“In all the years I’ve been hunting, more than forty, I’ve never seen rabbits scarce as they are now.”
An avid hunter who uses a hound told me this recently. He was commenting on rabbit hunting but he could easily have been referring to small game in general. In many coverts ruffed grouse have vanished. In many of the top coverts in the Annapolis Valley, pheasant numbers are the lowest they’ve been in over a decade.
This is what hunters tell me. And this is what I’ve found from being out in the field with my bird dog more than four times a week through October, November and December. Oddly, and I say oddly because it rarely happens, half way through the season waterfowl, especially ducks, suddenly became scarce as well in local haunts.
A couple of letters from readers after I asked for feedback on the small game situation reflects what hunters have been telling me.
Gordon Morse of Greenwich writes that when he was a hunting guide 40 years ago it was easy to bag deer, rabbit, partridge and pheasants. In those days, he says, rabbits were a dime a dozen, there were lots of partridge and pheasants were plentiful.
“I don’t hunt anymore, but game seems to be really scarce” Morse writes. “I can’t remember when I last saw a rabbit track, let alone a wild rabbit. I used t go to the Tatamagouche area and two of us could shoot 20 rabbits in an afternoon. Not anymore. We never used a hound either.”
Along the same line is a letter (via e-mail) from Jan Speelman of Aylesford who believes coyotes are responsible for the scarcity of game.
“For an answer on the pheasant disappearance, I have five acres of grassy swamp where pheasants sleep at night; you hear them going in and coming out. Lately they aren’t there anymore.
“I used to feed 20 to 30 pheasants on the manure pile each winter but they aren’t there anymore either. They are slowly being killed by coyotes who roam the swamp all night. It won’t be long before they kill all the rabbits too.
“Now the pheasants you see less and less. There is no place for pheasants to be safe; that’s why they are wilder and hide in the hedges. Also, there are more skunks that eat (pheasant) eggs in the spring. Wild creatures have taken over!”
My thanks to Mr. Morse and Mr. Speelman for their letters. Readers who have comments can reach me via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.