John's Journal...

Games Rabbits Play

Why We Hunted the Railroad Track Rabbit

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: February is a productive month for rabbit hunting, and much of the country allows small-game hunting then. There are some rabbits that will run a full circle when the beagle dogs get after them and come right into shotgun range – running out into a clearing or go 15 to 20 yards and stop – presenting an easy, simple shot. But, another type of rabbit seems to have supernatural powers to confuse, frustrate, and aggravate even the best of hunters.Click to enlarge

In my youth, I hunted with a group of boys who enjoyed the sport of rabbit hunting but never had owned a beagle dog in their lives. Although there weren’t as many woods to hunt around our area, there were some fields and slag dumps close to our homes near a major steel mill. When anyone found a rabbit, the rest of the brotherhood of hunters was notified. Since we hunted every day after school, anyone who saw a rabbit would report to the rest of us at recess the next day at school where the rabbit had been seen and which way the animal was headed. Then we all laid a game play to try and get him. Whoever saw the rabbit was a hero, but the fellow who eventually took the rabbit would be the head hunter of the elementary school until another rabbit was found for us to pursue.

Apparently, the Railroad Track Rabbit spent most of his time in a briar thicket near an abandoned railroad track. This rabbit could be jumped out of the thicket. Then, it usually would go under the tracks, head across the slate dump, dive into a gully and sprint through some high sage. But, where the rabbit went from there, nobody ever knew; he often didn’t follow the same course. Although you couldn’t always jump him in the briar patch, sometimes he would be there. Then, you could get some quick shooting just as he started under the railroad track. And, if you ran up the bank, you could shoot one or two more times before he reached the Click to enlargeditch. The Railroad Track Rabbit had built himself quite a reputation. During an average week, there would be three to eight shells fired at him. For 6-long weeks, nobody was able to take that rabbit.Click to enlarge

Finally, however, on one fateful day, we decided to forego the chance of any one of us being a hero. We set-up stands all along the rabbit’s expected travel route. I was the last gun. I stood down in the gully that he generally jumped into after he went under the railroad tracks and through the slag dump. One of our hunters started walking through the briars. He heard the rabbit run out of the thicket and shot where the bunny was. As the rabbit ducked quickly under the railroad tracks, the second hunter laid a nice pattern of No. 6 shot on the side of the rail but never touched the rabbit. Three more shots were fired as the cottontail scurried across the slag dump. I was waiting on him at the edge of the ditch. Just as his head cleared the top of the drop, I fired. The Railroad Track Rabbit rolled-up in a heap as my prize. Outsmarting rabbits is part of the fun of hunting them.

Tomorrow: Swampers – Wired for Mischief

Check back each day this week for more about "Games Rabbits Play"

Day 1: Rabbits That Confuse, Frustrate and Aggravate
Day 2: The Gallberry Thicket Rabbit
Day 3: More on Hunting the Gallberry Thicket Rabbit
Day 4: Why We Hunted the Railroad Track Rabbit
Day 5: Swampers – Wired for Mischief


Entry 546, Day 4