Thanksgiving Day Parade In The Briar Patch
This chilly November morning marks one of my favorite Saturdays of the year.
As shooting light nears, there are men, women and children standing around tailgates sipping coffee as they adorn orange caps, hunting vests and briar britches. Beagle hounds whine in the box as nearby cottontails and swampers will soon be forced from their beds and the bawl from a hot beagle will rise above the briar patch. The race will be on and so will rabbit hunting season.
Rabbit season starts this morning, and that makes me smile. The sport is in my blood. I love everything from the beagles and the small gauge shotguns to the camaraderie with folks and the thick briar patches that I never get to see when I’m deer hunting.
A family obligation means I’ll be delaying my 2019 opening morning for just a few days. Y’all kill one for me!
Truth be told, it’s usually Thanksgiving morning before we kick off our rabbit season. My neighbor Greg Malcom has a dozen… sometimes two… beagles that stay handy out back. We’ll load up a few and ride over to a nearby piece of public dirt where there are no deer hunters. We’ll hunt maybe three hours before it’s time to load dogs and hunt up a Butterball, a couch and a football game.
It used to be myself, Greg and my daughter Rileigh, but our Thanksgiving parade expanded last year. Erika Cochran, who works two pieces of sheetrock away from me, expressed some enthusiasm in slinging some No. 6s at a cottontail. She’d never heard a red-hot rabbit race, and I found it downright sinful not to extend an invite to her after learning of her interest.
It didn’t take but about 10 minutes for her to get an earful of hound music.
Checking that off the list, the next thing was to put her hands around the back legs of a rabbit.
We watched as several well-educated rabbits zipped back and forth across a dirt road. About the time her brain would signal to her hands “Gun Up!,” the rabbit would be 10 steps gone.
Plan B: Get inside the briar patch, find a little opening and wait.
Tip, tip, stop, Bam. That’s rabbit hunting wisdom in case you’re wondering.
It took an hour, but after finding the right hole in the right thicket, here came that sneaky little joker up through some of those purple briars.
Tip, tip, stop… tip, tip, stop… perfectly in sight… of me…
“Erika, shoot it!,” I said.
“I can’t see it,” she insisted.
“What do you mean you can’t see? You see the little forked sweetgum? There’s two little twigs sticking up just to the left of it. The rabbit is just to the right and behind them. Wait, no, just to the left. It’s to the left of those twigs. See it???”
Y’all been there right?
When the rabbit took it’s next tip, tip, the lightbulb sizzled in Erika’s brain. By that time, she had gotten pretty quick on the draw.
Lead went to flying, and so did the rabbit, across and over the hill and down the backside of it. Here came the dogs, and there went the dogs.
Turkey time yet?
Erika never did get her picture taken with that first rabbit. The picture included is about all I could get out of her on that morning. Just yesterday she expressed an interest in making a return trip this Thanksgiving morning. Maybe we’ll get a photo of her front side with her hand around the back legs of a rabbit.
Last week, my youngest daughter said she’s going on our annual Thanksgiving morning pilgrimage, too.
This Thanksgiving Day parade just keeps growing.
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