HUNTING

Outdoor Corner: Rabbit Season

Lyle Johnson

It’s the end of the deer gun season, so the fields and woods open up to some of the best hunting of the year for small game; rabbits and squirrels. Most of the huntable woods are leased by deer hunting clubs that don’t allow any other hunting.

It’s only for four or five weeks, so you gotta get it in as fast as you can. I am privileged to have met John Torregrossa while buying a homemade glider from him. We got to talking about hunting and fishing. That eventually led to an invitation to rabbit hunt on some land he and Jonathan Summers (his son-in-law) deer hunt on.

The motley crew of rabbit hunter with our mornings kill. (Kneeling) Goosie Guice, (L to R) T-Curt, Clint Walker,  myself and John Torregrossa.

So, last Saturday we headed out to St Gabriel for the second annual Ascension Outdoors TV/John & John rabbit hunt. We were joined by Clint Walker and one of his packs of beagles, along with T-Curt Rouyea and our trusty camera man Nathan Catlin.

After introductions and more that a barrel full of bull corn, we loaded the dogs and four wheelers and headed to the woods. Clint turned the dogs loose in a weed patch. We only had to wait about 10 minutes for the dogs to jump a rabbit, and the chase was on.

It wasn’t that big of a surprise that the rabbits wouldn’t leave the weed patch. Although the dogs ran three or four bunnies, we didn’t get a one of them. We moved the dogs to a ditch bank that is full of briars where we had pretty good success last year.

Sure enough, the beagle pack jumped a rabbit. It led the dogs on a pretty good chase, but eventually it came out of the briars heading to the woods. It afforded me a pretty good shot. I made the most of it and bagged our first rabbit.

I headed to pick it up, and while I was bent over another rabbit came out from the same spot and nearly ran me over. I couldn’t get off a shot. After calming down a little, it was time to field dress the rabbit. Wouldn’t you know it, as I was going to a small tree to hang the guts in the dogs jumped another rabbit.

It crossed to the woods and gave me a great shot. But alas, I had guts in one hand and the gun in the other and couldn’t get off a shot. That was a little disappointing, but fate came my way a little later.

While we were waiting for the dogs to come back after losing a trail, Nathan (camera man) spotted a squirrel. After getting permission from Clint to make sure it wouldn’t affect the dogs, one shot from my trusty Browning superposed double barrel put it in the hunting sack.

The next opportunity came Goosie’s way as he took a shot at one the dogs were running. He thought he missed so, he called the dogs over his way. The pack was heading my way, so I got ready in case it came out on me.

One of the dogs stopped not far from me and started sniffing around. Two more joined in the sniffing party. Sure enough, the rabbit was laying there, and they had found it. He hit it with his shot and it ran for about 20 yards before expiring.

Hunter Hoffman shot the biggest buck of his life with Central Alabama Kidz Outdoors. It was a massive 27 points with a 27-inch inside spread and scored a whopping 243 inches.

Over the next two hours those dogs worked their hearts out running plenty more rabbits. Sometimes the hunters won. Sometimes the rabbits escaped by tricking the dogs and they won to live another day.

T-Curt killed one of the four more rabbits and Clint killed the other three. The hunt ended about noon and we had six rabbits and a squirrel for our efforts, or should I say the dogs efforts. We spent a great morning enjoying the hunt but mostly the comradery of six guys listening to a great pack of dogs.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Ida’s Aug. 29 landfall, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries staff estimated that approximately 280 million fish were killed in inland waters, over an area that spanned approximately 1.8 million acres.

Eleven-year-old Lincoln Robert poses with his first buck, a six-point, 205 pounder. He killed the buck hunting with his grandfather, Steve Robert. in late December in Catahoula Parish with his .243 at 110 yards.

Jack Montoucet, as Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, already has directed the department to stock these rivers, and such is now on our stocking list. 

“Over 90% of those fish were forage fish (shad, etc.) not catchable fish like bass, bream and sac-a-lait,” Ricky Moses said. “That number seems really high, but, like always, most of them were trash fish.”

LDWF staff notes strongly that there is no way to know exactly how many fish were killed following the storm. However, biologists have generated an estimate by using several factors – wetland maps, the known extent of fish kills, historic fisheries samples using rotenone (a naturally occurring fish toxicant), and expert opinion regarding the severity of kills.

If we want to compare this kill to one of the worst before Ida, LDWF biologists estimated 200 million fish were killed after Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

All reported fish kills, except for one near Gibson, were in areas that experienced hurricane-force winds. The Lake Maurepas drainages were particularly hard hit, but Lake Pontchartrain and the East Bank of New Orleans fish populations seem to have been largely spared.

The biologists use experience from previous storms to forecast how fish populations will recover. As a rule, catchable fish will be scarce for approximately a year following a large fish kill. Waters that experience massive fish kills often have areas that are spared.

These areas are usually connected to other waters that were spared. In the months following a fish kill, surviving fish spread out over the depopulated area, benefitting from a landscape with little competition or predation and increased nutrients. The following spring, they will spawn with extremely high success rates.

On a positive note, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries will reopen Elmer’s Island Wildlife Refuge on Friday. Elmer’s Island has been closed since September 2021 because of the severe damage caused by Hurricane Ida. The access road to Elmer’s Island beach has been repaired, along with other damages caused by Hurricane Ida.

Things will return to normal. Just give it a little time. 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!

Outdoor Calendar

  • East Ascension Sportsman’s League Meeting: 7 p.m. third Monday each month in the meeting room upstairs at Cabela’s. Supper will be served. warrenh3@eatel.net 
  • Fly-Tying Class: 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at Ascension Parish Library. Join local fishing enthusiast Darrell Crawford as he teaches the basics of fly tying. Registration required at www.myapl.org. 
  • Fishing for Tucker Bass Classic: Saturday out of Doiron’s Landing in Stephensville. Entry fee is $100 a boat with $2,000 first place based on 100 boat field; $500 first place Big Bass. Get all info at www.fishingfortucker.com.
  • La. High School/Junior Qualifier/West Division: Saturday at Cypress Bend Park, Toledo Bend. Call Tommy Abbott (504) 722-6638. Info: louisianahighschoolbassnation.com
  • Krewe of Diversion St Jude Boat Parade: Noon Feb. 19 leaving the bridge over Diversion traveling to Manny’s on the Amite River. Grand Marshal Rep. Clay Schexnayder. Contact David at (225) 939-2135 or Vivian Stevens at (225) 324-5659 for details.
  • Ducks Unlimited Banquet: 5 p.m. March 5 at Cabela’s. Firearm frenzy raffle for 50 guns. Purchase tickets at dufrenzy.com, any purchase gets you ticket entry includes food, beer, wine and a DU membership.

Need an event publicized? Contact Lyle at reelman@eatel.net