Rabbit hunting weather

Well, it really wasn’t the first snowfall of autumn. Actually, it wasn’t even the second or third, but it was the first good tracking snow; the wind went down and the temperature was pushing 40 degrees.

That’s my kind of hunting weather – good rabbit hunting weather. And I like to hunt rabbits.

Long story short, I took the little 20 gauge from the gun rack, stuffed my pockets full of shells, filled the thermos with coffee and headed out north of Webster City to a couple of my favorite brush piles. Actually, I wasn’t alone on the way out I picked up John Squires who shoots a nice little 20-gauge and Merle Harris who shoots a cute little .410 double barrel. We crossed our first trail about 10 a.m. and after three hours of beating the brush, we ended up with four cottontails.

A fresh snowfall is a powerful ally, and it is almost a must for both deer and rabbit hunting. There ‘s a lot written this time of year about rabbits and hunting them. It’s virtually the only upland game in town. Rabbit numbers in Iowa in general and in Hamilton County in particular are very good. After about three real down years, they have rebounded and all my old spots have bunnies now. Minutes from my house, I can chase rabbits for hours if I want. And I’ve got to tell you, there are few things in this old world any finer than a cottontail rabbit fried in cornmeal. Not only that, but they are amazing creatures. With small home territory, they know every inch of their home turf; every hole, briar patch and brush pile.

A cottontail’s life is pretty simple. It feeds at night and spends the daytime in what is called a “form,” basically sitting in one spot. Rabbits like to sit in the sunshine in the winter so the south-facing side of groves or wood lots are great places to start hunting. I like old fencerows. And if you didn’t know it before, you know it now one rabbit can leave a million tracks. This is the perfect time to harvest cottontails because after the cold snaps we’ve had, any sick or diseased rabbits are probably dead from weather conditions. The healthy remain and can be very good table fare.

My dad loved to hunt jack rabbits. They were big and they were tough. Really tough. My mom used every trick in the book she’d fry them, steam them, bake them, cook them no matter, they were always tough as leather. But back in those days, they were food for the table.

But cottontails ah, cottontails … now that’s another story. No matter how you cook them, they’re good. One of my favorite ways to prepare rabbits is to bake them in an open Pyrex dish and smother them with a Pepperidge Farm herb-seasoned stuffing mixture.

Don’t allow the low deer and pheasant populations to reduce your enjoyment of hunting. Expand your horizons to multiply your hunting opportunities. The woods are crawling with squirrels this year and the cottontail rabbit population is at record levels.

Why does snow make different sounds at different temperatures when it is walked on? I think we talked about this before, but as we face colder weather, it bears repeating. And the answer is: The quality and amount of snow as well as air temperature all influence if snow will be noisy or quiet underfoot. Snow has air trapped between each flake and when stepped on, those air spaces absorb sound. Dry, fluffy, new snow has more air trapped between each flake resulting in quiet footsteps.

Wet, hardened old snow has less air trapped between each flake, which means that less sound is absorbed resulting in noisy or squeaky snow. The amount of snow affects sound, too – the more it snows, the more air gets trapped, and thus the quieter the snow is. However, snow only makes sound when the thermometer dips below 13 degrees Fahrenheit or minus 10 celsius. Temperatures above 13 degrees allow more snow to melt just enough to slip silently under your boots as you walk. So, your boots can be a good indicator of just how cold it is outside in the winter.

Eagle watch

The recent thawing spell we had opened up some water on the Boone River and the eagles returned. We’ve been observing a family of eagles – two mature adult bald eagles and two immature young eaglets – down along the Boone River. They like to perch in the very highest tiptops of the trees. Their favorite haunt is that stretch of the Boone River from the White Fox Bridge upstream to the old Union Pacific Railroad bridge in Nokomis Park. Saturday, however, they remained perched in the same old tree all day long, just downstream from the Marshall Crippen bridge on Des Moines Street. It’s easy to distinguish the adult eagles from the young ones. The adults have white heads and white tails. On the other hand, the young juveniles are nearly all brown in color. Size isn’t always a good indicator, because some young eagles are as large as the adults. Juveniles do not get their white heads or white tails until their fourth or fifth year.

And now have a good weekend.