Prolific rabbits can be difficult target


November 15, 1992|By LONNY WEAVER

Back in the early 1950s when I was celebrating single-digit birthdays, my dad announced to my mom one chilly November morning that he was hungry for rabbit.

The next thing I knew, he had the old single-shot Montgomery Ward shotgun out of the kitchen closet, had stuffed a couple of 12-gauge shells in his pocket and was leading a perplexed me out the door and toward our little overgrown meadow.

Though my dad was a Depression-era child from the country who ran a trap line well into his teens and could, from time to time, put a mess of squirrels or rabbits on the table, he was not noted as a mighty hunter or crack shot. This, in fact, would be the first time I had witnessed the man afield and armed.

We hadn't tramped the weedy, brushy meadow long when suddenly a cottontail appeared from a brush pile.

"Kaboom!" went the old hammergun.

So did the rabbit -- straight into the next county.

"Daddy, you missed!" I exclaimed in total surprise that my dad could fail to hit such a target.

"We'll go up to [Uncle] Elm's," he snapped. "Elm's got rabbits all over

the place."

We did, but not much changed. Dad shot, and the rabbits kept running. It was a quiet ride home in the '49 Ford that day until Dad hit the brakes and turned into a driveway.

To shorten the story, the people of the house raised rabbits for the market. My father bought the biggest black-and-white spotted rabbit the people had, did the necessary butchering and presented my mom with "the biggest rabbit ever shot in Maryland."

Thus I confess my introduction to rabbit hunting.

The average cottontail weighs about 2 pounds and, in the wild, is lucky to live a year due to weather and predators. Luckily, they are just as prolific as all the sayings imply -- a single female produces an average of 25 young a year.

Hunter surveys indicate that Maryland sports some 40,000 rabbit hunters each year.

In addition to the Eastern cottontail, you also will find the New England or woods rabbit, marsh and swamp rabbits and snowshoe hares inside Maryland borders. The season is closed on snowshoe hares, but you can take four cottontails a day. The season began yesterday.

Until the early settlers cleared the land, cottontails were not abundant. This is because they favor brushy habitat and that is where you need to direct your efforts. When there is snow on the ground, especially for an extended period of time, look for rabbits in willow thickets -- the bark is a favorite food and during severe weather, can be the only meal available.

Shoot trap this afternoon

The Dug Hill Rod & Gun Club, located on Wine Road in the Manchester area, will play host to its regularly scheduled trap shoot this afternoon beginning at noon. The public is welcome for $2.50 a round.

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