After many decades of decline, today rabbit hunting with beagles has enjoyed a resurgence of interest. No where is this more true than along the east coast of the United States. In today’s hectic world it seems more and more folks are seeking a simpler time. A time where Saturday mornings brought boys, men and beagles together for the dance we call rabbit hunting.
To enjoy a day in the field rabbit hunting the first thing you will need is place that holds rabbits. This may sound simple at first but when you consider the place must be safe from fast moving road traffic as well as secluded enough not to be a nuisance to neighbors, it becomes more difficult to locate rabbit hunting opportunities. Don’t be discouraged, the emergence of the forestry industry has ushered in an era of quality hunting cover and an abundance game.
The number one factor affecting rabbit population is cover. Where thick briars and heavy brush prevail, so too will the eastern cottontail rabbit. As you ride along, look for places with wide fence rows, possibly overgrown with honeysuckle. Those same fields you picked black berries in mid June will likely be scattered with cottontails come Thanksgiving morning.
After you have acquired permission for a suitable place to rabbit hunt, you need to set out to locate the rabbits. Early in the day the rabbits may come easily as the little hounds will pick up on the scent the rabbits left while feeding during the night. As the sun gets up higher in the sky locating game may become more difficult. The thing to remember is to move slowly. I recommend taking a couple slow steps at a time then pausing for several seconds. This also gives the dogs time to work the cover. I can’t count how many times a rabbit has jumped from its bed right at my feet as I started to walk off. It’s the natural defense mechanism of the rabbit to stay still and quite as predators are around. He will lay low in hopes you will simply pass right on by. He can do this for a while but will get nervous if you stay close for too long. This causes him to ‘jump" or bolt from his hiding place in an attempt to escape.
This is a good time to discuss proper etiquette and gun safety. Shooting a rabbit as it jumps is a kin to shooting doves from power lines. It’s just not a sporting thing to do. It’s frowned upon by all sportsmen and something you just shouldn't do. Since you’re not going to be "jump shooting" there is no reason to have a shell in the chamber of your gun. While you’re wading around in the field looking for a rabbit several things can happen if your gun goes off. None of those things are good. Play it safe, leave the shells in your pocket or magazine until the rabbit is up and the hounds are in hot pursuit.
Now that the dogs are after the rabbit you can begin to look for a place to "set up" or get ready for a shot. If a large stump is close by, it could be a very handy spot to get a good view of the bunny as he come back around trying to escape the bay of the little hounds. A vein of briars or a hedge may also me a good spot for the ambush. The thing to look for is how you think the rabbit will move across this terrain. A rabbit will slip through thick cover rather than running across open space if he has his way. This makes for an easier and more predicable shot when used to your advantage.
Last but not least make sure you the leave the field as clean and litter free as you found it. If you walk by a piece of litter, pick it up and put it in your game bag. If you take great care of the property you’ve been allowed to hunt, chances are good you will be able to enjoy it for many years. Stop by the land owner’s home and offer him a cleaned rabbit or two. Thank him again for his generosity and build a long lasting relationship.
If you would like more information about beagles and rabbit hunting visit my web site www.RabbitHuntingBeagles.com