Every one of us, from time to time, reminisce about the days when we were young, had no responsibility and perhaps, a stronger sense of family. Rabbit hunting was a tradition for us for many years, every Sunday afternoon during the season. The community I lived in had church service morning, afternoon and evening and most everyone attended all day. The young bucks would take the afternoon off from church and hunt rabbit and squirrel for the dinner the women would prepare for us at church as serving 2 meals per day for the whole church can get rather expensive.
My lifelong friend, Kurt, and I were always among the most successful. This was largely due to the fact that we were competitive and organized. That and my Dad’s farm was hard to beat for rabbit hunting!
After some time, we developed a system of communication and a method of travel in which we are still quite proud of. Out of the thousands of shots we took, no one was injured despite the thick brush and often, one of us crawling on our back or belly trying to flush rabbits from thick brambles. It’s important for other small game hunters to effectively communicate while in the field, often, we were quite loud and shouting constantly; but we were always aware of the other's position. This strategy is something I will teach my own son, but I think it becomes lost on many young Ohio hunters and they develop their skills without first learning safe brush-hunting techniques.
Often, our first spot was the water-way in the hay pasture behind my Dad’s house. We started on the south edge, dropping in to a shallow ditch in light cover and followed downward into a deep ravine with heavy cover that was terminated by the driveway to my uncle’s house. On more than one occasion, Kurt and I reached the driveway, a mere 150 yard stretch with both our limits of bunnies. On some days, the hunting was harder and we took turns wearing the giant Carhartt cover-alls with 2 sets of sweatpants and shirt underneath to push our way through the mass tangle of thick and sharp thorns. There were many times I wished I had a football helmet for that job, because you’d usually end up with a thorn in the neck or a pierced ear from the thorny brush.
If for some reason we hadn’t killed our limit at the end of our push, we headed to Kurt’s dad’s property and pushed their pine tree patch. On one unsuccessful day, we pushed 2 out of my dad’s and nothing out of Kurt’s dad’s property, but Kurt had a neighbor whose property looked to be the most fertile rabbit growing property in the county. We shied away from ever asking this man before, largely because he was awkward and distant with the habit of doing unusual things like cutting up road kill with chainsaws and storing its meat in 5-gallon buckets in his garage; then, after it sat a few days, stopping by to ask you if you needed any game meat.
We took the plunge and knocked on the door. The sight we were to behold scarred us both for some time. Imagine a tall, portly man who was considerably dirty from excessive contact with dirt and manure. Imagine this man, then remove his clothes down to his bodily fluid stained underwear and have this be the man that answers the knock on the door.
The next 30 minutes of our life is completely blank, I’m not entirely sure, but I think neither of us can fully remember what happened because we were in shock. In some dirt induced, brain wiping shock. But somehow, for some reason, we exited the less than ramshackle building called a house and proceeded directly to the briars behind Kurt’s property.
After our uncomfortable experience, we pushed the briars and let the pictures tell that story. When no other bunnies could be found, we hammered them, and provided the only rabbits anybody got that day to our church supper.
The farmer we got permission to hunt from never forgot the politeness we showed him that day, and in a fit of sanity he must have realized what an awkward moment that was. In turn, he later offered us a wagon load of potatoes to feed to our cattle. We politely accepted.
A big part of me is glad I moved from there, but I do miss the strong family and community I left behind, and I miss the "Family Night Suppers."