Sunday, March 1, 2009

Rabbit Hunt

James High Jr. of Eutawville brought his rabbit beagles to Snipe Hill in Colleton County for what must be about the tenth year in a row. This annual rabbit hunt brings together folks who share a love of the outdoors, and appreciate the sound of a beagle on the chase of a cottontail. James is a lifelong rabbit hunter who won't even pick up his gun for a deer or duck hunt, becasue nothing compares to chasing the darting furry bundles. Small game numbers are down in recent years (rabbits, bobwhite quail, etc.) and big game seems to be having its heyday, but those who continue to support small game hunting honor the heritage of past hunts and continue the support for small game hunting until populations rebound. Turning loose his beagles named Little Man and Amigo sets a process in motion where the dogs will smell and hunt until they find a rabbit and then they will chase that rabbit until he is harvested. One dog has a cold-nose better suited for smelling where a rabbit had recently traveled and one has a hot-nose that leads the chase once the quarry has been located and jumped. At first, a bay or two can be heard when a scent is struck, but then a continuous chorus erupts in the woods that can be heard for some distance. But don't worry if the dogs run away from you at first, because a cottontail has a conspicuous habit of circling back on its own trail in an effort to throw off the pursuit. On one particular chase that lasted for almost one hour, a cotton-tail was using thick cover beside a cow pasture and even though five standers were looking to glimpse the rabbit - he proved to be too much of a survivor. Shots were fired and misses were accumulated - the normally trusty shotgun of this writer sent three errant shots towards the scurrying target with nothing to show - but others joined in the chorus of misses. Rabbit hunting is truly one of the sports that celebrates being out of doors and watching dogs do the work they were trained for. With small game season ending March 1, next year's rabbit hunt is being looked forward to. My photos show Jessie and his .410 picking up a harvested rabbit from the beagles, Jerroll pointing which was the rabbit went after his four-shot barrage, and James ready to shake up the rabbit cover with his beagles.

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