The task of bagging a few rabbits for a gumbo or just smothered down for really nice gravy usually begins at a meeting place. A local café might be a preferred spot where coffee, biscuits, and other breakfast foods can be consumed. No need to get in a big hurry.
Hunting is in full swing as the youth seasons for deer and ducks has come and gone. Gun season opens this weekend for deer, while duck season is open for all as well. People in south Louisiana have been known to "pass a good time sha."
We have lots of traditions in south Louisiana, and most of them include family. Mine was no exception as my introduction to hunting was with the Nicken's family in Galvez. Daddy’s uncle and cousin had squirrel and rabbit dogs.
Humans like to gather to interact and pass a good time. We're a sort of social bunch as well, so rabbit hunting lends itself to this scenario.
The task of bagging a few rabbits for a gumbo or just smothered down for really nice gravy usually begins at a meeting place. A local café might be a preferred spot where coffee, biscuits, and other breakfast foods can be consumed. No need to get in a big hurry. This task usually doesn’t begin until an hour or so after daylight.
Lots of loud talking and laughing is the norm as this gang hunts together for most of the season. The hunter (or hunters) that missed the most rabbits on the last hunt is usually the butt of all the jokes, and in the crowd is one poor soul that has the reputation for missing a lot. He gets it bad!
A youngster or two is part of this recipe for a great time. The anticipation begins to build, and the noise level goes up a few decibels. Left alone, this crowd would spend the whole day here drinking coffee and socializing, but 'Hey, it's time to go!' gets shouted by someone and the entourage begins to move towards the vehicle.
While all this is going on, there is a pack of beagles that has been loaded into the back of a truck a little earlier. They’re sort of lounging around, but believe me their anticipation is building as well. Off to the hunting spot we go!
As the group of hunters begins to pile out of vehicles at a pre-determined location, those rabbit dogs come to life. They know something’s about to happen. Although every one of us have made the statement, "I’m going rabbit hunting," that statement is not exactly true. You see, it's the dogs that do all the hunting.
One by one they're released from the cages and hit the ground. They are very excited about what's going to happen, but they'll have to "take care of business" from being locked up in those cages. We're still drinking coffee and eating breakfast.
After a couple of minutes, it's on! Rabbits stay awake at night to do all their eating while avoiding predators, then find a place to "bed up" and sleep the day away. In each pack of dogs is usually what's called a "jump" dog. This dog’s nose (sense of smell) is very good and sniffs the critters out, and they take off running.
Now the rabbit doesn't know there's a group of dogs and humans trying their best to harvest some of the best tasting game around. They just know something's up, and instinct kicks in. They have lots of tactics in their bag of tricks to try and lose anything that is chasing them.
One of the best is running for a while and then stopping. The dogs are no match for speed against the rabbit, so it gets ahead and stops. The dogs overrun the rabbit, and it takes off in the opposite direction. Water is another method of escape. The scent is dispersed as the rabbit swims, and the dogs can't pick up the smell as well.
Like I said a little earlier, the dogs do most of the hunting. The “hunters” try to position themselves where the rabbit might run to avoid the dogs. The more participants you have, the better the chance of getting a shot or two before the rabbit outsmarts the dogs.
Dogs love encouragement so lots of whooping and hollering goes on while the dogs are barking on the trail. Noise is very acceptable during a rabbit hunt. Shots are fired, and questions are asked. "Did you get 'em?" "Yeah, I got 'em" could be heard, but sometimes "I missed 'em, look out, he' coming your way" is the answer. More good hearted ribbing takes place during the hunt.
Occasionally during the hunt there's a gourmet chef back where the vehicles are parked cooking up lunch that consists of some rabbits taken on an earlier hunt. The dogs are put away and are sleeping after a morning's workout doing their favorite thing in life.
More laughing and joking takes place, and I can see myself with a hot bowl of gumbo or a plate of sauce piquant and soaking it all in. Man! This is worth the price of admission and makes me want to take in a rabbit hunt really soon.
With so many opportunities to hunt, the tradition is still alive and well for families taking part in our outdoor activities. Remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. So until next time, have fun in the outdoors, be safe, and may God truly bless you!
Lyle Johnson is a free-lance writer, co-host of Ascension Outdoors TV and Curator of the Louisiana State Fish Records. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
EASL Monthly Meeting: 3rd Monday every month, East Ascension Sportsman’s League meeting held at Chef KD’s on Highway 74 starting at 7 p.m. A meal served and special speaker will be in attendance.
APSO Shooting Range: The rifle range on St. Landry Road is open to the public year-round on the second and fourth Thursday of each month from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., or safe shooting light.
Squirrel season: Oct 7-Feb 28 daily bag limit 8, possession 24.
Rabbit season: Oct 7-Feb 28 daily bag limit 8, possession 24.
Turkey Trout Throwdown Kayak Fishing Tourney: Nov. 17, 6:30 a.m.-2 p.m., Cypremont Point State Park. Open to public. Fee $25. Artificial lures only, shotgun launch. Heaviest 5 speckled trout stringers. Door prizes. Lafayette Kayak Fishing Club event. Website: lafayettekayakfishing.com.
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