The Tuesday after Thanksgiving! The first real day of rabbit season for me. It marks the first day I can really go rabbit hunting as I have a hard time counting anything that ends before 4:00 PM as a day's hunt.
The anticipation was high as the normal hunting trio, Preacher Griffith, Ken Murray and I are joined by my friends from NC, Todd Herndon and Brian Michaels. These two had left the comfy confines of Tobacco Rd for a day in the South Carolina Pine thickets. I always enjoy taking a person hunting for the first time in the pine thickets. If you've only hunted hedge rows and farm land, pine thickets present an entirely new learning opportunity.
The day started off on a bad note as the first thing we noticed as we rolled into Greenwood, SC was that our normal breakfast joint, Gary's, was closed down. We looked around and found the Waffle House (no other café's in town.) Finally a few minutes after 8:00 we cast the hounds. Six dogs hit the ground, Daisy, Wilma, Nita, Blue, FC Cocoa Star and FC Slab Town. As we make our way into the pines I can see right off the dogs are smelling a bunny. They are all excited and the tails are going. As I stand their watching I see Mr. rabbit bust out of his cozy bed and 6 little beagles in hot pursuit. They travel a 100 yard or so and I hear a split. Five dogs still going strong and Star is headed back in our direction in hot pursuit. A minute later preacher shoots. "Thank you Star" is all you hear as Preacher collects his rabbit. We all fan out in the direction of the other race as Star rejoins the other dogs. Back and forth across the hill side the dogs run the rabbit. Shots are fired but Mr. Rabbit continues on. Finally an hour and change later Brian breaks the constant roar of the hounds with a shot that brings the race to an end. A few minutes later one of the hounds speak and another race is on. About a half hour into the race a split occurs. Two rabbits going and I am in prime position. A few minutes later I see the rabbit sneaking by with Star, Wilma, Daisy and Nita in hot pursuit. A quick shotgun blast later I end the race. Meanwhile Slab and Blue are pushing another rabbit towards me. Within a minute I hear Ken's 410 sound off and start to walk out to get a drink as by now the temperature has climbed into the upper 50's and my briar clothes are getting hot. Ken reports he missed the rabbit. Oh no I figure, I've missed my chance. I decide I can wait a little longer on the diet Mt Dew and head deeper into the briars for a shot. Just as I get into position I realize I only have one 28 gauge shell left. I need to make it count. The race continues on another hour of more and I really start to need something to drink. I want to just catch the dogs but I have no lead. I figure I can shoot the rabbit and then tease the dogs up out of the thicket. Since I only have one shell I have to make the shot count (I may have left out that I had shot a few times already and missed.) Finally at 1:00 I just head out toward the truck. I let everyone know I am going to the truck to get something to drink. We all leave the dogs running. We have our ritual Vienna sausages and oatmeal pies and guzzle down some MT Dew. After a quick lunch break Todd and I grab some leads and head back off to collect the dogs. We don't even carry our shotguns as we had no intentions of killing the rabbit. We just wanted to catch the dogs so we could get some more. We get the dogs and switch packs for the afternoon hunt.
The second pack consisted of Boot Scootin Boogie, Pete, Star Rocket, Lady Bird, Cinderella, and Bell Star. The after noon was more of what we had that morning. Several long runs with very poor shooting. I think I killed a couple more and the Preacher did too. Ken missed a few times and Todd never got a shot. We finally just caught the dogs as the last few rays of sun was still keeping the ground visible. We packed up and headed to the Dixie for Cheeseburger plates and making fun of one another's poor shooting. A good time with good friends. I go to sleep that night wishing for more.