you enjoy hearing the music of a pack of tri-colored hounds as they work the briars and brambles, then you’ve surely dreamed about hunting when deer season ends. Then rabbit dogs no longer will disturb deer hunters in the woods. Whether you hunt rabbits in marshes and swamps or along edges of green fields, get prepared for February fun, while rabbit hunting.
The cottontail broke out of the briar thicket and for an instant appeared on the edge of the green field.
But before I could get my 12 gauge to my shoulder, the rabbit darted back into the cover and crossed a small creek on the other side of the briars. I could hear Bill Prather’s beagles 50-yards back in the thicket, following the trail the rabbit had left. The dogs also ran out from the cover and into the green field. However, after reentering the brambles, they fell silent at the spot where the rabbit had crossed the water. In the hush, I heard my friend Mel Stewart’s pack of beagles wailing like five, long-tailed cats that had caught their tails under rocking chairs. The report of shotguns rang in the air in the direction of Stewart’s hounds just before Penny, Nickel, Sue and Rainy – Prather’s dogs – picked up the rabbit’s scent and continued the chase. The Prather pack pushed the cottontail across another green field, and a hunter in our group took it.
Today the sport of bunny hunting has grown in popularity across the country for several reasons. Although rabbit populations sometimes have decreased across the nation, largely due to urban sprawl and large-field farming that have replaced small-patch farming, many rabbit hunters have discovered new places to hunt with more rabbits to bag. Small-patch farming creates more edge, providing plenty of food and cover for cottontails. Today’s large-field farming supplies little or no shelter for rabbits. Also, numbers of rabbit hunters have become discouraged with their beagle dogs leaving a rabbit’s trail to pursue the many white-tailed deer found everywhere, which many beagles prefer to run rather than rabbits. But, the beagles and the rabbit hunters have proven their resourcefulness. They have made changes to keep their sport from dying and to increase their rabbit-hunting opportunities.
Mel Stewart of Dora, Alabama, explains, “You can find some of the best rabbit hunting around the edges of green fields planted for deer. The green fields provide food, and the trees and brush pushed to the edges of the green fields with the clearing of the land to plant food plots offer shelter for the rabbits.” According to Stewart, many hunting clubs, private leases and hunting lodges make their lands available for rabbit hunting after deer season. However, hunting rabbits successfully on private or public lands anywhere requires a disciplined pack of beagles. “When landowners know you have deer-proof beagles, then they’ll often allow you to hunt their deer leases or their hunting lodge property,” Stewart says. Many rabbit hunters have begun breeding deer-proof beagles, a relatively new classification of competitive hounds known as small-brace, field-trailing, gun-dog beagles, and training them to run rabbits without veering from a bunny’s trail to chase deer.
For delicious recipes for preparing rabbits and other wild game with our family’s recipes from the past 45+ years in the outdoors, get John and Denise Phillips’ new eBook “The Best Wild Game & Seafood Cookbook Ever: 350 Southern Recipes for Deer, Turkey, Fish, Seafood, Small Game and Birds.” “Click here to get this book.”
About the Author
John Phillips, winner of the 2012 Homer Circle Fishing Award for outstanding fishing writer by the American Sportfishing Association (AMA) and the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the 2008 Crossbow Communicator of the year and the 2007 Legendary Communicator chosen for induction into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame, is a freelance writer (over 6,000 magazine articles for about 100 magazines and several thousand newspaper columns published), magazine editor, photographer for print media as well as industry catalogues (over 25,000 photos published), lecturer, outdoor consultant, marketing consultant, book author and daily internet content provider with an overview of the outdoors.” Click here for more information and a list of all the books available from John E. Phillips.”