Yesterday I went rabbit hunting again (remember the n+1 rule?), this time with Aristos AND Biobandit. We all had the day off from work so we met around 8 a.m. at Aristos's house. Our destination was the same farm Aristos and I hunted on January 1st. This time there were a few changes: Biobandit was with us, no kids were tagging along, and it was considerably warmer (about 10 degrees F). My hands still got cold early on, but switching from lighter gloves to a heavier pair solved that problem. We searched the whole area that had been covered during the previous hunt, but we didn't find a single rabbit. Plenty of sign, but no bunnies! I led Biobandit through some great grassy areas, including where I jumped two rabbits on the previous hunt. Nothing! Discouraged, we decided to cross the frozen creek and try the woods on the other side. This is typically a good area, as we almost always find a few rabbits there. Aristos once again found the first rabbit, and once again missed the jump shot.
After putting the beagles on the scent trail, we spread out with the goal of intercepting the rabbit somewhere along its loop back to the brush pile under which it started. What actually happened was the rabbit slipped past us as we wandered through the brush for an hour. After we met up at the other side of the woods, Aristos headed back to the brush pile. I headed in the opposite direction, and Biobandit split the difference. The sound of another shotgun blast signaled that Aristos had found his rabbit again, in the same brush pile. Again, he missed.
I was the next to jump a rabbit, out of a clump of tall grass. I took two shots with my Marlin .22 rifle as it fled, but the third round failed to fire. Chloe, my beagle, was right behind me, and it didn't take her long to find the scent trail. I cleared the action of my rifle, chambered another round, and waited for Chloe to chase the bunny back to me. I found a place under a crabapple tree where I could see at least 30 yards in the direction I thought the rabbit would return. I saw movement, what looked like a rabbit staying ahead of Chloe, heading in the right direction. I waited anxiously, ready to raise my rifle and aim. After several minutes, I realized that either what I had seen was not a rabbit, or it had circled around me out of sight.
Naala, Aristos's beagle, joined Chloe and picked up the scent of the rabbit I was pursuing. She chased it down and caught it! Biobandit caught up to her and called me over. I could hear the distinct wail of a wounded rabbit as I came closer. We inspected the rabbit and discovered that I had indeed wounded it with one of my jump shots, hitting it in the left hind leg. The blood trail had made for easy tracking by the hounds, and the leg wound slowed it down enough for Naala to catch it. Aristos came over to see what had happened, congratulate me, and praise his dog. We loaded the bunny into my game vest, and set out to find Aristos's elusive hare once again.
Aristos broke the cycle on the third try by pulverizing the rabbit he had missed twice before. Biobandit and I met up with him in a clearing close to where he had dispatched the bunny, and we all decided that it was time to head for the truck. We hunted half-heartedly all the way back along the frozen creek, stopping to investigate rabbity-looking spots. We reached the truck and loaded up our gear. Two tired beagles found spots in the back and curled up, while three exhausted men found seats up front. A quick stop at Burger King broke up the drive to Aristos's house, then Biobandit and I hopped in our vehicles to finish the journey home.
Although my rabbit was smaller (I'm man enough to admit to that; plus, it was a smaller target, and I scored 1 hit out of 2), it had long, meaty legs and plenty of back meat. Aristos's rabbit was of good size, with nice big hind legs and thick backstraps. Rabbit stew will be on the menu!
As usual, plans for the next trip were already discussed.
Note: the picture above is from Jan. 1st, not the 18th. I didn't have it when I posted about that hunt, and we didn't take any pictures on this one. The rabbit I shot in the picture was pretty much the same size that Aristos bagged on this hunt.