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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