by Emery C. Barg
New Year’s Day may be made for football, but New Year’s Eve is made for rabbit hunting. At least the daylight hours are. The last day of the year 2001 would be a good one for hunting. There was fresh snow falling, the temperature was just below freezing, the scenting would prove to be quite good.
The area of attack for the day was appropriately named Rabbit Creek, although Coyote Creek would work as well. Often when the beagles were silent, you could hear the coyotes howling in the distance. Rabbit Creek is located just west of Murphy, ID. If it weren’t for the general store and the courthouse, you wouldn’t even know that you went through a town. But Murphy is the county seat for Owyhee County, which may be more commonly recognized from the old ghost town of Silver City. Rabbit creek is a multi-use area for off-road vehicles, but every time I have been there, hunting was the only activity for the day.
The cast for the day would include Mike Waltermire, Rich Mansfield, Tim & Zachary Davis and myself. We would be using 5 dogs for this trip, Max, Gus, Tiger & Stella belonging to Mike and Hannah belongs to me. Rich and I got there an hour earlier than the rest. There were no other tire tracks in the snow, so we would be the first to disturb the rabbits from their rest. We tried our best and had one up and running soon after we unloaded from the car. With the fresh snow, you could see exactly where the rabbit had been. My dog, Hannah, hadn’t come across the track yet, so when I walked up to it I called her over and pointed. That was all it took, she was off and singing that you know it, out in front was Mr. Rabbit pouring on the gas trying to get away from all the dogs. He must have pulled a fast one on the dogs; it wasn’t too long after we lost sight of the rabbit when the dogs went silent.
We called the dogs back and continued on. We backtracked a little and in the process jumped another rabbit. Mike gave a quick shot that slowed the rabbit down. The dogs were up and over the crest of and down the backside of another of many little hills. Mike high-tailed it to the top and it wasn’t long before we heard another shot. Number two rabbit of the day was in the bag. Two of the dogs came up to where the dead rabbit was. The others had split off and were chasing two different rabbits. We had dogs everywhere and all were on rabbits. Rich, Tim, Zachary and I followed after my dog and Mike went back to were we jumped the last rabbit because most of his dogs were back over there again. Within a minute, Mike lets go with his shotgun again. Over the top and to the right came his rabbit. I managed two quick shots with the .22, thinking I at least hit it. Rich, Tim and Zachary were heading to where we last saw the rabbit when I caught a glimpse of something to my left and a little behind me. I swung around and let two more fly at this latest bunny. My dog came up the trail of this rabbit and I went over to see if I scored a hit. There was blood on the snow and Hannah was hot on the trail. I had a feeling that it wouldn’t be too long before number three was in the bag. This rabbit must have had the adrenaline going because this rabbit wouldn’t stop. I managed to see it a couple of times, but was not able to get another shot. The fresh snow really helped out here. This rabbit did some crazy turns and zigzags. When Hannah got a little confused, all I had to do was look for the rabbit tracks in the snow. I ended up finding blood next to a hole in the ground and reached down and pulled a live rabbit out. Number threebeautiful music. I should have stayed put, because that rabbit circled around and almost ran the same track twice. Well, that rabbit didn’t make a complete second circle. It stopped to listen for the dog; I brought up my .22 cal and put the crosshairs on the bunny. I will have to admit it took me more than once to hit it. In my defense, it was between 50 and 75 yards away. Rich and I both managed not to get to the rabbit before Hannah did. She mouthed it up a little, but for the most part it was in good shape. We walked around for a while and didn’t see another rabbit before Mike and his dogs showed up.
Mike unloaded his dogs and grabbed his shotgun and we were off in the direction that he always goes. I purposely didn’t hunt there before knowing that he would want to go there. It wasn’t long before we came across another track and all the dogs were tonguing and heading out after the rabbit. The dogs would split up and would eventually have three different rabbits going at the same time. I naturally followed my dog and would eventually get a long shot at the rabbit Hannah was chasing. Of course, I missed. I managed to catch up to my dog and bring her back over to where the other dogs were giving chase. This is about the time that Tim and his son Zachary showed up. Tim came armed with his camera and Zachary left his gun in the truck. He hadn’t hunted with dogs before and wanted to see what it was all about before doing any actual hunting.
The next memorable chase had all the dogs’ way out and up on the side of a rather large hill. They were giving it their all. I asked Mike if he thought that they might be on a deer, his response was flat out NO. He mentioned the obvious to me; we were in the sagebrush and would have definitely seen a deer. He also added that he had never seen a deer this far down out of the mountains. The dogs continued on over the top and came around the other side. Wouldn’t was in the bag. I looked over to where Rich, Tim and Zachary were standing, they were holding up number four. They said that they walked up on a dead rabbit.
We figured it was time to try another spot and were headed toward that when the dogs opened again. This rabbit must have been visiting from the next county. He took off and must have run cross-country for 600 yards or more. Mike’s dogs are a little faster than mine, Hannah must have been 30-40 yards behind them. For the longest time, she was the only one we heard.
Rich must have jumped another rabbit because he managed to bag number 5 for the day.
The dogs finally managed to come back around and we decided it was time to call it quits for the day. We did manage one more rabbit on the way back to the vehicles. Mike got that one before I even saw what he was shooting. I think that the dogs were just as happy to end the day as we were. After a helping of water, they were loaded up and ready for the ride home.
This was Rich’s second rabbit hunt; his first was on the 23rd of Dec. down at the reservoir that I have written about before. We managed to bag 11 that day. When I asked him if he had a good time, he was all smiles and said, “I’m hooked.” Now if I can just convince him to get a beagle or two… This was Tim and Zachary’s first rabbit hunt. I will have to make sure I invite them out again.