Last weekend, me and my father along with Andrew and John went bustin’ bunnies. Rabbit is delicious, and also expensive. Hitting them provides a challenge. I think it was originally John’s idea to hunt as a party in a line, rather then still hunting. We all took shotguns, I happened to also bring along a rifle. The Baikal shotgun, oops, Remington Spartan, performs well and its incredibly solid. The Marlin Golden 39 is also a fantastic gun, with a bit of a burr on the action. Of course, I left the rifle in the truck once I decided we were going to need to stomp some bushes. And of course, if I had the rifle instead of the shotgun, we would have been much better off.
Line hunting is a bit of a pain. The Golden Rule is the slowest guy is the leader, everyone else forms up on him. Not to dump on John, but he never shuts up and he’s always ahead of the line. I understand that he wants to shoot something, and I understand he wanted to give Andrew advice, but talking nonstop just beds down the game faster. Being ahead of the slowest guy is also a big loser – The slowest guy is probably moving slow because he’s stuck in the bush. If he’s stuck in the bush, you moving up drives game down the line towards him. If he’s stuck in the bush, not only can he not see where you are (dangerous) but he also probably can’t get the gun around to fire on the game. Being ahead of the line spells wasted opportunity for everyone. The guy in the bush can’t fire on the game reasonably, and it’s just going to cut through the gap behind the line. This is exactly the scenario that happened with Andrew. I was hanging back a bit so I could see Andrew, John was running his mouth and well ahead of Andrew, Dad was inline with me. The rabbit Andrew saw ran towards (and behind) John, which means I can’t fire on it, and back behind our line into the bush. If the rabbit gets behind the line, he wins, you can’t move your fire sectors behind you quickly and safely, especially in rabbit cover.
The next two rabbits were lost wholly a result of me and dad using #7 shot. I had taken cylinder and improved cylinder choke figuring we would be stomping on thick bushes, but when we pushed into the valley on the far side, suddenly everything opened up. This is right when Dad flushed probably the biggest rabbit I had ever seen. It was the size of our cat Tricks, the tom, and Dad managed to wound it. Had I the rifle, it would have been an easy 35 yard shot to finish the loping hare off. With an improved cylinder, however, the situation was largely hopeless given the cover on the other side of the basin. We decided to let it lay and mark where it vanished, figuring we would be along to flush it again or pick it up otherwise. Dad left some kind of sign.
We moved along, and finally I flushed a rabbit. I gave it the cylinder barrel as it was 10 yards in front of me, and it ran across the valley. I was really suprised it was still going, but I admit I miss once in a blue moon. I sent the improved cylinder after it. The rabbit slowed, which almost always indicates a hit. I had to swim a thorn bush to get to where the rabbit bedded down, but a rabbit is worth a few thorns. Besides, Kelly could use the practice getting them out. Think of them like At Home clinicals, hon! When I got there… no rabbit. Same problem as my father. There was maybe a drop of blood, but the ground the rabbit was on had many #7 sized holes in the snow and nothing to show for it. We padded around but failed to turn anything up. Since we were very near Dad’s trail at this point, Dad opted to split off. Andrew went high in case the rabbit flushed out the back, while I went low to stomp the bush the rabbit likely went into. Nothing turned out.
Disparaged, I went to help my father track his blood trail, which eventually led into a groundhog hole. Hog holes are of a particular nuisance since groundhogs can clear rocks. The terrain in any of these areas is almost always soft verge laid out on top of shale or another sheet rock. It’s not uncommon to find fossils in the slag left from the hogs excavations. This presents a problem in and of itself. If you reach into the hog hole, the hog may very well not be impressed by this and has very sharp teeth. If you dig the hole, you will most likely hit the hard tan stone. This makes no mention of the roots growing atop the whole mess, woven so much that a sharp shovel is required if not an axe. Carrying such tools is well beyond the pack of even the most dedicated soul. Right then, Andrew happened across the blood from my rabbit well above where me and Dad had been led. Sure as the first, this trail too led to another hole. The lesson: #7 shot is too small, #5s seem to be the order of the day.
By now it was getting dark and we decided to retire. However, there’s still more rabbits yet to be seen up at the farm.