Rabbits. Back when I was a kid, I don’t remember how old, there used to be an annual rabbit hunt on our farm. I only know I was too young to carry a shotgun and go shoot with the men.
That was back when there wasn’t much deer season. Two, maybe three days of bucks only and two or three bucks killed by the Conservation Deer Club was a big successful season. Doc’s rabbit hunt was a good fill-in for fall shooting sports.
Our river bottom low land had been made unusable for crops by construction of State Route 259 bridge over Cacapon River. Pasture for cattle wasn’t a good option because the river began washing out fences as fast as they could be built. With little productive use for such land, it was allowed to grow up in brush. Clumps of brush interspersed with piles of flood debris made super rabbit habitat.
A half dozen men strung out between river and high bank around our farmstead. No whooping and hollering like on a deer drive. Quiet, except for the booming twelve gauges. They’d tramp trash piles and shake cedars out to open cleared land where our sheep pastured, then come up to the house to empty their guns, laugh and brag. There was always at least one rabbit that ran across in front of two or three hunters, all of whom missed their shot. Big laugh and they’d get him next year.
I remember them standing emptying their hunting coats and game bags into our wheel barrow. Never saw so many rabbits. They’d split them up even so everybody went home with enough to “get a mess” or “stink up the pan”.
[private] Rabbit hunt memories have been coming back this summer. Don’t ever remember seeing more rabbits around the farm than I’m seeing this year. Area around my Doghouse is prime bunny territory. The road through the small barn yard over there, closely bordered with tall thick grass and weeds, is rabbit runway. I drive through with care. I haven’t hit a little bunny yet, but it’s almost inevitable. Some mornings and evenings there are six or eight rabbits sitting in those open road tracks in less than a hundred feet.
Recent past years there’ve been feral cats living in that barn. To skittish to do anything with, I’ve left them alone. No doubt they’ve been reducing rabbit population along with that of rats, mice, birds and maybe even baby groundhogs which venture out from rotted pallets under stacked hay. I’ve often seen foxes around there too.
This year no predators. A big sleek Calico was last feral cat and she hasn’t been around this year. Maybe a coyote got her, or maybe she cleaned up small varmints around the barn and moved on to better hunting elsewhere. Absence of foxes surprises me though. Usually see one or two around over there every year, but none this year. Maybe Coyotes got them too.
But if Coyotes are getting the varmints, why aren’t they feasting on little rabbits? Small, easy to catch, at least a mouthful for a good sized dog. Seems like easy peasy prey to me, but real killers aren’t enticed.
Coyotes kept me awake the other night. About three o’clock in the morning, laid back in Doghouse recliner, I awoke to such caterwauling and squalling as only coyotes can make. Couldn’t do anything else except listen for a while until BLAM. I settled down until Coyotes set in again. Another BLAM shut them up for a little while. Third cycle, the BLAM ended the argument. My thanks to whoever was doing the shooting. Just wish you’d cleaned them up first shot.
Nature’s cycles can be perplexing. Perhaps more so when you watch them on same land for over sixty years.