A trophy squirrel and a two hour rabbit
A day full of small game hunting is a very good day indeed and nothing can be finer than going squirrel hunting and rabbit hunting in the same day.
As has been my tradition for all of three or four years now, I combined a vacation day with my off weekend to enjoy the first four days of Ohio’s rabbit season. And as the tradition goes, each year on opening day I drive to some nearby public land to kick off the season. With rain pouring down on the morning of day one, I was a bit doubtful of even making it outside, but the rain finally let up in the afternoon. With the dogs loaded in the shotgun seat of the old farm truck, I drove to the nearest piece of public land for 2 hours of fun. I saw a rabbit for one millionth of a second on the second circle and other than that I was listening to the dogs follow the track round and round in chest high weeds. Public land can be the ultimate challenge in rabbit hunting at times. Good habitat for the rabbits for sure.
The next day of my mini-vacation I had no real plan other than to hunt. What to hunt would be left to the randomness of the weather and my current mood. Last year once rabbit season started, it seemed as though I nearly forgot about squirrel hunting and ended up shooting only around 5 squirrels the whole season – barely enough to fill the crockpot. This year I swear I am going to try my best to continue to squirrel hunt through the entire squirrel season.
On day two of my mini-vacation, I decided I wanted to spend a morning watching the woods wake up. I didn’t quite make it to the woods as early as I hoped but I was settled in at the base of a tree by 7:30am. Not too shabby for having to do morning farm chores and being on vacation. I positioned myself downwind of a long straight path that opened into a mowed tile line opening and then into a field with the hopes of being able to see some deer moving on an early November morning. At 8:30am my hope of seeing a deer came true and I watched and smiled as a young 6 point buck stood and licked an overhead branch and freshened up a scrape about 100 yards away.
By this time the squirrels were also moving but I was having trouble getting a shot. The early risers are always the grey squirrels and they are busy bodies. Those greys are here, there and everywhere making it hard for me to settle the sights of my rifle for a shot. I was not in a hurry though and was enjoying the time in the woods. Around mid morning a fox squirrel showed up and while it took its sweet ol’ time getting close enough for a shot, it finally perched itself on the side of a tree long enough for me to get a perfect head shot. It turned out to be a very well-endowed male and I don’t think I even realized how long its body was until I saw it in the photo. I think us squirrel hunters are missing out by not having our own Boone and Crockett registry for trophy squirrels.
After that it was time to head home for lunch and a nap. Then it was time to don a pair of brush pants and ready the dogs to run some rabbits on the home farm. What a blessing to be able to walk out the door of the old farm house and start hunting. I took the dogs for a spin around the far pasture to start. There was some cold trailing and half-hearted barking but they couldn’t seem to get a rabbit up and running. I was going to try a second spot on the farm but wanted the dogs to first check out a clump of multi-flora rose growing by where the creek runs through a culvert. The dogs of course went flying past the rosebush clump thinking they were on their way to the next section. Not so fast little doggies and I called them back. I don’t remember who the first brave one was but one of them dove into the bush of thorns. Ouch! I don’t know how they do that. Within seconds that dog let out a long loud drawn out bawl and the other two dogs jumped in to the bush as well. The rose bush was wiggling around pretty good with three excited beagles inside of it and out popped a rabbit. Across the culvert and into the weedy creek bank that runs the edge of my backyard. The chase was now on.
Because rabbits in this area have been known to run through the yard and across the road, my job, other than shooting a rabbit, was to stand in the yard and make sure that didn’t happen. The rabbit took the dogs on a nice couple circles through the creek bank thicket before crossing the lower yard to the pasture behind the barns. I followed the dogs over there and took stand on a hay wagon that was sitting in the pasture. The rabbit circled and I missed my opportunity for a shot as it dove into a wild rose bush and across the creek to the original multi-flora rosebush. The dogs pushed the rabbit onward, out of the bush, back across the culvert and back to the weedy creek bank behind the house. So back to the yard I went to stand guard in the event of a road crossing. Another circle through the creek bank thicket and then another trip to the pasture behind the barn. Another walk to stand on the hay wagon to wait. This time the dogs tracked the rabbit into some tall grass in the pasture. I could occasionally make out a wiggling tail and so when I saw something run out of the grass coming straight at me, I thought it was a dog. When I realized it was the rabbit, it was already running right past the hay wagon I was standing on. When I got my gun up and turned, the rabbit was running underneath one of the sprayers sitting by the pasture fence. OK I cannot shoot at the sprayer. The rabbit went back to the weedy creek bank behind the house and I went back to stand in the yard. I parked myself next to a big silver maple and waited. The dogs pushed the rabbit on another round and then it happened. The rabbit made a run for a cluster of pine trees that sits in the middle of the yard. Gun up, point, follow, shoot and the rabbit somersaulted to a dead stop. Well I thought it was dead. It was definitely stopped and laying flat on its side. That was until I set my gun down with the thoughts of videoing the dogs on the final part of the track. And then the rabbit sat up and looked at me. Dang! Very cautiously I walked backwards over to where I had set my gun down and very cautiously I walked back trying to get the best angle for a follow up shot. I made the second shot and breathed a sigh of relief that the deed was now done. And because beagles were being beagles, I had plenty of time to set my gun back down and get the camera out to video the end of their tracking job. The first rabbit of the season and another two hour run. Well done dogs!
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