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Hunting Rabbit in New Hampshire

by  Michael Edwards


Did I mention a rabbit "hunting" trip. Unfortunately, it turned out to be more like a "take your gun for a walk" trip. It seems like that's the way it is more often than not (unless you read all the "expert" magazines, where it seems like every time one of those writers goes into the woods, the game is throwing itself in front of their guns).

We got a little bit of a late start. After getting into an area of harvested cornfields around 2:30pm, we sighted in a couple of .22cal rifles. This took about 7 shots and then we proceeded to walk through two adjacent cornfields in order to get to a spot not disturbed by our shooting. My neighbor, Chuck, and his son, Ryan, were with me for this trip to "hunt rabbit".  We get a few rabbits each year, but mostly we just use rabbit hunting as a good excuse to go into the woods and look for tracks for any game animal in order to learn what they were doing this time of the year. It is always good to follow deer, turkey and other game tracks outside of their respective hunting seasons since this is the time when they are less pressured and you will gain a better understanding of how they behave. This will give you an edge once the season begins since you will have a better chance of knowing what the game will do, based upon countless hours following their tracks in the off season.

Once in the area, we split up so that we could cover as much ground as possible in the limited afternoon light we had. I headed for the swampy areas which had a good deal of conifer trees. Since it was still daylight and rabbits tend to be less active during the day, I figured that I should search for their hiding/sleeping areas.....I figured that they would be stuck real tight under the hemlock and scrub pine.

After much searching with no luck, I began to wonder if all of the coyote sign was the cause for my inability to find rabbits (perhaps they had all been eaten!), or if the problem was that I don't have quite the nose that a rabbit hound has.

Now, we have gotten rabbits before in this manner. We simply walk under the thick conifers and keep a sharp eye on the base of the trees looking for a set of eyes staring back at us.  However, once you come into eye contact be ready for they seem to always jump and run as you stop walking and begin to take aim.  I believe it is an instinct much like partridge have....once you stop moving they sense danger and flee.

Because of the recent snow this morning and because of all of the coyote track, I knew it would be difficult. In actuality it was real difficult. We ended up with NONE.

Although the "hunt" was a bust, I have a funny story to tell.....

I was standing along this man-made walkway through the swamp when I heard twigs snapping up ahead of me. I decided to stand as still as possible, hoping to see a deer. As I stared through the brush, I caught a glimpse of movement. To my disappointment it was an older gentleman taking a walk through the swamp (trying to get some excercise I figure).

As he walked, he kept his head down looking in front of himself, so as to stay on the walkway (a series of planks about 1 foot wide laid end-to-end accross the swamp). He did not know I was standing on the same walkway until he was about 10 yards away. With a startle, he looked up and in a surprised voice offered a "hello".

I greeted him in return and mentioned I was hunting rabbits so as to explain the 12 gauge shotgun in my hand. He asked if I had gotten any and I replied "no". He said that he had seen many a rabbit track cross his path as he walked along the trail. Surprised, because I hadn't seen a one, I asked if he would show me. Surely, I thought, with fresh snow and a set of tracks I would be able to find the rabbit holed up waiting until dusk to feed.

The older gentleman and I walked together for about 30 yards and he pointed proudly to a fresh set of tracks in the snow, "there they are, looks like he was through here just a while back" he said. I began to laugh and he gave me a puzzled look.

"Let's follow those tracks a little way", I suggested. He obliged, and we followed our "rabbit" tracks for about 40 feet.

To his surprise the tracks stopped abruptly at the base of an oak tree. I asked if he still thought they were rabbit tracks, and he replied "either that rabbit could climb, or that was one big set of squirrel tracks". We both laughed and agreed that it must have been a big squirrel.

As he went along his way and I proceeded in the opposite direction, I thought about all of the squirrel tracks I had seen throughout the afternoon and decided that once squirrel was in season, I would head back to these cornfields.

 

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