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The New Hunting Season

by Robert L. Mason


            The new rabbit-hunting season and the onset of wintry weather arrived hand-in-hand in Kentucky.  With the rabbit season having been moved to November 1, the cold air mass and the rainy days that preceded it could hardly have been more welcome for area rabbit hunters and their hounds. 

            The hot weather that characterized early spring and persisted throughout the summer, significant infestations of ticks and fleas, as well as this year’s mosquito-borne “West-Nile” virus, went a long ways towards keeping a lot of houndsmen and their hounds out of the fields until cooler weather arrived. 

            Suddenly, pickup trucks loaded with dog boxes and Beagles were everywhere—the belated labors of hunters and hounds rendered all the more urgent by the early season.  Add to that mix the persistent reports of excellent rabbit populations, and it’s easy to see why area hunters are excited about the new season. 

            As always, opening day is attended by anxious expectations. That is particularly true when the season is kicked off at a new hunting venue.  There’s something about a new hunting spot that inspires wildly exaggerated hopes of bountiful game and excellent hunting. 

            Like many hunters, I grew up listening to my father’s exciting tales of golden fields and magical thickets where rabbits flushed like birds before the hunters and the hounds.  Over the years, I’ve hunted some excellent locations, but the hunting paradises my father recounted have always somehow eluded me. 

            Nevertheless, those lofty expectations rode with me as we embarked for our new hunting grounds.  As the miles slipped beneath the tires of our pickup, we studied the ever-changing landscape.  Our spirits lifted as urbanized areas gave way to scattered farms. 

Upon rendezvousing with our hunting companions, we turned off onto a rugged, secondary road.  That set off sporadic barking among the hounds, as they sensed that the hunting grounds were near.  Soon then, the wholesome blend of cultivated lands and fallow fields began taking on the unmistakable look of  “rabbittat.” 

The throaty clamoring of the Beagles erupted in earnest once we pulled off the road and parked along the edge of a likely-looking weed field.  It was hastily agreed to prematurely release our hounds just to diminish the uproar they were making. 

Once on the ground the hounds began their timeless ritual of sniffing, wetting the ground and ripping the earth with their claws, while the hunters initiated equally ancient rites of their own. 

By the time the hunters had donned their coats, gathered their other hunting equipment and secured their guns and ammo, the Beagles were working a promising scent just a few yards from the turn-out point.  Suddenly, one of them opened.  The first chase of the new hunting season was on! 

As the hunters scrambled to secure ambush positions, the race ran straight as an arrow towards a nearby thicket.  Reasoning that under the whip of hard-pressing hounds, the rabbit would seek to return to the open field, I assumed a corner position.  From that vantage  point, I swept my eyes back and forth in an effort to control the 90-degree planes of egress from my corner of the large thicket. 

Brief moments passed before I saw movement to my left, as a big cottontail ghosted out of the thicket and came racing in my direction.  Under the fierce charge of the menacing little beast, I swung my Franchi to my right shoulder, hastily aimed and fired.  The rabbit flipped wildly from the head-on blast and lay still. 

           Standing there in the chill of the early-morning air, it felt great to be a hunter in the field with good friends and good hounds.  And with the first rabbit tallied and all but in the bag, it promised to be a great new season.

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).