Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Cabbage, Rabbits, and Giving Back

The last few weeks have been busy ones for me, which is the excuse I'm going to give for the recent lack of blog posts. It seems like this time of year would be a slow time for me as an outdoorsman, with deer season over and fishing possible but not likely for the next month or two. However, it's been just the opposite. Here's a rambling account of the month of January, as it relates to my outdoor pursuits.

Beagles working the thicket
A couple of Saturdays ago I went on another rabbit hunt, but this hunt involved lots of walking through some good looking rabbit cover with the dogs only jumping one rabbit. It was still a nice day to be outdoors with good dogs and good friends, and a walk in the woods is always worthwhile, rabbits or not. It was a mystery that we didn't jump more rabbits, because we were hunting areas that had been productive for us during past seasons. It seemed more like a deer hunt instead of a rabbit hunt, as we jumped deer several times during the course of the day. Luckily the dogs left the deer alone for the most part, although they did have to be called off of the first group of deer that we jumped.

Clay watching for a rabbit
In the meantime, the cabbage plants that my wife and I set out back during the fall were finally ready to be harvested. I'm not too much of a winter gardener but I do usually grow a few cabbage and occasionally some broccoli. There is something about being able to pick fresh vegetables in January that still amazes me, and the slaw and cooked cabbage was a nice compliment to a meal of pintos and cornbread on a cold night. I'm not sure if it's just the fact that we grew it or not, but cabbage from the garden always seems to have a different flavor than cabbage from the grocery store. It could be my imagination, but it does give me an excuse to plant a few every year.
My wife Trina with a winter cabbage from the garden
This past Saturday a good friend and I went squirrel hunting, but once again it turned out to be a nice walk in the woods carrying a .22 rifle. It was the day after we had experienced some nasty winter weather, and I think this might have affected the squirrel movement. We covered a lot of ground, and did manage to find some several rubbed trees that the deer had left behind, but we didn't see a single squirrel. We did hear two barred owls calling to each other, and found some fresh scratchings left behind by a flock of turkeys.

Hunter Safety Instructor Badge
To top it all off, this week I have been helping teach Hunter Safety after school. This past summer a friend and fellow agriculture teacher and I took the course to become certified NC Hunter Safety Volunteer Instructors and this week marks the second time we have taught the class. I'm thoroughly enjoying teaching this, both because I love any chance to share my passion for the outdoors, and also because I feel like in some small way I'm helping preserve the outdoor lifestyle for future generations. It makes me feel good to know that some of my students share my love of the outdoors, and hopefully through that they will become motivated to become the next generation of sportsmen conservationists.

It has been a busy January for sure, but all the different directions my outdoor ramblings have taken me in this past month have only helped make it more interesting.

Thanks for stopping by!

- Joseph

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Small Game Saturday

This past Saturday, with deer season over and Christmas and New Year's behind me, I got the opportunity to go rabbit hunting with some good friends. I've never owned any beagles myself, but I have been fortunate enough to have friends that have beagles and don't mind me tagging along. We started out around 9:00 am and the dogs jumped a rabbit within the first few minutes after we got into the briers.
Starting the Hunt
 From there on, it was steady action with the dogs jumping rabbits from all the likely places. For anyone who has never been rabbit hunting, let me say this - a running rabbit presents a pretty good challenge, especially if your shotgun skills are a little rusty like mine were. The last rabbit hunt I had been on was at the end of the season last February, so needless to say I missed more rabbits than I hit. I did manage one rabbit, but missed a few others. Fortunately my hunting companions were better shots than I was that day. In all, our group ended up with 10 rabbits, and there were a few that got away.
Dale with a rabbit
For me, rabbit hunting has always been about the dogs. I enjoy eating fried rabbit about as much as any wild game, but the big draw for me is seeing the beagles work out a trail and listening to their music as they trail a rabbit through the briers and brush. I have often said that if I had more time to work with them, I would like to get some beagles myself. For the present though, I'm thankful that I have friends who invite me to hunt with them. We had a successful morning, and jumped a dozen or so rabbits, along with a covey of quail. I was excited to see the bobwhites, because they have become scarce around home in the last several years.

Luke and Dale
 We had planned to wind up our hunt around 1:00 pm, and by 1:30 or so we had the dogs caught and loaded up. After the usual story telling around the tailgate, it was time to call it a day. My friend Luke and I had decided the day before that after we finished rabbit hunting, there would be plenty of time left in the day to go squirrel hunting for a few hours.
Tired after a day of hunting

Squirrel hunting was my introduction to the sport of hunting, and for several years was the main type of hunting I did. When I was young, there weren't that many deer around home, and there were even less when my Dad was growing up. Dad has never been a deer or turkey hunter, but squirrel, rabbit, and dove hunting were what he grew up doing. He introduced me to these when I was young, and I've never lost my enjoyment of small game hunting. I'm grateful that I was introduced to hunting this way, because squirrel hunting taught me skills that helped me when I decided to try hunting deer and turkeys, patience being among the key lessons.
Gray Squirrel
After everyone left from our rabbit hunt, Luke and I swapped our shotguns for .22 rifles and headed to the woods to see if we could have any success with the squirrels. We managed three in an hour or two of hunting, and it was a fitting end to the day. Then it was time to clean the squirrels and rabbits, and prepare for some good eating down the road. I can't think of a better way to spend a Saturday outdoors than with good friends and good dogs. I truly enjoy deer and turkey hunting, but I think that when I have children and the time comes to introduce them to hunting, it will be on a hardwood ridge with a .22 rifle or 20 gauge shotgun and hopefully a tree full of squirrels. I don't know of any better way to pass on the same values and appreciation of hunting and nature that Dad taught me many years ago.

Thanks for stopping by!

- Joseph