Until the past few years, cottontail rabbit hunting was the No. 1 sport in Ohio. Deer hunting has the top spot now, but every fall hundreds of local gunners still head forth seeking a meal of fried rabbit. Lots of them do it the easy way, lining up six or seven friends into a long line and covering fields and woods for hours. It’s a basically foolproof way of hunting, since no matter where the animals are hiding, that many people are sure to find them sooner or later.
Another foolproof tactic is to hunt with an eager little beagle or two. This method is even better because hunters can just loaf along, let the dogs do most of the work, and shoot those that jump when they circle. Unfortunately, lots of rabbit hunters can’t always find time to hunt all morning with a big group, or haven’t dogs to do the flushing. But even a pair can find game if they use their heads.
Take a thick fencerow, for example. It’s easy enough for two men to walk along, one on each side with both breaking in to rattle the brush and briers. Rabbits will usually jump out well ahead, and neither is likely to get a shot. But if one man goes through while the other stands clear and a modest distance ahead, that second hunter can find some easy pickings. The same holds true for patches of dense weeds and heavy briars. Alternate doing the hard work and leave the second to do the shooting. Ditto for jumping on brushpiles, one on and the other well to the side.
Probably the toughest brand of rabbit hunting is one man hunting alone, especially a man out after work with just a couple of hours to hunt. The key point then is to ignore places where you aren’t likely to get a shot, and concentrate on spots where you can. That means ignoring heavy, waist high weed fields where you’re likely to see nothing but grass shaking momentarily.
Instead, concentrate on small patches, small thickets, fencerows with open segments, sections where abandoned farm machinery lies in a swale with good grass cover around it. Stop and look over any likely spot before you step in, too, and ask the question, “Which way should I walk it for an open shot?” Rabbits will always jump out on the opposite side of that brushpile, grass swale, thicket, or brier patch. If you let them jump into thick cover, you’ve little chance. But moving around so that anything racing out has to cover clear ground will see you getting shots.
Finally, hunters forced to hunt alone without dogs should always take advantage of any snowfall. Rabbits move and feed at night, and a snow the day before means they’ll leave plenty of tracks behind. Find tracks leading into a brushpile and none coming out, and you’ve almost a sure thing. A brushpile with no tracks means you needn’t waste time kicking it.
The same holds true for swales, cattail swamps, fencerow sections, and other favorite places. If there are fresh tracks, there might be a rabbit waiting. No tracks, ignore the spot and waste no precious time. Single hunters can’t afford to waste time and effort in places where there’s no game or no chance for a shot. Make sure you don’t do it.
Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org n More than 15,000 ring-necked pheasants will be released on 29 public hunting areas across the state this fall. Releases will take place on the evenings of Nov. 1 and 8, both Thursdays. The final release of the fall is scheduled for Nov. 21 to increase pheasant hunting opportunities during the Thanksgiving weekend. In our area, birds will be released at Delaware Wildlife Area (800), Killdeer Plains (650), Resthaven (310), Willard (300), and Spencer Wildlife Area (320).
n One of the world’s most beautiful raptors has nested in Ohio for the first time. A pair of Mississippi kites successfully produced one offspring on a Hocking County golf course earlier this summer, according to the Division of Wildlife. The Mississippi kite is rarely seen in Ohio, with only about 15 sightings recorded in the state prior to this first ever nesting. Most of those sightings were of accidental visitors that did not stay around for long.
n Deer-car accidents are sure to rise as the rut begins around the first of November, but while automobile owners should take care, especially around dawn and dusk, those who ride vulnerable motorcycles should take more than usual precautions. As one example, a 58-year-old Bethal man was killed when his motorcycle struck a deer on U.S. 52 in Brown County. The man, who was not wearing a helmet, was taken to University Hospital where he was pronounced dead.