While many of you were home recuperating last Friday from your New Year’s Eve celebration or watching football, I was one of nine adults, eight young hunters and five welled-trained beagles who were hunting cottontail rabbits in Bunny Bowl XVIII.
This year’s cottontail hunting site was in the rolling hills of Greenwich in Washington County. It was our first time there, and I believe it was one of the heaviest brush and thorn bush areas we have ever hunted.
Before starting the hunt, Tim Guy of Glens Falls got the kids together and went over all the hunter safety rules several times. He emphasized keeping the shotgun’s safety on when moving, when and when not to shoot and keeping your eyes open for hunter orange. We then partnered them up with adult mentors and told them to do exactly what they were told.
Five of the hunters took the dogs out to the road, spread out while the rest of us went up the hill and spread out across the brush. It did not take long before the beagle howls began. I crossed a stone fence and actually spent most of my time trying to crawl under the thorns. I was still on my knees when I heard the dogs coming my way and just a few minutes later I heard shots and “GOT ’EM.” I was still on the ground when a rabbit stopped to look back at the dog. It was about 25 yards from me and I fumbled with my gun trying to raise it to my shoulder through the tangles; but when I got the shotgun shouldered the rabbit was gone. On this particular drive I got to catch a glimpse of three other rabbits, none of which offered me a good shot.
The drive lasted about two hours and we had taken a total of three rabbits and a bonus of one grouse.
Moving to the other side of the property, which was quite a bit bigger, we decided to work our way down the hill. Again it did not take long for the beagles to smell out the rabbits. I was halfway do the side of the hill when I had two rabbits running together about 50 or more yards headed right at me. I had good cover and shouldered my little Savage 410 bolt action shotgun, quite confident that I would get at least one of them. But I didn’t. Both of them disappeared into a large brush pile and never came out. Slowly and quietly, I made my way down to the pile, and there I found two rabbit holes.
By this time the hunters and dogs were headed back toward me, so I sat down near the top of the hill and waited. The dogs were still howling and the hunters shooting. I was sitting on a log and could see the orange of the hunters about 100 yards away and well in front of them was a rabbit headed up the hill but angling away from me. Quickly I crawled about 15 yards in its direction to shorten the distance and waited.
I was ready with the safety off when the rabbit stopped behind a tree momentarily. He came out running, and fortunately, he stopped about 40 steps from me. And with one shot, a 71-year-old man using a 71-year-old Savage 59 A 410 bolt action shotgun got its first Bunny Bowl rabbit.
The tally at the end of the day was six cottontails, half of which were taken by the young guns, and one grouse.
Now one of the rituals of Bunny Bowl is a tailgate lunch. The chili, with Italian bread, was excellent.