Outdoor Corner: Wascally Wabbits

Lyle Johnson

People in south Louisiana have been known to “pass a good time, sha.” That can be translated into a lot of things, even our passion to spend some time in the outdoors and take in some hunting. We’re a sort of social bunch as well, so rabbit hunting lends itself to this scenario.

Chicot Foret, Me, Goosie and Jon Summers (rookie) with the eight rabbits those hard working beagles chased for us to take home.

This is not the case for most types of hunting. In order to take a deer, one must not only be very quiet but what you wear matters much. Camouflage coloring is a minimum but scent can be factored in also. All types of scent masking products find its way into a deer hunter’s bag as well. Deer hunting is a solitary undertaking unless there’s a youngster factored into the equation. Well, you get the idea.

Duck hunting is not quite as tedious, as numbers can run from only a lone hunter up to four or five hunters in a blind. Great lengths are taken to camouflage the blind as well as the humans who are trying to get the ducks within gun range, including face paint. Talking and laughing are allowed until someone sights the ducks and the calling begins.

Rabbit hunting – now sha, a bunch of us can pass a good time. The task of bagging a few rabbits for a gumbo or just smothered down for really nice gravy usually starts long before one reaches the woods.

It begins at a meeting place. The Ascension Outdoors TV group (Me, Goosie & Trevor Vampran, our videographer) met with Gerald ‘Chicot” Foret (owner of the dogs) met at Sno’s Seafood for the ride to St Gabriel.

What started out as a “who would ride with who” discussion quickly turned into a history lesson of our past hunts that included a lot of laughing and some good-hearted ribbing about some not so great hunts. So it’s off to the hunting location to meet up with our hosts for the morning.

John Torregrossa and his son-in-law, Jon Summers, were eagerly waiting for us, and we followed them back to the gate where we would enter the woods. We parked the trucks, got out and the whole scenario repeated itself. The bull corn was spread out pretty thick.

We had a rookie, who made an easy target. This would be Jon Summers' first rabbit hunt with dogs, so he got a fair share of barbs we shot at his way. But soon enough somebody shouted, “It’s time to hunt!”

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. Those rabbit dogs came to life. They know something’s about to happen. Although every one of these guys or gals 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. We just take advantage of their skills. 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 have to “take care of business” from being locked up in those cages.

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’s 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.

On this morning, the dogs didn’t waste any time as they were on the trail of what seemed like a jet-powered swamp rabbit that took them on a very long chase that resulted in the rabbit wining the contest as nobody even saw the rabbit before it lost the dogs.

The next rabbit the pack jumped ran right to me, and I bagged my first rabbit of the season. That type of action continued until about 11:30, with the rabbits winning a few and the dogs winning a few. We ended up the hunt with eight big swamp rabbits. By the way the “rookie” killed four of the rabbits.

There’s nothing quite like spending a morning listening to a great pack of rabbit dogs, getting a few shots in, making some new friends and eating one of my favorite meals. My wonderful wife, Deborah cooked a rabbit gravy with home made biscuits that makes my mouth water while I’m typing this.

Kara Anderson holds two of the bass she caught fishing with a Texas rigged Jaboom Beaver in Bayou Black on Feb. 25 with her husband, Brandon.

South Louisiana has some great things to offer, and rabbit hunting is one of them. Thanks John and Chicot for a great time. All this action can be seen on Ascension Outdoors TV on Eatel channels 4 or 704 during the month of March. It’s on Facebook as well.

So until next time, remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. Have fun in the outdoors, be safe and may God truly bless you!