|Jesse and Jimmy hit the woods|
|No cover is too thick to check for rabbits|
With small game hunting seasons set to expire at the end of February, the pace of quail, squirrel and rabbit hunting has ramped up. In each of these hunt experiences, finding some of these critters with feathers and fur can sometimes be a trying endeavor. It’s hard to say why rabbits were hard to locate this year, but it might have something to do with wet weather, and the new normal of having coyotes in the Lowcountry. James High Jr. of Eutawville brought his four beagles and his hunting friend Jesse James to Colleton County recently, for what I will call our 15th annual rabbit hunt. “After the flooding rains in October, we haven’t found many rabbits to hunt,” said High. “If the hunt today is slow that wouldn’t be a surprise, since it’s been the same for us all season, and we are starting to look forward to next year.”
|Moving beagles between briar patches|
High is a seasoned beagle trainer and he brought one dog with a cold-nose in order to scent recent, but not fresh rabbit movement. Two trailing beagles are in the pack to take over if the cold-nose dog strikes up a wailing chorus, and High also had a puppy in the pack, getting some on the job training for future hunts. “When we drop the tailgate, we just hope to get the dogs on one good chase,” said High. We found out that without such a chase the beagles remain fresh when returning to the truck, even though we walked a country mile through the woods.
|I think the 2016 hunt marks 15 years of hunting rabbits together|
So while our hunt tradition was completed again this year, with the beagles busting through every briar patch we found, a couple of chance encounters with wildlife seemed to add flavor to this year’s outing. Lots of wet woods produced sighting of wood ducks and we pushed up and spotted some American woodcock too. Another non-game sighting this year was a group of five Southern flying squirrels, and what makes this particular sighting unusual is that these flying squirrels are largely nocturnal. This year revealed that this group of hunters remains ready to go rabbit hunting each year no matter the harvest rate, and that they appreciate how viewing other wildlife is always going to be a part of their sporting equation.