Number 1 Son and I have been hunting.
Big game? Well of course big game!
This time of year rabbits have reached full size. And we don't hunt just rabbits. These are not the little bunnies you see in pet stores. No sirree. These are fully grown snowshoe hares that would just as soon attack you as look at you.
You're wondering how I hunt rabbits? Same method as 97 per cent of the other big game hunters in this province hunt moose - from my vehicle, except that I have a better excuse.
Son and I have perfected a working method. For many years I combed the woods in the fall and winter searching out rabbit leads, and a scattered moose trail. I learned where they all hung out, and could hunt them with my eyes shut.
After I had this accident Son would come home during Christmas to do a little hunting with me. We had only to drive along the highway and I would point out the general area which I knew the critters frequented. He would head off in the direction indicated and set his snares.
Never knew it to fail.
Last Monday we went in to do our thing. Me in the warm van listening to Willie Nelson, and he tracking through the woods looking for leads. Not much snow on the ground this year, so they're not easily seen.
Anyway, he had been gone two or three minutes when suddenly I saw this white rabbit come streaking along the tree line like a hare out of perdition.
"Aha," I said to myself. "A fox or a coyote or a lynx is after that thing, and if I'm lucky - and the rabbit isn't - I might see a scene straight out of 'National Geographic!'"
But nothing of the sort materialized and the rabbit disappeared into the woods. Then I realized that was precisely where Son had gone in. Perhaps, I thought, if he's really quiet, at the right moment he'll see the rabbit before the rabbit sees him and he'll get to throw the small axe at it. With any luck ...
Yes, I know. Bloodthirsty as all get out. But many among you know that the rabbit which ends its life in a snare is a very fortunate rabbit. If I were a rabbit I'd prefer the snare to being torn apart by a fox or an owl or eaten alive by a weasel or a lynx. Actually, I wouldn't be fond of any of those options, but if it had to be something, I'd take the axe.
I knew that Son seeing the animal first was far from likely. Rabbits have very large eyes and even larger ears and can see and hear humans long before humans see or hear them.
I settled back in the seat to listen to more of Willie. Finally, Son turned up at the van and jumped in.
"Hey," I said, "I just saw a rabbit running through the trees above where you were. I thought you might have a chance to get it with the axe. You didn't see it, did you?"
He reached down under the seat by the door.
"You mean this rabbit?" And with a large grin he held up the carcass of a fine snowshoe hare. I couldn't believe it!
"Did you actually get that thing by throwing the axe at it?"
"Not really," he laughed. "I put my first snare at the beginning of the trail and then walked in a little further and put down another one. Then I heard a commotion behind me and when I looked, here was this rabbit jumping to beat the band in the first snare!"
It was the first time in all our combined years of hunting that either of us had caught a rabbit in a snare within five minutes of having set the snare in the first place.
Today, we went up to check our snares again. He went in at almost exactly the same spot, but this time he was gone for longer than usual. I began to wonder what had happened.
Probably setting out more snares, or at least wandering around to see what he can find. It has occurred to me on occasion that he could trip over something in there and break a leg and not be able to get out. I'm locked in my chair in the van and can't even get the door open to flag somebody down for help. We'd have to stay there until someone came to look for us.
Then I saw him break out of the woods swinging this rabbit and laughing to kill himself. Actually, what he had in his hand was a three-foot stick to which the rabbit was attached by a snare.
"I came to this lead where I knew I had a snare," he explained, "only to find that the snare was gone. Darn, I said, the rabbit broke off the wire. But I realized the stick to which I had tied the snare was missing, too. Then I saw something out of the corner of my eye.
"Sitting not three feet from my boot was a rabbit, not moving a muscle. Close to it was the stick and the rabbit was still in the snare which was still attached to the stick. I threw myself at it, but naturally it was quicker than me and jumped wildly ahead. I took off after it and finally after a chase through the brush I flung myself on the ground just behind it and was able to grab the stick. Then I just hauled it in like a cod on the end of a line."
If I had space I'd tell you about how, a half hour later, he batted a grouse out of a tree with a long stick. But perhaps I've already said too much.
PETA reads this column, too.
Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Hiawatha and his father
Number 1 Son and I have been hunting.
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