LOCAL HUNTERS SAY RABBIT HUNTING “SO SO” TO “GOOD” (January 23/98)

Ten days before the ice storm crippled this area the thermometer climbed to an unseasonal plus seven and it appeared to be ideal rabbit hunting weather.

It was a different story in the woods, however. Under the trees, the drip of melting snow made tracking difficult and my companion’s little hound hunted erratically. Eventually, we bagged the rabbit the hound had relentlessly pursued. Another rabbit, kicked from a clump of spruces, was added to our bag just before it started to drizzle… a drizzle that changed to a steady rain in a matter of minutes.

Standing under the trees out of the wet we watched the hound potter around nearby. “We might as well pack it in,” my companion said. “The dog’s having enough problems as it is without the rain.”

I quickly agreed. Hunting conditions were bad and could only get worse. Besides, I hadn’t been on snowshoes since the previous winter and was beginning to feel it around my ankles and feet. Nothing discourages a rabbit hunter more than a combination of poor tracking conditions, winter rain and snowshoe harness that’s too tight.

While we were ‘shoeing out to the truck my companion, Wayne Downey, remarked that we still had over a month of rabbit season remaining and there would be “better days to hunt.” I wasn’t counting on it. I had talked recently with some of the local rabbit hunters, perhaps a dozen in all. Most had given optimistic reports on the season to date (January 15) but everyone said that due to the ice storm, which had left a crust cover in the woods, hunting conditions were terrible. The consensus appears to be that unless we get a few falls of snow, rabbit hunting won’t be much good during the remainder of the season.

As for the season overall, most hunters tell me rabbit hunting has been so so to good. Wayne Downey and his son, Wade, have been running their hounds in various Valley coverts since mid-season with fair to middlin’ results. “We found them [rabbits] in pockets,” Wayne said. “Some places were good, in some places rabbits were scarce.”

Jim Halliday, Canning, has been hunting North Mountain coverts since the rabbit season started. “I’m not having any problems finding rabbits,” Halliday reports. His season has been better than last year.

The scuttlebutt at Ed’s gun shop in Coldbrook is that rabbit hunting is good compared to recent seasons. Ed Ward tells me that he’s talked to at least a dozen rabbit hunters lately and until the recent weather calamity, all were experiencing a good season.

With a couple of exceptions, this is what other hunters I’ve talked with have said. While it’s not an exceptional season and rabbits in this area are by no means on the plentiful side, the population is such that most hunters are having at least an average season.

Looking at the province-wide picture, the rabbit harvest has been increasing in the past four seasons. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) estimates the 95-96 rabbit harvest at 449,724; the DNR estimate for 94-95 was 353,839 and 242,820 for 93-94. These are whopping increases and hopefully, they indicate a trend for coming seasons.

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