Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Wily Wizard of the Woods

The Wily Wizard of the Woods                         

It felt good to be walking behind the dogs again, having been hampered by ankle surgery since October, now rabbit hunting even a half day walking without the ATV was invigorating to someone who is now old but has spent a lifetime walking the dogs through the briars. I had been going rabbit hunting every Saturday since deer season went out this year but riding on a four wheeler all day. My grandson, Hunter, handled the dogs and was huntmaster while William, his dad, had a work thing he couldn't turn down. We only had three dogs on the ground; Reba, Penny and Nila. James Pressley, friend and rabbit hunter extraordinaire, pitched in to help with the dogs and with just three of us, we did pretty well. The dogs ran six and we bagged three in just a portion of the day. Of the three that got away, one ran back & forth through a muddy bottom five or six times until the dogs got confused and shut down while the rabbit was squatting over in some nearby canes & briers and watching them. Hunter called the dogs out knowing we could go back by in an hour or two and try him again and we did, but more about that later.

I missed two shots on the second one which evaded two shots by Hunter was well then went into a hole in a hollow tree where he was safe from the dogs. The other one we lost later on went into a rotting log pile left from a timber loading yard left from when we cut the property last time. James was one for one with his shooting, making a snap shot as the last rabbit of the day darted behind him unexpectedly. Hunter missed two shots on the same one I missed, but then came back and nailed two, including the huge buck rabbit that confused the dogs on the first try. Hunter got a full grown cottontail on the third race on the first turn before the rabbit could make it back to the bed even once.  I smelled the skunk which for the uninformed means I didn’t bag one all day.

As promised, we went back by to check on the buck rabbit that fooled us at first, and James all but stepped on him in the canebrake and called the dogs to him. The dogs scorched him on a long loop to the creek and back towards his bedding area. I had him flanked on the east and Hunter had him on the west, but he slipped through and went straight back to the bed. It was so thick in those canes interspersed with tall briars that James couldn't see him. Reba and the two girls stayed on him like they were tied to him with a string. I was watching close on the east side of the muddy hole where he gave them the slip earlier, with Hunter on the other side sort of hiding behind a big oak tree. When the buck rabbit left James and the bed area the second time, the scoundrel broke out of the canes just east of the mud and I saw him flinch when Hunter shot the first time and then saw his white belly as Hunter's second shot flipped him up into a two and a half with a full twist, thumping him to the ground, graveyard dead. I could see Hunter with the pump gun, the rabbit in the air and Reba and the girls coming with ears flying, barking every breath all in the same viewing. The wily wizard of the woods, a cane cutting buck rabbit, felled to the frying pan by an eleven year old boy and three black creek beagle bitches who could rightfully be called rabbit running machines. It was an awesome sight and a proper time to call for a lunch break.

One of the highlights of every rabbit hunt is lunch, and yesterday was no exception considering that in addition to some good talking, we had some homemade chicken tortilla soup which I made with Jo's Southern Living recipe and some On the Border tortilla chips from Sam's Club which are the best store-bought chips I think. James brought some secret recipe cheese and sausage rolls which his bride Celeste got up early and made for our benefit. Oh, yes, I almost forgot that I brought some Mary B buttered biscuits stuffed with some real homemade preserved Georgia grown figs about as big as a half dollar that would make your tongue slap your eyeballs. Those figs made James pontificate on all the fig preserves he had enjoyed over his lifetime starting back when he was a child. I enjoy hearing a sporting man discuss his heritage. Who wants to hear someone tell about their high times going to the mall which is what most kids today will have to tell about?

It made my heart warm watching my eleven year old grandson handle the dogs and serve as huntmaster, especially when James said, "there's not enough eleven year old boys handling hunting dogs to keep the sport going. I am glad to be able to see this one coming along."
When James made that fine shot on the last race, we called it a day. I told Hunter how well he had done filling in for his dad, handling the dogs and managing the hunt, even promised him a milk shake on the way home, but he was asleep before we got to the paved road. He didn’t budge till I shook him awake at the dog pens. Big doings for a young huntmaster.

Bill Prince, February 2, 2013 © All Rights Reserved