Rabbit Huntin’ Hijinks: Perfect Aim…Not!

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Rabbit Huntin’ Hijinks: Perfect Aim…Not!

James R. Aist

I was about 17 years old and living in Elm Springs, Arkansas. My daddy was the Pastor of the local Methodist Church. It so happened that the Majorette of the local high School marching band attended that church too. She was very attractive, to say the least, and very popular. I wanted nothing more than to get to know her better. But, how could I manage to even appear on her dating radar?

Well, one day her 14-year-old brother, Danny, having found out that the men in my family like to hunt, asked me if I would take him rabbit hunting. Thinking that this might just be the break I was looking for to get me on his big sister’s dating radar (yes, I was that naïve back then), I eagerly agreed to introduce him to the sport. So, a few days later, we set out with our shotguns and my beagle dogs to hunt an old, abandoned farm place nearby that I knew was almost sure to provide rabbits for us to “harvest.” But wait, I told that story in an earlier post (click HERE). This is the sequel.

Danny asked me to take him hunting again, and after failing to make his big sister’s dating radar following the first hunting excursion – even though I had slain a running rabbit without firing a shot on the first trip – I eagerly agreed to give it another “shot” (pun intended). But, this time, Danny wanted to vary it up a bit by leaving the dogs at home and hunting for squirrels instead of rabbits. That was fine with me; I knew just the place.

When we arrived at the large, squirrel-infested patch of woods, we exited our vehicle, this time with rifles in hand. I was thinking “What better way to impress Danny’s big sister than to exhibit my superior marksmanship by plinking a stationary squirrel out of a tall oak tree with a single bullet from my trusty Mossberg 22-caliber, semi-automatic rifle?” I had done it before and was confident that nothing could possibly go wrong.

So, we split up to cover more ground and began sneaking stealthily through the woods, Danny on one ridge and me on the one next to it (about 40 yards from Danny), so we would not lose sight of each other. As we walked along, we scoured the tree tops for squirrel nests and suspicious, furry “knots” on the tree limbs. We were about 10 minutes into the hunt, having seen neither “hide nor hair” of a squirrel, when suddenly Danny inadvertently “flushed” a rabbit from a small brush pile. The frightened rabbit loped lazily along the side of the ridge next to me, presenting himself for an open shot each time he passed between trees. Now please understand that, normally, one would have a much better likelihood of “harvesting” a rabbit on the run by firing a shotgun at him, especially at 40 yards. On the other hand, to harvest said running rabbit with a single shot from a rifle would make a much bigger impression on Danny, and consequently on his big sister (or, so I hoped), than would merely plinking a stationary squirrel on the side of a tree with one shot. So, with nothing to lose, really, I decided to go ahead and give it a try. Taking aim and timing my shot for when the rabbit was between trees and about to execute his next leap, I pulled the trigger.

And wouldn’t you know it? My aim was “dead on”, so to speak; the rabbit was mortally wounded and rolled immediately to a stop, his limp carcass lying lifeless on the ground! Well now, Danny had witnessed the entire episode and was duly dumbfounded, trust me. At that point, to complete the ruse, I had only to pretend that such masterful marksmanship was merely routine for me. So I nonchalantly walked over to the rabbit, picked it up by the “behind feet” and lifted it, matter-of-factly, skyward to show it off to Danny. He was speechless, and I was surely “in” with his big sister!

Well, we continued hunting for squirrels and spotted several, but for some mysterious reason, neither of us was able to hit any of them; the unfortunate rabbit turned out to be our only trophy that day. Danny was disappointed, but I was proud of my hunting trophy and hopeful that I had made a good enough impression on Danny that a date with his big sister would be my next “trophy.”

However, for some mysterious reason, the date never materialized. The story gets worse, though. A few days later, still puzzled as to why I was unable to harvest any squirrels that day – especially after having bagged a rabbit on the run at 40 yards with a 22 rifle – I decided to test the rifle with a paper, bull’s-eye target to see if it was properly “sighted in.” Alas and alack, the rifle was off about a foot to the upper left, meaning that even my “miraculous” shot that felled the fleeing rabbit was, unarguably, nothing more than pure, dumb luck!

With spirit crushed, I decided, right then and there, to cut my losses and stop hunting with Danny. And, of course, I never told Danny that the rifle was way off. After all, what he didn’t know couldn’t hurt me.

(To read more of my True Tales, click HERE)

A Haven of Life

Bushtits mass on a birdfeeder in Salem, Oregon. A Haven of Life

By Angie Brown, Guest Author

            “There, there in the hickory tree. Do you see them?” I was telling my neighbor about the additions to my “bird sanctuary”: two scarlet cardinals. My back yard has a large stream that flows at the southeastern border of my property, called the Haskell Creek. This side of the water, between the house and the stream, there is an abundance of low bushes, some elderberry, sumac, and others I can’t identify. Several large hickory trees grow along the northern boundary of the three and a half acre lot.

Bird watching is relaxing and fulfilling. I spend many moments watching these interesting creatures that God has provided for us to enjoy. Their cheerful chatter and singing lightens the heart.  I try to identify the different ones. You can tell what they are, not only by color, but by their shape, their behavior, and the sounds they make. With the help of my son, I have set up a bird feeder on the large back lawn. The feeder is filled with only sunflower seeds, as I want to attract the smaller birds. Cracked corn and mixed birdseed tend to bring the larger birds, which I don’t particularly want.  Nevertheless, the crows do come to the compost pile at the far edge of the lawn. As I looked out my window one day, I saw a crow walking across the grass, dangling a used tea bag in his beak. He reminded me of Minnie Pearl’s hat with the hanging price tag. That gave me a chuckle and brightened my day.

Yonder in the pasture, as I refer to it, two or three decaying trees lie flat, felled by past storms. These trees make a good cover for the birds. They snatch a seed and hurry to crack and devour it. Birds need food, water, and a cover. What is here seems to be the elements for their survival. If you study birds closely, you’ll notice that they eat differently. The small ones take a seed and fly off to work on it. The large blue jays fill their beaks, jamming them full before leaving. Some like to eat on the ground, some in the feeder, and some in the tree or the tree trunk.

Directly to the south of the area, a luscious swamp has settled in, made by a small stream coming from a pond area across the street. This swamp gives the roaming mallards a place to feed on slugs and water weeds that are a part of their diet. Through my binoculars, which I keep handy at the window, I have observed hawks circling overhead, then lighting on top of a tall hickory tree. They watch patiently for a chance to assault the ducks as they leave the swamp.

I’ve also noticed other animals as well, around the foliage; for instance, a woodchuck or two squeezing under the pile of dead tree branches. Hopefully they will stay there and not raid my garden!  Further along are clumps of grasses, where I’ve seen rabbits frolicking. How fast a young rabbit can move when frightened!  They can also strip a garden of young shoots in no time. I’ve seen deer browsing nearby and have also heard that a bear was sighted in the area not long ago. Not surprisingly, two kinds of squirrels appear often, all year long — the small red squirrel and the larger fox squirrel. It’s a joy to see some life out there on a sunny day in the dead of winter. The hickory trees provide food that the squirrels store somewhere in a cozy nook to sustain them.

Above all, though, the birds are my favorite interests. Someone once said that birds, not rooted to the earth, are among the most eloquent expressions of life. The return of the birds each spring means renewal, confirming the continuity of life.

(For more stories by Angie Brown, click HERE)