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A Kalkaska County Hare Hunt

by Jeff Hirst

I just love going over to Kalkaska County for a day of hare hunting. Kalkaska is located in the northwestern part of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. The southeast corner of the county is quite remote and desolate, with expanses of state forestlands that consist mostly of a mix of cedar swamp and marshes. Numerous creeks and rivers cut watercourses through this area. These watercourses are what allow access to ‘islands’ of cedar/aspen thickets that are normally inaccessible. When the rivers and marshes are frozen and snow covered, the hunter can snowshoe back to these hot little pockets and run some hare that haven’t had any hunting pressure.

This is what I had in mind for the last Saturday of January 2000. The forecast called for a couple of inches of fresh snow overnight, with temperatures around 10 degrees. It would warm up to around 20 degrees once the sun was high in the sky. Perfect conditions for a bunny hunt. So I made a couple of phone calls, and arranged to meet my hunting partners at around 7:00 am at the Yankee Boy restaurant in South Boardman, MI.

After a hearty breakfast and plenty of hot coffee we were on our way. Daybreak found us cruising a dirt road that runs for a couple of miles across a large section of swamp and marshlands. The plan was park the trucks at one of the little creeks that cross the road and head out into the marsh, using the ice covered creek as our hiking trail. A party of hunters who had just turned their Walker hounds loose on a hot bobcat track was at my first choice of parking spots this morning. We would listen to those big hounds run the cat all morning long.

About a mile down the road we found a suitable place to park along a little stream that ran out through the marsh towards a cedar thicket approximately 500 yards away. That patch of cedars looked as if it might hold a bunny or two, so off we went. One of my partners that day, Phil Rajala of Traverse City would walk a two-track fire lane that ran along the eastern edge of the marsh about a quarter of a mile away. If any hare wanted to leave the marsh and head cross country, it would have to cross that two-track. Phil’s son Aaron, Traverse City architect C. Fred Campbell, and myself would follow the creek back to the ‘island’ of cedars.

Barely 100 yards away from the road, my beagles Butch and Buster struck a hot hare track and were pushed it hot and hard across the marsh in the direction of the cedar thicket. The three of us spread out across the marsh at 50 yard intervals and waited for the hare to circle back in out direction. But this one wasn’t going to come back out way. It took the beagles into the 10 acre tangle of cedar and circled around in there for the next half an hour. It was apparent that this bunny was intent on staying in the heavy cover. So off we went across the marsh to take stands along the edge of the thicket. When the beagle swung back around towards us, the hare was a good hundred yards out in front of them. It tried to sneak between my two partners, but Fred saw it and we had the first bunny of the day.

Within minutes Butch and Buster jumped another hare and the chase was on again. It was apparent that there were a lot of snowshoes in this thicket. For the next two hours the dogs ran the rabbit back and forth through the heavy cover. This one wasn’t going to head out across the marsh, so we just waited until somebody could get a look at it. Again it was Fred who had the sharp eye, and another hare was taken as it tried to sneak past the hunters. It sometimes is quite difficult to see a slow moving snowshoe hare against a snowy backdrop. Many times the dogs pushed hares past us and we never got a look at them.

At noon we decided it was time to call it a day. The dogs’ paws were pretty beat up. With Butch bleeding from a torn pad on his front paw. I was starting to get real cold from a knee-high soaking I got an hour earlier. Marsh ice can never be considered absolutely safe, even at 5 0 F. Besides, we had two nice hares in the bag, and many more left in the marsh for the next hunt. We also were able to listen in on the progress of a bobcat hunt in the distance. The big Walkers ended up treeing the cat not more than a half a mile from us. Boy, there’s nothing like spending a winter morning listening to hounds that are doing their thing!

Should you have a concern regarding the health of your Beagle(s), you should contact your veterinarian. All information on this site is presented solely for educational and informational purposes and should not, at any time, be considered a substitute for seeking or receiving veterinary care for your Beagle(s).