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Memories of early rabbit hunts

By DICK MARTIN • Oct 27, 2018 at 8:00 AM

Ohio's 2018 rabbit season will open on Nov. 2, and this opening day always brings memories of early hunts back when I was a youngster in southern Ohio.

In those days I hunted mostly in the hills of Scioto, Lawrence and Adams counties with occasional forays north into Jackson County. There were never many rabbits in this heavily wooded country, but always some and I loved hunting them.

On a typical early season hunt I'd overnight at my Uncle Ernie's home in Sciotoville on Friday, lie sleepless most of the night, and give up around 4 a.m. spending the remaining hours cleaning and oiling my 20 gauge bolt action shotgun, and checking shells and other hunting gear. Then after a hasty breakfast we'd head for his dad's house, a shotgun structure on a bit of bottom land with a well and outhouse, join up with a couple of uncles and a cousin or two, then head for a likely spot.

After that we'd line up on a hillside in a very straight line to make sure no one strayed ahead into possible danger, release a dog or two, and start walking. We walked much of the day, up and down hills, across creek bottoms, old apple orchards, grown up fields, and fencerows, kicking every bit of brush, greenbrier thickets, briar patches, and grassy clumps, and from time to time a grey blur would dart out and we'd take our shots. If we got the cottontail, fine. If not, the dogs would break into joyous barks, run the animal in a long circle, and bring it back for another shot.

Sometimes we'd jump a ruffed grouse too, a thunderous blur of movement in the timber and a tricky target since it jinked and dodged tree trunks and limbs at high speed, and on rare occasion we'd even bag one. And sometimes we'd find a good sized covey of quail in some grassy bottom, and bag a few of these, too. Those were great days marked with scuffed brown leaves underfoot, the taste of chilled fruit from an old apple tree, frost on the grass clumps, and blue skies above.

Our catch was shared among the adult hunters with the rabbits cleaned and skinned, the quail breasted, and any grouse carefully plucked. These latter were treasured. The rabbits were fried crisp, gravy made and potatoes mashed, and served with green beans or collard greens and biscuits slathered in real butter and home-made jelly. But the birds were always eaten first, flavorsome morsels baked with bacon strips on top. Just delicious.

Sometimes my uncle and I would hunt alone, stopping at tiny farms, again with a shotgun house, small outbuildings, and a few chickens, a cow and steer, and several pigs. They were owned by poor, but proud folk who were glad to let us hunt, and always demanded that we visit first, have a sandwich or cup of coffee if lunch wasn't ready yet, and talk a bit about the weather, crops and hunting. Good people, good memories, good hunts, and at hunts end, good food. That's rabbit hunting as I knew it then.

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Hooks & bullets

• Duck hunters who don't know their ducks can find the sport an expensive proposition. Recently wildlife officers saw two men hunting at Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area during the special early teal season. The men shot at two large ducks, killing one and when checked the officers found it was a mallard. More checking turned up a pied billed grebe, and both were obviously out of season. The men each paid $142 in fines and court costs.

• The Ohio Division of Wildlife will release over 14,000 ringneck pheasants in 24 Ohio public hunting areas on opening day, and prior to the Veterans Day and Thanksgiving holiday weekends. Among the wildlife areas where releases will take place is Killdeer Plains with 350 birds on Nov. 2, 300 on Nov. 9, and 320 on Nov. 22. Resthaven will receive 160, 120 and 100 on those dates, Wyandot 80, 80, and 80, and Spencer 100, 50, and 90. For a full list of the wildlife areas, visit bit.ly/2018ohiopheasant

• Anglers and boaters looking to launch at the Oxbow Lake Wildlife Area boat ramp should be aware that the ramp will be temporarily closed for repairs. The lake will remain open for shoreline fishing and other wildlife related activities. Oxbow Lake Wildlife Area is located about 10 miles north of Defiance.

• Outdoor enthusiasts interested in learning to field dress and butcher a white-tailed deer are encouraged to attend a free informational workshop on from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14 at the Antwerp Conservation Club located at 17814 Road 53, Antwerp, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). The workshop is free of charge, but preregistration is required by Nov. 9, as space is limited. Interested individuals can register by calling Andrea Altman at 419-429-8321.

 

Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at [email protected] You also can visit his blog at outdoorswithmartin.com.

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