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Chasing Bunny’s


Rabbits 1   When it comes to sheer fun in the sporting world, few things match the race of a pack of beagles hot on the trail of a cottontail rabbit. Like a lot of hunting, rabbit hunting is not as popular as it once was due to the emphasis on big game. However, many of us got our start in the outdoors with small game. Squirrels and rabbits were the staple of teenage boys and Saturday mornings.

Rabbit hunting is a social event. Groups of men, boys and girls gather with a pack of beagles to chase rabbits. While well trained beagles make the hunt a great deal of fun. Some hunt with as few as one or two dogs while others run six to sixteen dogs. It is really a preference of the hunters.

I have hunted with some fine beagles. I remember vividly hunting with Mr. J. W. Longshore of Silverstreet, SC. J.W. was a life-long breeder of fine beagles, usually the 15 inch variety. He was known all across the Dutch fork as having the finest beagles around. J.W. was particular in his hunt, seldom using more than three dogs at a time. “All you need is one good jump dog, and two chasers to have a fine time.” He would say. While it’s true that different handlers may approach the hunt a little differently, the premise is the same. Use small hounds to sniff out a rabbit and get them to chase the bunny by a waiting hunter with a shotgun to end the race and then do it again.

Hunting with beagles is a joyful experience. Their enthusiasm is contagious and thrilling. Their high pitched barks when chasing a rabbit echo’s across the field and dale while you stand there waiting for a shot at a fast running rabbit.Rabbits 4

Cottontail rabbits are plentiful across the southeast. It is true that the influx of large predators have had an impact on their population. Rabbits have been adapting well the past several years. More and more hunters are reporting higher numbers of races, and more rabbits killed per hunt. This is great news for rabbit hunters. But the concern rabbit hunters have is the lack of habitat. As land managers are managing land of whitetail deer, they are opening the cover rabbits need. Older pine plantations are devoid of thick underbrush that rabbits prefer and need.

The old saying is so true. It cannot be too thick for rabbits. Briar patches, young two to seven year old cutovers are ideal rabbits. These thick areas are a haven for cottontails.

A typical hunt involves hunters sending a pack of beagles into some desirable habitat and waiting for the dogs to jump a rabbit. Following the sound of the barking hounds, hunters try and head off the rabbit. It is not uncommon for rabbits to run hundreds of yards on a race that may last fifteen to thirty minutes. Following the sound, hunters can listen to the music and ambush the bunny as they try and return to their lair.

J.W. used to plop a wooden folding chair as close to where the rabbit jumped as possible. He’d sit there and listen to the race calling the names of the dogs by the sound of their bark. More often than not, the rabbit will run a long wide circle and return to where he started. I have witnessed rabbit run clear out of hearing for ten minutes, then off in the distance, the sound of dogs would start to grow louder and louder as they chased the rabbit closer until he was shot within feet of where the race started.

Yes, hunting rabbit is about as fun as it gets in the outdoors. Find a good pack of beagles, don your hunter orange the trusty 20 gauge and head out with your buddies. More lies and fun happens around a pack of beagles than just about anywhere else in the outdoors.