Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Shotgun Was Just A Prop

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The shotgun was just a prop. The real reason I carried it on a walk around my 20 acres was in case I kicked up a cottontail rabbit.

I stoked the twin tubes of my Winchester 12-gauge over-and-under with low-brass No. 6 shot, and whether a bunny bounced out of a brush-pile or not wasn’t the point.

The major attraction was an opportunity to be outdoors, firearm in hand, and going for a walk. Six inches of snow fell overnight, and it was just too nice and too pretty of a day to miss an opportunity by staying indoors.

I donned a Hunter Orange hat and vest, tied up my boots, grabbed some sunglasses to prevent too much glare, and went for a hike.

The snow was fairly deep and it covered many fallen limbs, and that made me aware of potential hazards. If I didn’t watch where I was going, there was the possibility of tripping over an unseen object.

A shuffling step or two would be taken, and then a long pause. The brush-piles stood out in somber and stark relief to the whiteness of the woods, and I encountered two or three fresh bunny tracks. Was it three different cottontails or just one animal making a lot of tracks?

I’d follow each one along, stopping often, looking ahead, and crossed the tracks of three deer (one had a big hoof-print), but it was accompanied by a deer with a small foot, and my suspicion was a doe and fawn. One other track was seen, and it was traveling alone. Buck or doe? No clue.

There were several fox squirrels moving about, and one offered a shot but it wasn’t taken. I watched the bushytail poke around on the ground only 30 yards away, and it offered an obvious easy shot but there are plenty of days left to hunt squirrels, but there was no interest today.

I noticed a weasel track nosing into one of the brush-piles, but it may have had a burrow to go down, because the white coat of the ermine wasn’t visible. Years ago, I trapped a few ermine and always respected the vicious little animal for its hunting ability.

My intentions were to stay on level ground, and I didn’t want to risk traveling downhill to hunt through this much snow. Such downward hikes require climbing back up, which isn’t a bother, except it provides a greater opportunity of slipping or losing my balance.

Only one cottontail was seen and it was boosted from a brush-pile just before the ground fell away into a ravine. I came up with the shotgun but the bunny was 40 yards out, running hard and it quickly ducked into another pile of brush part-way down the hill.

The situation appeared to be one where some caution was required, and on further reflection, my brain questioned the sanity of risking a downhill traverse to the brush. Perhaps I’d get a shot, but another brush-pile lay only 20 yards from where the rabbit took cover.

It appeared to be a rather foolish temptation, and it didn’t take long to reject the idea. One rabbit wouldn’t feed my wife and I, and later in the season, it would be tempting to take the trail of that cottontail again.

Better to do it later than now. My cap was tipped to the rabbit, and I retraced my steps, kicked around two or three other piles of brush without rousting another cottontail, and my hike ended with some exercise.

The shotgun was nothing more than an excuse for taking a hike. But, with a shotgun in hand, I was hunting and having a good time and on a cold winter day, it was the best excuse I had for spending time outdoors.

Posted by Dave Richey on 01/02 at 07:32 PM
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