Marti Davis Afield: Marti shares her New Year’s Day rabbit hunting excursion, tips for rabbit hunting and a delicious rabbit recipe.
I grew up in a hunting family and used to tag along with my dad on raccoon hunts. As I grew up, my dad always had some breed of hunting dog, mostly Redtick coonhounds. Through the years it became increasingly difficult to find landowners who would allow him to run his coon dogs. I mean, you can’t tell a coon dog, “Hey don’t chase that raccoon onto that property, we don’t have permission to hunt there.” Therefore, roughly 25 years ago, he made the switch to beagles. Ever since then, he runs, hunts and raises beagles.
I went rabbit hunting with Dad and Barbara and Jason Baird on New Year’s Day. On this hunt, Dad brought 3 of his female beagles; Tuffy, Spice and Dixie.
I am fortunate to live near a great public-land area 10 minutes from my house. It’s the Bois D’arc Conservation Area owned by the Missouri Department of Conservation. This area is managed primarily for cottontail rabbits, bobwhite quail and dove. The MDC practices contour strip-cropping to reduce soil erosion and provide the habitat diversity attractive to quail, rabbit, marsh hawk, dove and many songbirds. The Bois D’arc area was acquired in part through the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act.
As with any public land hunt, you always want to make sure and check for regulations specific to the area. At Bois D’arc, hunters are required to check in and fill out daily hunter cards. Guns firing single projectiles are prohibited, except for deer hunting, as authorized in the annual fall deer and turkey hunting regulations. Because of that, we used shotguns during this rabbit hunt. I used a Browning BPS Special 28-gauge with Winchester high brass #6 game loads. Barb carried a 20-gauge Weatherby Orion over-and-under and Jason chose a 12-gauge Benelli SuperNova pump shotgun, This goes to show that each hunter has his or her preference when it comes to firearms.
Gear for rabbit hunting
Do’s and dont’s
The first rabbit that the dogs started trailing made a large loop. It made this circle roughly 3 times, and we caught a glimpse of him twice. Unfortunately, he presented us with no shot opportunities. After trailing that rabbit for almost an hour-and-a-half, Dad called the dogs off and we walked to a different spot. It wasn’t long and the dogs picked up the trail of another rabbit. Jason saw the rabbit cross an old road, so we spread out along the edge and waited for it to make another trip through. The dogs made a pretty big loop and got down into some thick habitat. The rabbit shot across the road again, this time near where Barb was stationed, but she said she didn’t see it zip by her. Not 10 minutes later, we could tell from the dogs barks that they were headed back our way again. The same time I caught sight of the rabbit, I heard Barb shouting, “Marti, Marti, Marti!” The rabbit was going to cross the old road between Barb and me. Keeping that in mind, because Barb stood yelling downhill from me, I held my gun in the low-ready position and swung across the road. I raised and shot, just as the rabbit started to disappear into the tall grass. Dad hollered, “You got him!” We walked to where the rabbit lay, and called the dogs to come and see their prize.
What a way to ring in the New Year! I’m not one for New Year’s Eve parties and staying up until midnight. I’d rather get up early and go hunting with family, good friends and good dogs.
Bonus delish recipe
I had the rabbit from this hunt and a couple of squirrels in the freezer, so, one night for supper, I used a great recipe from the Cooking Across Turkey Country cookbook, edited by Karen Lee. Matt Lindler, the photo editor for Turkey Country magazine, submitted this recipe. I served the fried rabbit and squirrel alongside green beans and some quinoa and brown rice with sautéed mushrooms. Oh, and of course, I made the gravy after frying the rabbit and squirrel in my Griswold cast iron skillet.
Beer and mustard wild rabbit fry
1 or 2 wild rabbits (and/or squirrels)
1/2 to 1 cup prepared yellow mustard
Salt – to taste (Seasoned salt or garlic salt)
Ground black pepper – to taste
3 to 4 cups of all-purpose flour
1 can/bottle of beer (if you prefer not to use beer, salt, water and a little vinegar in the pressure cooker will work fine)
1/2 an onion – peeled and sliced
Dress, wash and quarter rabbits, careful to remove all shot and blood clots from meat. In a pressure cooker, pour in beer, add salt, pepper and sliced onion. Bring to a boil. Add rabbit meat, cover with the lid and cook under pressure for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let the pressure die before opening the pot.
In a separate deep skillet (cast iron is best,) heat the frying oil. Roll rabbit pieces in mustard until thinly coated. Dredge in flour/salt/pepper mix and place directly in very hot oil. Fry until golden brown on each side. Internal temperature must be a minimum of 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
Note: After frying rabbit, pour off most of the oil, leaving 2 or 3 tablespoons and the dregs in the bottom of the pan. Make a cream gravy by adding flour, milk, salt and pepper. The gravy is great over mashed potatoes or rice and the cooked rabbit.
The Women's Outdoor News, aka The WON, features news, reviews and stories about women who are shooting, hunting, fishing and actively engaging in outdoor adventure. This publication is for women, by women. View all posts by The WON
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