The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Other Sports

March 9, 2014

Enjoying a late-season rabbit hunt

Late-season hunting opportunities have been few and far between with the winter we’ve been having. The last weekend of February, the temperatures finally warmed up enough to thaw things out. With a break in the weather my buddy Jason invited me along for a rabbit hunt before the season ended.

It was a little chilly to start out with the thermometer reading 26 and a light coat of frost covering the ground. The snow had melted off and the beagles were eager to find a rabbit. It didn’t take them very long. Jason literally dropped the tailgate and let Rascal out. He walked across the road and into a briar patch and then opened up.

He followed the track into another thicket and jumped the rabbit and the first chase of the day was on. The beagles took the rabbit up a hill and around the head of a hollow. We positioned ourselves and waited for the dogs to bring the rabbit back around.

Rabbits tend to run in a circle, and once jumped you get ready and listen to the hounds work. I eased out on a flat and was a minute too late as the dogs crossed as soon as I got there.  As I watched the dogs smelling their way over the hill, John yelled and said “There it goes.”

I looked down and saw a brown flash darting through the briars but John was directly behind it and there was no way I was shooting. We watched as the rabbit ran across the road with the beagles right behind it. That rabbit let the dogs get right on top of it before it ran. It ended up going to a hole so we moved on.

We were still within sight of the trucks when all of a sudden the hounds started barking and took off down the hollow. Once again we spread out down the road and listened and watched. Jason pointed down the road as far as you could see and said, “Hey, is that a rabbit running up the road?”

When I looked, I didn’t see anything, but he said it was only in the road for a second and then it jumped off the side beside the creek. The dogs were on a flat above it, so Jason and I decided to walk down the road to where he thought he saw the rabbit.

He pointed to the spot where he thought the rabbit left the road and I stopped there. The dogs came back around the flat and two of them came down the hill. Jason said, “Yep, I thought that was a rabbit.” He had no sooner said that when I looked up and saw the rabbit sneaking up the hill. I only saw it for a second before it disappeared on the flat where the other hounds were.

They took off way up the hollow before ending at another hole. After rounding up the hounds, we walked around a point that had been logged within the past couple of years and had lots of briars and thick underbrush. Of course the rabbits were there and immediately another chase was on.

Jason and I stayed up high toward the top of the hill. The dogs took the rabbit around low and Jason walked to where he could see down over the hill. I stayed put. A couple of minutes went by when I looked down the old logging road to where Jason went over the hill and here came a rabbit just walking down it. I wasn’t exactly sure where Jason was, so I watched as the rabbit hopped up above the road.

I continued to watch and listen to the beagles barking over the hill. All of a sudden I caught some movement and saw the rabbit sneaking toward a rock face. I took a few quick steps up the road and shouldered my shotgun. Just as soon as I squeezed the trigger, the rabbit disappeared into a hole in the rock face.

I walked up to the rock face and it was the only hole there. I decided to wait until the dogs came up and then I was going to pull them off that track. As I stood there I once again caught movement out of the corner of my eye. “I think that was another rabbit,” I thought to myself as everyone else was down over the hill.

The beagles finally came up to where I was standing and then all of a sudden opened up and took off over the hill exactly where I saw the movement. I followed them and yelled down to Jason, who was talking to a landowner holding a big Saint Bernard. They were both friendly but when the landowner told Jason that his son had a pit bull on up the hollow we decided to round up the beagles.

It was a great day and I saw four rabbits total. The dogs ran nonstop from the time we left the truck until we quit around noon. The funny thing is Jason hunted the same spot a week before with snow still on the ground and never saw a rabbit track.

It just goes to show, like every other type of hunting, sometimes you just have to be in the right spot at the right time. It was good to get out and listen to the beagles one last time before the season went out on Feb. 28.

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